Pismo Beach limits Chapman Estate events for another year

The Chapman Estate in Shell Beach.
The Chapman Estate in Shell Beach. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Pismo Beach has once again reversed course on a controversial plan to allow more events at the Chapman Estate in Shell Beach this week after intense pushback from residents and several planning commissioners who said the plan was “rushed.”

Rather than approve or deny a new conditional use permit for the oceanfront estate that would increase the number of events that could be held at the property, the city Planning Commission decided Tuesday to renew the existing permit until December 2017 (it was set to expire in December) amid concerns that any decision on the proposed permit would move to the City Council, where some commissioners worried the council would ignore their concerns and pass it.

“I think it’s being rushed, and it shouldn’t be rushed,” Commissioner Chuck Quinn said amid cheers from the assembled Shell Beach residents, many of whom had spoken out against allowing more events in the residential neighborhood.

“This is a community with all these people who don’t like this, and it’s being forced down our throats,” Quinn said. “Everybody who wants this does not live in Shell Beach, and no one is listening. And it’s going to go to the City Council, and they will pass it.”

December 2017 When the newly renewed condition use permit expires for the Chapman Estate.

By renewing the existing permit, the commission gave city staff more time to determine how many events the estate needs to hold each year to be self-supporting, without the pressure of a December deadline.

“I really do feel like we are being rushed, and if it was known that we were going to need more time, it should have been brought forward much sooner,” Commissioner Doreen Curtze said.

When Clifford Chapman willed his English Tudor estate to the city, he directed that it 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. Chapman died in 2012.

Since taking possession of the property at 1243 Ocean Blvd. in 2014, the city has wrestled with how it could best utilize the 1.5 acres, even as neighbors complained that events there bring noise and traffic to the quiet street. The city has several times proposed a permit allowing more events, before pulling back and approving more restrictive options.

The current permit allows four major fundraisers on the property, three free community events of up to 100 people, and six “gatherings” of 49 people or fewer per year.

It also faces a dilemma in that in order to have more events at the property, several accessibility upgrades must be made, but the city can’t afford those upgrades without holding more events.

After Tuesday, it looks like that struggle will continue for at least another year.

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.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie