ATASCADERO — On Tuesday, Sept. 4 the seven members of the City of Atascadero Planning Commission gave unanimous approval for a revamped mixed-use — commercial and residential — project at 5802 Traffic Way.
Long vacant, as the new site plans explain, due to the topographical and geological challenges of developing the lot, the parcel is bounded by apartments with residences on the hill above and sits “kitty-corner” to the City’s Fire Station No. 1.
Before the Commission was the issue of parking, which the unique site layout required be changed from the usual seven car spots mandated for the apartments proposed, down to five, with two being allocated to one residence, and a condition placed on the tenant of the smaller apartment that they only possess one vehicle.
Not an issue after all, said applicant Kathryn Kleinschmidt, currently of Paso Robles, as she intends to live there herself and is familiar with the restrictions required.
The City’s own review committees had suggested replacing some fencing with landscaping, something she said she preferred anyway, as it was more attractive and eased maintenance on existing staining walls, but would not have asked for as an exemption to rules.
Sporting two interesting features for Atascadero, the project calls for green roofing, literally as grass or other vegetation would cover the upper level, blending in the view from above as well as being a good water collection measure in a drought. The other is straw bale construction, which isn’t what it sounds like.
Working with the SLO Sustainability Group on the project, an expert on the construction method, Ken Haggard explained that the bales used are actually an agricultural waste product, treated, and stacked inside the walls of the building between the modern structural supports and utility conduits.
Walls do need to be much thicker than normal, but the advantages in insulation, fire resistance and sound absorption are several times over.
“It’s counterintuitive,” he said, “but it’s much more fire resistant than other methods because it would be like trying to burn a phone book. You can’t get it to light very easily.”
Kleinschmidt also added that, living near the fire station, noise reduction would be invaluable.
Of more concern to the planners was bicycle parking for the patrons of a space along the streetfront which would likely house a bistro or restaurant.
Commissioner Josh Donovan sparked discussion of how people typically use public bicycle parking and if residents would really want to have their personal bikes out in front of the commercial portion of the development near the street.
“I envision myself riding up locking the bike up, going in for a drink and riding off,” he said, adding that would be the pattern for most such businesses, but residents might appreciate lockers or a separate rack for themselves.
Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore noted that as far as questions of the Commission requiring the City to add more amenities of the kind separate from the mandate placed on private development, “require” would be the wrong word to use.
“[The Commission] can strongly suggest that the City do that,” he said, adding that this project in particular has a lot of “street trees” which often double as bicycle accommodation, “although we don’t encourage that.”