Public hearings for massive Nipomo housing development delayed

Rendering courtesy of SLO County
ON THE DOCKET: The 1,289-home Dana Reserve development in Nipomo is slated for public hearings in late August—a six-month delay. Both the developer and Nipomo community members await the county’s release of a final environmental impact report for the project in July.

The historically large Dana Reserve housing development in Nipomo continues to grind through San Luis Obispo County’s planning process—albeit six months behind schedule.

SLO County has yet to release a final environmental impact report (EIR) for the 1,289-unit project between Tefft Street and Willow Road, causing community activists to wonder when that’ll happen and what’s going on behind the scenes.

“I feel like we’re way behind the curve. We can’t argue our points because we don’t have the information,” said Alison Martinez, a resident who co-founded the Nipomo Action Committee last year in opposition to the project. “It’s not transparent—the process—at all. It’s frustrating.”

The Dana Reserve’s draft EIR came out in June 2022 and identified seven significant and unavoidable impacts. The project as it’s pitched would bulldoze nearly 4,000 oak trees on the 288-acre Cañada Ranch to make way for 10 new neighborhoods.

A prior schedule for the project targeted a final EIR release date for early 2023, with public hearings planned in March at the SLO County Planning Commission and April at the SLO County Board of Supervisors.

But that timeline was pushed back without explanation, Martinez said.

“In fact, we struggle to get anyone from the county to communicate at all,” she said. “Is there a new project map? Can we see anything?”

County officials told the Sun that the delay is a result of the voluminous public feedback received on the draft EIR. SLO County’s Planning and Building Department also struggled with staffing turnover, according to Martinez and the project applicant.

Now, SLO County is targeting a final EIR release date of July, which will be followed by a public comment period and then back-to-back Planning Commission hearings on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

Any revisions to the project’s scope or design won’t be public until then.

“We will be happy to discuss the changes at that point,” said Erika Schuetze, operations and communications manager for the SLO County Planning Department.

Nick Tompkins, the Dana Reserve developer, told the Sun that he’s also waiting on the county to release the final EIR to understand where the project’s headed.

He explained that the county is likely developing a recommended project in response to the draft EIR that could differ from what his team at NKT Commercial submitted.

“I know [county] staff is working on that,” Tompkins said. “They’re cognizant of the public’s concerns, and I think they’re trying to balance the concerns of the Nipomo Action Committee with goals of other parts of the community as well.”

Tompkins underscored that his goal with the Dana Reserve is to bring housing that’s affordable for the middle class to the community.

According to Martinez, that’s a respectable goal but, as it stands, comes at the expense of the environment and broader community.

Since the draft EIR was released, the Nipomo Action Committee has developed into a bonafide nonprofit, holding monthly meetings in the Blacklake Community Room in Nipomo. 

The group has gathered nearly 2,000 signatures against the project. 

On April 22, the Nipomo Action Committee held an Earth Day Rally at Nipomo Community Park, featuring a lineup of speakers—ranging from representatives of the YTT Northern Chumash Tribe to the California Native Plant Society—and live music.

Martinez said that the group is committed to raising awareness about the Dana Reserve, so the community is informed and engaged.

“We’re surprised that a lot of people still don’t know about the project,” Martinez said. “We’re OK if people support the project and they know about it. That’s their choice. But if people are not aware, we can raise awareness and let people decide for themselves.”

—Peter Johnson

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