SLO development plan would force out BlackHorse coffee shop

The latest of a barrage of mixed-used development proposals in San Luis Obispo would force a popular coffee shop out of one its locations. [Tribune]

Faced with getting ousted from a lot at 790 E. Foothill Boulevard, the owner of BlackHorse Espresso & Bakery is lobbying the city against approving a housing and commercial development at the location. However, city staffers have already recommended approval of the project, which comes before the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission on Wednesday.

Plans call for 78 residential units, 6,800 square feet of ground floor commercial and retail space, 155 parking spaces and 181 bicycle parking spaces. As currently proposed, the building would be 43 feet high, which would require an exemption because the city has a 35-foot height limit in the area.

BlackHorse has three locations in San Luis Obispo, one of which is on the Foothill Boulevard lot. BlackHorse owner Tom Brown said he has a lease with the owner of the Foothill property that runs through 2020 and has an option to extend to 2023. Brown said he plans to exercise the option to stay on the property and has not heard from the owner about potential changes to the agreement.

However, the project applicant, El Segundo-based developer Loren Riehl, said a sale of the Foothill property is currently in escrow. Riehl said he has a lot of options to address the BlackHorse lease agreement once the sale of the property closes.

Brown argues the project is not consistent with the character of the neighborhood and would not get a lot of community support. The BlackHorse owner also said the development lacks parking and would cause too much congestion.

Project backers claim the development would reduce housing demand in the city and help meet SLO’s bicycle use goals, as well as increased use of the bus system. Riehl said the area is highly populated by students and that the market will dictate who wants to live in the planned building.

Current plans call for the development to have 12 deed-restricted studios for renters who fall in the very-low income household category.

City staff have recommended the project for approval, saying it meets a city housing goal and complies with general plan and zoning requirements.

Riehl is asking San Luis Obispo officials for exemptions on the height of the building, as well as the percentage of the lot that the building occupies. Plans call for the building to occupy 90 percent of the lot, but city code sets the limit at 75 percent.

In addition to the plan for the Foothill lot, Riehl has another rental housing project nearby at 22 Chorro Street. That project is expected to be completed in September.