The same developer behind two controversial projects already under construction in San Luis Obispo is eyeing another: a four-story mixed-use project at 790 Foothill Blvd.
LR Development Group, an El Segundo-based company, submitted the plans for 78 units of housing and 6,800 square feet of ground floor commercial/retail space. The project would be developed on three parcels, including the current location of Blackhorse Espresso and Bakery.
- Image Courtesy Of The City Of SLO
- FOOTHILL HOUSING Plans for a four-story mixed-use development at 790 Foothill Blvd. in SLO is moving down the city's review pipeline. It proposes 6,800 square-feet of ground floor commercial space and 78 housing units.
Developer Loren Riehl told New Times the project represents the type of "infill" housing SLO's looking for.
"This specific lot has been mentioned as being appropriate for this type of development, so we believe the location will receive support," Riehl said in an email on April 24.
The plans call for a 43-foot building—eight feet taller than the city zoning code allows—a 35 percent density bonus, and 90 percent lot coverage—a maximum of 75 percent is normally allowed. Those exceptions are under consideration since the project would provide 12 housing units for very low-income renters. State law requires cities to allow a density bonus, specifically, if a project has a certain percentage of affordable units, according to city officials. As an infill development, the project is exempt from environmental review under CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act).
Riehl said he's open to feedback from city residents and officials on the design of his project. The SLO Architectural Review Commission is scheduled to review the plans on May 7. After that, it will go to the Planning Commission, then the City Council for approval.
"We have worked diligently to address the issues brought up during other public hearings, and we will always keep an open mind throughout the public hearing process," Riehl said.
Riehl's previous two SLO projects drew intense opposition from community members. Locals took Riehl to court over a 33-unit housing project at 71 Palomar Ave., alleging CEQA violations. Riehl asked the judge to bill the suing residents $500,000 for his delay costs. He prevailed in the overall case, but was denied the request for a reimbursement.
Another four-story project recently approved at 22 Chorro St. received criticism for its height, parking reductions, and proximity to the adjacent neighborhood. Locals lamented the loss of public views of the Cerro San Luis Mountain. Mock-up images of the new proposed four-story project appear to shield some of Bishop Peak from view.
Riehl noted that he doesn't expect the same community opposition for this project because it's in a commercial district, and he isn't requesting a parking reduction.
But SLO resident Kathy Borland, co-founder of a recently formed residential group Preserve the SLO Life, described the project to New Times as "another development in an already impacted area with heights that will block the viewshed," adding that it will "greatly affect the neighborhood." Preserve the SLO Life recently earned a court settlement with the city over the impacts of Avila Ranch, a planned 720-home development.
"Preserve the SLO Life is about quality neighborhoods and smart growth with infrastructure improvements," Borland said in an email. "Residents are fed up with 'out-of-control development' and many are leaving." Δ