Plans for a three-story medical office building next to Arroyo Grande Community Hospital were put on hold Tuesday, while the developer addresses concerns with traffic and parking before bringing the proposal back to the city in January.
The proposal is phase two of a mixed-use project approved by the city in 2008. The first phase consisted of the 30-home Walnut Grove neighborhood off Fair Oaks Avenue.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the medical building in early November, but after three hours of discussion Tuesday night, the City Council decided not to approve the project as proposed and asked developer Triple P LLC to return on Jan. 12 with revisions.
The most pressing of the council’s concerns was the building’s impact on traffic on Fair Oaks Avenue.
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The front entrance of the building would be located at the southwest corner of the property, closest to Arroyo Grande Community Hospital. The developers proposed sharing an existing nearby driveway on the hospital’s property to access the medical offices.
That would require patients to perform a left-hand turn into a narrow driveway, which at peak traffic hours, could block several nearby streets.
To address this, the council asked the developer to consider striping and signaling at the turn, widening the driveway to accommodate more cars or moving the driveway entrance to align with cross streets. They also asked for a more in-depth analysis of traffic along that street
In addition, the council asked the developers to consider how to add more parking, to make up for parking problems that plague the neighboring hospital.
“There is not enough parking here to solve the hospital’s existing problem,” Councilman Jim Guthrie said. “And that’s not the responsibility of this project, but I really was hoping we were going to see something in that direction.”
Another issue addressed at length at Tuesday’s meeting was the height of the medical office.
While I know there is a lot of trepidation about it, I’m willing to explore a three-story building. That’s new to me, but I think I’m willing to do that.
Arroyo Grande City Councilman Tim Brown
As it is currently designed, the office building would be among the tallest buildings in the city, standing at about 47 feet, according to city planner Matt Downing. It would be built on a slight hill, which, when looking from Fair Oaks Avenue, would place the lowest level of the building roughly 11 feet higher than the street.
City code caps medical office buildings at 35 feet, but makes allowances for architectural, mechanical or utility elements that extend up to 15 feet above that height, and for buildings such as hospitals, Downing said.
The neighboring hospital is expected to rent up to 50 percent of the office space as part of a possible expansion of its outpatient services. Because the hospital is expected to be a major renter, Downing said the building could qualify for the height exceptions made for hospitals.
In general, council members said they were not worried about the height of the building, though they did ask the developers to consider reducing its height about five feet to better align with city code standards.
“People who know me from my Planning Commission days know I don’t like massive buildings — I’ve fought them tooth and nail,” Councilman Tim Brown said. “While I know there is a lot of trepidation about it, I’m willing to explore a three-story building. That’s new to me, but I think I’m willing to do that.”