Mayor issues apology for comments heard during Community Forum at last meeting

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero City Council met for its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 25, at 6 p.m. The hybrid meeting was held in the City Council Chambers. Councilmember Heather Newsom was absent from the meeting.

At the end of Updates from the City Manager, Jim Lewis brought up that, due to what unfolded during the June 11 meeting during Community Forum, community members would only be able to address the council in chambers and that Zoom call-in capabilities would not be taking place.

“On behalf of the staff, and I know many of you feel the exact same way, what we had to be subject to at our last meeting was disgusting and it was totally inappropriate and difficult,” Lewis said. “I did consult with the mayor and mayor pro tem and made the decision that we would not allow Zoom comments. It’s unfortunate for the responsible public that uses that as a convenient way to call in, but we will not be having Zoom comments until we have better protocol and have really thought this through.”


The council responded to community members stepping forward during public comment to address how well Atascadero’s first official Pride event went and a resident that was disappointed in how the anti-pride comments made during community forum were handled at the June 11 meeting.

“To those of you that were subject, along with the rest of us to, two weeks ago. Those comments, I’m with you. It was horrific …  It was disgusting. It was hard, painful, for all of us, and I’m sure some more than others to sit here and listen to that,” said Mayor Heather Moreno. “I was looking over every 10 to 15 seconds at my city attorney, ‘Can we yet? Can we yet?’ If we were a business, we could say, ‘Out of here. Off.’ We [could] get to determine who we serve or we don’t serve, or who we listen to or who we don’t listen to.

“In government, we don’t have that freedom, and in essence, most of the time, that works well. That’s a good thing. We want to hear from everybody. Clearly, that [what happened last meeting] is not what we want to hear. That’s not what we’re welcoming. That does not represent our community. We honestly don’t even know who those people are. I’ll bet you they are not from our community, and they do not represent Atascadero and the kind of people that we are. The loving, respectful community that we are. I am sorry that all of you, that all of us, had to sit through that, and as the city manager and the city attorney said, we are trying to navigate our way through this.”

Senior Planner Xzandrea Fowler presented the council with the first public hearing of the night on the Dove Creek Mixed-Use Project. The project has seen many different iterations over the last 20 years, with none of them moving forward to completion. This is also not the first time the council has seen this version of the project brought before them.

The Dove Creek project will take 5.19 acres of commercial property at the intersection of El Camino Real and Santa Barbara Road. The plan includes:

  • 14,840 square feet of commercial tenant space
  • 71 residential condominium units
  • 20 short-term rental hotel units

“The requested approval actions associated with the project are: amendment to the plan development #12 zone text, a conditional use permit amending the master plan of development, parking modification for the shared parking required space reduction, allowance of 100 percent of the short-term hotel units to have full kitchens inside, a vesting tentative tract map creating several lots with airspace condominiums, and a consistency determination with the previously certified mitigated negative declaration,” said Fowler.

After much deliberation and hearing from the public on the project the motion passed unanimously with a few recommendations to staff that got no pushback from the applicant.

Those recommendations included fixing a typo on page 201, requiring a 24-7 local contact person for the hotel, a condition of approval for requiring those with garages to park inside of them, and the 71 units would not be used for short-term rentals unless owner occupied, as well as a few other things.

The next Atascadero City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 9, at 6 p.m.