Conference center dropped from Grover Beach Lodge plans

A 134-room, three-building hotel will be built at the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach, without the standalone conference center that was originally proposed.
A 134-room, three-building hotel will be built at the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach, without the standalone conference center that was originally proposed.

Development on an empty lot at the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach — long expected to be home to a major hotel and conference center that could vitalize business travel in the area — could begin in the coming months.

But there's a big change in the plans: They won't include the conference center, at least not now.

Pacifica Companies, which partnered with Grover Beach and the California Department of State Parks for the project, has asked the city for a time extension and an amendment removing the anticipated 11,130-square-foot standalone conference center from the proposal, in favor of more parking at the site.

The council is expected to consider the request at its meeting July 23.

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"This has been a very complex project with a lot of moving parts," City Manager Matt Bronson said. "There are so many different users and uses for the site: day use, RV dump station, equestrians, parking. Given right now, the partners decided the best use is to maximize the parking."

The Grover Beach Lodge and Conference Center project has been in various stages of development since the 1980s, but in recent years plans appeared to finally be moving forward to the point that the city approved and issued permits for it in 2013. It was briefly waylaid by two separate appeals to the Coastal Commission, a procedural error that forced the council to revote on the project and several permit extensions, but by mid-2017, officials said it was on track to begin construction that year.

Now Pacifica Companies is back asking for its third one-year permit extension, as well as the amendment removing the conference center. The council was expected to consider the request on June 19, but delayed the decision until July 23 to give time for some last-minute discussions with the company and state, Bronson said.

The original 121,000-square-foot project would have featured the conference center, a three-building hotel with restaurant, parking lots and an updated public plaza.

Supporters said it would bring in about $1.5 million in transient occupancy and property taxes annually, and act as an economic catalyst, drawing businesses, tourists and potentially new residents to Grover Beach.

The amendment drops the conference center from the current permit and replaces it with public parking. (In total, the site will have 174 public parking spaces, 186 hotel spaces and 15 oversize vehicle and equestrian parking spots.)

About 4,000 square feet of meeting space will be set aside in the hotel portion of the project to make up for the center loss.

The change does decrease some of the costs for the city, Bronson said. Prior to the changes, the city was expecting to pay up to $9.5 million to support the $45 million project. Now it will likely only need to invest $700,000, Bronson said.

Bronson said the conference center will be a potential future project to pursue after the hotel is up and running.

There was not a specific reason the conference center has been pushed from the most recent project, Bronson said, just that after consideration by all of the parties involved, that was the best option to satisfy everyone's needs.

"This is a complex process," he said. "At the end of the day, the partnership is trying to find out what the best role is for that site."

He said there was no timeline for when the conference center plans could be revisited in the future, but that it would likely depend on the lodge's success.

"Once the hotel is operating and we have a gauge of success, that would be a good time to consider the conference center," he said. "We still over time believe in the future concept of a conference center at that site in Grover Beach."

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928; @kaytyleslie