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.
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)”