Brennan Angel

The San Luis Obispo Planning Commission came one step closer Wednesday to approving a staff proposal that, if passed, would allow buildings in the downtown core area to reach anywhere between 60 and 75 feet tall.

The commission tweaked the plan’s amendments, even though a majority of the commission had already voiced support for the proposal during previous meetings. The downtown “core” area is specified as approximately the one-mile stretch between Santa Rosa and South Higuera streets, and spans from Monterey to Marsh streets.

Michael Cordon, an associate city planner for the project, said that the major change to the plan is the possibility of increasing building density units, as well as height, in order to allow developers to create buildings with more private residences.

The report has been under works for the last few months, and was first presented to the public on Dec. 13, where it was met with both concern and support.

Presently, San Luis Obispo residents are torn over the possibility of having taller buildings downtown.

“I would disagree with the city allowing larger buildings downtown because I think it would destroy the character and ambiance of the town as a whole,” biomedical engineering sophomore Caleb Casey said.

Other concerns voiced by the public during both of the meetings included the immergence of costlier housing, the lack of sunlight downtown and view obstruction.

However, the commission is looking into proposing solutions for the public’s concerns. One such idea is requiring that new buildings be constructed at an angle that would allow the greatest amount of light into the surrounding area.

On the other hand, some people are welcoming the possibility of increasing the building heights downtown.

“I welcome the urban core to grow a bit,” said Patricia Wilmore, a San Luis Obispo resident and member of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce. “I’m not afraid that we’re going to see a budding metropolis. Sixty feet is very reasonable.”

Planning commission Chairwoman Andrea Miller also said that she was excited by the concept of using the increased building space for mixed purposes including housing, offices and retail.

Still, much of the public remains slightly skeptical of the idea of having a “San Luis Obispo skyline,” although it was been stated that the proposed increase in height is moderate and will not lead to the mass production of skyscrapers.

And while they may not be excited about the possible change, some residents and students view the increase in height as a foreseeable result of progress.

“It’s too bad they’re going to make the buildings taller, but at the same time, I think we’re going to have to update the city – it’s the price of progress,” landscape architecture junior Marina Hadley said.

“If the city does end up doing this, I recommend (developers) use solar energy panels to conserve energy. They could also use recycled paper and recycled cement, as well as used floorings from old buildings,” Hadley said.

“They could even use specialized glass that would reflect sunlight better and decrease the amount of shadows around the buildings. But, of course, that all depends on whether or not they use the right architects,” Hadley said.

The final staff report concerning building height downtown will be presented to the City Council during their Feb. 6 meeting. For more information, contact City Hall at (805) 781-7100 or visit www.slocity.org.

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