Pismo Beach planners give Canyon Oaks another chance

A proposed housing development and land swap that would add 24 homes to one of Pismo Beach’s older neighborhoods was moved forward by the Planning Commission this week, nearly a year after commissioners voted against the project.

Commissioners in a 2-1 vote on Tuesday recommended the City Council approve the Canyon Oaks project, which would allow two dozen homes to be built in a wooded canyon area, part of which is now zoned as open space.

Commissioners John Sorgenfrei and David Jewell voted in favor of the project; Commissioner Alice Mueller dissented. Commissioners Mark Burnes and DJ White recused themselves because of possible conflicts of interest.

The approval sends developer Mike Hodge’s plans to the City Council, which will consider his request to trade a 2.9-acre parcel subdivided in the 1920s and zoned residential along Price Canyon Road for a 6-acre parcel located about 1,100 feet west in the Pismo Heights area. The original parcel is located next to the eastern city boundary line.

The proposed project would include five lots along Lemoore Street and 18 new lots on the rest of the property accessible by a main road off Price Canyon Road, said project architect Steve Puglisi. Three homes already exist on that 6-acre lot; one is proposed to be demolished and two would be remodeled, for a total of 25 homes.

If approved, the subdivision would be created and most of the lots would be sold to individuals to build homes with specific design guidelines, Puglisi said.

The project has raised opposition and support from Pismo Beach residents, many of whom live in the Pismo Heights area.A few residents gathered 249 signatures from opponents in the Five Cities area and submitted them to the commission, resident and opponent Sheila Blake said.

Her concerns, echoed by several other opponents, include the development of open space and the concern that this decision could set a precedent and encourage future development of open space.

Supporters urged commissioners to approve the swap because it would reduce sprawl, preserve the existing oak trees and blend into the community better than the existing lots on Price Canyon Road.

“I used to live next to an open space area, and I didn’t want any change,” said Chuck Larson, who lives on Visalia Street. “The truth is you have to balance what is in front of you. A sea change for me would be to have 24 homes out on Price Canyon.”

Commissioners made it a condition of their recommendation that the Price Canyon property be deeded to the city as open space.

“The open space we’re providing is real open space … it’s undeveloped, it’s untouched,” Puglisi said.

“I think (Commissioners) John (Sorgenfrei) and David Jewell are trying to correct a mistake before it happens,” he added, referring to the lots along Price Canyon Road. However, he said, if the City Council denies the project, Hodge and his partner would attempt to build on their original property.

A date for the council to consider the project has not been set. The council would consider changing the general plan and zoning maps to make the entire 6-acre site residential, said Pismo Beach Senior Planner Scot Graham.