Thanks to Carpenter and Smith for protecting SLO

October 23, 2014
Richard Schmidt

Richard Schmidt


The following letter was sent to the San Luis Obispo City Council regarding their “failure,” as the Tribune put it, to approve general plan provisions that would allow high density housing beneath the flight path into and out of the San Luis Obispo Airport. Such development is prohibited by the Airport Land Use Plan – and for good reason since the areas in question are the noisiest (producing noise lawsuits) and most dangerous (there have been many accidents already from planes crashing in these areas).

Council members Kathy Smith and Dan Carpenter held the line against providing a 4-1 council vote needed to override the Airport Land Use Plan. They are being severely pressured and criticized by the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and its allies, including the Tribune, whose publisher until recently sat on the chamber’s board.

Those of us who feel differently need to tell the council this was a good “failure” that presents an opportunity to go back and do a much better general plan update.

Dear City Council Members,

I wish to thank Kathy and Dan, and congratulate the rest of the council, for derailing this awful general plan update.

Perhaps now we can go back and get an update that works for residents of this city, and creates a future somebody other than the chamber and its developer cronies want.

There is precedent for starting over. That’s what happened as the 1988 update became the 1994 update.

The council promised this would be a focused resident-centric update, and then stood by as staff turned it into a radical chamber-centric update that closed out residents and environmentalists from significant roles in the update.

This plan is a dagger to the heart of every existing neighborhood’s quality of life.

Its promotion of profligate and unnecessary “infill” will destroy the physical character of every existing neighborhood.

It is a gift to developers, particularly the sort who purchase land that’s cheaper because it’s not zoned for their intended use, then try to get profit-raising land use changes approved.

This plan is transformative — the most radical and reactionary plan ever created for this city’s future. It totally reverses the “Schwartz Revolution” which made SLO “happy” and great, and launches the city into a future of mediocrity and worse — Slum Luis Obispo is what it will create.

The plan fails utterly to take any significant steps towards making our city a more sustainable organism, or towards making it more resilient in the face of coming climate change.

All of this reactionary change is justified by the mumbo-jumbo of questionable academic planning theory that has zero relevance to a place of the size and physical character of San Luis Obispo — and as a reformed academic planner I know what I’m talking about!

Almost everything about the changes made to the perfectly workable 1994 plan is a step in the wrong direction.

This plan, in short, is a disgrace.

You need to go back to the starting point with it, involve residents and environmentalists in actively shaping its successor, and come up with a modestly-revised version of the 1994 plan that deals with solving actual problems, not turning the entire city into a Monopoly board for developers.

You need, in short, to start over.


Richard Schmidt

PS. As for the proposition of putting high density housing beneath the most dangerous parts of the approach and takeoff paths of planes from our growing airport — you’ve got to be out of your minds. Thank you Kathy and Dan for saying no to this insanity. It’s not a question of whether such poor planning will result in a horrific accident, it’s only a question of when that will happen.

Richard Schmidt is a former city planning commissioner, and has taught in Cal Poly’s architecture and city planning departments.

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Rich in MB

Let the servants and worker bees that can’t afford housing in San Luis eat cake…we don’t need their type in our city anyway…besides if measure G passes we will get their sales tax revenue without having to provide sewer and housing for them…hey….it’s a win-win.


Talking about airport flight paths, has anyone ever landed at Hong Kong’s old Tai Kak airport? I have a few times. I am sure there must be some youtube video of it. You literally see people cooking in their kitchens at the same level you are in the plane as you land.

I once had a 5 hour layover there. In my spare time, I watched the planes land. One Thailand airplane landed extremely hard and bounced 3-4 times on the runway. I went to the gate as the people were getting off. ALL of them had eyes as wide as saucers. I am sure there were some soiled underwear also (but I didn’t confirm that).


Sorry. That’s Kai Tak airport, Hong Kong. Google Kai Tak Landings Youtube if you want to watch something exciting. Makes all those whining about building on Dalidio seem like wusses.


OH, now, that’s brilliant, JMO, brilliant; Hong Kong ISLAND has a very dangerous airport, so those wanting to observe FAA safety rules are wusses? Right…. Someone ties your shoes for you every morning?


