Principal Ave. development approved

A site overview from City Planning staff reports.

ATASCADERO — A proposed 52-unit residential, mixed-use, development at the corner of Principal Avenue and El Camino Real got the Atascadero City Council’s official stamp of approval after a public hearing June 25.

That was not before the owner of the project had a protracted discussion with City staff via the Council over what the exact nature of affordable housing actually is in a technical sense and reiterating what it actually means to be a developer.

“I’m not interested in drawing things [for review]. I'm interested in building and selling things and making money,” said Barry Ephraim of ECR Principal, LLC.

The remark followed an introduction in which he explained that he didn’t want to be seen as “difficult,” but that he did not agree with some of the staff information presented regarding the relationship of state and local ordinance on affordable housing.

“These are difficult issues for any city of 30,000 people,” he said adding that the state guidelines were created for exactly this development situation. “It’s a challenging project. The land has sat there fallow for the last 15 years for a reason.”

A new tract map was drawn up for the presentation with an increase in the total number of residential units to 52 units, up from a previous 37 approved in 2015 but never built.

Down three units from the original proposal which went to the City’s planning commission, the City’s staff report summarized project components include six live-work units, three detached single-family units, 39 attached row house style units, and four stacked flat units.

Mayor Heather Moreno summarized for the public some of the terminology used in the upcoming Housing Element update of the General Plan, language familiar to anyone who read the reports delivered at the last Planning Commission meeting.

“I want the public to understand that, when we talk about affordable housing, there is a technical definition [which is sometimes lost],” she said, “We have a RHNA number...a Regional Housing Needs Analysis, which is basically handed down from the state and negotiated with the County, with the count divided between the cities. ‘Affordable by Design’ and ‘Workforce’ housing which Atacadero has a lot of, don’t [satisfy] that requirement.”

With the item concluding discussion for a vote at 10:30 p.m., the Council approved the staff recommendations for the project with the stipulation that the four stacked flat units in the project be classified as three low income and one moderate income with in lieu payments going to the city for two other moderate income slots.

It was also left to the Atascadero Fire Department to restrict parking at discretion so as not to create a safety hazard with on-street access.

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