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Grover Beach supports proposed affordable housing project

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Grover Beach is moving forward with a proposed housing development that would create more than 50 low- and very low-income apartments in the heart of town, a proposal that some community members are hailing as an example of the solution to California's housing crisis.

AFFORDABLE Grover Beach City Council showed support for a 53-unit housing project at 1206 West Grand Ave. and 164 South 13th St. - IMAGE COURTESY OF GROVER BEACH
  • Image Courtesy Of Grover Beach
  • AFFORDABLE Grover Beach City Council showed support for a 53-unit housing project at 1206 West Grand Ave. and 164 South 13th St.

"It's the gold standard in sustainability to have affordable housing right where people are working and shopping," Grover Beach resident Krista Jeffries said.

The proposed 53-unit housing project, which will be developed and operated by Peoples' Self-Help Housing and the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo County, is located at 1206 West Grand Ave. and 164 South 13th St. It will consist of two three-story buildings totaling 44,745 square feet.

As it stands now, the project would include 24 one-bedroom, 15 two-bedroom, and 14 three-bedroom apartments, along with an on-site laundry facility, a community center, bike racks, an outdoor space with barbecues and picnic tables, 63 parking spaces, and a 330-square-foot community garden for residents.

The proposed project, according to a city staff report, would take care of around 35 percent of Grover's current low-income Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), which is mandated by the state and determines the number of housing units a city needs to support its residents.

Grover's current RHNA allocation requires that land is available for the construction of around 369 units in the next 10 years, including 57 units for low-income earners and 91 for very low-income earners. The city only currently has 15 rental units that are deed-restricted as low- and very low-income, according to the city staff report.

But several Grover residents said the proposed project lacked adequate parking and would eliminate one of the city's "rare" open spaces.

The lot at 164 South 13th St. is mostly just an empty field now, but the Cleaver family deeded it to the city in 1990 with hopes of it being used for recreation purposes. City Manager Matt Bronson said the city considered putting a community center on the lot, but it would have been "a very expensive undertaking for our city." So instead the lot was rezoned as an "opportunity site" for affordable housing development in Grover's 2020-28 Housing Element.

"About a year ago, we had conversations with the executor of the Cleaver deed about the possibility of converting the use into a different purpose, in this case, a housing purpose, given the nature of the Cleaver family and their desire for housing, as well as the executor," Bronson said at the meeting. "So that's what led the executor to be able to indicate their support for this reconfiguration."

Community and council members also expressed concerns over the potential removal of a century-old live oak tree on the lot that is believed to be one of the oldest trees in Grover Beach.

One resident of a neighboring mobile home park said that while she didn't know about the tree's existence until recently, she thinks it's a piece of nature and history worth saving.

"And I just wish more consideration went in to doing something to preserve our natural resources," she said at the meeting, pausing to choke back tears. "It's so awful. Instead of building more and making the density more, why not less to save that tree?"

Although developers had initially considered designs that would incorporate the tree as it is, arborist Rodney Thurman recommended its removal. Thurman assessed the tree in March and found pockets of decay in its trunk and branches that he said could make the tree a danger to people or buildings around it.

To offset the loss of the oak, developers plan to plant around 50 new trees on-site.

"It is never an easy decision to condemn a tree, but in the built environment, we have to be aware of the hazards we create by placing buildings and other infrastructure beneath or near trees," Thurman wrote in a report regarding the tree. "I am not comfortable with the potential of part or all of this tree failing and causing severe damage to someone or something below."

Councilmember Karen Bright told New Times that Thurman's report brought tears to her eyes. Bright has a long history advocating for trees in Grover Beach, including the oak tree in question now. The tree faced the threat of removal at least once several years ago, and Bright said she convinced city staff to assess the tree first. An arborist then found it to be in reasonable condition, just in need of a little care.

"I think I was the only woman on the council at that time and everyone was looking at me and calling me a tree hugger," Bright laughed, "which I am."

But now, she said, the situation has changed. The tree isn't healthy, she said, it's a liability, and affordable housing is desperately needed.

"It is an important project," Bright said. "There's no doubt about it. We have so few affordable housing units anywhere, not only in our city but everywhere."

Council expects to discuss a development and disposition agreement with developers this fall. Δ

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