Is the SLO City Council on the side of out of town developers?
April 7, 2017
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.