After a lengthy discussion at the Planning Commission that ultimately led to approval, a project that would revamp a building downtown to become space for both offices and studio apartments will be up for approval from the City Council on Tuesday.

The development is owned by Atul Malhotra of Santa Barbara and, if approved as proposed, will ultimately hold 11 office units and 25 studio apartments in a 16,700 square-foot, two-story building at 504 S. Broadway.

City staff members have expressed strong support for the project, especially because it fits in with themes of the city's new Downtown Specific Plan by adding more people to the area and improving the site design.

The building is between the Santa Maria Public Library and Sula Mediterranean Kitchen and Bar, but at the Planning Commission meeting, the restaurant's owners argued against the project.

They said they were worried new residents would file complaints because of the noise and activity levels at the restaurant.

But planning commissioners supported the project, arguing that the future downtown will contain a lot of such mixed-use properties.

"I'm glad we're having these types of conversations about the downtown area," Commissioner Maribel Aguilera-Hernandez said at the meeting. "We are going to have to learn how to coexist, and I think this is a positive way.

"I believe this is the way the city wants to move, and I don't see a problem with both businesses being in the same location."

The council also will consider an appeal of a Planning Commission denial of a conditional use permit for Verizon Wireless to construct a new 50-foot tall telecommunication tower at 232 N Benwiley Ave.

Commissioners expressed frustration with the applicant for what they considered insufficient efforts to solicit neighborhood input as requested, particularly when it came to how neighbors might feel about the tower aesthetically. 

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Another downtown project also will be on the agenda, this time at 361 Town Center West, where several gastroenterologists would like to consolidate their individual practices and establish a group medical practice.

City staff believes the medical center, which would mark the re-use of a building, meets the vision for the future of downtown because it adds more people to the area and creates a pedestrian-oriented business.

Finally, the council will hear the annual report from the Measure U2012 Citizens' Oversight Committee.

Measure U is a resident-approved one-quarter-cent increase in the sales tax meant to fund public safety and other city services.

The committee is composed of five residents charged with ensuring oversight of the revenue generated by the tax and expenses paid with the funds. The total expenditures for the last fiscal year were $4.2 million.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers of City Hall, located at 110 E Cook St.

Abby Hamblin covers city government in Santa Maria and Guadalupe for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow her on Twitter: @AbbyHamblin.

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