As more facts and opinions are expressed about the Johnson Avenue Housing Project, we will either add them to the home page or add new entries in the form of posts such as this one. You will be able to comment upon those posts, add your thoughts or add contrary views. So be sure the check the Comments and Posts page for the latest news and thoughts.
If you are interested in how the school district may be evaluating its options for the site going forward, I think the best information source would be to look at the minutes and reports from the school board when their initial discussions were held in 2005-8. Those minutes and reports are on this website either by scrolling down the Home page to the area entitled Project Documents | School Board SLCUSD Agenda, Minutes and Reports | 2006 – 2010 or click here.
First, the minutes discuss the 7/11 group which looked at the property to determine if it was surplus and to recommend to the board its disposition per California Education Code sections 17387 et al. Interestingly, the 7/11 committee primarily recommended the disposition of the property as a way to help teachers and staff afford housing. That was the context of their recommendation to dispose of the property.
Subsequently, the Facilities Director for the district, Brad Parker, performed several analyses (see September 19, 2006 minutes and attachments) looking at the economics of various options including a 38 lot affordable housing option and the 14 lot R-1 SFR option. The 14-unit option was deemed to provide the most value for the district, roughly 1 million dollars more than high end of the estimate, $2.5 – $4.0 million, for the 38 lot option. Of course, I would estimate that current value is less than what was projected based upon 2006 housing values. And, even, at the high value, it was estimated that the contribution to the school district general fund revenue would be $200,000 per year. That represents 0.28% of the district’s $72 million dollar budget.
Not really relevant for the forward looking analysis is the fact that Brad Parker became an independent contractor and worked on the project as a consultant in 2010. And the minutes for 2010 show the amount of money paid to Oasis, almost $360,000 authorized up to that point.
And, of course, none of those projections figured the cost of mitigation and the impact of neighborhood opposition.
I would guess that those analyses and discussions would be the starting point for the school district as it now moves forward given that they have abandoned the 88-unit high density option.
Give these minutes a read and share your thoughts of how the district might proceed and what you might recommend if you were in their shoes.
I think that the school district might consider re-evaluating the 7/11 committee recommendations if they are not going to use the property as affordable housing for teachers and staff.
My opinion is growing that the site would make a great park area for the high school, for the school district offices, for the neighborhood and for the community. Look at how nice that site looks without the proposed development in the image below.
Just published a letter from Ryan Pinkerton, Assistant Superintendent, SLCUSD, discussing the next steps in the evaluation process for the Johnson Avenue Housing Project site. Looks like nothing new will happen before June, 2014, at the earliest. Click here for the letter.
The 88-unit version of the JAHP has been cancelled by the school district. This was initially reported in the on-line version of the Tribune on the evening of January 12th and published in the print version on January 13th. You can see a copy of the on-line version here on this website.
Ryan Pinkerton, Assistant Superintendent, SLCUSD, has a letter posted to this website, briefly outlining the school district’s next steps for the site.
The City has issued a Notice of Cancellation, Postponement Notice 2-13-14.pdf, regarding further approval process and meeting about the JAHP.
Hats off to the school district and the school board for recognizing the problems with the high density approach for the use of the property and being able to make a rational decision going forward. It is often not easy to recognize that previous assumptions may have changed, that the legal environment may have changed, that needs may have changed and that changes in the economics evaluated for previous decisions may necessitate reversing those decisions. But the school system management and board were able to make that hard, but correct decision.
All those neighbors who have helped to bring the facts to the school district should feel proud of how they have contributed to creating a better environment for the City of San Luis Obispo. But we must also remember, this is just the first round of a process to determine what, if any, development should occur on that site. And to continue to accept the responsibility of helping the school district understand the needs of the neighborhoods potentially affected by any development.
We should be aware of the lessons learned in this process and should continue to work together, neighborhoods hand-in-hand.
Good work neighbors !!
The meeting of the Architectural Review Commission (ARC) started at the scheduled time, 5 PM. There were about 30 – 40 recognizable attendees from the San Luis Drive, Buchon/Pismo and above Lizzie neighborhoods.
To give you a little insight into the normal type of projects the ARC hears, let me refer to the project which was reviewed on the agenda before the JAHP – the construction of the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant going into the current site of Taco Bell next to Applebee’s in the Madonna Shopping Mall.
The ARC was asked to approve a building similar to this one. (This god awful one). The ARC commented on the size of the signs, the trim around the front door and the type of brick to be used in the left side facade of used brick. Lots of details. And then they approved it. Quite different from what was requested for the JAHP (see below).
