SLO council candidates debate water and development

September 15, 2016
Jan Marx

Jan Marx

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.

Heidi Harmon

Heidi Harmon

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.

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SLO keeps up their old paper work to appropriate water for their city, but sorry, the terms of that APPLICATION have not been met and remains unlicensed so SLO will have to stand in line behind the riparian users of such water.

North County comes first, SLO if ever, may become a distant second to develop on that water. The Salinas River is not for flushing toilets to keep the San Luis Creek flowing.

Here is SLO’s water policy, as established by Mayor Dave Romero, CM Ken Hampian, Finance Director Bill Stadler; existing City water customers were to pay all but a token amount of the cost of obtaining additional supplies for development. This was justified based on the drought of the 90’s, when instead of mandatory conservation, you were allowed to use all the water you wanted but at a higher rate – just like electricity, the City stupidly pumped water on the Dalidio property and sunk the Honda dealership’s building. Ergo, all costs to current customers for “reliability”. Records show that policy was “modified” this “water bank” was subsequently gifted to developers (just like the City gifts valuable downtown land to their cronies, I understand Marx was employed by the secretive Copeland family). Other jurisdictions had the policy that developers pay all cost for additional supplies. The aforementioned three were owned by developers who whined that paying full boat would cut into their profits and make SLO’s $300,000 SFR cost drop. Sad stories were told of peoples’ children (actually between college students, retirees and LA/Bay Area imports, there are not many of us) leaving their hometown and commute over the Grade for $150,000 North County housing. How’d that work out? Current City government remains in lock step with the original plan, but the additional supplies available have all now been bought for the developers by existing customers and our water rates have tripled. But the developers still insist that if allowed to continue to build and are exempted from public infrastructure costs housing will finally become cheaper in return. Do you believe this COLAB crap? Now the City will finally squeeze water use to provide more for developers using the current drought is a perfect tool; no lawns, no vegetable gardens, and certainly no occasional nice long showers. You will be squeezed further and further for more and more building. There is no reconsidering any options other than full bore development, but development only by a select few. Landscaping, except for commercial properties that are exempt from many residential rules, will be cacti and colored rock. Enjoy… or get rid of the the current mayor, city council and administration. They do not care one whit about and kind of quality of life or resource sustainability issues.

Lots to learn from Heidi’s facebook page.