SLO councilman asks candidate to resign from planning post

May 3, 2013
CarlynChristianson

Carlyn Christianson

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

A San Luis Obispo city councilman is asking a council candidate to resign from her seat on a land use planning task force because of a concern that her campaign is interfering with matters of city policy.

At a Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) task force meeting Tuesday, Councilman Dan Carpenter said that council candidate and task force member Carlyn Christianson has put city staff in the middle of a “political whirl” over a stalled plan to redesign a neighborhood in southern San Luis Obispo.

The South Broad Street Area Plan is a proposal to change a neighborhood bordering Broad Street between South Street and Orcutt Road from primarily manufacturing to a hub for mixed-use development. The plan also proposes street improvements focused on reducing traffic congestion and improving bicycle and pedestrian safety on Broad Street.

Because of the council vacancy created when Andrew Carter resigned, only four council members voted on the Broad Street area plan during a March 19 hearing. Each vote on the plan deadlocked at 2-2.

Carpenter proposed proceeding only with the circulation improvement to South Broad Street and Councilwoman Kathy Smith concurred. However, Mayor Jan Marx and Councilman John Ashbaugh voted against the traffic and safety improvements to South Broad Street because they refused to concede a portion of the plan that would have introduced mixed use residential and retail development into the neighborhood.

Since then, several residents who attended a meet and greet with Christianson sent letters to city staff asking them to turn the Broad Street circulation issue over to the LUCE task force that the council candidate sits on, so that needed traffic improvements can occur. Carpenter responded by asking the residents to ask Marx and Ashbaugh to reconsider their votes.

“Ask them to reconsider their ‘no’ vote on moving forward with the circulation issues in the area,” Carpenter wrote in the email to the South Broad Street area residents.

On Sunday, Christianson attended a meet and greet on Lawrence Drive just west of Broad Street, where she said she discussed the proposed South Broad Street Area Plan that the council failed to pass. Because the council deadlocked on the Broad Street Area Plan, the proposal did not advance to the LUCE task force for review and improvements.

The day following Christianson’s gathering, several residents of the neighborhood west of South Broad Street sent emails to Deputy Director of Long Range Planning Kim Murry regarding Tuesday’s LUCE task force meeting that included “Broad Street plan” in the subject line. Two of the emails asked Murry to include the plan in the LUCE task force update to the city’s general plan.

“The tone of almost every single letter is that they expect this body to move forward on it,” Carpenter said. “Well it was very clearly stated by council that that would not be included.”

Carpenter said the South Broad Street area residents who wrote to Murry had received “misinformation or misguided information” at the political gathering they attended. He said Christianson’s campaign “invokes a level of politics” that should not be involved in the task force.

Instead of petitioning the task force for traffic congestion reduction and improvements to bicycle and pedestrian safety on Broad Street, the residents should address their concerns to the city council, Carpenter wrote in a follow-up email.

Dan Carpenter

Dan Carpenter

Carpenter also said that candidates for city council do not belong on special task forces.

“It could be interpreted that there is a conflict of interest because you could use it as a platform and use it as an unfair advantage over your competition,” Carpenter said. “A person could go out and say I’m a candidate. I can bring that plan back to the task force.”

Christianson responded to Carpenter’s request for her resignation Tuesday and denied misleading anyone as to the status of the Broad Street Area Plan.

“I went to a meet and greet in the neighborhood,” Christianson said. “There were apparently a lot of people from the Broad Street corridor, especially from the Lawrence street neighborhood. They asked me about the plan. I explained extremely clearly that the plan was dead.”

Christianson said she even threw a physical copy of the Broad Street Area Plan on the ground at the meet and greet.

“I took the plan that somebody handed me and threw it on the ground as if there is no plan,” she said.

The council candidate did acknowledge seeing references to the Broad Street plan in emails to staff, but attributed the misunderstanding to confusion on the part of the residents.

“I know some of the communications I saw referred to the Broad Street plan. That was an error,” Christianson said. “I can’t say why there was miscommunication or why there was misunderstanding except to know that it’s kind of typical for the public when dealing with issues they don’t quite understand and haven’t had the chance to completely explore.”

Some observers question, though, whether the South Broad Street Area Plan is indeed “dead.”

The night the plan stalled at the city council Marx called the gridlock “bad governance” and said one alternative remains.

“The other alternative that we might have would be to continue this item until after July 15th when we are going to have a fifth member of the city council,” Marx said at the end of the March 19 meeting.

Marx, Ashbaugh and the Democratic Central Committee have all endorsed Christianson. Carpenter followed his request for Christianson’s resignation from the LUCE task force by authoring a letter to the editor that appeared both in the Tribune and New Times reprimanding the Democratic Central Committee for making an endorsement in the council race.

If San Luis Obispo voters elect Christianson in June, Marx and Ashbaugh may have the third vote they need to approve the redesign of the neighborhood east of South Broad Street between South Street and Orcutt Road. The plan would transform the neighborhood from a primarily manufacturing area to a hub for mixed-use development. Planning staff have referred to the design for the Victoria Avenue stretch of the corridor as the potential “Third Street Promenade” of San Luis Obispo.

