In a packed Oct. 27 meeting, the Paso Robles Planning Commission voted to delay deciding on a proposed three-story assisted living facility on South River Road. The commission voted 5-1 to continue the item to an undetermined date.
In the end, City Planner Susan DeCarli told New Times that the commission recommended that the applicant reduce the size and height of the project.
The vote followed a grueling four-hour deliberation where more than a dozen concerned residents spoke during the public comment period. The commission and public expressed myriad concerns about the project—including size, height, design, and the facility’s impact on parking, traffic safety, noise, and water resources. Commission Chairman Vance Vanderlip was the lone dissent in the vote.
“We could tell this project was going to be really challenging because of its size and scope,” DeCarli said. “We will work with the applicants to revise the project.”
The Oaks at Paso Robles, proposed by Fresno-based B.A. Hoffman Holdings LLC, sits on 68,000 square feet of long, narrow land at the southeast corner of South River Road and Serenade Drive. The tiered building design includes a three-story assisted living section and an adjacent single-story memory care wing, and plans to house 101 senior citizens. The facility includes a 43-space parking lot with entrances from both South River Road and Serenade Drive.
Commission members were disappointed at the mere 2-foot decrease in the building’s height after a Planning Commission committee instructed the applicant in July to reduce the height and size of the facility.
Applicant representative Larry Werner, of North Coast Engineering, argued that they “did their best to address the concerns about the height.” He also underscored that the facility meets an important need for the city in providing quality housing for senior citizens, which Werner said was in demand.
“We have a project that will be complementary to the neighborhood,” Werner said. “I think the impacts will be lower than people think.”
Many members of the public did not agree. Neighborhood residents were especially concerned about how overflow street parking could turn Serenade Drive—a relatively narrow street running up a hill—into a safety hazard.
Planning staff contended that the project’s traffic impacts would be minimal, however. Grumbles echoed through the room when DeCarli suggested that more street parking could actually help reduce vehicle speeding and make the intersection safer.
“On-street parking can be a benefit,” DeCarli said during a presentation. “It’s a natural traffic-calming facility, a visual cue to slow down.”
Area residents weren’t convinced, however.
“I think that’s a dangerous situation,” said one resident. “A lower profile facility would be a much better fit for the area.”
Others defended the project’s purpose, but still raised issues with traffic and the building layout.
“I’m here as an advocate for our senior citizens,” said Kathy Tucker, owner of Adas Lodges, another Paso Robles assisted care facility. “They depend on all of us. It’s hard to find quality places.”
DeCarli said that she had not spoken with the applicant since the decision as of Oct. 28. If the applicant decides it wants to continue pursuing the project, a new proposal could return to the Planning Commission again in January 2016.
“The commission’s decision gives the applicant the opportunity to consider the input, go back to the drawing board, and revise their project,” DeCarli said.