Harmon and Christianson’s poorly made plans for SLO

September 1, 2018

Allan Cooper


Mayor Heidi Harmon and Council Member Carlyn Christianson are campaigning on the premise that they have made significant strides in addressing San Luis Obispo’s “climate action plan” by adopting the Community Choice Energy program, by forcing us out of our cars and onto bicycles by taking away our parking and by increasing density and height in our downtown core and in our neighborhoods to counter sprawl, though sprawl is indeed taking place – witness the Righetti, San Luis and Avila ranch developments.

Permit me to counter the new mantra we’re hearing from these incumbent candidates as well as from the self-proclaimed YIMBY’s. Their argument is that “if more people are living in our town, more people are affording to live in our town.”

Within the city limits of Los Angeles, there are approximately four million people. LA is the fifth fastest growing city in the nation. Nevertheless, the median cost of a home there is about a million dollars.

If we are to learn from this example, rapidly increasing our population by building more homes will not result in more affordable housing. But doing so will make developers very rich because the bar is set so low on the number of affordable units they must provide. The belief that housing will miraculously “trickle down” to the less affluent members of our community by giving away the keys to market-rate developers is a pernicious myth.

What our incumbent candidates don’t want to talk about is that all of this new construction and increased population will not only overtax our infrastructure, but will ultimately make impossible our ability to adapt to climate change.

Both Harmon and Christianson seem to be dancing around four proverbial “elephants in the room” and those are job creation, Cal Poly enrollment growth, solar-powered electric cars and biome carrying capacity.

The council is tasked with maintaining every five years a five percent growth cap on commercial square footage. But this cap on commercial square footage fails to take into consideration that job growth has averaged three and a quarter percent per year, far exceeding the maximum one percent per year growth in our housing supply. And so follows more traffic due to an explosion in our daytime population plus an increasing jobs/housing imbalance.

Cal Poly growth over the past four years has averaged two and a half percent per year. Some of these increases may be absorbed by on-campus housing but this burgeoning on-campus student population will still have an adverse impact on our roads, water and waste water treatment capacity.

The council’s argument that we must reduce the number of cars in order to reduce our GHG’s will no longer hold up when most of us will own solar-powered electric cars. And finally California’s carbon footprint is six times the State’s biome carrying capacity and this number most likely is higher for San Luis Obispo. This will only get worse as our climate becomes more like that of the Mojave Desert.

There is such a thing as “right sizing” a city’s population and SLO has far exceeded its “right size.” Yes global population growth must be absorbed somewhere but not where there is no longer any slack in the environment’s carrying capacity.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Even if you stop or limit development now, won’t approved projects continue for a decade?

Supposedly many of the big projects (hotels) downtown were approved when the country was in deep recession.

So just by removing the current council, et al, doesn’t necessarily put a halt to the uncontrolled growth.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley where it was a great place to live. Over the years I slowly watched the destruction of the Valley and the surrounding areas due to uncontrolled growth. I moved to SLO county because upon visiting the area I determined that it was a nice open place to live with beautiful landscapes and mountain views. But over the past few years I have watched the beginning of the ruining of SLO with uncontrolled growth associated with political corruption. It should be very apparent to everyone what is going on just by observing the actions in SLO City. What has happened to the nice little city that us old timers fell in love with? Sad to say it is gone and will never return. But gone is one thing and getting worse is where it is going. Just another city with high rise buildings packed full of people and an inadequate infrastructure to handle it. So some will say if you don’t like it move. So I did and I’m glad I got out while the getting out was good. I have no regrets as I have found a place that is wide open and life is good.

The Time is NOW to pay attention and vote Harmon, et al OUT. The time is NOW to forward this editorial to your friends and neighbors, put it on your Facebook page, do whatever we can to help people who think Harmon, et al, are the ‘saviors’ of SLO realize that these people are part of the destruction machine. Mr. Cooper, thank you for your well-written article telling it like it is.  

Dear Residents of San Luis Obispo,

I hope each of you takes the time to carefully read this editorial by Mr. Allan Cooper, because the future of this very special place will largely be decided in November when voters have to decide whether to fire or rehire Carlyn Christianson and Heidi Harmon.  

Harmon and Christianson’s campaign slogan ought to read, ‘Birds of a feather, ruin SLO together’, because,  as Mr. Cooper points out, the failed policies of Harmon and Christianson have been disastrous to taxpaying residents.  They have rushed to approve high density developments, giving their developer friend exemptions from building the necessary infrastructure because the developer added so-called ‘affordable housing’ within the development.

Harmon and Christianson are idealogical ‘progressives’, and their whacky worldview colors their flawed  decision making in many ways.  While the roads fall into disrepair, these two work to jam ‘bike highways’ down our throats, reducing the ability of people (often elderly) to park their cars near their house.  They have approved several downtown developments reducing and ruining the formerly fantastic mountain views so many of us cherish.  They accept campaign cash money from the same out-of-town developers they are granting special deals to, and it is corruption bordering on criminal activity.

