Opponents of a mixed-used development proposed for Arroyo Grande’s Grand Avenue are expected to be out in force at tonight’s special City Council meeting in a last-ditch effort to kill the project.
We urge the council to stick to its earlier decision to approve it.
That was made on Sept. 8, when the council voted 3-2 to allow the project on 4.4 acres at Grand Avenue and Courtland Street. The council is rehearing the matter tonight because of a minor error in noticing.
Here’s what happened: Meeting notices were sent to neighbors of the nearby Berry Gardens residential development as a courtesy; notification was not required, but the applicant requested that it be done anyway.
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The notices listed the Arroyo Grande City Hall address as the location of the hearing; the meeting actually took place across the street, at City Council chambers. A sign was posted to notify attendees of the mistake, but a group of opponents objected and asked the city to rehear it.
“Asked” is putting it mildly; demanded — even threatened — is more accurate.
Here’s an example: One project opponent sent an email to a couple of council members, describing what might be done if the city did not schedule another hearing: “There is always demonstrations we can do in front of city hall, there are press releases that can be done, recall, the ballot box and/or there is always the court system,” states the email. “We can do this nice and quiet, or we can do this another way, loud and messy.”
We hoped the toxic atmosphere in Arroyo Grande would improve following the 2014 election that ousted longtime Mayor Tony Ferrara and replaced him with write-in candidate Jim Hill. Instead, it appears a group of malcontents continues to bully council members who do not fall in line with them.
The council, by the way, did the right thing in rescheduling the hearing, but it should not let itself be badgered into opposing the project this time around.
We don’t expect everyone to like or support the project — that’s never going to happen.
However, we believe the development would be an attractive addition to a portion of the city that’s sorely in need of an upgrade.
The plan includes three commercial buildings at the front of the property — which is in line with what the city wanted — with parking behind the businesses.
A 36-unit housing development is behind the commercial portion. The housing is high density — 18.5 units per acre — making it the type of affordable-by-design project that is exactly what the Central Coast needs to attract and retain young people trying to break into the housing market.
Yet even the affordability of the project has been under attack by opponents, who complain the homes will be scooped up by investors who will turn around and rent them.
Would they prefer the $1.8 million brownstones going up in downtown San Luis Obispo?
The project on the table is the result of eight years of planning and compromising that culminated in a memorandum of understanding between the city and developer Nick Tompkins. The memorandum — which included guidelines on land use, parking and design — was unanimously approved by the council in February.
While the memorandum of understanding did not obligate the council to approve the project, it was an informal blessing. As long as the developer complied with the requirements — which he did — the city should honor its commitment and approve a project that will generate jobs and sales tax revenue, while increasing the stock of lower-cost housing that our region desperately needs.