SLO temporarily halts Chinatown project over Chumash aqueduct

September 20, 2016


The city of San Luis Obispo has issued a stop-work order to Copeland Properties, the developer of the Chinatown project. The developer reportedly planned to remove a 250-year-old aqueduct that was built by the Chumash.

Last year, archeologist Barry Price and his team of workers unearthed the aqueduct, which the Chumash constructed during the mission-era. The aqueduct is located near Palm Street in downtown San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo’s cultural heritage committee has been negotiating with Copeland Properties in an attempt to at least preserve the aqueduct and possibly have it kept on display. But, the developer does not necessarily have to comply with the wishes of archeologists, the local Chumash community and others who want to preserve the aqueduct.

With the stop-work order in effect, city officials are reviewing development plans and exploring possible ways to preserve the artifact. The order only applies to the section of the construction site where the aqueduct is located.

The Chinatown project includes a hotel, apartments, retail space and underground parking.


When did archaeology become a “profession”? I always thought (and still think) it was a hobby created by the bored, Victorian elite.


Seems to me the Copelands have done a lot of good in San Luis Obispo. As a 4th generation native, I remember when the French Brothers, another great local family’s project sadly was nothing more than a big hole in the center of town for years. It was the Copelands who came in and moved the project forward. SLO downtown should be thanking and not finding fault with the Copeland family. Our town is vibrant and alive. Let’s be thankful!


The City sold them that property for pennies on the dollar. I don’t feel sorry for them, I feel sorry for the taxpayers.

San Louie

Don’t try to conflate good projects of the past (Downtown Center) with the crap they’re now throwing up so close to Mission SLO.

Just look at the architectural graphic at the top of this page. That’s what “chinatown” is going to become. How terribly sad!

Given the Copeland’s resources just think how beautiful this “chinatown project” could have been…

How much is enough, Tom and Jim, or is this about some other sort of validation?


Historic San Luis needs all the preservation it can get. The aqueduct is a piece of SLO history that everybody forgot and needs to be remembered. It underscores the need, from the very beginning of European settlement, that the distribution of water was the most important issue for a community, no matter how primitive. This same issue resonates today with water from the California Aqueduct.

How many know that the reason the location of the Mission was because it was on a hill between what would be known as San Luis Creek and Stenner Creek. Preservation honors both the labor of the Chumash and the vision of the Spanish Padres.


I’m sure the Chumash are honored by the preservation of the products of their slave labor at the hands of the Catholic missionaries who deemed them sub-human and used them until they died off due to European diseases. They didn’t need aqueducts, they just walked down to the creek to fish and get water. The few who survived in the 170 acres of unusable land in the SY Valley that nobody even wanted to steal from them are better served by their hotels and casinos, much to the chagrin of the new Hollywood locals.

San Louie

Please stop lying — and/or stop displaying so much ignorance on these important subjects. No Chumash Indian was conscripted into Mission SLO. They were not slaves, nor were they deemed to be “sub-human.” That’s out-and-out lying.

Saint Junipero Serra was a defender of the California Indians human rights. In 1773 he made his way to Mexico City to personally present to the viceroy a Representación. This document, often referred to as the “Bill of Rights for California Indians”, was accepted and implemented.

Please also don’t try to glorify the pre-Columbian life of the Chumash. While they were indeed gifted with great weather and abundant food, they had more than their share of intrinsic problems. The unintentional (the world did not yet understand the science of germs) spread of Smallpox was indeed tragic, it’s a lie to suggest it was intentional.

It’s also ridiculous to imply that the only Chumash Indians who survived did so on 170 acres in the SY Valley. I have to give you points I suppose for not misusing the term “genocide” as so many of your ilk are inclined to do.


Serra was an unpopular reprobate so extreme as to be exiled to the furthest reaches of the Catholic Church’s expansion so as to permanently get rid of him in Europe. It worked out well for both, as his particular “skills” were useful in ruthlessly subordinating the native population. He was a bad man. You can defend him, you can defend pedophile priests, you can defend the Porters……whatever dude.


You got a better term for the almost complete extermination of a people? Maybe “genocide” is too harsh a term to be applied to the Nazi’s, 15,000 of 500,000 German Jews survived the Holocaust; no harm, no foul, right?

San Louie



noun: genocide; plural noun: genocides

the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

“Genocide” did not take place during the Mission Period in CA you reprobate. There was no deliberate killing, no attempts at annihilation. Germ theory didn’t take off until well after the Mission Period by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch.

It’s ridiculous to read peoples’ beliefs that the Spanish distributed blankets in Alta California with the intent of spreading disease when no one in the world understood germ theory and how diseases were spread. Besides, the last thing they wanted were fewer souls to bring to God.

You are a liar. An angry, prejudiced liar. That’s on you.


San Louie, everyone stop with the personal attacks on each other.

We can’t edit comments (as a policy) so if your on topic and thoughtful 3 paragraph’s end’s with a personal attack, it all goes.


The aqueduct is a piece of SLO history that everybody forgot and needs to be remembered.


Dig a ditch today and it’s a nuisance that needs to be covered before you get fined.

Dig a ditch 250 years ago and all of a sudden it’s worth halting a multi-million dollar project and stopping and looking at?

The display:

“Wow, well will you look at that. A ditch.”