The JAHP was next on the agenda. Pam Ricci did a preamble to the presentations by Robert Carr and Carol Florence. Pam stated that the project wasn’t really a project in the normal sense of those reviewed by the commission, but was a project concept that had an EIR upon which they wanted the commission to approve a set of architectural guidelines and comment on mitigation set forth in the EIR. (I have asked Pam for a copy of those guidelines, but have not yet received a reply.) The guidelines included items like the color of the walls of the buildings, the slope of the roofing lines, etc. Lots of details for a project that doesn’t yet exist as a project. A copy of the slides used for Pam and Robert’s presentations is available here.
She then passed the floor to a Robert (Bob) G. Carr, a landscape architect for SWCA Environmental Consultants, who either did the section of the EIR or just help to prepare the section of the EIR.
First, Mr. Carr talked about how the EIR considered the existing neighborhoods and streets including an existing profile of the businesses, homes and other entities along Johnson Avenue. He commented that the great thing about Johnson Avenue was the multitude of vegetation along the street which made everything look good. He was implying that plants solve all ills.
Mr. Carr then spent several minutes talking about how they took pictures of several views of the site and superimposed the computer graphics of the project upon those images. (Those pictures formed the basis of the animated photos that are available on this site). He went to great length to communicate how scientific it all was. He showed the pictures (not animated) and said that even though some of the pictures looked bad, if you moved to other locations, it did not look as bad and that was why the EIR did not classify the aesthetics as objectionable Class I issues.
Then Carol presented an overview of the project emphasizing how important this project was for the school district and the kids. How they had spent so much time on refining it. How it was really not a project yet. How they had gleaned the desires from the neighborhoods and that the project included the comments from the neighbors.
She then introduced a landscape architect who basically said that they wanted the Commission to review and approve the Architectural Guidelines. He also commented on the design of the proposed non-project. How they had considered a buildings with a higher profile and with uglier designs, but they had come up with this one which was so much better. And that the elevations shown did not have the landscape included but that when the trees and plants grew it would look so much better.
Then came the best part of the meeting. At least 10 neighbors spoke about their concerns. Interestingly, almost all of them brought a different perspective about the project and reasons to be objecting to the project and to the EIR.
Now, I had to leave the meeting for another commitment at 8:00 PM, while there were still neighbors commenting upon the project and the EIR. Several of the commenters had written letters which can be viewed on the Letters to . . . section of this website.
I am told that after the Public Comments, the commissioners asked questions of Carol, Bob and Pam. That there seemed to be frustration by the commission about approving the non-project Guidelines and giving the sense of approval of the project in anyway. And frustration on being asked to comment or approve the aesthetic mitigation presented in the EIR.
One attendee reported to me that, “Pam and Carol would not let the ARC off the hook, and insisted that they make comments on the list of proposed mitigation. So, they did that, making minor suggestions, but Commissioner Greg Wynn proposed that they add an introductory paragraph to their comments saying that the proposed mitigation were not sufficient to make the project acceptable. All 4 commissioners present voted “yes” to that motion. Pam tried to soften the language, but agreed that the minutes of the meeting, including public comments and correspondence, would be forwarded to the PC. (Planning Commission)”
If I have left anything significant out of this summary, please comment below.
Below is a segment of the video from the SLCUSD Board meeting from September 17, 2013, where the last reference to the JAHP was made to the board (prior to last week’s meeting). Carol Florence, Oasis Associates, spoke to the board about the current progress of the JAHP. Note that the synchronization of the video and audio is a bit off, but you can still hear the content of the presentation.
It is easy to see how the board members could get the impression that the neighborhood concerns might not be an issue from the comments made by Carol and the lack of any representation by the neighborhoods at the meeting. Especially since this project pre dates many of the board members and the school district management. What they did not know was that the neighborhoods have been waiting for the release of the EIR before re-energizing their efforts.
The Architectural Review Commission (ARC) will be reviewing the EIR from an aesthetic perspective at the meeting next Monday at 5 PM. Information about the ARC can be found here.
The tentative agenda:
ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW COMMISSION
990 Palm Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
February 10, 2014 Monday 5:00 p.m.
ROLL CALL: Commrs. Ken Curtis, Suzan Ehdaie, Steven Hopkins, Anthony Palazzo, 1 Position Vacant, Vice-Chair Greg Wynn, and Chairperson Michelle McCovey-Good
ACCEPTANCE OF AGENDA: Commissioners or staff may modify the order of items.
PUBLIC COMMENT: At this time, people may address the Commission about items not on the agenda. Persons wishing to speak should come forward and state their name and city of residence. Comments are limited to five minutes per person. Items raised at this time are generally referred to the staff and, if action by the Commission is necessary, may be scheduled for a future meeting.
PRESENTATION: Measure Y Presentation (Derek Johnson)
NOTE: Any court challenge to the action taken on public hearing items on this agenda may be limited to considering only those issues raised at the public hearing, or in written correspondence delivered to the City of San Luis Obispo at, or prior to, the public hearing. If you wish to speak, please give your name and address for the record.
