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A divided SLO council moves the Broad Street rezoning plan forward 

The future of development on South Broad Street in San Luis Obispo will be guided in large part by a plan narrowly approved by a divided city council.

On Sept. 17, the council voted 3-2, with members Kathy Smith and Dan Carpenter in the minority, to move along the South Broad Area Plan for its upcoming update of the city’s general plan, also known as the city’s “constitution.”

The controversial plan calls for major rezoning of the area from Upham to just south of Orcutt Road over the next 20 years, which the city hopes will encourage more mixed land use, increase affordable housing, and pretty up the place as a “gateway for downtown.” It calls for the addition of 355 new homes and 330,000 square feet of commercial space.

The latest draft omitted previous language that included McMillan and Duncan streets, home to a number of manufacturing properties that would become nonconforming under the plan. Opposition from the manufacturing community poked holes in the plan in previous meetings.

Of the 292 parcels in the Broad Street planning area, 75 are expected to be rezoned, including 11 properties that will become legally non-conforming, nine that are currently non-conforming that will be brought into conformance, and two businesses that will be left illegally nonconforming. The fate of those properties isn’t yet known.

Of particular concern for opponents of the plan are the limitations the new zoning would put on their existing properties and businesses, which they argued essentially amounted to a “taking.”

Other people were concerned with the form-based codes that will come into place thanks to the plan, which is a means to regulate certain developments to fit a certain look or form.

Local architect Steve Barasch took the city to task over the codes, which he said stifled creativity, urging an urban design instead, so that “we can build real architecture again.”

The approval came in the third go-around for the council, which formerly heard the item with an evenly split four members. New council member Carlyn Christianson provided the crucial majority vote.

“From what I see, this fits very well,” Councilman John Ashbaugh said immediately preceding the vote. “We welcome these [manufacturers] in the community—in their place. Nobody’s trying to diss you.”

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