SLO residents rally to have their voices heard

July 3, 2016
Allan Cooper

Allan Cooper

OPINION by ALLAN COOPER

On Tuesday, July 5, at 5 p.m., a group of residents will be standing on the San Luis Obispo City Hall steps with signs reading “Resident Voices Matter.” Why? Because over the past two years our collective voices, particularly within the context of SLO City Council appeals, are not being heard.

What is an appeal? San Luis Obispo residents can pay the city up to $273 to appeal any decision made by an advisory body providing it’s done within 10 days of that decision. The appeal is a reconsideration of the specific facts and circumstances of any final decision made by that advisory body. If the appellants make a convincing argument, the City Council may over-rule these final decisions.

However, the appeal process should be a last resort. Yet it’s being used more and more by residents because of systemic problems which remain unaddressed within our city government.

Six times over the past two years the council has been presented with neighborhood-backed appeals. Six times the council failed to be swayed by the overwhelming public testimony presented to them. This pattern is giving the residents of SLO the impression that these council members have had their minds made up long before hearing from the public.

Our council members appear to be in denial with regards to the serious problems plaguing our community. What are these problems?

1.     The city contributes to the deterioration of single family-neighborhoods by repeatedly approving incompatible, high-density infill projects, particularly high-density de facto student housing projects. This leads to a corresponding decline in our quality of life and to owner-occupant flight. Residents are fleeing San Luis Obispo.

2.     The city refuses to stand up to Cal Poly and protest its rapidly expanding student enrollments. Increasing student enrollments result in the deterioration of our neighborhoods and increasing crime, particularly alcohol-related crime both downtown and in the areas surrounding campus.

3.     The city is promoting growth that outstrips our infrastructure, particularly our roads. Moreover, population growth should be curbed, not encouraged, in light of imminent climate change and increasing water shortages.

4.     The city is outstripping its financial resources by growing its staff and increasing its debt due to unfunded pension liabilities.

In the rush to grow our population and housing stock, city staff appear unconstrained by existing restrictions that are in place to insure quality development. They routinely ignore restrictions that are memorialized in our general plan, our zoning regulations, our historic ordinance, our Hillside Ordinance and our Community Design Guidelines.

City staff are now falling into the role of the developer’s representative. They place pressure on advisory bodies to approve every project that “comes down the pike.” And as with last Monday’s disappointing Cultural Heritage Committee review of 71 Palomar, our advisory body members eventually acquiesce to these pressures.

Going, going Monterey view. Steel framework encloses the disappearing view of San Luis Mountain.

Going, going Monterey Street view. Steel framework encloses the disappearing view of San Luis Mountain.

Neighborhood wellness advocates in SLO are presently being confronted with the following challenges:

1) University expansion negatively impacting residential parking and neighborhood cohesion

2) Proliferation of bars downtown and related anti-social behavior within the surrounding neighborhoods

3) Decline in resident owner-occupied housing

4) Expedited environmental impact assessment for urban infill projects within existing neighborhoods (Senate Bill 226 supporting “categorical infill development exceptions”)

Approximate dates of SLO City Council ruling neighborhood:

Feb. 4, 2014 City Council appeal lost: Monterey Place Dana/Monterey Street neighborhood

Feb. 17, 2014 City Council appeal lost: Monterey Hotel San Luis Drive neighborhood

Oct. 18, 2014 City Council appeal lost: Mission School Mission Orchard neighborhood

Nov. 17, 2014 City Council appeal upheld: 1327 Osos Street Old Town neighborhood

March 6, 2015 St. Fraty’s Party Roof Cave-In Hathway neighborhood

May 15, 2015 Court case lost: Cal Poly Master Plan update EIR  Alta Vista neighborhood

June 2, 2015 Architectural Review Committee and the City Council appeal upheld: Mini-dorms Grand Avenue 323-353 Alta Vista neighborhood

September 17, 2015 City Council appeal lost: 1144 Chorro Street Discovery SLO Downtown neighborhood

May 3, 2016 City Council appeal lost: 85 Buena Vista Monterey Heights neighborhood

July 27, 2016 Cultural Heritage Committee lost: 71 Palomar N. Broad Street neighborhood

Allan Cooper is the secretary for Save Our Downtown.


