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The San Luis Obispo City Council approves a 102-room hotel on Monterey Street

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Despite neighbors’ pleas against a planned 102-room, four-story hotel on Monterey Street, a majority of the San Luis Obispo City Council approved the project.

That majority also included some stipulations intended to ease impacts on the nearby San Luis Drive neighborhood, however. Councilmembers John Ashbaugh, Carlyn Christianson, and Dan Rivoire voted to approve the project design and environmental review; Mayor Jan Marx and Councilman Dan Carpenter voted in the minority.

With the approval, applicant Andrew Firestone was given three additional conditions: to fully enclose parking that might impact neighbors with noise, to add additional landscaping that would shield views of the building, and to attach a provision that would prohibit balconies on hotel rooms in the future.

The project came before councilmembers on a dual appeal. On one side, Firestone had appealed a recommended denial from the city Planning Commission, while neighbors had appealed a recommended approval from the city’s Architectural Review Commission. In an attempt to appease neighbors, Firestone and architect George Garcia reduced the parking spaces from 153 to 131, eliminated doors and balconies that would have faced the San Luis Drive neighborhood, and enclosed a lower parking garage to shield noise.

“I believe this hotel will be a good, welcome addition to the city of San Luis Obispo,” Firestone said, adding that he hopes it will be a four-star destination.

Neighbors said the changes were good, but didn’t go far enough to eliminate the hotel’s domineering façade. One neighbor said the four-story building, which will already sit higher than other buildings farther down the hill, would have a “Darth Vader-like effect” looming over the neighborhood.

Dozens of others made similar claims, and told the City Council they worried most about the precedent such a hotel could set for large-scale development in the future.

Among the councilmembers, Marx was most adamantly against the development as proposed, pushing to send it back to the Planning Commission, but she was unable to convince the majority. Councilman Ashbaugh expressed favor for the design, characterizing Firestone’s project as unique among other hotels in an area that he called “sheer mediocrity in the most important gateway of our community.”

Following the final vote, Marx said for the record that she believed the project doesn’t comply with the city’s ordinance on such development, will negatively impact the neighborhood, and sets a bad precedent. Her statements were met with applause from neighbors who’d come to oppose the project.

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