Is the SLO City Council on the side of out of town developers?

April 7, 2017

Allan Cooper

OPINION by ALLAN COOPER

Loren Riehl’s under-parked, overly-dense and poorly designed student apartment complex at 71 Palomar could have gone through without clearcutting 55 old growth trees (including one national champion in height and age), without moving and possibly delisting an historic master listed house, without destroying a cultural landscape and without alienating concerned residents throughout the city.

Any good developer would have saved the old growth trees by building his project around them and would have taken pains to avoid moving an historic house while all along pocketing a treasure trove of profits. This was not a binary choice between Riehl’s poorly designed project and no project at all.

However, Riehl is not the only person we must blame for this. He was aided and abetted all along by the City of San Luis Obispo.

The Cultural Heritage Committee was inappropriately pressured by city staff to approve the project after two motions denying it at their June 2016 meeting. The Architectural Review Commission approved the project while completely ignoring the tree committee’s repeated pleas to save the trees and the SLO City Council turned a deaf ear to a packed council chamber of appeal supporters.

On April 4, council members Carlyn Christianson, Dan Rivoire and Aaron Gomez ( Andy Pease recused herself) offered little comment about the merits of the project.

Gomez stated he had to vote for this project because it was pay back to those who elected him. Doesn’t he represent all the voters?

They rubber stamped the project without acknowledging any of the passionate and eloquent public testimony that had taken place that evening. To her credit, Mayor Heidi Harmon stated that this was a bad project in spite of having “checked all the boxes” and she voted in favor of the appeal.

Sadly, over the past three years appeals have not gone well for the residents of San Luis Obispo. Neighborhood groups in San Luis Obispo have lost the following appeals: the Monterey Place at 667 Monterey St., the Monterey Hotel at 1845 Monterey St., the Discovery SLO at 1144 Chorro, 85 Buena Vista, 22 Chorro St., 1042 Olive St., 560 Higuera St. and now 71 Palomar.

One of the speakers Tuesday night aptly stated that this council vote would be a referendum on whether the  council was on the side of the residents or on the side of the out-of-town developers.

We residents have known the answer to this question for some time. Nevertheless we were hoping this new council would shift the balance in our favor and obviously this has not happened.

It is hard to explain why against these odds we keep on fighting. But we do.







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6 Comments

  1. rockhound1965 says:

    What no one seems to want to address is California and her overpopulation problem. Roads are too congested, leading to smog and other issues. Water is now a commodity and will be California’s next war. And people cannot afford to live where they work. The police & hospitals cannot maintain peace & security for the general population. All signs of overpopulation. But noooo….California is just fine.

    (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
  2. Pelican1 says:

    “Loren Riehl’s under-parked, overly-dense and poorly designed student apartment complex at 71 Palomar could have gone through without clearcutting 55 old growth trees (including one national champion in height and age), without moving and possibly delisting an historic master listed house, without destroying a cultural landscape and without alienating concerned residents throughout the city.”
    THIS IS WHY THEY ARE ALL GETTING BONUSES!

    (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
  3. mary margaret says:

    Thank you for an excellent article Mr. Cooper. It seems that our current council just cares about the opinions of staff and department heads who are in bed with the development community. They’ve thrown 55 beautiful, mature trees, the animal, bird habitat, historic house and the neighborhood under the bus again. They hire expensive consultants to do their work, cranking out “Staff Reports” with pages numbering in the hundreds for each project. The City Council mindlessly votes with staff recommendations. San Luis will be Isla Vista Norte soon. It’s high time to throw the bums out, starting at the top with Katie Lichtig and really clean house. The overpaid management and Chamber of Commerce are behind much of this also. How about the bill for the Santa Ana attorney’s investigating Ms. Lichtig and the Fire Chief’s night with the Chamber, it’s up to $70,000 now and they could have been simply fired.

    (36) 48 Total Votes - 42 up - 6 down
  4. OtisCampbell says:

    Too bad about SLO Town. I was a lucky transplant from So. Cal in the early 1980’s for a job with the City. City hall was then proud of it’s methodical planning and development. Fast forward to 2017 where SLO’s past has been smeared into grease of greedy development. What was unique has been replaced by a rubber stamp of elsewhere. Build to maximize density. Just like everywhere else.

    (44) 56 Total Votes - 50 up - 6 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      Here is the problem with you last statement. Build to maximize. O.k. so should we spread out everywhere? For being a state of 33 million people by having people in clustered areas we still have a LOT of open space in this state. So would you rather spread people everywhere? Do you support all the immigration coming into this state? Should we stop procreation?

      These all play into the bigger issue rather than your simplistic let me look like the hero answer. Not so easy as you make it sound.

      Last it was during all the greenbelt buying of the past 20 years around SLO that infill building was encouraged
      or did you forget that???

      (0) 16 Total Votes - 8 up - 8 down
  5. rukidding says:

    You must remember that SLO City has only hired the best. If this is the best that they can do we are all in trouble as it appears that SLO City will shortly be a sanctuary city or whatever else name they came up with.

    (33) 49 Total Votes - 41 up - 8 down

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