I say let’s vote to diversify our SLO City Council by firing Harmon and Christianson in November.  Voters have a chance to elect proven leadership in Mr. Keith Gurnee for SLO Mayor and Mr. James Lopes for SLO City Council.  Both of these men offer experience and judgement that Harmon and Christianson simply lack.

In November, let’s vote to restore our beloved SLO with proven, wise leadership!

Mr. George Bailey

All of the whiners who are supporting more development in SLO need to move where they can afford to live. Evidently they want SLO to be like any other formerly nice towns who have outstripped their environments. Yes, L.A. used to be a paradise and unbridled development has ruined it. Move to an urban area if that’s what you want. There are plenty of them in California and the rest of the U.S.

What an asinine comment. Whether you like it or not, growth is coming. I’m a local, I remember the old days, but there has to be development. California is in trouble. Young people can’t get started here. But we need to have an economy that provides opportunities for young families to stay, grow and prosper. Because we cannot have a town or county wherein we’re all north of 50. Shall we simply raise the drawbridge and tell everyone else to keep moving? It won’t work. It can’t work. We must have more housing stock, we must have jobs in tech, trades, and agriculture, we need new blood. Getting pissy about it isn’t a strategy.

Laughlines –

This City, over the past 25 years, has inexorably shifted its focus away from quality of life issues in order to focus almost entirely on the feeding and nurturing of the San Luis Obispo business community. This paradigm shift is based on a myth circulating within the Chamber and the development community that San Luis Obispo has to grow in order to maintain a vibrant economy. According to the late environmentalist, Edward Goldsmith, the myth of inevitable economic growth has enriched the few, impoverished the many and endangered the planet we l!ive on.

SLO currently has a vibrant economy that will remain so without growth into the foreseeable future because we have an insured sustainable income generated by a captive population of 27,710 mostly affluent students and 13,275 extremely well-compensated government, health and public utilities employees. Cal Poly professors earn 46% more than the national average or $125,579 per year, the 2,570 SLO County employees averaged in 2014 $100,000 per year and the 583 SLO City employees also averaged in 2013 $100,000 per year. The only reason that the median household income at $31,926 is so low is because of our very large resident student population. Moreover, the City’s economy is further sustained by a County employment p!opulation, 44% of which earn their paychecks directly from the government.

The City, in collusion with the business community, has a vested interest in growing our population and local workforce because the City has ambitions to grow the government and the business community is looking to increase its wealth. Government growth is sustained by approving every development project that “walks through the door”. And this development will be built decades before the City can provide the necessary infrastructure – the water, roads, storm runoff and sewers sufficient to service all of this new development. The residents of San Luis Obispo will pay for all of this in the form of deteriorating quality of life, increasing taxes and water rationing. 

I’m not sure that I completely agree with your assessment of the local economy. We’ve seen several local businesses relocate recently, and they all cited high living costs as the main reason. Along with excessive regulation. So, same question as I posed to Noodle-Brain below. What’s the end state here? If we follow your suggestions, what does SLO look like? Is it a geriatric village where everyone looks backward and talks about the good old days? Seems quite stultifying to me.

Yours is the myopic view. Asinine? Really? That word belongs attached to those of you in the echo chamber where ‘growth’ is the mantra. Entropy is also equally possible. Bubbles DO burst, maximum capacity is reality. Resource scarcity is the basis of all economics. You’d do well to consider the fact that your thinking is really not critical thinking at all, but repetition of erroneous ‘facts’-no more than a parrot swearing. Maybe your snowflake offspring can’t cut it ‘here’, but I bet they’d be just as underwhelming in Tulsa or Helena. My son has fared extremely well here without a single crime or handout in the four years since he graduated HS and moved out. The actual fact of the matter is that the world population is no longer sustainable and growing at a ridiculous pace. Your kids, and theirs, are the problem. There is no reason in the world a city, town or village has to grow. Leave the country and travel. You’ll see plenty of places in the developed world where nothing new has been built in decades. People there all seem to survive and live happy and meaningful lives without the growth you say is mandatory.

So, the Earth is dying, according to you, but it’s only my kid and other people’s kids to blame. Not, apparently, stalwart Noodly Jr., who is better than every other kid out there. OK, whatever. Leave the country? I’m out of the country right now, and I’ve traveled plenty and seen the places you’ve only read about. When I graduated and moved out, three young guys rented a house near the train station for $450./month. What are rents now? I have a house. Restricting supply benefits me as prices go up, but it’s a Blue Falcon move on everyone else. I personally know several hard-working young couples who are priced out. What’s your response to them other than calling them underwhelming? What’s the end state here? I mostly see and hear people who’ve got theirs who now want to pull up the ladder and keep others out. No one is really articulating a plan. And now theres state law to contend with. So, leaving your feeble insults aside (since I’m so much more than you could possibly imagine me to be, frankly you don’t even live on my planet) what’s the actual plan?

May I submit an editorial correction on my own behalf? The term “NIMBYS” above was meant to read “YIMBYS” which translates into “Yes In My Backyard”. This is a statewide organized movement involved in legal challenges to local decision-making when a housing project is denied.