Plans for a new four-story hotel on Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo are moving ahead, to the dismay of some neighbors who worry the project will degrade their quality of life.
The San Luis Obispo City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve a 102-room hotel at 1845/1865 Monterey St., behind Pappy McGregor’s Irish Pub and sandwiched between Travelodge and Best Western, near the Monday Club.
Mayor Jan Marx and Councilman Dan Carpenter dissented. Marx said she believes the hotel will set a bad precedent for future projects on Monterey Street.
"I believe it will negatively impact the neighborhood," she said, referring to residents who live in the San Luis Drive area on the opposite side of San Luis Creek.
While the council majority approved the hotel, it also directed applicants Andrew Firestone and Jess Parker of West Coast Asset Management to make some changes: To fully enclose some of the parking; coordinate landscaping with the Monday Club to screen the hotel from the historic structure; and add more landscaping at the rear of the property to provide privacy for the neighborhood behind the hotel.
In voting for the hotel project, Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said she thought the applicants had made substantial changes to respond to concerns raised by the city's Planning Commission, which denied the project in December.
Councilman Dan Rivoire said he thought planting mature trees would help alleviate some of the project's visual impacts.
"I wonder if enclosing the upper parking deck would further meet the concerns of the neighborhood," he suggested.
Despite the changes proposed by the applicants, residents in the San Luis Drive neighborhood remained opposed to the project, mainly due to the hotel's size and the location of some of the parking spaces near San Luis Creek.
"It becomes a precedent for all development on upper Monterey," said Wendy Daly, one of the neighbors. "Do we really want sterile large structures as our welcoming committee?"
Firestone and Parker had proposed removing balconies from rooms that face the creek and fully enclosing a lower-level parking garage to address light and noise concerns.
"I believe we have done our part to be good neighbors," Firestone said, noting that the hotel would benefit the city by increasing property tax and bed tax revenue, and creating jobs. "We have listened to the neighbors and the evolution of this project is proof of that."
Firestone and Parker received a permit from the city in August, which was appealed to the city's Planning Commission by resident Bob Lucas.
The commission voted 6-1 in December to uphold Lucas’ appeal, thus overturning the project. Commissioners said the height of the building would create overlook, noise and glare issues on the neighborhood.
In the meantime, the project also went to the city’s Architectural Review Commission, which in October approved the project’s design. That approval was appealed by San Luis Drive neighborhood resident Angela Soll.
While some residents said they appreciated the revisions and aren't opposed to the idea of a hotel, they said the changes didn't go far enough.
Residents also frequently mentioned a 1989 ordinance, referred to as No. 1130, which was passed to protect this specific neighborhood and the creek. Among other requirements, it specifies that parking and recreational uses should be built on the interior of the site, using buildings as a buffer.
Several residents suggested one floor be removed from the four-story hotel because of the significant height difference between Monterey Street and San Luis Drive.
"This building will absolutely tower over every other structure in the area," Soll said. When asked why the hotel couldn't be reduced to three stories, Firestone said the project wouldn't pencil out.
"It would basically kill the project," he said. "There are certain requirements needed for parking, for land costs; so we are adjusting and evolving with the economy and what is required."