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19 Comments

  1. just the facts says:

    It was only a matter of time! Glad to see the SLO residents finally rally against Agenda 21!

    They don’t know it, but they are rallying against the ‘symptons’ of Agenda 21…”deterioration of single family-neighborhoods by repeatedly approving incompatible, high-density infill projects” That’s Agenda 21!

    I knew SLO residents love their neighborhoods, and would eventually reject A21 without even knowing it!

    (11) 19 Total Votes - 15 up - 4 down
    • unlisted says:

      Does Agenda 21 prevent property owners to use their land for legal purposes if the neighbors object?

      Your quote ”deterioration of single family-neighborhoods by repeatedly approving incompatible, high-density infill projects” is complete crap. 71 Palomar is surrounded on three sides by high density housing and the site has been zoned for high density housing for decades!

      And, in case you don’t realize it, the site has been zoned for high density housing long before Agenda 21 was even adopted!

      (-8) 16 Total Votes - 4 up - 12 down
  2. Jorge Estrada says:

    Great opinion letter and gently accurate, brutally accurate would just be the addition of choice words that illustrate how the citizenry is being sodomized by the corporation of cityhood. The real dividends paid by this corporation come in the form of a pension annuity. For this reason the board decisions must consider their fiscal obligation to their employees, the preferred share holders. As for the property owners, they have common shares that yield a right to a vote or a costly appeal.

    (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
  3. standup says:

    Oh cold dog give it a rest. Actually I am familiar with this project and Mr. Cooper. Many, many years ago, this property was zoned r4, which is a fact. This is nothing more than NIMBY. Not in my back yard. These people through their due diligence should have known that the potential was very real for this property getting developed. They also knew that the old Sanford home is also on the historic registry and that it must be preserved. In order to accomplish that, either get a philanthropist to buy the property for a couple mill, pay another half mill to restore the home and probably another 100 k to remove poor vegetation and replant. Then, put up money to maintain everything. The money to do this is only going to come from developing this property. This will in turn save a remarkable piece of SLO history. The neighbors could have put up the money to do this but they didn’t. Just like when their homes were built, critters were displaced and other neighbors were pissed at them for crowding into the neighborhood. Now they are mad? Properties get developed, that is a fact.

    (5) 37 Total Votes - 21 up - 16 down
  4. Paso_citizen says:

    Agree 100% with this article. Just would like to add that this total lack of regard for citizens input by the ‘high and mighty’ SLO rulers is completely applicable to other cities in this county – especially Paso Robles. All the CC here considers is what is nice for tourists –
    needs of the resident citizens are routinely disregarded.

    While my comment may be taken the wrong way, let me add that this article is just one more example of why Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. At all levels of government – city, county, state, and federal – a very large percentage of people see that our
    elected officials are not serving them. They have their own agendas and nothing short of being kicked out of office will ever have any impact. Let me add that I am not a huge fan of Trump, but I totally believe this country needs a ‘slap-up-to-the-side-of-the-head’ and a very
    big change in the way things are done. This applies equally at the state, county, and city
    levels.

    It is just so very unfortunate that this is the case, but we, the voters, have no one to blame
    except ourselves, We must; as a country, state, county, or city; take actions that may have
    some detrimental results in order to get back the nation, state, county, and city that we all
    love and grew up in. No elected official is going to do that out of the goodness of their heart – this change will have to be forced upon them.

    (18) 36 Total Votes - 27 up - 9 down
  5. Mr. Holly says:

    Very good article. Having lived in the county for several decades now I have come to the conclusion that the quality of life for full time residents has been altered by the acts of some politicians. The reality is that if they can bring more people to their towns that it will create more revenue. Of course this is true but the question is what is the benefit to the full time resident and taxpayer. I think, like the article stated, it’s great for government as it leads to more of those high paying jobs and great benefits for those who keep studying our problems with very few positive results except for the deterioration of our lifestyle as we have known it.
    For myself, San Luis Obispo is ruined and Paso Robles is on the fast track to getting their too. Atascadero is watching what’s going on and think that they can get part of the money from the tourism gig too.
    At least some of us can still say I remember when it use to nice.

    (20) 36 Total Votes - 28 up - 8 down

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