A new 32-unit, three-story apartment complex may soon be coming to downtown Santa Maria following approval of a project permit that allows reduction of on-site parking from the required 24 spots down to seven.

The market-rate Vino Bello Apartments, designed by San Luis Obispo-based firm RRM Design Group, will be located on the southeast corner of West Chapel and North Lincoln streets on a 0.3-acre site formerly used as a car wash, according to Senior Planner Frank Albro.

A proposal for the project by developer Ben Nikfarjam was first presented to the Downtown Revitalization Committee in January, where it garnered positive feedback. It then was previewed by the Planning Commission at a Dec. 3 study session before officially being considered for a downtown permit on Dec. 16.

“We’re asking tonight that you approve this project and we can move forward, so we can help address the housing shortage that is plaguing not only this community but our entire state,” Scott Martin of RRM Design Group said to commissioners, who approved the permit unanimously at the end of the night.

According to Albro, the complex will contain a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units and studios, with laundry facilities on each floor and open spaces including planted areas, a courtyard and a rooftop patio.

Discussion of the project focused heavily on parking, as the Downtown Specific Plan requires residential projects of this size to provide a minimum of 24 parking spots.

However, the commission granted Nikfarjam and RRM Design Group a reduction, allowing them to provide only seven on-site spaces, with nearby streets and public lots providing the remaining spots.

Approximately 60 parking spaces are located within 200 feet of the site due to diagonal parking on both Chapel and Lincoln streets, according to a commission report. Secure bike parking also will be provided at the complex.

While parking availability is limited in the downtown core, the less-congested area of the project allows for parking to be expanded outside the site, Albro said.

“The Downtown Plan specifically does recognize the value and contribution [of] on-street parking and the parking lots,” he said.

Martin added that the downtown area is very walkable, and that while residents may not necessarily need cars because of nearby transit, parking will be available for those who do.

While the commission has no input on rental prices, Commissioner Tim Seifert said he hopes rent will be adjusted downward for younger, low-income residents who are likely to occupy the residences.

“We’re looking at getting younger people with less money and, we’re hoping, no cars,” he said.

The surrounding area, designated as the Bungalow District within the Downtown Specific Plan, is meant to serve as a transition point between the single-family residential and downtown core areas by incorporating a mix of development uses and styles.

Adjacent to the site are various commercial and office buildings, with a tire shop located across the public alley adjacent to the site, running between Lincoln Street and Broadway.

While the Downtown Specific Plan requires the development to be set 15 feet back from the curb along Lincoln and Chapel streets, developers also requested a setback reduction in order to maximize the available space.

Their request was granted, along with the parking reduction, allowing for the development to extend forward to the edge of the property line.

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