Planning Commision Hears El Camino Development




ATASCADERO  — If anyone wonders what happens when back to back Atascadero City Planning Commission meetings are canceled, the result is a 390-page agenda packet when they pick things up again.

Back from an April hiatus, the group saw increased public turnout from their usual audience at their May 7 meeting. Most were parents whose children attend, or who they hope to have attend, a large family daycare in an existing residence at 5850 Cascabel Rd. The application got support from friends and neighbors as well for the property to accommodate 14 children in a day camp environment.

Around half of the audience left after that item garnered unanimous approval, but representatives of the Zappas’ family development companies were among those who stayed for most of the meeting, called upon to speak for multiple items.

The first on their list was the application to, “add 15-feet to an existing faux-pine cell tower.”

No, faux-pine isn’t a new tree hybrid, but one may have been a feature in last year’s holiday decorations. Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore waved a pair of the bushy green artificial “branches” the tower would use as camouflage, demonstrating for the commission, but the fumbling with the faux-foliage was unnecessary as the project was essentially rubber-stamped as part of ongoing efforts to get the three-story La Plaza development finished.

In place since the 1990s the cell facility will expand to accommodate construction, taking carrier antennas to a new height of 70-feet with another ten of branch-like concealment.

The commission allowed a reduction of the more ornate designs in a concealer wall around the base to a utilitarian look at the request of Mike Zappas.

Next on the agenda was a plan spearheaded by Max Zappas, for a mixed-use project in the space on El Camino Real currently serving as parking for the Bru Coffeehouse.

Although staff confused the site momentarily with the similarly named Malibu Brew — a landmark business recently moved off of El Camino due to construction — the infill development is in another block of the Downtown, north of Traffic Avenue. Public commenters noted that the proposed Colony Lofts, at 5730 El Camino Real, is were where the community's original downtown core developed. The alleyway behind businesses and abutting the freeway has since become a hotspot for illegal long term parking and unmonitored commercial use, owners of nearby businesses said.

According to the staff summary, the new two-story building would include  2,500 sq. ft. of commercial space on the ground floor facing El Camino Real, and five residential units. Four on the second floor and one accessible unit is proposed on the ground floor behind the new business space.

The commission, chaired by former council candidate Mark Dariz with Tom Zirk absent, approved the project as an exemplar of the type of project the community needs, with the condition that it actually be constructed with the quality and attention to detail shown in the architectural plans, without lower quality substitutions.

No timeline was available after the meeting as Max Zappas noted, they’re focusing on finishing ongoing projects before groundbreaking on new ones.

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