Tom Brown faces losing one of his company’s four coffee shops in the city if the project at 790 E. Foothill Blvd. is approved.
The development proposal, which comes before the Planning Commission on Wednesday, calls for 78 residential units, 6,800 square feet of ground-floor commercial and retail space, 181 bicycle parking spaces and 155 parking spaces, including a mechanical parking lift, on a lot currently occupied by BlackHorse.
The proposal is for rental housing, the pricing of which has yet to be determined, according to the project applicant, El Seguno-based developer Loren Riehl of LR Real Estate Investment Group.
Tom Brown, BlackHorse owner, said that he has a lease with current property owner Mark Polin that runs through 2020, with an option for an extension to 2023.
“I plan to exercise my option to stay on the property,” said Brown, adding he hasn’t heard from Polin about any changes to the existing agreement.
Brown added that he doesn’t think the project application would be consistent with the character of the neighborhood. “It’s not a development I’d anticipate getting a lot of community support,” he said.
But Riehl said that a sale is in escrow to buy the property from Polin.
Riehl added that he has “a lot of options” to address the BlackHorse lease agreement once the sale closes. He didn’t specify what those options are, adding the coffee shop’s lease arrangement is “irrelevant to the land use.”
“Most importantly, the city adopted a Land Use Element that directed how this property should be used moving forward, and it’s zoned for this type of project,” Riehl said.
Supporters say the proposed 43-foot-tall development would reduce housing demand citywide and help meet the city’s multi-modal transportation goals by encouraging cycling and use of the bus system.
Riehl said the city needs “all kinds of housing in all kinds of places.”
“That area is highly populated by students,” he said. “I think the market will dictate who wants to live in a building of this type in this location.”
Riehl is also the developer of the Academy Chorro at 22 Chorro St. in San luis Obispo. The development, due to be completed in September, is advertising beds for rent (including many with sliding partitions to separate sleeping spaces) between $1,295 and $1,425.
Brown said he believes there will be a lack of parking and too much congestion.
“Parking will be a nightmare,” Brown said. “Citywide, I have some real concerns with the direction the city is moving. Are we having a tradeoff between the quality of life and quantity of life?”
Brown isn’t the only one opposed.
The group Save Our Downtown cites city policy that blocked views are a “significant environmental concern.”
City’s staff analyzed Riehl’s Foothill Boulevard project and recommended it for approval, noting that it meets a major city goal of providing needed housing and complies with the city’s general plan and zoning regulations.
The project proposes 12 deed-restricted studios for renters in the very-low income household category, which according to the city’s 2017 standards are single residents who earn up to $28,600 per year and pay a maximum of $728 in monthly rent.
Riehl is requesting to occupy 90 percent of the 1.33-acre lot space with buildings, compared with the city’s standard of 75 percent for that zone.
By seeking the expanded footprint, Riehl can take advantage of incentives offered by the city on projects that offer affordable housing. But the request still must be reviewed by the City Council along with a separate request of 43-foot maximum height versus the allowable 35-feet height in that zone.