Upcoming housing projects vex SLO's planning commissioners



On Nov. 4 and Nov. 16, two respective 45-day clocks started ticking. 

It’s the window of opportunity for San Luis Obispo city residents and the SLO planning commissioners to weigh in on the draft environmental impact reports (EIRs) for two substantially sized housing developments coming down the pike: Avila Ranch and San Luis Ranch.

Together, the projects could bring 1,300 units of housing to 278 acres in a city that’s long complained of a housing shortage. Avila Ranch proposes 720 units on land east of South Higuera Street, while San Luis Ranch proposes 580 units between Madonna Road and Highway 101.

The EIRs for both projects conclude that there will be unavoidable and significant impacts, namely in the areas of traffic, air pollution, and land use issues, such as the loss of historical resources and agricultural land. 

The time frame to review both the developments’ draft EIRs in tandem, which total thousands of pages, frustrated both the public and the planning commissioners at a Dec. 14 Planning Commission hearing.

“I feel the pain that everyone has with these two projects coming up. These are probably two of the most important projects that I’ve seen,” Commissioner Ronald Malak said. “To me it’s overwhelming to have these two back to back through the holiday period.”

Commissioner Hemalata Dandekar agreed.

“I feel totally unprepared because this is a really bad time,” she said.

The Planning Commission voted to continue the public hearing for Avila Ranch to a Jan. 11 meeting. The commission will also discuss the San Luis Ranch draft EIR on Jan. 11 and Jan. 25.

The deadlines for public comment on the draft EIRs are Jan. 18 for Avila Ranch and Jan. 30 for San Luis Ranch.

SLO city officials told New Times that the planning process for both projects began at essentially the same time in 2014, which is why the draft EIRs are up for review practically simultaneously.

“Housing is a major city goal,” SLO City Manager Katie Lichtig said in an email. “Moving these projects forward is consistent with the work program for this council’s objective.”

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