Build around it. Make it a museum display. Charge money. I’d pay to see it. New SLO tourist attraction. If you trash it, I won’t be shopping there.


It’s a $300 per night hotel. None of us will be staying there.


If you check the topo, the aqueduct would have had to intercept SLO Creek behind the Fart & Smile (old Scolari’s Market) at Marsh and Johnson. Where’s the rest of it? Would have had to go through the area occupied by County and City Government buildings just to the east, hmm. Also the discovery doesn’t stop the project for long, unless politics outside of the law is in play, as it always is in the City of SLO. But the Copelands, as always, are well-covered in that regard. The Native American representatives now have a time frame for either relocation or internment on site, not like the old days where a single bone displaced by animals or flooding killed a project. We reported a jawbone determined to be “displaced” and were saddled with 4 Native American observers drinking Coors beer at $26/hr for the remainder of the job….in the 1980’s, when a journeyman framer made about $12/hr and a lead framer $15. Nothing more was found, as expected by the archeologist based on site conditions, much better living sites nearby. Many discoveries were not reported as a result of the hostage-style rules of the day and whole burial sites were were concealed in earthwork or even broken up and added as aggregate for non-structural concrete flatwork (a form of “internment”) by some redneck (and not so redneck) contractors. Maybe we can dig up the piece of aqueduct and reconstruct it in the sort of some water feature to be displayed along with a plaque.


I had the opportunity to tour the site with one of the archaeologists to look at some of the artifacts before they were disturbed. My recollection from that tour was that they had uncovered this feature, but weren’t entirely sure what it was. They were just guessing it was an aqueduct.

the guy paso

Nobody missed it before they dug it up. please tell me why this is a life changer

the guy paso

You nimrods that – me need to explain yourselves. What is the like value of an old H20 conduit?


What is the value of this hotel and the businesses we don’t need?


What is the value of this hotel and the businesses we don’t need?


Probably 10-20 million. Plus re-occurring annual taxes in perpetuity and many jobs.

The ditch? 0.


10-20 milliion in whose pocket? It certainly won’t be helping me any. Most of the jobs will be ~minimum wage service roles once the construction is done. The tax revenue will easily be consumed by additional expenses incurred on the city to provide services to this development. It is a net loss for all of us except for the Coplands and their short term crews.

The “ditch” is indeed worth $0, but that’s because it is priceless. If you don’t understand that, there is no point in me wasting my time explaining.

If this artifact is destroyed, the Copelands will be boycotted.


This greedy family that has destroyed the charm of San Luis Obispo and brought in every piece of retail crap you see in every other money greedy City, who were given major property location gifts by the City of SLO for years at the cost to taxpayers should give something back to the community for all its ill conceivable wrongs, and there are plenty to be listed starting with your dirty tricks with the assistance of Jan Marx and Jim Booker over the Dalidio’s development and the Copeland Brothers were even fined $80,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). After all, they did inherit their wealth from mommy,Thelma when they took over the original Copeland Shoes! No doubt we can all count on Jan Marx and Joim and Tom Copeland to do the right thing (sorry, can’t help from laughing about these greedy clown who own this town).


I like your style, SLOBIRD.


This is your Mayor. This is why I am voting for Heidi Harmon as well as Donald Trump. We need to throw some bombs and expose the corrupt system to the light of day regardless of political labels. We will ALL be better off for it in the long run.


Harmon AND Trump? Guess you don’t really understand what you’re voting for cause those two couldn’t fit in the same lifeboat if it were the last one on the ship of state.


That is where you are wrong. Marx=corrupt and unprincipled, any principles. Clinton the same.


I think Obispan was referencing the notion of shaking things up with leaders who aren’t the entrenched politicians.


We need to get over it progress must continue.


Of course. That’s why we should tear down all of downtown and start all over with view-blocking buildings — who needs views anyway? Oh, come to think of it, we’ve already done that, haven’t we? Disneytown, I mean Downtown, is an all faked up suburban mall with no place to park, so we don’t even need it anymore. Maybe it will become a financial flop and the city will not get all the hotel tax they’re looking for. Whooppee. Happy place. Now, can we please get back to reality and figure out how to make this city a better place instead of just a richer place?


If they destroy this irreplaceable artifact, I will never set foot in any of the future businesses to be located in the China Town project. I will also boycott any businesses associated with Copeland Properties and the Copeland family. I’ll encourage others to do so as well.


I’m sure they’ll miss you by the rooftop pool at the hotel.


It’ll be difficult to rent out those high dollar retail slots with a well publicized boycott of any retailers who might consider locating there. Nothing like starting off on the wrong foot with the local community.

From the Tribune:

Copeland Properties will break ground in January on the retail segment of the Chinatown project that includes 37 residential units on the second floor of the existing historic buildings, as well as 50,310 square feet of retail space and 2,780 square feet of office space. An adjacent 80-room hotel on Palm Street will likely break ground six months later in the summer.

Read more here:


What is a local community? There is no such thing in SLO any more. Is Disneyland a “local community?” “Local community” is 101 $7,000 fiberglass cows that are the most important event, ever. It is a for profit entertainment operation. There are no residents in Disneyland and the same principal is being applied to SLO.


obispan – You don’t get out much, do you?


You haven’t been here long, have you?