Cal Poly’s construction management 431 (Integrated Project Services) class has taken on a new development project, which has raised controversy from community members regarding the redevelopment of a rehabilitation center.
This fall, the students in the class accepted the challenge of rebuilding and designing the Sunny Acres rehabilitation center, located at 10660 Los Osos Valley Road, along with a neighboring housing development.
Property owner Dan DeVaul, the original owner and manager of the rehabilitation center, (often recognized as the barrel-selling barn house on Los Osos Valley road), received numerous complaints and code violations in the past 10 years, which are currently being resolved by the city.
DeVaul said he wants to work with the class to rebuild the center.
Christine Mulholland, a San Luis Obispo City Council member, presented a one-hour lecture on the negative aspects of the development project.
“If you care about doing good, you don’t do bad and in your face things to your neighbors like Dan (DeVaul) has done,” Mulholland said.
Some of the issues included noise violations, landfill illegally brought in by unknown resources and the use of a motocross track cut into the hillside, according to Mulholland.
“You need to be very careful when you choose a client,” Mulholland said. “Are you going to be choosing someone who understands community standards? These are our concerns as a neighborhood and this is my caution to you,” she said.
Students responded to her presentation with rebuttals supporting their case and disproving many of the problems Mulholland addressed.
“We felt different than she (Mulholland) did. I took her to lunch at Vista Grande and she apologized to me about deflating the students’ enthusiasm from her presentation,” said Nick Watry, co-professor for the construction management class. “I saw Dean Thomas Jones at dinner and I asked him what was his impression of the presentation by Mulholland and he said he was very proud of the students, and they had done their research and communicated their thoughts well and with confidence.”
After Thursday’s class presentation, DeVaul responded to Mulholland’s concerns by explaining the ideas behind his behavior and the city’s response.
“By going ahead and doing it my way they shut me down, but they opened a door so that I can do it legally. So I am proud of the fact that I broke ground,” DeVaul said. “Not that I don’t enjoy giving a poke at the establishment.”
As a former drug user and alcoholic, DeVaul said his agenda for the rehabilitation center was based on the fact that he “is one of them.”
Sunny Acres has offered Narcotic Anonymous (NA) classes, along with work and housing for all of its participants. It is an accredited organization and provides a stipend to each employee, DeVaul said.
Mulholland was concerned that flood plains will make the area for Sunny Acres unrealistic to build on. She also expressed her views on a no-growth policy and the Greenbelt Program, which was created in 1995 to save “special places limiting the edge of development.” According to Mulholland, DeVaul’s land is considered to have high resource values by the city and therefore should not be developed.
“The city has no intentions of annexing this development. It’s important when you choose projects that you look at things like the city’s long-range planning,” Mulholland said. “This is an academic exercise and it is kind of a far cry. You don’t mitigate flood planes, you stay out of it.”
Co-professors Barbara Jackson and Watry disagreed with Mulholland and said the presentation seemed one-sided, and that they will make sure the students receive both sides of the story.
“The land is clearly in the sphere of influence, which means an area of land the city is interested in possible annexing, and that didn’t come across in Mulholland’s presentation on Thursday,” Jackson said. “That is why we are going to get the other side of that on Monday in class.”
Pam Jardini, DeVaul’s personal consultant on county planning issues, will present her ideas on development possibilities and respond to Mulholland’s concerns with the project in today’s class, Watry said.
“Pam Jardini is Dan’s (DeVaul) private consultant to advise county planning issues and she asked for a special meeting with the students to ‘set the record straight,’ saying that to mediate wetlands and flood lands is done all the time and it’s very, very common,” Watry said. “Pam thought it was very important that she give the students that additional information on Monday.”
Students from the CM 431 class still plan on proceeding with the project, researching the best ways to work with the issues presented on Thursday, Jackson said.
“There is a desperate need for such a (rehabilitation) facility,” Jackson said. “Dan (DeVaul) went about it completely the wrong way, and yet he is unwilling to scrap the idea just because he went off on a tangent and the wrong direction.”
Despite the disagreements, Jackson and Watry said they were both pleased with Mulholland’s presentation and felt it brought up some important things for students to experience when working in development.
“We knew you couldn’t get two more diametrically opposed people as Dan (DeVaul) and Christine (Mulholland), but we felt it would be wrong not to have Christine come and say her piece and this is such great training for these students,” Jackson said. “For some of these students their whole career is going to be in the area of development and they are going to run into people like Christine all the time. We have to hear her view because it is one of the things we have to deal with.”
Regardless of the list of barriers introduced at last Thursday’s class meeting, students such as construction management senior Aaryn Abbott addressed Mulholland and said they were determined to still find a solution.
“We have taken these situations into account, but Dan (DeVaul) came to us to offer a solution and we may not be able to provide a solution that is going to work, but give us an opportunity and open mind to show that this something that could happen,” Abbott said.
Both professors also stated that everything that has occurred in class has not been a surprise, but instead an opportunity for the students to learn.
“For myself and Barb Jackson, the bottom line is the education of the students, and we are not necessarily for Dan (DeVaul) or Christine (Mulholland) being successful,” Watry said. “That will be tried out in the years ahead of us, but this is a real issue with a real client with real problems.”