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SLO City Council approves plan for hundreds of new downtown apartments

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Posted at 5:54 PM, Apr 20, 2023

The San Luis Obispo City Council approved an ordinance that will bring hundreds of new housing units to the downtown area.

The plan calls for using empty office space to build new apartments.

The goal is to have more people live in Downtown San Luis Obispo and make the area less economically dependent on tourism.

The city is hoping that hundreds of more people will embrace living downtown and move there in the coming years.

“It’s just an experience, you know. I don’t know if I’d live downtown forever,” said Dylan Ansbro, who lives in San Luis Obispo.

The ordinance, approved Tuesday, calls for building 500 new studios and one-to-two-bedroom apartments by the end of 2028.

More people living downtown could mean more businesses staying open later.

“Businesses staying open would be a benefit to the community especially with more people living around here,” said Ansbro.

Over the past few months, the city has gathered feedback and heard concerns from community members.

“A lot of the concerns were about parking and affordability,” said San Luis Obispo Community Development Housing Coordinator Kyle Bell.

There will be no affordable housing requirements for the first 500 units that are built.

The city says that the focus right now is solely aimed at ramping up housing production.

Another change is that the new units will not be allowed to be used as short-term rentals on apps like Airbnb.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to recover from the 2020 pandemic,” said Bell.

The city hopes that drawing more people to live downtown will bring more foot traffic to businesses.

Another goal is to have more people live within walking distance of where they work.

There is no exact timeline on when construction will begin because that is dependent on how quickly the city approves any new development.

“Usually that process can take a few years and so we might not see construction immediately,” explained Bell. “There are also opportunities to convert existing office space to housing units so we might be able to see some housing units constructed more readily within the next few years.”

The city modeled the program after a similar ordinance in Downtown Santa Barbara that was rolled out in 2013.