The Salida housing project known as The Residences at Salida Bottling was approved by Salida City Council on May 4, 2022. It has received extensive community comments, both for and against. This now includes a group of residents who have begun a petition to reverse the decision of the Salida City Council to approve the inclusionary housing project planned for 323 West First Street.
But the actual facts of the project may be getting lost in the controversy. While it is perfectly acceptable to have a personal opinion about this proposal — either for it or against it — purposely misleading the public with misinformation is unfortunate. First is the impression that somehow this project and the city’s approval was “sprung” on the residents of Salida.
It was not. Over more than six months of review, it was on the agenda of three Planning Commission meetings and three City Council meetings. There were multiple public hearings, and opportunities for people to ask questions, view the plans, and write letters to the Salida Planning Department.
The proposed project would include 16 townhome units and one commercial space with an upstairs condo; including four, deed-restricted inclusionary housing units reserved for Average Median Income (AMI) pricing, by size of family and size of the unit. While not cheap in comparison to housing costs a decade ago (what is these days), they would be below market for today’s housing situation.
The Residences at Salida Bottling project has been vetted by city engineers, and city planners. Along the way, its developers say they have listened to neighbors and made adjustments. In fact, the project has undergone view-corridor studies and solar studies, and at the request of City Council, twenty-five percent of the total units will be deed-restricted in perpetuity, which will make them permanently affordable.
While the site currently provides parking as a nondescript dirt lot, it is a stretch to say the new housing project, as one city resident Vince Phillips described it — is something that could damage the character of the city. When the alternative is an unsightly dirt lot, this is merely speculation and fearmongering. The site formerly housed the Salida Bottling Works and other railroad parcels.
The applicants wrote a letter to the editor “to express concern that people who didn’t participate in public hearings or voice concern during the six months that the Planning Commission and Council were reviewing the project, are now circulating a petition to appeal the City Council approval. This appeal, [if successful], would remove four badly needed inclusionary units from the market and [regardless of outcome], managing the appeal process could cost the taxpayers of Salida in excess of $20,000.”
There are misconceptions surrounding the proposed development related to its impact on city character, building heights, and parking. Regarding “city character” say the developers, the proposed project “reflects the architectural character and history of Salida, and at the same time meets some of the city’s housing needs.”
The alternative to the proposed multi-level structure could be a monolithic block of condos in that space. Or the owners could simply turn the lot into a parking structure that might attract even more traffic to this gateway entry to downtown Salida on U.S. 291. That wasn’t something they believe to be conducive to the core of historic Salida .
Another misconception regards building heights. While naysayers are complaining that the plan exceeds the city’s building heights, this is not true.
According to city building codes, the maximum height of any part of a townhome within 24 feet of First Street or the Monarch Spur Trail cannot exceed 35 feet.
The developers say that “the interior units will have pitched rather than flat roofs to allow more light into those units. The very top of these few roof peaks cannot exceed 40 feet, and they will not.
One misconception throughout the county is that although the new comprehensive plan reflects residents’ desire to “keep the city in the city and the country in the country,” many of the new developments being proposed and built continue to sprawl on the edge of municipalities and in the rural county. The cities have a goal to see more development within the city itself, especially as infill development. The Residences at Salida Bottling project would appear to meet that need.
“This is an urban project, intended to meet the city’s goal of infill development and to keep development within the city and out of rural areas,” said the developers.
Featured image: Conceptual drawing of The Residences at Salida Bottling project at 323 West First Street in Salida. Image courtesy of the applicant