Mariotte Hotel Development (sequel 1)

Note: See earlier posting for backstory

Testimony at Architectural Review Commission at hearing October 5 2015

My name is Steven Marx. I live in San Luis Obispo and am a retired Cal Poly Professor. I testify today as the President of the Board of the Non-profit, Central Coast Grown, which holds a 20-year lease with the City of San Luis Obispo for the City Farm Property to implement the General Plan requirement to preserve “the signature agricultural landscape at the southern entrance to the City.” By the terms of that lease we are tasked with assuring that its nineteen acres are used for organic production of locally marketed crops by small local farmers and with creating educational programs about sustainable agriculture for schools and the general public. In our first year and half of operation, we have done that, staffed by one paid employee and volunteers and funded by small produce sales, grants, and contributions.

Unfortunately the matter at hand today has proceeded beyond the preliminary stages without our input, as a result of a failure of notification. It is surprising that nobody at the City who received notification long ago forwarded it to CCG or to its other neighbor, San Luis Ranch, and it’s also surprising that none of the earlier staff reports to the ARC gave adequate consideration to the larger issues stated in your Community Design Guidelines: “Scenic views and natural features around the site, and a site’s location should be considered early in project design.”

We appreciate that our input has now been presented to the Commission and that one of the Commission members took the time to visit the site today.

We feel that the Commission members as well as the City Staff can benefit from our input and by acting sensibly in response to it.

Why? Because the construction of this building as now recommended would be a violation of the General Plan and an embarrassment to all parties who permitted it to go forward. As indicated to you in the renderings provided both by the applicant and by CCG, the building would become an exaggeratedly prominent visual distraction in “the signature agricultural landscape at the southern entrance to the City.” It would overshadow the mountains, the eucalyptus grove and all the distinctive agricultural fields and activities intended to be preserved by the Calle Joaquin Agricultural Reserve Master Plan of 2011 as well by as the recent LUCE update.

I’d like to note that in the minutes of your meeting of July 17 2014, more than a year before we learned of this project, it’s reported that Commissioner Wynn stated: “The community is going to be nervous about a tall, very long building.”

If this project goes forward as recommended in the Staff Report, when people concerned about this landscape ask, “What were they thinking?” they will discover that the passage of the Community Design Guidelines that I quoted earlier continues:

For instance, the placement of buildings against the backdrop of the hills should not obscure views by being oversized, extremely tall, or use materials or colors to draw attention away from the natural environment.

 And residents, visitors and motorists just passing by on the freeway will ask the same thing for the 50 to 100 years of the expected life of the building””What were they thinking?”

There is a straightforward way for both Staff and ARC to avoid this outcome. Simply require that the building be no taller than two stories. No matter what the details of design turn out to be, even if looks like another motel 6, and even if it is flanked as proposed by car dealerships on either side, as long as it is not “oversized” or “extremely tall,” we as an organization will not be unduly concerned.

Thank you.

Note 2: After this and the testimony of CCG Treasurer, Wendy, and farmers Nicki and Matt, the Commission voted unanimously to send the project back to the developers and City Staff and required them to address all the concerns stated in our previous communication. 



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