ATASCADERO — The City of Atascadero greenlit a new type of development through the consent calendar at the Nov. 26 City Council meeting. Dubbed a “micro-community,” the Grand Oaks Paseo Project combines commercial space and residential housing into one design.

Located at 4711 El Camino Real, the development plans to contain 30 residential units and four commercial spaces. The living quarters are micro, but not tiny, a distinction pointed out by Director of Community Development Phil Dunsmore. There is no question that the residential units are small with only 471 to 889 square feet for living space with some units having parking ports underneath. The commercial spaces that will face El Camino are even smaller at 400 sq ft.

The micro-homes are intended to be “affordable by design,” however, some critics suggest that the square footage pricing is hardly affordable. Builders estimate that the smaller 1 bed-1 bath, 475 sq ft. micro-home will sell for $275,000 which translates to $578 a square foot. The largest of the dwelling units, a 3 bed-2 bath, at 873 sq ft. is estimated to sell for $375,000 or $453 a square foot.

A unique feature of the project is the combination of live/workspaces. The plan calls for living areas located above the office space. The units can be sold separately as living quarters or sold in tandem. At the first reading of the proposal, Councilmember Roberta Fonzi asked City staff if there was anything that prevents using the storefronts as private housing. Dunsmore said that apart from zoning laws, the design lends itself to stay commercial.

“The pure design of these however really isn’t conducive to that being residential spacing because of the floor to ceiling glass space, the presence right at the sidewalk and the entrance right from the sidewalk…” Director of Community Development Phil Dunsmore said. He also pointed out the “disconnectedness” of the commercial from the residential separated by a platform and a second set of stairs. 

Fonzi also asked if people could purchase several homes and rent them out. Dunsmore stated that the covenants, conditions and restrictions would prohibit that from happening. The developer, Cal Coastal Properties, told The Atascadero News that the project is intended to open up the housing supply for locals and an offer to purchase the project in its entirety was already declined. 

Ted Lawton of Cal Coast Properties told the Council that their studies suggest the rental market is what is detrimental to affordable housing.

“Our research revealed that the best housing solutions point to homeownership that is affordable by design rather than rental-based housing,” Lawton said to the Council. “What our research has also revealed is the rental housing is the most expensive form of housing to the occupant and provides the least amount of benefit to the city, its residents and business community.”

Getting through this together, Atascadero