The future of the bucolic Dalidio Ranch along the southern end of San Luis Obispo is starkly different from what property owner Ernie Dalidio once fought long and hard for.
Gone are the stretches of parking lots, big-box stores, sports fields and a business park approved by county voters in 2006.
Instead, if Central Coast developers Gary Grossman and Clint Pearce get their way, as many as 500 houses and farmland and open space will dominate the majority of the $19.7 million, 131-acre ranch.
Grossman anticipates submitting development plans, dubbed “Fresh Ideas,” to the city in August.
The single-family homes, designed for working-class families led by people such as teachers, will be built on lots ranging in size from 5,000 to 3,000 square feet in the center of the ranch. Multi-family homes such as townhouses, condos and apartments will be built closer to the Laguna Lake area.
The enclave of commercial space, tucked next to the existing SLO Promenade shopping center, will be capped at about 200,000 square feet, compared to the 530,000 square feet permitted at the site. It will mirror the shopping experience found at the Paseo Nuevo shopping district in downtown Santa Barbara. An anchor department store will likely include a store similar to Macy’s, and high-end retail stores will fill the remaining space, said Grossman.
Deborah Cash, executive director of the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association, said the association’s board of directors had not yet had time to discuss the proposal.
The Downtown Association fought against the previous plans for the land — citing concerns about drawing business away from downtown.
“Out the gate, I would say that we look forward to learning more about the project and talking with the developers; certainly we hope for a project that will best serve the needs of the community and complement the downtown,” Cash wrote in an email.
Grossman said he believes his project will work well with San Luis Obispo’s downtown.
An economic impact report of the project’s anticipated effects on downtown will be required before the property can be annexed, according to the city’s General Plan.
The corridor along Highway 101 will remain farmland and open space, bordering a 100,000-square-foot high-tech business park and an executive-class hotel and conference center.
An overpass, not an interchange as once discussed, is planned for Prado Road and would allow traffic to access the shopping center from the eastern side of the city but force drivers heading south on Highway 101 to use either Madonna Road or Los Osos Valley Road to access the area.
Derrick Johnson, San Luis Obispo’s community development director, said that traffic circulation will be critical to the plans for the property.
“The cost difference between an overpass and an interchange is the difference of millions of dollars,” said Johnson, adding the task force updating the city’s General Plan is studying the traffic needs of Prado Road.
Future plans to align Madonna Road with Bridge Street and planned improvements for Los Osos Valley Road coupled with the developers’ plans for Calle Joaquin and Froom Ranch Road may improve traffic enough that an overpass will suffice, said Johnson.
Whether the project is the right fit for the city is a policy question the City Council will have to answer, said Johnson.
“There is clearly a need for housing,” he said. “We know from city surveys that citizens currently rank housing as needed.”