About the Colony

Atascadero development would put too many homes on tiny lots


I routinely receive agendas for upcoming meetings of not just the Atascadero City Council, but the Planning Commission and even Atascadero’s Design Review Committee.

The design committee’s group of five includes council members Bob Kelley and Roberta Fonzi, along with members Duane Anderson, Mark Dariz and Jamie Kirk. The committee’s function is to review commercial and residential development plans before they go to the planning body. Most often they rule on how well a project complies with the city’s building goals and design standards.

On Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Room 306 of City Hall, the group will consider a request from a Monterey firm to build more than 200 apartments on slightly more than 7 acres in the 2500 block of El Camino Real.

I got a little sick to my stomach reading the scope of the proposed development, which includes 72 one-bedroom units and 136 two-bedroom units. The applicant is asking for a density bonus (can you say, build more homes?) by promising “high-quality architectural design.” This is all legal with City Council approval.

Atascadero, as many of us have known it over the past 50 years at least, is slipping away. With the potential start of construction on the Wal-Mart project just around the corner, I see construction everywhere on postage-sized lots, reminiscent of Southern California.

We are building too many homes on tiny lots, which impacts the draw on our water resources, the capacity of our sewage treatment plant, and even police and fire services.

I know the schools love the construction of more houses because they get more state funds.

But is there ever a point at which the approval of 208 new apartments on 7.5 acres does not appeal to city leaders? None that I’ve seen so far.

This project will be built on a portion of the site that was home to the second Atascadero golf course. The first was built on the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and E.G. Lewis’ Cloisters beach development.

The second golf course was built in Atascadero, and it was all sand, in the area of El Camino Real near San Benito Road. Many of us used to scoop up the sand that washed onto El Camino Real from this site during the rainy season. The third Atascadero golf course was downtown behind the Rancho Tee Motel and Colony Square.

I know growth is inevitable, but we can control it with larger lot size limitations, which would provide some sort of balance to rampant residential housing. There is even pressure being put on the city to rezone all the commercial property behind the former DeCou Lumber Co. and Peterson’s Welding sites for high-density residential uses.

Where will it stop?

This might be a good question to ask those candidates seeking election to the City Council this November.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.