SLO County supervisors approve contested Dana Reserve development in Nipomo

File image courtesy of SLO County
MOVING FORWARD: In late April, the SLO County Board of Supervisors approved the Dana Reserve development in Nipomo—despite continued protest over its environmental impact—which would create more than 1,300 homes with parks, trails, open space, a grocery store, day care center, and more.

The Dana Reserve is one of the bigger controversial development issues San Luis Obispo County’s seen in recent years, with a divided community waiting anxiously for months to hear whether the SLO County Board of Supervisors would approve it. In late April, it did with a 3-2 vote. 

During a two-day meeting on April 23 and 24, the supervisors heard specifics about the county’s biggest housing development in 25 years, including from project developer Nick Tompkins. 

“Everyone talks about a housing crisis, but it’s not just here in the Central Coast in the state of California but across the country, and although that housing crisis exists all over and it may be especially acute here, creating meaningful, tangible, and deliverable solutions to that is really tough,” Tompkins said. 

“In 2020, when we first submitted the Dana Reserve to the county, People’s Self-Help had approximately 12,000 people in the waiting list for housing families, not people. Now that number has grown to 14,555 and spread over three counties,” he continued, “but as of this morning, 9,434 of those families are in San Luis Obispo County alone.” 

The project plans to build 1,370 residential units, with 156 being deed restricted to very low- and low-income affordable housing, according to the staff report. 

Tompkins’ declaration to house those in need on the Central Coast hit 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg hard as she said she’ll be voting in favor of the Dana Reserve. 

“We don’t have houses for a lot of people, and I’m really just flabbergasted,” she said. “The Central Coast is facing an enormous housing demand and built relatively little, even accounting for public lands, lands subjected to conservation easement, and lands at risk for wildfires. So, no matter what, we’re in the category for some of the worst counties in regard to building homes.” 

Longtime Nipomo resident Janine Ariey said she agrees with Ortiz-Legg and wholeheartedly supports this project. 

“We have a developer finding ways to make it work for all income levels, while still providing a down payment assistance fund donating multiple sites for community benefits including a fire station, a day care center, and a college campus,” she said during public comment. “The Dana Reserve is a win-win.” 

The Dana Reserve, which would take roughly a decade to build out, plans to use 22 acres for commercial development, including retail stores, a grocery store, and other services, such as a South County Cuesta College campus.

First District Supervisor John Peschong and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold also voted in favor of the Dana Reserve while 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson and 4th District Supervisor Jimmy Paulding voted against it. 

“I’d like to see a review of the feasibility of a project that’s modified in the following way,” Gibson said. “That has to do with the significant strip of oak woodland or oak forest, I suppose it’s called because of its canopy. That has been the topic of so much conversation. I’m not talking about reevaluating the community; I think that I’m willing to look at something in between what the community plan has to offer and the proposed project.” 

To develop the Dana Reserve, Tompkins plans to cut down 3,094 oak trees, Burton Mesa chaparral habitat, and other nonnative grasslands. Many SLO County community members have expressed that this housing project is not worth the environmental impact. 

Forty-three-year Nipomo resident Susan Duram said the loss of native environment and the increase of traffic along U.S. 101 will be detrimental for South County. 

“Our traffic is already very heavy at times with two cars per home, and adding 2,800 more cars with just the Dana Reserve and 1,000 cars from the homes that will be built on the west side of Nipomo will be adding more than 4,000 cars driving into a town that doesn’t have the infrastructure or room for them,” she said during public comment. “This means additional freeway congestion, backed up traffic on the on and off ramps, and an increase in possible traffic accidents.”  

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