Richard says “…..mumbo-jumbo of questionable academic planning theory that has zero relevance to a place of the size and physical character of San Luis Obispo — and as a reformed academic planner I know what I’m talking about!”

I’ve always found Richard to be well informed and thoughtful….so I gotta ask; What is a “reformed academic planner?” Are you saying you do not believe in the mumbo jumbo you taught at Cal Poly? If current theory is wrong or questionable, do you have alternate theories you feel are more effective?


The building restrictions in the flight paths are not frivolous restrictions; they’re based on sound safety guidance and should not be overruled to make a buck at the risk of human life. The council would like us to believe that by overruling the airport land use restrictions regarding development of low density housing is somehow a way to regain control over the cities land use! Total BS!

The council is basing their vote on a couple key elements;

1. The financial support provided by the developers now in the form of maximum monetary donations to re-election campaigns as well as a lot of dollars funneled into the “Yes on G” campaign. Which ironically will also benefit the developers financially by way of subsidies when they develop the land in the flight path of the airport.

2. The advice from the city attorney regarding liability. The city attorney has proclaimed that by the city overruling the airport land use, the city will NOT be liable when there’s an accident. The argument is that the pilot will be the liable party. This is just another example of BAD ADVICE from the overpaid city attorney. The city would be sued and the taxpayers will pay the price. Worst of all will be the unnecessary lives lost by the decisions made by the city to push for development where there should be none.

If you think any developer is going to build low income housing in the areas around the airport, I’ve got a bridge I would like to sell you. Not going to happen! There’s no profit in that.

The best thing, they cannot build the proposed homeless hotel.

I love the saying; “do the right thing, even when no one’s looking”. There’s also a more import saying; “do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do”. Do not allow any building within the flight path of the airport, that’s the “right thing to do”.


Wait. They can’t build the Homeless Campus? I didn’t know that. That must confuse all the liberals that don’t want the Dalidio property developed but want to coddle the homeless.


WHY all the fuss over airport noise impacts? The SLO PD continues to ignore intentional loud exhaust modification enforcement under a never-rescinded surrender memorandum given to the council by the previous police chief. There are a lot more assaults on ears by bikes than airplanes.

In the memo, she (the chief) found enforcement of vehicle code prohibitions on making one’s exhaust even slightly louder too “complex” and she felt (by direct inference) lost sleep, crying babies and disturbed peace do not constitute public safety issues.

This town and it’s law enforcement aren’t the least bit serious about noise enforcement, ditto the CHP whose own internal stats show next to zero cites on their beats. Both agencies should be forced to do their jobs repressing the thugs and their modified machines.

Rich in MB

For the love of Pete Lame Commenter….give it a rest will ya… some earplugs!


Thank you Mr. Schmidt for the opinion piece. I agree. The Airport Land Use Commission has been clear in defining safety zones based upon accepted standards.

In general, developers have their own self-interest ahead of anything other consideration.


What is the planning department thinking?

Mr. Holly

I usually support good growth. But being a pilot and having flown into numerous airports SLO had the opportunity to maintain safety limits for our airport. Dan Carpenter and Kathy Smith should be applauded for their decision. Anyone who has been in SLO for any period of time remembers the aircraft that have crashed around the airport. There was the jet that went down on the Dalidio property, the aircraft that crashed by the Drive In and recently the twin engine that went down shortly after takeoff. There are more. It’s only a matter of time until the “big one” happens. The approach and departure corridors for the airport need to be protected for both the people in the sky and those on the ground.

Even though controversial and a money loser for some it was the best decision by Dan and Kathy-good job.


There have been several airplane crashes along that path. In 1990 a private jet clipped the eucalyptus trees on Madonna Road while on approach to the airport. The plane crashed in the field adjacent to the post office.

In 1985 a small private plane collided with a commuter plane operated by Wings West. Both planes came down alongside LOVR west of Foothill Blvd. The flight paths should not be built in under any circumstances.


Now if they could do something about aggressive panhandling downtown.

Cindy A

Totally agree – we need more smart thinking on the council. Jan Marx and John Ashbaugh need a swift kick off. The developers have them in their pockets.

People in SLO need to wake up.

Rich in MB

Ya…send them and Caren Ray to Bakersfield!