Garden Street Terraces project in SLO is approved by City Council

The heart of downtown San Luis Obispo will change significantly in coming years after developers were given the final approval needed to build 135,000 square feet of new commercial and residential buildings.

The San Luis Obispo City Council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Kathy Smith dissenting, late Tuesday night in support of Garden Street Terraces — despite hours of public comment from community members concerned about its modern architecture and planned gray-and-white color scheme.

Mayor Jan Marx said she felt the project’s look clashed with the historic character of the surrounding buildings and tried to sway the support of her colleagues for several requirements she hoped to impose on the developer. Those changes included putting a bench in front of a planned market, lights in Garden Alley and a different color for the corner building on Broad and Marsh streets.

However, those concerns were never even discussed because Councilman Andrew Carter made a motion to approve the project, knowing he had majority support. In the end, Marx also voted for the project.

“It comes down to individual people’s perception of what does and does not fit” downtown, said Carter, adding that the area is full of diverse architecture. “My vote is to approve it as is. We have gotten four or five pounds worth of flesh out of the applicant.”

The project, which sits on a 1.1-acre site bordered by Broad Street, Garden Alley and Garden and Marsh streets, was submitted to the city five years ago by WestPac Investments.

The project has gone through multiple revisions and 12 public hearings since it was submitted to the city for consideration in 2006. Its size was reduced to 135,000 square feet from 212,000 square feet; the number of hotel rooms went from 95 in the initial plan to 48; and eight residential units are now planned, down from 34.

The height of the development was also reduced to 50 feet or less from up to 74 feet in the previous version of the plan.

The only additional conditions added to the project were made by Councilman John Ashbaugh, who asked the developer to add a piece of public art at Marsh and Broad streets and to make sure directional signs for the hotel parking were clear.

Groundbreaking will occur in about two years. Final construction documentation and permitting will take that long to complete.