While the council remains deadlocked, Christianson and other members have indicated interest in the task force tackling similar plans for the area. Task force member Chuck Crotser said at Tuesday’s meeting that it would be “natural to revisit” the Broad Street Area Plan.

“Many of us would like to see the Broad Street plan included,” Crotser said. “To not even have it considered by this body would be irresponsible.”

Community Development Director Derrick Johnson said at the March 19 council meeting that the task force could choose on their own to focus on the South Broad Street area as it has done with other neighborhoods. He reaffirmed that possibility at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The task force may ultimately take it up as an area,” Johnson said.

Carpenter said the task force is not responsible for tackling public dissatisfaction with the city council.

“That’s not what you are here to address,” Carpenter said.


25 Comments

  1. Ted Slanders says:

    In part, and obviously hidden from many; the reason that they want to remove her is because of the fact of her last name; “CHRISTIANson.” This is just another attack upon Christianity where they don’t want any reference whatsoever of this faith in government!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 39 Thumb down 21

    • KimM says:

      Brilliant, Mr. Slanders. (And with a name like that, I’m sure your life has long been filled with pain and sorrow?) And, naturally, in your grief you overlooked the vast left-wing conspiracy to remove from public life anyone with a name that ends in something-something-SON, due to its obvious patriarchal/male-chauvanistic overtones and lack of proper obsequiousness to The Earth, Our Mother?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 13

  2. obispan says:

    “Third Street Promenade” ? WTF, I did not know San Luis Obispo had a Third Street. Third Street Promenade is in Santa Monica, but then our city manager lives in Malibu so I get it. Us locals relish a good auto shop and a place to get electric motors repaired but Queen Lichtig does not agree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 4

    • hijinks says:

      And Katie Lichtig used to work for City of Santa Monica!

      This city’s planning is out to lunch. Marx refers to the Unocal toxic site at the end of the airport runway as our “Central Park.” Huh? Central to what? Nice park at the end of a runway with jets taking off 10 feet overhead. She wants to spend $10 mil to acquire it. The city should condemn it, and force Chevron to clean it up.

      The entire premise of turning Victoria Street into a “main street” is just plain stupid. It’s a tertiary street between railroad tracks and a state highway. “Main” to what, and why would anybody bother to go there when we have Higuera Street?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  3. rogerfreberg says:

    Okay… this is a non issue…

    The elephant in the room in which no one is talking about is the announcement of another HUGE rate increase in water and trash.

    I know this is dreaming… but do you think any of these folks would comment on living within their means?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 29 Thumb down 7

    • obispan says:

      Hey Rog, the water increase is to subsidize your Tea Party, no taxes, no fees developers who say they can do whatever they want with their land, except pay for infrastructure. Water rates in SLO are tripling to subsidize developers who do not want to pay for the water required, and they’ve bought City staff and politicians, game over.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 22

      • isoslo says:

        No the water rate increase is to provide the City with more funds for salaries, pensions, and health insurance. There is no development in SLO city compared to the rest of California. And what does the Tea Party have to do with it? You sound like another angry liberal who blames everything on some conservative even though everyone in California knows it is the democrats who run the state and the city of SLO

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

        • obispan says:

          Youse ig’nant. Water fees are dedicated to water service, in this case additional capacity for build out which should be paid by connection fees, not rate increases for existing users. And the reason Democrats run everything is that Republicans such as myself have been run out of the party by Teabaggers like you.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 15

          • hijinks says:

            Water fees also go to pay for useless crap like “Resource,” the pretty magazine they mail out to all of us 4 times a year, in which we learn that Carrie Mattingly’s heart goes pitter pat whenever she tells somebody she’s from San Luis Obispo, and they tell her how lucky she is. That comes straight out of our water fees. Why should we have to pay for this crap? Probably adds a good $25 per year onto our water bills.

            They also go to pay for Carrie’s inflated salary, and her trips to conferences and her fancy meals in fancy restaurants and nights in fancy hotels. There’s lots of stuff that could be cut, and have a beneficial effect on our water bills.

            But you are correct that the city is shifting the cost for water present residents don’t need onto their backs instead of following the general plan’s dictate that new development must pay its own way in such matters. Hey, the Chamber wants to get rid of that rule, and this corrupt city council will thus take it out of the general plan as part of the current update — so then the cost for development water will all be on the shoulders of current residents — unless we do an Initiative to put into the city charter that it will not be that way.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

        • MaryMalone says:

          Hey, leave my peeps (liberals) out of this. To blame “liberals” for what the City of SLO does is as goofy as blaming the Tea Party for what the City of SLO does.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

    • hijinks says:

      Rog, it’s worse than a HUGE INCREASE. It’s a REGRESSIVE RATE RESTRUCTURING that hits the small, conserving user the hardest, and makes it cheaper for people with swimming pools to fill them and keep them filled, and more costly for everybody else just to have the water one needs for daily essentials. It’s the city’s revenge on the 99% — and this corrupt city council will approve it without a blink.

