Arroyo Grande apartment project gets the go-ahead

The Arroyo Grande City Council’s decision on an apartment project in a southern part of the city could be called a win-win for all parties: The developer gets to move ahead with his project, nearby residents got many of their concerns addressed and the city ended up with a better project.

“Every person in the room did a great job … and because of you the project will be better,” Councilwoman Caren Ray said Tuesday, shortly before the council unanimously moved ahead the proposal for the project at South Elm Street and The Pike.

The original plan to construct 23 two-bedroom apartments, five studio apartments and a commercial building had been approved by the city’s Planning Commission in August and quickly appealed to the council.

The council first heard neighbors’ concerns Sept. 25. Residents expressed worries that the commercial building was out of place with their neighborhood of one-story homes and would increase traffic. The council asked whether the commercial building could be removed from the project while still allowing a higher density at the site.

After that meeting, city staff worked with property owners Peter Burtness and Annie Roberts of Santa Barbara to revise the project.

They agreed to remove the proposed commercial building and instead coordinated with the owner of an existing 7-Eleven convenience store located on the corner to include it in the project, thereby allowing the owners to build more housing units than they could without it.

The property has long been reserved under city land-use laws for mixed use, defined as various combinations of residential, office and commercial uses.

Instead of the commercial building, the owners will include a “pocket park” that will be open to the public; make improvements to the 7-Eleven site, including building a pathway between the apartments and the store that’s accessible to those with disabilities; and install additional landscaping to give existing residents more privacy.

They also agreed to pay all costs associated with putting existing overhead utilities underground.

Council members were clearly satisfied with the compromises and lauded the residents and the property owners for their efforts. The council also voted to refund the $253 cost of the appeal because the project had undergone so many changes.

“You all deserve applause because this was a joint effort between a willing developer and a willing community,” Councilman Tim Brown said.

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Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.