Pemberton brothers’ SLO project appealed

August 5, 2015
Josh and Jeremy Pemberton, photo by Noozhawk

Josh and Jeremy Pemberton, photo by Noozhawk

The San Luis Obispo City Council will decide whether a downtown location that formerly housed Sports Authority will become a bowling alley, restaurant and performance site for live music.

On July 29, the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission approved the project on the condition that the 24,500-square foot venue at the corner of Chorro and Marsh Streets would close at midnight, rather than 2 a.m. Two members of Save Our Downtown have since appealed the project, arguing it does not fit the character of downtown, and it would create a party place for college students.

Twin brothers Jeremy and Joshua Pemberton are the developers proposing the project. For the past six months, they have been soliciting investors to fund the project, which they say costs $5 million.

San Luis Obispo restaurant owners have questioned that amount, saying it is much more than should be needed. Restaurant owners have also raised questions over the Pemberton brothers’ history in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara city staffers reported a number of problems with the Pembertons’ 2009 Music and Arts festival. Their company, Twiin Productions, failed to pay bills to the city for increased police presence, bounced a check to the city and failed to follow permit requirements and city rules, Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Rapp said.

In 2011, the brothers filed bankruptcy, claiming $9,750 in assets and $1,431,201 in liabilities including unpaid wages to employees, clothing expenses, dry-cleaning bills, jewellery store debt and money owed to non-profits.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Prepare for a palm greasing.

And who’s hand will be out first?……… Queen Marx.

SLO’s “Save Our Downtown” is reaping precisely what it has sown over the past 20+ years — a rather shallow, increasingly tawdry and physically unkempt downtown catering to college students and tourists. Not necessarily bad, but certainly not what they had in mind nor what a growing number wish for today.

SLO’s “Save Our Downtown” was never about preserving SLO’s historic and very special downtown. It was about lobbying to limit local competition from sources physically located outside of Downtown SLO.

What SLO’s “Save Our Downtown” never anticipated was the huge impact the Internet has had in the way we shop (Amazon, eBay, etc.) They also failed in their attempt to keep legitimate competition like Costco, Target and Dick’s from entering into the outskirts of SLO.

Now that consumers have real choices, the results have been predictable. We have largely abandoned Downtown SLO as consumers. Sure, we’ll take in a Concert-in-the-Plaze or two each summer. Some of us might walk over to Habit Burger or Phoenix Books after church on Sundays (being careful not to step into the preceding Saturday night’s vomit) but that’s about it.

Most of us do the majority of our socializing and almost all of our shopping elsewhere these days.

From their online presence and articles that either they have written or have had written about them, the founders of the group, David Brodie and Elisabeth Abrahams are well into their 70s and 80s. Their vision for downtown is obviously based upon their fond memories of times past, however, that vision is not necessarily what is best for a city with a major university as it’s largest employer. (Outside of government perhaps) Poly is the face of this town for all intents and purposes, and most business would not exist without the money spent by students. I have lived all over the country prior to moving here. Although I can see the changes in San Luis Obispo over the last 20 years (I have lived here 6 years and vacationed here prior) , I don’t see anything as horrible as some point out about the influence of the college kids. Trying to restrict property rights of building owners is not the way to accomplish maintaining the downtown of the past. Zoning and ordinances are the only legal way to accomplish this. I am guessing looking at the nature of the new construction in town that the zoning is already in place to do just that. People like Mr Brodie and Mrs. Abrahams do a disservice to the community and increase costs for everyone that they attempt to extort with their protests and harm the property owners by forcing properties to be vacant longer than need be.

Cal Poly is not the (only) face of SLO. Not by a long shot. Among other things, SLO enjoys a very long and rich history as a California Mission town, it’s the County Seat of SLO County, it’s the home of a large community college, a state military installation and a state prison. It has considerable agriculture (and would likely have even more without Cal Poly) and it also enjoys considerable tourism given its geographic location.

SLO would be considerably different without Poly — in both good and bad ways. Downtown would definitely have fewer bars and entertainment venues but it would also likely have some of the things many miss, like real bowling allies and more locally owned restaurants/cafes for families to frequent.

To suggest that Downtown SLO doesn’t suffer from the number of bars and the excessive student-driven partying is simply naive. It’s far different, far worse today than even 10 years ago with no huge jump in enrollment at Cal Poly. Think about that for a bit…

The golden age of Downtown SLO has passed. I see no reason to limit the number of bars or other entertainment venues at this point. People need to embrace what Downtown SLO really is. What influences like SLO’s “Save Our Downtown” forced it to become.

What we remember to be the “Golden Age,” the history of the city and what our fond memories of the 60s and 70s are not relevant. When I say that Poly is the face of San Luis Obispo, I am speaking about now. The employment that they create, the amount of cash injected into the local economy, the recognition that they bring nationally are all undeniably huge contributions that can’t be rivaled not only in the city, but, the county as well. The are the engine that drives the economy from Santa Maria to San Miguel. Has San Luis Obispo changed in the last 10, 20, 30, 40 years? Certainly. As we all have.

Again, you’re simply wrong “that Poly is the face of San Luis Obispo.” The City of SLO is a multi-faceted place. The County of SLO is even more diverse.

Cal Poly is not the only “engine that drives the economy from Santa Maria to San Miguel.” You’re simply wrong about that. It’s one of many. Fo what it’s worth, I suspect residents of Santa Maria and San Miguel realize very little actual benefits from the existence of Cal Poly.

