Letter to the ARC – Wendy Brown, 2/7/14

Wendy Brown
1865 Wilding Lane
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
wbrown@slonet.org (805) 543-0995

February 7, 2014

City of San Luis Obispo,
Community Development Department
Ms. Pam Ricci, Senior Planner
919 Palm Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401-3218

Dear Ms. Ricci,

RE: ARC Meeting 2/10/2014, Item 2, Aesthetics Section of the Environmental Impact Report for the Johnson Avenue Housing Project
State Clearing House #2012051022 & City Files 56-08

Please pass this letter on to the ARC for their hearing on February 10, 2014.

As a general comment about the project, I’m against it. It is out of scale, creates horrendous traffic problems (not the issue here, I know), and degrades neighborhoods all around it. Following are my comment on the Aesthetics Section of the EIR referred to above.

  1. In general, I suspect that the project, as currently presented, is deliberately too big in order to arrive at a “compromise” that is still too big but what SLCUSD and Oasis really want. This is not an honest way to arrive at a good project. This is so bad it should be started completely over.
  2. Landscaping: there are several mentions in the project about the purple needle grass meadow and the need for preserving it. I think what several hundred residents enclosed in a tight space will see is a big open space to be used for touch football, sunbathing, and dog-walking. If the meadow is to be preserved it will need to be fenced off. This would be ugly to the general public and frustrating to the residents.
  3. In the hardscape section I see no provision for a children’s playground. This would probably be a noisy feature, and objected to by some residents, but necessary if the developers wish to attract families and not just students or single working poor folks doubling up in the bedrooms. In addition, the amenities suggested are nice but probably not adequate for so many residents. There should be more space for garden plots and safe BBQ pits.
  4. Bicycle parking is shown on the Sustainable Building Strategies graphic. It is in one area of one floor of the garages. It is likely that many residents, especially in the buildings at some distance from the garage, will not use this but instead will park bikes in their hallways, living rooms, and balconies. More diffuse bike parking would be helpful.
  5. There are references to eucalyptus trees in the report. SLCUSD has already removed MANY ukes in the area of the project and all around campus over the past few years. The input of the city arborist and tree committee is essential in preserving as much of the natural setting on the whole site as possible, and replacing some of the removed trees with native trees.
  6. The conclusions in the EIR about the visual effects of the project are baffling to me. Just because we already have two hospital/medical facilities along the Johnson Avenue corridor, doesn’t mean that we need another project of the same size and visibility. The report refers to the senior housing development at Johnson and Ella (in the report incorrectly as at Johnson and Lizzie) as comparable, but notes that the project is set back from property lines and is below street level.

The views of the hillside as I go up and down Johnson and back and forth to the Adult School are beautiful and precious to me. My Christmas card this year was a photo of sunset from the Adult School parking lot. That view would be eliminated by the proposed project. The height and massing of the buildings would make them the most visible thing for miles. The lights required for safety at night would also be visible for miles. I can already see The Manse at night from my home. We don’t need another such beacon.

I hope you will conclude that the aesthetics of the project as proposed are unacceptable, and that the project should go back to the drawing board. I’m not against new neighbors on that property, or even multi-family housing as would be allowed under current zoning. A beautiful project could be proposed for that site which could hug the hillside, provide for housing for families, and be oriented for truly efficient energy collecting and saving measures.

Thank you for your careful consideration.
Sincerely,
Wendy Brown

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