November 21, 2023
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Paso Robles urged to reduce housing permitting barriers


The Building, Design and Construction Cluster of the Economic Vitality Corp., a group of building industry professionals in San Luis Obispo County, wants Paso Robles to consider updating its permitting fees to reduce barriers to developing affordable housing.

The group, part of the SLO Economic Strategy Project, recently submitted a letter to the city with suggestions intended to lessen the burden that permitting puts on projects.

The Building, Design and Construction Cluster is one of the major arms for the Economic Strategy Project that’s developing a more equitable model for housing options to support business growth and has been working countywide with public officials and stakeholders for a number of years to address issues surrounding workforce housing and infrastructure.

In the group’s view, there is a vital link between permitting fees and the cost of developing housing and infrastructure capacity. To improve the process toward economic growth and affordable housing, the group is putting forward a handful of alternative fee structures or mitigating policies, which cities in the county can look at.

Rising land costs and high permit processing and impact fees, coupled with strict underwriting requirements for private finance, have made it challenging to develop housing within the budget of the workforce throughout the county according to industry insiders. A lack of public funding has impacted the ability to develop these projects.

The group is asking the city to incentivize the development of smaller residential units that are affordable by design, and to create an environment that facilitates public-private partnerships between the city and developers. To do this, the group suggests the city modify its permit fee structure to assess unit size rather than the number of units, reduce permitting costs through permit streamlining and create and implement such programs or policies that more closely align with the timing of impact fees with project revenues.

Additionally, the group suggests it could be beneficial to evaluate the economic impact of providing additional relief in the form of waivers or fee reductions for projects with affordable and workforce housing units.
The letter was delivered by representatives from architecture firm RRM Design Group, The Wallace Group, the Home Builders’ Association of the Central Coast, The SLO Housing Trust Fund and the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce

NRG seeks power plant approvals
Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG Energy recently filed an application with the state to build a new, high-tech plant at the Mandalay Beach site in Oxnard.

NRG, which also operates the Ormond Beach electric power generating plants, would build its new Puente Power Project on a three-acre parcel at the existing Mandalay Generating Station. According to the company, the project would generate about $2.8 million annually in property tax and $5 million in sales tax revenues, along with an increase in jobs. The cost to build the plant is an estimated $235 million to $270 million.

The new plant would replace three 50-plus-years-old, obsolete plants that provide peak generation capacity of about 2,000 megawatts, with a much smaller 267-megawatt unit. The new facility would power about 130,000 homes.

Under current laws, the existing plants will no longer meet cooling requirements by 2020 and would either require very expensive retrofits to already inefficient units or be shut down.

The city of Oxnard has imposed a moratorium on the construction of new power plants and is working on updating its general and coastal plans to exclude them, according to previous reports. However, the California Energy Commission has the last word on any approvals.

Mindbody opens
San Luis Obispo-based health and wellness business software firm Mindbody celebrated the grand opening of its expanded headquarters April 24.

The company broke ground on its new $20 million facility at the corner of Broad Street and Tank Farm Road on Oct. 29, 2013. The company employs more than 850 people in San Luis Obispo and more than 1,000 worldwide. SLO Mayor Jan Marx and County Supervisor Adam Hill were on hand for the opening along with Vicki Janssen, district director for Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, and Mindbody co-founder and CEO Rick Stollmeyer.