SLO residents rally to have their voices heard

July 3, 2016
Allan Cooper

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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Mr. Cooper is a little off base regarding 71 Palomar. Where was he and the neighbors when they made this an r4 zoning property? The residents in the neighborhood bought their homes when an existing fraternity resided there for God’s sake. Now those people and Mr. Cooper think they own the property. The developer scaled back the project, saved more trees, redesigned the buildings, and has done just about everything he could to still be able to throw a half million into restoring the Sanford home on the site to preserve it for the long term. If nothing is done to the home which is crumbling down as I type this, it will be lost forever. People want to make this a park for their little neighborhood but they don’t have the money to restore the home and maintain it let alone the trees. Mr. Cooper has tried to call the eucalyptus trees on site “specimen” or “heritage”. Well Mr. Cooper, these trees are crap. They have been topped multiple times which you darn well know is against current arboricultural standards. Go spend your energy fighting new zoning requests. If we all listened to liberal whacks like you, we would live in a socialistic society.

I’m not privy to the data you cite in your note but the ending calls for a rebuttal.

Allan and his group have put in many hours trying to protect our city from greedy developers and negligent city officials-all at no gain to them. While you sit on your ass, doing nothing, and complain about these do gooders you do a disservice to humanity. Calling these wise and valiant folks names demeans all your comments. You are the ignorant dupe of the forces that will eventually wreck this community.

Those sleazy government sh##birds don’t care what you do. Haven’t you figured it out yet? They are the ruling class and the last time they got put in their place it was called a revolution.

There is too much money involved to fight SLO City Hall, developers, and Cal Poly.

People are moving here willing to pay $1 million cash for a nice house.

I suggest SLO County locals find a suitable place to relocate, that was like what SLO County was from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Totally agree with Allan. Even though this is a systemic problem with almost all councils here this one is the worst. I have seen a parade of PhDs testify about historical buildings and their worth to our heritage and culture, vs one developer-the council response was ‘tear it down’ for new development. That sort of thing goes on regularly. I have witnessed neighborhoods stand up for preservation of their unique setting-council rejected them time and again in favor of crappy new growth that denigrated the style and culture in the area. This council does not listen to their constituents, only the power mad chief of staff and others who would sell out the town for a bag of shekels.

One homeowner had a small tarped boat on a concrete pad by his garage, one crummy neighbor complained and despite numerous appeals the council ordered it removed. This council has no heart or intelligence to discern right from wrong and adjudicate issues in a fair and compassionate manner.

Damn shame they have all succumbed to the idiotic mantra that more growth will improve the town and lower housing prices. What a load of bull, it will only destroy our unique character, wipe out any ‘charm’ we have and then the same old thing will be drummed up to fuel yet more growth. New houses going in all over, most cost more than 700k-affordable housing my ass. And they are shitty tract junk.

I hope a mob shows up with torches and pitchforks, we need to throw the bums out.

This is an excellent and accurate article. Thank you Mr. Cooper. At what point do the average middle class residents stand up and say “We’re mad as hell and won’t take it any longer!” I would be at the rally this coming Tuesday at 5 in front of the City Hall if I didn’t have to be at work. It would be out of character for me to protest, but it’s at that point. It’s now or never for SLO.

It’s over for SLO. The town should really just be annexed by the college, which as the writer pointed out, is in the process of occurring.

While you can certainly feel free to stand outside and make noise to the government ruling class, which is a symptom of massive civilizational decline, they aren’t able to respond to your requests. The future for this area is as follows

More students

More crime (much more)

Less families

Less jobs

More low wage service sector employment

Some more companies besides Pacific Gas will end up leaving

Sadly, SLOTown is a rental town and renters (i.e. students don’t vote). Thus, the powers that be are allowed to sell the community, development variances, waive building fees, ignore ADA standards, fire standards and much more to the highest bidder. In the last few years, a local developer has openly paid off local building inspectors and a Community Development Director. I have personally watched the deal go down. City staff are too concerned about their side deals and getting a “little on the side” to quote an article on Calcoast about an inept and corrupt City employee in the utilities department. The problem isn’t the growth, it is the corruption that fuels the growth. How can a Community Development Director buy not one, but 5 rentals in north county in just one year on a government salary?

The reason the people behave this way, is the because they have given up on expecting the system to work. In California, at least in small towns which really have no future, the goal is to take as much from the citizen/companies as is possible before the whole thing collapses.

Right now the rest of the country has been told of the California miracle, but what they haven’t been told is that places like SLO won’t be healed. Only SF got the golden touch and most other CA towns, including LA, are performing quite bad. A lot of the country is the way, however a lot of the country doesn’t have 500k starter homes.

So those government employees just want to make the cheese before the pipe comes around to play and lead the rats off the sinking ship.

I fully agree with Mr. Cooper…..SLO is headed for financial disaster and there is no hope with the current council and city staff in charge. Like sheep (council) following the head ram (city staff). The only possible remedy is a march on city hall by a very large number of citizens who demand a public hearing on the city’s fateful direction.

Well, ‘ya had me until you dragged out that “imminent climate change” horseshit.

You seen our city reservoirs lately? Salinas, pretty much dried up. Whale Rock, ditto. Neither has enough water in it to use. Nacimiento, looks really, really dry — sorta scary that’s our “best shot.” Oh, well, I guess epic drought, predicted as one of the outcomes of that climate change “horseshit,” is just happening all by itself, no climate change, whatever, just year after year of declining rainfall for some mysterious reason, and we can just forget about why it’s happening and get on with life.

‘ ” imminent climate change” horseshit?’ Really? Have you stepped out of your air conditioned house lately? Checked out our reservoirs lately? Checked out the crispy condition of the entire state? Dispute the cause if you like, but deny the heating up? Better turn off the Faux “News” horseshit and check out the real world. And don’t forget to take off the Republican Fact Insulation Suit.