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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 9th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 32

The city of Guadalupe weighs its future and how to build it

By WILLIAM D'URSO

At the edge of Guadalupe’s downtown, plywood and two-by-fours stand nailed together—the skeletal structures of new homes, a glimpse of a future not yet realized.


FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT?
Downtown Guadalupe’s shuttered Royal Theater is just one of the boarded up buildings in the city’s downtown.
PHOTO BY WILLIAM D’URSO

They skirt a downtown with local markets, a coffee shop, a pizza parlor, and boarded-up buildings. The city’s closed Royal Movie Theater still has sun-bleached and faded Coke cans displayed through the window.

But the Pasadera development these houses belong to has the potential to change the city’s sleepy downtown. With 200 completed houses out of a planned total of 800, a decades-long plan is finally coming into focus. 

“They’ve got a waiting list,” said Larry Appel, the city’s director of development. “The way it’s been going is they’ve been selling really fast.”

Those houses in the Pasadera development are listing for $365,000 to $405,000, according to Zillow. And even more affordable units are on the way. Peoples’ Self-Help Housing is constructing 38 units of low-income housing, and the Escalante Housing Authority is building another 80 apartments. 

It’s the beginning of a shift that will ratchet up the city’s population. The green road sign coming into town says “population 7,115,” but city officials say that number is low. Some estimates are as high as 8,000.

Mayor Ariston Julian said the city wants to grow, but not too big, not any larger than 12,000 residents. He said there’s been talk of building a shopping center, but that’s still a long way off. What he wants is for the city’s center to get a boost.

“Everybody says downtown is a jewel in the making, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Right now, the city’s businesses aren’t united behind a chamber of commerce, but Julian wants to change that. He said they’ve been speaking with the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce to explore how to get their own going. 

Jose Martinez, a co-owner of the newly opened Guadalupe Café, said there have been a lot of businesses that just couldn’t hang on.

“We’re here for the long run,” he said. “Not just one or two years.” 

The city has already secured a $4.5 million grant to renovate LeRoy Park, and Mayor Julian has said improving Guadalupe’s parks and recreation is a priority. The city also announced there would be a five-person commission to review and make decisions about how the grant money gets spent.

These grants and plans are all part of the city’s financial recovery, coming back from the brink of bankruptcy in 2014, when the city had a budget gap of $1.3 million. Julian said the city had been in the “doldrums,” but is coming out of it with these housing projects.

But exactly how the new housing developments and its influx of residents will change the face of the city is unclear. During a regular Thursday morning meet-up in mid September, a small group of Guadalupe’s old guard discussed such changes to their city. 

Inside a little yellow house off Guadalupe’s lazy downtown sat the Donut Time crew. They’re veterans and former city administrators, or just one of the guys. Many are long-time friends. 

Here they eat, and they talk. 

They advertise the group on one- or two-page newsletters. Underneath the group’s title is their subhead and mission: “open lines of communication.”

Among those talking about the city and the way forward on this September morning is Richard Segovia, who was born and raised in Guadalupe and lives in Arroyo Grande, was drafted to the Vietnam War from his hometown. 

“You want to build,” said Segovia, 70, “but you don’t want to take away from the people who have been here in the trenches.”

He’s talking about the local businesses like Masatani’s Market, a family-owned business containing a butcher shop and the other necessities for the kitchen.

But Segovia said there’s not much other retail. There isn’t a movie theater or bowling alley, which are the kinds of things that can keep local money in local businesses. 

“I don’t know how you balance that. But there has to be a balance,” Segovia said. “I personally would like to see Guadalupe with something to keep people here. Some kind of entertainment.”

Joe Talaugon, the founder of the three-year-old group, and a former Guadalupe City Council member, said there’s not consensus on a way forward.

“What do we really want?” he said. “How do we want to grow? Through the tourism business? What?” 

Staff Writer William D’Urso can be reached at wdurso@santamariasun.com.




Weekly Poll
Guadalupe is in the midst of new development, but is that a good thing?

No. The new homes will expand the town too much and run the small-town vibe.
No. Commercial development will follow and destroy all the local businesses.
Yes. The town can't survive another economic downturn without more business and residents in town.
Yes, but the town has to steer development toward tourism and the hospitality industry.

| Poll Results