Any decision of the Architectural Review Commission is final unless appealed to the City Council within 10 days of the action. Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Commission may file an appeal with the City Clerk. Appeal forms are available in the Community Development Department, City Clerk’s office, or on the City’s website (www.slocity.org). The fee for filing an appeal is $273 and must accompany the appeal documentation.
1. 309 Madonna Road. ARC 84-13; Review of new building for Buffalo Wild Wings; C-R-PD zone; Blazin Wings, Inc., applicant. (Walter Oetzell)
2. 1642 Johnson Avenue. ARC 56-08; Review of the Aesthetics Section of the Johnson Avenue Housing Project EIR and project design guidelines; R-2 zone; San Luis Coastal Unified School District, applicant. (Pam Ricci)
COMMENT & DISCUSSION:
a. Agenda Forecast
Presenting Planners: Walter Oetzell and Pam Ricci
Handouts and Slides from the Meeting:
Tonight (Tuesday February 4, 2014) about 20 – 30 neighbors from the various neighborhoods potentially impacted by the JAHP attended the school board meeting. Fortunately, the JAHP EIR agenda item was moved up in the discussion sequence to accommodate the group.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Ryan Pinkerton, led off the JAHP session by referring to the meeting of last Thursday (City sponsored meeting). He commented to the board that the meeting generated a lot of frustration from the neighbors with its less than adequate format; and that it did not produce a positive result for the project. (Ryan attended the Thursday meeting, not as a speaker or expert, was there most of the meeting and personally talked to several attendees during the meeting).
In his introduction, Ryan reviewed significant milestones from 2005 to the present for the board. Further, he counseled the board that a more interactive dialogue with the neighbors would be a good idea and even suggested that the 45-day EIR comment period be expanded to make sure that sufficient dialog and information exchange was facilitated.
Carol Florence of Oasis Associates presented an executive overview of the EIR and stated that the results of the EIR were good news for the board in that there were no serious “Class I” issues that would require significant modifications to the project. During a question from the board, Carol said that the major reason the city objected to the original SFR proposal was because of the impact upon the Needle Grass meadow. “If we could not build on that area, then we were limited to the number of SFR homesites.”
The board, at least, paid a lot of lip service to considering a smaller project. One question asked was whether the EIR would have to be redone if the project was downsized. The response was that only if the project was expanded would the EIR need to be revised.
After their presentation, the floor was opened to Public Comments on the project. Several speakers presented their thoughts and objections. No one spoke in favor for the project.
After the public comments on the JAHP, during a break, Ryan Pinkerton wanted to chat with the neighborhood attendees and suggested at least one follow up meeting to create a dialogue between the school district and the neighbors. A potential date next week was discussed. The neighbors were concerned about scheduling a meeting when there were already two meetings – ACR and Planning Commission – to prepare for in the next couple of weeks. However, subsequently, the Assistant Superintendent communicated that the originally scheduled date caused a conflict. Stay tuned for more information as to the schedule of this meeting with the school district.
My take is that the school district is smart enough to recognize that they need to deal with the neighborhood residents. Now are they smart enough to listen and respond to the needs of the neighborhoods?
Who is Ryan Pinkerton?
To get a feel for where he fits into the school district organization, I visited the SLCUSD website and found that Ryan maintains a blog to which he posts his thoughts frequently. You can visit that blog at http://wordpress.slcusd.org/businessservices/.
It appears that Ryan is responsible for the JAHP and that he has worked closely with Carol Florence (Oasis Associates) and Ty Green (school district legal counsel) on several revenue projects (JAHP and Avila Bungalows) for some time. UPDATE: Ryan says he has been in his current role only since August 2013.
See an excerpt form his post on those topics from September of last year:
The district is constantly looking for ways to increase revenues to ensure we can continue providing our students with an outstanding education. At the September 17, 2013, Board Meeting we reviewed two projects that will become revenue streams for the district in the future.
The Avila Bungalow project is a mix of homes, time shares, and the renovation of the historic school house into a potential bed and breakfast. The district is leasing the property to a developer and will receive a portion of the income that comes from the development. As the project is built out, it will pay for itself, ensuring the financial stability of the developer as well as the district. While this project has been in the planning phase for many years, the developers have broken ground and a few units have been built, one of which recently sold.
The Johnson Avenue project has been in the planning phase since 2005, although it has recently been held up due to traffic concerns. Located on the portion of land near the District Office and San Luis Obispo High School on Johnson Avenue, the original plan called for 80 units in a multi-family development that would help the City with their long-range growth needs. The addition of so many units may seem like it would create a lot more traffic, but traffic projections have shown it will only represent a 2% increase to that area. Once the Environmental Impact Report is published, we will be able to look for potential developers and hopefully get the project off the ground.
While both the Avila Bungalows and Johnson Avenue projects will provide a sustainable, ongoing source of revenue and provide economic relief, we also receive revenue from leasing our unused sites.