Pismo planners take up Price Canyon project

This view looking south shows a portion of Price Canyon in 2011 where 961 acres could eventually be annexed into Pismo Beach and developed.
This view looking south shows a portion of Price Canyon in 2011 where 961 acres could eventually be annexed into Pismo Beach and developed. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Several local tourism officials extolled the benefits of building hundreds of homes and hotel rooms in Price Canyon when they spoke at a hearing this week on a large project proposed just outside Pismo Beach.

The Pismo Beach Planning Commission held the first of two hearings on Spanish Springs, a proposal that would add homes, a hotel, vineyards, a golf course, parks and a public trail to about 960 acres off Price Canyon Road.

Past debates on the proposal have included numerous concerns from local residents, but only a handful spoke in opposition Tuesday. Instead, the plan drew positive comments from some in local organizations promoting hotels and business opportunities.

“From a business standpoint, we love this kind of project,” said Charlie Richardson of Richardson Properties, who served on the Economic Vitality Corporation of San Luis Obispo County. It would add many temporary and permanent jobs to the area, he said.

Mike Casola, vice chairman of the county’s visitors and conference bureau board, added that the proposal, with vineyards and a 150-room boutique hotel, would continue the tourism organization’s efforts to market Pismo Beach’s proximity to wine tasting.

Planning commissioners took public comments Tuesday and continued their hearing to Sept. 25, when they’ll make a recommendation to the City Council.

The land would have to be annexed into Pismo Beach before it could be developed.

Debate about developing Price Canyon has been ongoing for years. The proposal now includes three properties on landscape ranging from valleys to steep hillsides and rock outcroppings.

About 72 percent of the land would remain open space, either preserved through conservation easements or used for agriculture or recreation.

The rest of the plan includes 390 single-family homes, 83 apartments or condos, 320 senior residential units, a nine-hole golf course, and a hotel and conference center.

The developers also propose paying to upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant so it can use recycled water for irrigation and other nonpotable purposes.

Stephen Hester of West Coast Housing Partners, which is a managing member in a partnership that owns the three properties, said developing the land in the city will protect more than 690 acres of open space, will provide recreational opportunities and won’t use water from underground aquifers.

If it were developed as county land, “these properties would be subdivided; they’d be fenced off, which would preclude really any public access to the lands,” he said.

A few local residents disagreed with that assessment.

“I do believe the county could do better with this land,” said Pismo Beach resident Marcia Guthrie. “They’re much more respectful.”

She was worried the water need for the project is greater than what has been projected, and that the proposed upgrade to the sewer plant could end up costing local residents money in increased sewer rates.

Planning commissioners did not share their opinions Tuesday; they saved questions and deliberation for the Sept. 25 meeting.