      BTW, I think you mean water and sewer, not water and trash.

      The “means” the city refuses to live within are inflated by the stupid decisions the council allows staff to make. They’re going to “upgrade” the sewage treatment plant again, choosing the most costly approach possible, more electricity and other energy and chemicals rather than using simple biological methods to clean the poop water a bit more. That means high capital expenses, and high operating expenses forever, locking us into ever increasing rates. Whenever some member of the public suggests other better cheaper ways to treating sewage, staff lie and tell the council it can’t be done, then council starts squirming in their chairs, and they vote for whatever staff tells them to do.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  4. GalaxyTraveler says:

    It’s obvious. Christianson looks like the best bet for council, so they are lobbing bombs to knock her off stride. Do you think the tinfoil hat man, the angry guy who left SLO in disgrace or the guy who works in LA and sued to keep ATVs destroying the dunes have a chance? Maybe Spatafore, but he just doesn’t have the pull.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 24

    • hijinks says:

      You’re perhaps right about the strategy — Carpenter is a Brownista — but Christianson is highly irresponsible, and would be really bad news on the council. Don’t vote for her. Spatafore is at least what he says he is.

      The really interesting thing to contemplate: Carter resigns, Brown (wife-beater? disgruntled former SLObispan working for Guadalupe after leaving the Santa Maria police force because of why?) decides to run. And who is Brown’s boss? Carter. Go figure. Doesn’t look entirely coincidental.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  5. Stunned says:

    I’m a little perplexed with city politics I guess. We have committee’s who supposedly work TOGETHER on projects who frequently split on votes (2-2) then the losing side encourages citizens to go after them to change their mind? Are these cheerleaders we’re voting for or serious city matters for crying out loud.

    You don’t need a third tie-breaker. You need to put these 4 wimps behind closed doors and say “nobody leaves until you four hammer out an amicable solution for the public that you serve” and lets get over this nonsense!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 4

    • hijinks says:

      Well, if they could agree on anything, we’d not be wasting $100k on this stupid election — they’d have appointed somebody, but they preferred to spend our money on an election so people like Christianson and Carpenter can mouth off.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

      • MaryMalone says:

        Are you nuts? The LAST thing we want is a sitting committee appointing one of their cronies.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

        • hijinks says:

          Well, maybe. Now that the election’s down to two and a quarter candidates, everything’s cronyish.

          Hey, the absolute hypocrisy of Carpenter screaming about her being on a city committee while running for office is stunning. He was on the Planning Commission when he ran for council! That’s a whole lot more influential and political a position than this little pipsqueak makework committee Christianson sits on.

          Oh, and how about this. The perennially unemployable Andrew Carter finally finds a job, managing Guadalupe. So he resigns from the SLO council. Then he endorses Paul Brown to be his successor. And who is Paul Brown’s boss? Andrew Carter, the guy who oversees Guadalupe, where Brown works. How’s that for cronyism? Carter quits the council, then tries to put one of his current employees in his place — somebody who will do whatever he tells him to do because otherwise he’ll be out of a job. Yikes. And you thought Russian political maneuvering was bad!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

    • MaryMalone says:

      A committee is to work for the best interests of its constituents. It is not to be a rubber-stamp for any special interest.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  6. Pelican1 says:

    SLO politics…SNAFU at it’s utmost.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  7. womanwhohasbeenthere says:

    I hope the people whom Christianson met with read this article.

    “I can’t say why there was miscommunication or why there was misunderstanding except to know that it’s kind of typical for the public when dealing with issues they don’t quite understand and haven’t had the chance to completely explore.” In other words: We discussed this and I urged you to write, and now that I’ve been caught red-handed , I am throwing you under the bus to save my political hide.

    Great leadership quality here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 11

    • MaryMalone says:

      “…it’s kind of typical for the public when dealing with issues they don’t quite understand and haven’t had the chance to completely explore.”

      What a condescending twit.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  8. catsdad says:

    That’s why I advocate voting for Don Hedrick. You won’t have all of this special interest hypocrisy going on with him.
    Carpenter didn’t object to his pals Matt Quaglino and Hamish Marshall from taking over the manufacturing areas on Sacramento Street to put in mixed use projects. (Oh yeah Marshall has already flipped that property.)
    Christianson was a terrible city Planning Commissioner and I still question how she was ever appointed to the county Planning Board.
    Carpenter complains about misinformation check out the Nacimiento Pipeline propaganda he supported.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 15

    • hijinks says:

      She was appointed to the county Planning Commission by Adam Hill, who would listen to no cautions about this fool’s appointment.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  9. SamLouis says:

    Christianson should have resigned on her own from the planning task force before announcing her desire to run for the city council. She would not only avoid the problems noted above, she would also show a greater dedication to get elected without the need for a “fallback” position should she fail.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 12

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