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Pismo Beach lays out its vision for landmark Chapman Estate

Tour the Chapman Estate grounds in Shell Beach

The Pismo Beach Planning Commission held a special tour of the Chapman Estate grounds on March 9, 2015. Here's a look around the landmark oceanfront property.
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The Pismo Beach Planning Commission held a special tour of the Chapman Estate grounds on March 9, 2015. Here's a look around the landmark oceanfront property.

How to use the Chapman Estate in Shell Beach — a property willed to the city of Pismo Beach by well-known philanthropist Clifford Chapman — has been a contentious issue since the city took possession of the home three years ago. But now the City Council has finally created a strategic plan for the local landmark.

The plan envisions yoga classes on the estate’s lawn, corporate retreats for out-of-town executives and self-guided tours throughout the grounds. It could also host weddings, festivals, art classes, wine events, movie nights and other small community gatherings.

“In the plan, we’re looking at everything and the kitchen sink,” said Jeff Winklepleck, the city’s community development director. “It’s answering, how do we take this awesome property and ultimately make it pay for itself, and then how do we also open it up for the people so they can enjoy it?”

The Pismo Beach City Council approved a strategic plan for the estate at a special joint meeting with the Chapman Estate Advisory Committee on June 7, marking a turning point in the property’s history. Next up, the city will consider a new conditional use permit and an operations manual detailing exactly how the property should be managed.

When it was willed to the city after Chapman’s death in 2012, Chapman directed that the 1.5-acre estate at 1243 Ocean Blvd. be used “for public benefit” and stipulated that it continue to host annual fundraisers for three nonprofits: Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, San Luis Obispo Symphony and Opera San Luis Obispo.

City officials initially proposed using the property for community and special events such as weddings, art shows, musical performances and photo shoots, as well as for the three annual fundraisers and several other gatherings.

How do we take this awesome property and ultimately make it pay for itself, and then how do we also open it up for the people so they can enjoy it?

Jeff Winklepleck, Pismo Beach community development director

Neighbors in the small Shell Beach neighborhood fiercely protested the plans, however, saying events would block traffic and increase noise in the area.

In response, the city reversed course and approved a strict conditional use permit for the property that limited the number of events each year to seven — one fundraiser for each of the three nonprofits, a fundraiser to benefit the estate’s maintenance, and three free community events — with no more than 300 people in attendance at any of them. (The permit has since been loosened slightly, though it still limits the number of events and participants.)

Now, under the strategic plan, the city is reconsidering its strict stance on events at the estate. It plans to consider a new conditional use permit for the property in the coming months.

The plan, in addition to laying out a vision for opening the estate to more community access, also establishes who would manage the property (a nonprofit board of trustees) and how the property would become financially self-sustaining (the city will provide initial “bridge funds” to bring the property up to code, but then the majority of funding for the estate is expected to come from donations and grants).

Winklepleck said the city will continue to take residents’ concerns into consideration while opening up the property, though he did note that the estate has hosted several of its planned fundraisers in the past two years without notable impacts on the neighborhood.

“We’re really looking at that to set the stage, saying, ‘Hey, we’re cognizant of what is going on in the neighborhood, and we don’t want to negatively impact the neighborhood, but we’ve had quite a few large events without any troubles,’ ” he said.

To help mitigate those impacts on the neighborhood, the city will start drafting an operations manual laying out rules for specific types of events, such as times they can be held and how many people can attend.

“As the estate moves forward, and we are able to open up more of the grounds to people, it’s going to be the start of something really great for the community,” Winklepleck said.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

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