Future 720-home development near SLO airport has a new owner — and groundbreaking date

The new owner and builder of a 720-home Avila Ranch development on a 150-acre site in San Luis Obispo near the airport expects construction to start early next year — and the first houses to be completed in early 2021.

The project is now in the hands of Wathen Castanos Homes, which has offices in Clovis, San Luis Obispo and Marina.

The company announced Thursday that grading of the property located north of Buckley Road will begin in January, with the first home models available for public viewing in June 2020, said Josh Peterson, a Wathen Castanos co-owner and president.

The project’s initial phase will include 177 single-family units, some of which are anticipated for move-in during the first quarter of 2021.

The project will have all-electric designs with solar panels in keeping with the city’s new energy policy and 2020 state requirements to build with solar panels.

“We already have built more than 300 homes in San Luis Obispo County (including SLO’s Serra Meadows project),” Peterson said. “Our vision is to construct sustainable, quality homes, and we are committed to delivering something residents will take pride in.”

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Wathen Castanos Homes has taken over ownership of the Avila Ranch housing development off Buckley Road in San Luis Obispo. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Price ranges not yet announced

Co-owners Peter Castanos and Peterson said the company isn’t announcing any estimated price ranges, which will depend on various planning factors.

Ranges previously were projected from $200,000 to $750,000, with most from $350,000 to $650,000, before the plan’s City Council approval in 2017, according to Andy Mangano, the former project manager at Avila Ranch LLC.

The project’s average sized home is 1,477 square feet, and Wathen Castanos must build according to those plan approvals.

It also includes 71 inclusionary homes with restricted pricing for both low and moderate income levels, meaning prices are set based on city affordability guidelines.

“Josh Peterson, along with WC Homes, are the perfect group to provide the necessary stewardship required to build out Avila Ranch,” Mangano said in a statement. “... We’re extremely proud to see it move into the next phase of breaking ground.”

The City Council has encouraged development of homes that are affordable to working people because they’re smaller by design.

The project also has conditions ensuring locals would have preference to buy the homes, and requirements for owner occupancy for the first five years after the initial sale, to deter out-of-town investors from snatching up the properties as rentals.

Those interested in buying a home at Avila Ranch can add their names to an interest list.

Joshua Peterson, a Wathen Castanos Homes co-owner and president, speaks at an event announcing Wathen Castonos’ acquisition of the Avila Ranch housing development off Buckley Road in San Luis Obispo. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Project amenities include parks, bike paths and more

Avila Ranch will include: two new bicycles per household, electric changing stations, miles of bike paths and trails and 10 parks including a sports park, according to development officials.

Buckley Road will be extended to connect to Higuera Street as part of an offsite traffic improvement during the initial phase of construction, among $70 million in offsite infrastructure improvements, said City Manager Derek Johnson.

One-tenth of one percent of each home sale also will be donated to the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation into perpetuity, Peterson said.

Wathen Castanos has purchased one large parcel of the land from the Avila family, which has owned the property for more than 100 years, and next year the company will buy the remainder, Peterson said.

“This is like a scene out of Steinbeck,” Castanos said. “We know this is emotional. We are grateful for the trust the Avila family has put in us to do great things here and truly nourish and enhance this property.”

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Rendering of Avila Ranch housing project off Buckley Road in San Luis Obispo, by RRM Design Group. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Local politicians weigh in

Speakers at an event held Thursday at the property included SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill and SLO Vice Mayor Andy Pease, who championed the project, saying it will provide homes for locals, many of whom struggle to afford housing in the area or who drive long distances into SLO for work.

“Some say as many as 30,000 commuters drive into SLO every day,” Pease said. “They have a fractured work and home life, which is bad for them. It’s also bad for employers, who can’t attract and retain employees because of the housing challenges here.”

Hill cited a growing technology sector in the area and the expansion of the SLO County Regional Airport as part of a vibrant local economy that requires new housing to maintain balance.

Hill said that it took a willingness to embrace change for the City Council to approve the project.

“Some in the city don’t want change and growth represents change,” Hill said. “But at some point, you need change. We need young people to live here, and families can’t afford to live here.”

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.