The Morro Bay City Council responded to community outcry over a proposal to allow three-story tall buildings within the downtown area by removing it from the city's downtown strategic plan at a Jan. 23 meeting—but didn't ditch the idea entirely.
"There's so many beautiful views of the rock, even over buildings, where you have the mound of the rock. If you raise the height of the buildings we're going to lose that," Tina Metzger said during the meeting's public comment. "Most of us don't want this to turn into a Huntington Beach. We love the town the way it is."
Metzger was one of 14 community members who spoke out about the potential height change for commercial buildings outlined in the Downtown Waterfront Strategic Plan, which sets development guidelines for decision making over the next five to 10 years. The plan would have enabled buildings up to 37 feet tall in the downtown area, with an additional 7 feet allowed for architectural extensions to the building such as equipment.
Morro Bay Community Development Manager Scot Graham said as part of the strategic plan, the building height would merely be a design guideline, not necessarily a definitive change.
"They don't set policy as it relates to what our development standards are. It says, 'Hey, we'd like to go there, you adopt it, then we look and see what that would look like inside of our zoning code,'" Graham said.
Currently, the general maximum height is 30 feet and the city does allow for additional architectural extensions—it just requires a conditional use permit.
The proposed height guideline stemmed from conversations between workshops with the public, an advisory committee, the Planning Commission, and the City Council, Graham said, and a desire to have buildings that were tall enough to accommodate retail and living spaces.
"One of the visions from the discussions is maybe it would be good to encourage mixed-use buildings and put residential above. That would get people living downtown, and maybe our shops would stay open later or there could be more restaurant options come in," Graham said.
Mayor Jamie Irons and Mayor Pro Tem John Headding recused themselves from the meeting as both have vested business interests in the downtown area. The board adopted the strategic plan 3-0 but removed the specific building height from the plan, leaving it for the Planning Commission to discuss.
Graham said the community has the chance to talk about the potential commercial building height at the next Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 6.