Letter to the editor: SLO’s lack of leadership

May 30, 2013

Allan Cooper and his grandson

Allan Cooper and his grandson


Previous San Luis Obispo City Councils instituted a policy requiring a modicum of housing (ideally “workforce” housing) in all new major downtown developments.

Of course this runs counter to the so-called (totally fictitious) “free-market economics” which some within this community hold dear, including several Council Members.

All I and Save Our Downtown are arguing for is that a so-called “progressive” SLO…a city that initiated a no-smoking ordinance and a no drive-through fast food restaurant ordinance do something that the most politically conservative city in the country, Houston, is doing and that is to form a task force directed by the city to funnel more retail into their downtown.

This recommendation has fallen on deaf ears when brought before SLO Economic Development Manager Claire Clark (Claire cited “free market economics” to me…It appears to be the “mantra” of city hall), the council and the Downtown Association.

We don’t think there is a communist plot behind nudging developers to provide downtown housing nor do we believe it is impossible — once housing is located downtown — to provide these residents with the same amenities that suburban residents enjoy; relatively easy access to necessity goods stores.

We also don’t think it is a communist plot to place a future moratorium on more alcohol outlets downtown (as most cities will not permit porn shops and marijuana dispensaries to be located in their downtowns) nor do we think it is a communist plot to create an ordinances which Omaha, Nebraska is currently formulating to set a cap on the number of alcohol outlets located within a specific area.

Save Our Downtown is not comprised of unreasonable people. We are just becoming increasingly intolerant of the lack of leadership on our council, Paul Brown included, and the apathetic attitude that is exhibited by the Downtown Association.


The Mission attracts the tourism. What do tourists buy, junkie trinkets, and keepsakes. The College attracts the young adults. What do College age adults buy, beer, fast food, and Abercrombie & Fitch. If you want to stay in business you will cater to these people. If you are looking for a Mom and Pop type business community you will have to move to Florida and live in the Villages.


It seems to me that the more we try to control what happens in our downtown, the more expensive it becomes to do business in our downtown. Thereby forcing the downtown to cater to those who can afford to play by the more regulated business environment. So this is what we end up with. Only the rich can afford the property costs, and only national chains can afford to pay the going price. so we have exactly what Alan Cooper, David Brodie, Carlyn Christianson and many others have created. so we can have a “progressive” downtown but it will cost us our mom and pop type stores.


This strategy is not a problem when one leeches off the public excessively, as the aforementioned “citizens” do…


The no smoking ordinance is rarely enforced as witnessed by the number of people smoking openly in the city.

slo Fact Finder

As long as San Luis Obispo permits national chain stores to predominate its downtown, small independant stores are eventually forced out. There is only so much space available at lower retail rents therefor leaving less and less space for locally based business. Throw in a prolonged recession, the costs of seismic retrofiting many older downtown buildings, the high fees associated with doing business in SLO Town, the increased competition of “on-line” retailers & mail order operations and volia’, our downtown character has changed drasticly in a relatively short time.

Seen al the vacancies downtown lately? Not many local busnesses can afford to locate downtown anymore as they just can’t afford the high urban rents.

We seem to “reap” what we “sew” including the possible massive downtown redevelopment that many locals dispise and hope to avoid. Ecomomics 101 anyone?


San Luis Obispo made a decision many years to have exactly what you are seeing today. They bent over backwards to recreate the Fremont Theater , gave away the Old City Library building to house San Luis Little Theater, gave the Art Association was given their location, maintaining government agencies in the downtown core (County wanted to relocate off of 101 and Marsh/Higuera on what is now a Madonna farm house for overnight lodging), the development of restaurants and their use exclusive useof Farmers Market (restaurants and businesses not located downtown can not participate in Farmer’s Market), bars, coffee houses, and any other type of business that would draw tourists to the downtown core. Gone are the days of Leon’s and Gabby Bookstores, Green Bros., Hill’s Stationary, Economy Drug, and lots of other mom and pop stores as the Copeland’s have brought their vision and values to the downtown and now you have Apple, Gap, Victoria Secret, and the other mall style stores that pay high end rent and make the Copelands richer and richer. Welcome to economics 101!



This is exactly what has happened and it is exactly what SLO decided the downtown core would become today…


More fodder from those who avoided the trenches their whole lives… great.


There’s nothing wrong with being a poorly educated trench worker, rOy–and if you are satisfied with your life, that’s fine–but the world also can use well-educated white collar workers as well. Diversity is a good thing. There’s no need to be so bigoted and make so many prejudiced blanket statements condemning people who don’t follow the same path as you do.


Look straight up… yeah, that was where my point was flying: right over your head.

Still, appreciate the kind words, inaccurate as they were.


We used to have a downtown like that. Then we hired the very best and brightest planners in the country who turned downtown into a bar mecca on the (untested) idea that it would be “better” to have the bars all in one area and centrally located, ostensibly to cut down on drunk driving. That idea trumped every other consideration and that is how we got into the situation we face now. Add high rents, the high cost of earthquake retrofitting, and the high-end chain stores that can afford those rents, and there is little room for the small independent businesses which were the essence of downtown SLO years ago. To be sure, we have a few but it is not the same as it was and they are mostly what I would call “fluff” stores that sell novelty items to tourists. But you can never go back.


Does anyone honestly believe that ANY of the aforementioned genuinely care about the health and welfare of the citizens of San Luis? Or is ALL about money, power, and prestige?

Politics have no relation to morals.


Apparently, those loyal to the DCC for this particular council seat do. It’s like watching a mini-Chicago machine try and work here. Works at the federal level, why not try it here, eh?


¿Your desire for an artificial downtown where profitable businesses subsidize your whims, trumps my desire for an organic growth and renewal pattern? Why?


Because “organic growth and renewal” looks and feels like Atascadero!


E.G. Lewis masterplanned all of Atascadero and enviorns 80 years ago. Doesn’t seem to me that masterplanning to your whim for right now guarantees a viable anything in the future.


First, one-off plans for communities never work. These plans have to be backed up with a commitment from the citizens at large. Secondly basing a plan on a whim also never works. The general desire for more retail and fewer bars downtown is well documented based on recent utility bill surveys, City sponsored workshops and on Mindmixer.com (a web based workshop). If you really wanted to know what the community wants you might want to participate at today’s Future Fair held between 1 and 5 P.M. at the City/County Library.


The Future Fair 2 is a great means to collect the opinions of people who think the government ought to steer us. There is no provision in an event like this for the people who just want to be left alone. This fact gets missed every time the “results” of this type of “broad based” data gathering exercise are published.