SLO council candidates debate water and development
September 15, 2016
Both San Luis Obispo mayoral candidates and all six council candidates participated in a debate Wednesday at the city’s Senior Citizens Center. San Luis Obispo’s water supply, particularly in the context of new development, was the most noteworthy issue discussed at the forum. [Tribune]
In the November election, incumbent Mayor Jan Marx is running against challenger Heidi Harmon, an environmental activist.
A total of six candidates are running for two open council seats, which councilmen John Ashbaugh and Dan Carpenter are vacating. The council candidates are: retired Army colonel Mike Clark, businessman Aaron Gomez, Cal Poly student Christopher Lopez, architect Andy Pease, engineering supervisor Brett Strickland and teacher Mila Vujovich-La Barre.
Both Marx and Harmon described the city as water-secure. Marx said the average city resident has cut daily water use from 130 gallons prior to the drought to 97 gallons currently. Harmon said the city should provide as much affordable housing as possible while taking climate change into account.
Council candidates were divided on whether the city has reliable water sources and whether residential development should continue.
Cark said officials must slow down future development until the city is confident it will have more water. Vujovich-La Barre said she does not believe the city has enough water for developments that are currently planned, and new housing should not come at the expense of current residents.
Strickland said he would work to acquire more water, and one possible source is treating recycled wastewater for potable use. Lopez suggested that the city work with developers to create incentives to further cut water use in new homes.
Pease also said the city can do more with conservation. She said the city has added a lot of jobs, resulting in a jobs-housing imbalance. Housing enriches the entire community, Pease said.
Gomez said San Luis Obispo is the most water-secure city in the county, and it has a 1 percent growth cap. A building moratorium would mean no more affordability, and it would push people into a county that is less water-secure, he said.
The candidates also discussed city parking issues. They were split on the need for a new parking garage.
On senior services, many of the candidates suggested the city could use public-private partnerships to provide door-to-door transportation for the elderly.