How many people does Poly employ? What is the financial impact on the county? How many people from Santa Maria work at Poly? There is no entity in North Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo County that comes anywhere close. “Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s annual impact on the Central Coast region and the State of California is enormous:

•Annual spending related to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ($655.7 million) generates a total impact of $469 million on the regional economy, and nearly $951 million on the statewide economy.

• This impact sustains more than 5,000 jobs in the region and statewide nearly 8,500 jobs.

• Per year, the impact generates nearly $29.6 million in local and more than $61 million in statewide tax revenue.

• Even greater—more than $2.4 billion of the earnings by alumni from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are attributable to their CSU degrees, which creates an additional $4 billion of industry activity throughout the state.”

Show me anything else that compares.

No one ever said that Poly is not a huge player in the local economy. It is indeed.

Your mistake is to suggest that Poly is “the face of SLO” and it’s not. The City of SLO has a multi-faceted face. One that would still be extremely healthy (in some ways even more so) if Poly never existed.

You are mincing words, and no, San Luis Obispo would not withstand the economic disaster if the University were not here. You could never get industry approved and other than government, there are no significant employers that are not here because of the ability to hire highly educated graduates that may want to stay in the area. If you go outside of the area, the majority of people that know about our area do so because of Poly’s reputation as a highly regarded school. As you so eloquently stated, “you are simply wrong.”

Simply wrong? From the Tribune. “Cal Poly generated a total economic impact of $1.4 billion in San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties in 2012-13, according to a report released Friday.

The report — compiled by consultant Productive Impact LLC of San Luis Obispo — said the university adds direct financial impacts totaling $1.1 billion and $313.9 million in indirect spending.

Indirect spending is assessed based on the ripple effects of money being spent and then re-spent.

For example, a dollar handed over to a store would be parceled out and re-spent by the store’s suppliers and landlord, among others, producing additional local economic impacts, according to the study.

The 60-page report was authored by Kenneth Riener, a Cal Poly professor emeritus of finance, and Patrick Mayeda, who received his master’s degree in business administration from Cal Poly.

The report cites past totals of $1.1 billion total generated by Cal Poly in 2002-03, the last time a similar report was compiled, and about $1 billion in 1998-99.

The study assesses economic drivers such as university payroll, local university purchases, student and visitor spending and student volunteer work.

“Cal Poly is a vital and positive economic force on the Central Coast,” said university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong in a statement. “It is one of the region’s top employers and most stable employers, helping the area weather economic downturns.”

The largest flow of funds comes from payroll, which had a direct annual output of $254 million, according to the report.

Student spending was assessed at about $160.7 million and visitor spending was tallied at $21.9 million, with bed taxes being the largest component.

The university enrolls about 19,700 students, who paid an estimated $11.7 million in local taxes and provided more than $2 million in volunteer labor to nonprofits from Paso Robles to Santa Maria.

And the university paid $14.7 million in sales taxes and $13.2 million in property taxes, using the “multiplier” model that incorporates indirect expenditures.

Because of the university, restaurants receive an estimated $53.9 million in business, retail stores take in $27 million, and hotels and motels garner $17.7 million.

According to the latest data compiled by the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce in 2012, Cal Poly was the second-largest employer in the county with 2,426 employees, trailing the county of San Luis Obispo with 2,601 employees.

However, the study counted 2,741 Cal Poly employees for 2013.

The university makes up almost 2.5 percent of the county’s 110,000 employees.

The average salary at Cal Poly, calculated based on gross payroll in 2012-2013, was $79,904.

Cal Poly spent $15.9 million on local goods and services to help maintain campus operations, plus $16.1 million on facility construction and upgrades in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, the study said.

The report used a variety of sources to compile data. Those included information from the university’s Administration & Finance Division, which provided data on Cal Poly spending, student enrollment and payroll; a survey of 256 students of various class levels living on and off campus; Cal Poly’s Facilities Planning & Capital Projects; a computer program called Impact Analysis for Planning that helped assess the impact of local spending by Cal Poly and its students, faculty, staff, retired employees and visitors.

The study projects an economic impact of nearly $2 billion by 2022 based on a growth project of 1 percent per year in student enrollment.

Read the report

Such a waste of prime downtown commercial space. The two fellows itching to cash in on college boozers care nothing for SLO’s downtown. The related decisions by SLO city ‘representatives’ reflect disappointing and shallow reasoning.

Shallow reasoning? Like complying with the law regarding property rights? If the landlord wants to rent them the property, the use is permissible under current zoning and the tenant improvements are completed to code, why does anyone have the right to turn them down? If they are capitalizing on the “college boozers” they must also obtain a liquor license to do so, meaning that, the issuance of a license must comply with ABC regulations that are subject to proximity to residential housing, schools and also address the number of licenses issued within a certain area. If all of these regulations are complied with, there is no reason to not approve the project.

So why do the downtown restaurant owners have any voice in deciding if a project is an over improvement for the area or if the business may succeed or fail? It seems to me a bit of a conflict of interest to allow competitors determine if a new entrant to the competition is viable. Can the city deny property rights to people based upon their history? In my opinion, the city should only be looking to see if the business will be conforming to allowed use of the property in question and that the plans are safe and in compliance to codes. Who are the tow members of “Save our Downtown?” Further, who is “Save our Downtown?” What parties are members? Whose interests do the represent? What are they saving downtown from or for?