San Luis Obispo City Council doing prep work for annexation

A development plan that could lead to nearly 1,000 new homes is slated to go before the San Luis Obispo City Council tonight.

The 230-acre area stretches south from the city limits to the intersection of Orcutt and Tank Farm roads.

Adopting the Orcutt Area Specific Plan and certifying the project’s environmental impact report is one of the last steps the council must take before declaring intent to annex the area. That decision could come in the next few months.

For more than 30 years, the Orcutt area has been identified by the city as having potential for residential expansion.

The council must also decide whether it is willing to share the cost of the $1.76 million Industrial Way pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the railroad tracks. The city’s Planning Commission has recommended that the city seek grant money to pay for 20 percent, or $352,000, of the cost of the bridge because it is expected that a large number of residents outside the Orcutt area would use it.

Since the council last reviewed the Orcutt Area Specific Plan in February 2008, a designated site for a new elementary school has been dropped. The previously suggested location was eliminated because it was too close to the railroad tracks and in the flight path of the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

Three alternative sites are being reviewed by the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, said Michael Codron, city housing program manager.

Population projections prepared by the school district show that a new school may be needed once the development is complete.

About half of the project area would be devoted to 979 homes, ranging from single-family dwellings to multifamily apartments. A mixed residential and commercial development is also proposed.

The remaining area would be open space and parkland. Righetti Hill, also known as Mine Hill, at Orcutt and Tank Farm roads would remain open space and include a hiking trail to the top.Adoption of the specific plan would allow the 13 property owners in the area to begin submitting development plans.

Full buildout in the area is expected to take five to 10 years.

Codron said that some of the owners are hoping to move forward with developing quickly, but others are not. A scattering of homes along Orcutt Road that is part of the development area will eventually be replaced, but likely not in the coming years.

“Adoption of the specific plan and annexation means nothing in terms of how the owners are currently using their property,” Codron said. “It is designed to allow for people to continue to use their home sites they have, and if someone wants to live a rural residential lifestyle for the next 20 years, they will be able to do that.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.