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Council vote could doom historic buildings 

Reused bricks could be all that remain of at least one historic building after the SLO City Council voted to move the Copeland family's plans for the downtown mixed-use Chinatown Project forward. The project would consume 75 percent of a city block--much of it now city-owned surface-level parking--just across Chorro Street from Mission Plaza.

The council voted 4-1, with Christine Mulholland opposed, to certify an environmental report for the project. It now heads to the Architectural Review Commission.

With its vote, the council ordered the developer to conduct a study of the Sauer Bakery building, which most recently housed a Pier 1 store. That building is considered the most historically significant building of five slated to be demolished for the project--it's listed on the city's Master List of Historic Properties.

The developer was also told to reuse bricks from the Blackstone Hotel, the building that hugs the corner of Chorro and Monterey.

Chinatown is in hurry-up mode, with the Copelands eager to meet a May deadline that marks their last option to purchase the city's part of the land for $3 million, a sum based on an appraisal made in 2000. With the run-up in land prices, a reappraisal could more than double that figure.

In recent months, project planners dramatically revised their plans for their project, scaling back the overall size and height of buildings, now no taller than 50 feet. The decision took away one major obstacle in the project's path to approval.

Destroying the buildings could run contrary to the city's General Plan, which states that historic buildings "should be identified, preserved and rehabilitated" and notes that such buildings "should not be demolished or substantially changed in outward appearance, unless doing so is necessary to remove a threat to health and safety and other means to eliminate or reduce the threat to acceptable levels are infeasible."

As designed, the 235,000-square-foot project would include a 67-room hotel, condos, restaurant space, offices, retail, and underground parking.

The council will see the matter again when it returns from the Architectural Review Commission.

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