A preliminary proposal to allow duplexes and senior apartments, instead of lower-density housing, near a key intersection has drawn mostly unfavorable reaction from the Santa Maria City Council amid traffic and other concerns.
Coastal Community Builders has proposed a General Plan land-use designation and zone change for 15.23 acres at 1571 E. Main St., north of Main Street and east of Suey Road. A single-family home with landscaping now sits on the parcel.
After hearing details, council members suggested the conceptual review of the Paradiso Residential Development should be considered in a different venue.
“Wouldn’t it be more prudent to go to the Planning Commission where it’s not as formal as it is at the City Council to really discuss this where people living in this area can come and give their input?” Mayor Alice Patino asked.
“I’m undecided at this point,” Patino said, adding that she would prefer the conceptual review go to the Planning Commission study session for discussion and possible changes.
The developer proposed changing from lower-density residential and single-family residential to medium-density residential and high-density residentia,l with zoning designations of R-2 and R-3.
The developer has not submitted formal paperwork for the project, and simply sought the council members’ opinions on a higher-density use.
“This is before you as a concept. But they’re ready to submit,” Community Development Director Chuen Ng told the council.
The proposal envisioned a gated community with two 3-story apartment building containing 75 units each, for a total of 150 units for senior citizens.
The duplex community would be on the northern 9.32-acre portion of the overall project site, and include 90 individual single-family units in a total of 45 buildings.
Officials in cities across California have been wary about housing projects and possible addition of accessory dwelling units, which would increase the number of people residing in the area.
“I came here tonight prepared to go against this because we’ve approved so many of them over the last several years, but there’s been very few, if any, that are single-family homes that have been approved, like where many of us live,” Councilman Mike Cordero said.
A letter from the leader of Marian Regional Medical Center urged the council’s support, and said that the need for hospital employee housing made him rethink his stance.
Traffic has worsened in the area, Cordero said, noting that council members commonly get calls of complaints about congestion. He recently received a call from a key constituent — his wife after it took her an hour to get from one end of city to the other, according to Cordero.
“She came home madder than heck,” he said.
Councilwoman Etta Waterfield added that she was hesitant to support higher-density housing, but noted her looming departure from the council.
“I would not vote for it,” she added.
City officials have been dealing with increasing complaints from homeowners about parking from nearby apartments spilling into single-family neighborhoods.
All the council members raised various traffic concerns and Councilman Carlos Escobedo urged that Pioneer Valley High School representatives be included in the future discussions.
Despite noting traffic concerns, Councilwoman Gloria Soto unequivacably supported the development concept, agreeing that the higher-density housing could make it more affordable.
“The way that we’ve been building homes in Santa Maria makes it unaffordable,” Soto said, noting newer developments with 6-bedroom homes. “The way in which we’ve built a lot of housing perpetuates multiple families cramming up into one home. It perpetuates the high cost of housing.”
Cam Boyd, chief operating officer for Coastal Community Builders, said the firm has developed homes, mostly single-family residences, in the Santa Maria Valley for more than 30 years.
The unique element involved a condition imposed by the property seller that requires a portion of the development for age-restricted senior residences, Boyd said.
Boyd said a traffic study would be conducted once the project is submitted.
“In summary, this project provides a different housing type to meet the extreme need for medium- and high-density housing on the east side of the freeway,” said Brian Schwartz from Urban Planning Concepts.