More poor planning by SLO City Council

October 8, 2019

Allan Cooper


You probably know that the State of California has “gifted” housing developers a series of special concessions which are meant to incentivize growth, even when this growth cannot be easily accommodated into our communities. But did you know that our San Luis Obispo City Council and our director are granting housing developers special concessions that exceed, I repeat exceed, those required by the state?

On Oct. 1 of this year, the SLO City Council unanimously granted a developer the right to count his four bedroom units as two bedrooms and his two bedroom units as one. This effectively resulted in cutting his parking requirements in half. And this 1121 Montalban housing project is located in a single family neighborhood that is already plagued with a shortage of on-street parking.

The developer’s sleight of hand was to declare some walls separating the bedrooms as “temporary” and he persuaded our director to come to the absurd conclusion that these so-called “temporary” walls were not in fact “walls.” Of course it was never discussed that there would be no incentive to ever remove these “walls” (or are they to be called “non-walls”?).

The council chose to ignore the fact that they were not in compliance with their own parking regulations. They felt it was more important to build more housing even in light of these adverse impacts on the surrounding neighborhood and in spite of the fact that several residents went to the trouble to attend this council meeting to convincingly describe their parking problems (even using pictures in their powerpoint presentations).


At the end of public testimony, Councilman Gomez said that the residents are “overly-infatuated with their parking.” Christianson said that “parking was not needed.” Councilwoman Stewart said that she once lived without a car and was still able to get around town. And Mayor Harmon felt that the situation would improve if we only stopped using our garages for storage and parked our cars in them instead.

What is more concerning is that this is the third project of this type that the council has seen under appeal. What made this project different is that both the Architectural Review Commission and the Planning Commission finally determined that this disingenuous approach to sabotaging our parking regulations simply had to stop. But both commissions were summarily overruled on Oct. 1 by the council.

It’s a fact that the council’s expertise on good planning and design pales in comparison with that of these two commissions. And it’s also becoming painfully clear that our council and the director are succeeding in marginalizing not only public input (yes, we’re getting used to that) but also the credibility and effectiveness of these two advisory bodies.

If you ask the council about this, they will tell you that this was done to make possible two more deed restricted studio apartments. Yes, you heard me correctly, only two more affordable housing units! Carlyn Christianson assured us that the other 13 apartments would also be affordable because their bedrooms were small. This is absurd when you realize that identical apartments elsewhere are advertising and successfully renting their “four-bedroom” units at $1300 per bed. In the meantime, more cars, with nowhere else to park, will be flooding into our neighborhoods.

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I think this is actually what the law is intended to allow!

The State threw out many of the obstacles that disallowed secondary units, parking being the biggest one, as long as the unit was within a certain distance from public transportation!!

It also prevents municipalities from using utility service and fire sprinkler as a way to stop development of these units!!!

When I perused the State Law, it seemed to me that any house can be converted to a duplex and municipalities have little or no say in the matter, that’s why the law was written!!!

The article by Mr Cooper is the type of Nimby-ism that the State is trying to stop, like it or hate it, it’s upon us now.

What’s surprising to me is that this is just coming to the forefront in this County, it;s been happening in Santa Barbara county for some time.

I would think that it has become obvious that making more room for cars is not solving much of anything. Just one of many examples; Houston, in their downtown area, expanded the Interstate from 11 to 24 lanes. Result? Traffic got worse! We keep spending gazillions on adding pavement and pollution and we now have our very own parking lot on US 101 every afternoon. As a community, as a state and a nation, we need to urgently focus on public transportation that makes it more convenient and cost effective than owning, fixing, gassing and storing a car.

“As a community, as a state and a nation, we need to urgently focus on public transportation that makes it more convenient and cost effective than owning, fixing, gassing and storing a car.”

You mean like this?:

Heidi and the Hipsters at it again

Based on the City’s interpretation that a 12 x 24 room divided by a sliding wall into 2 bedrooms with separate entrances is one 288 sf bedroom for parking purposes could you not argue that a 12 x 240 room with eight sliding walls and ten entrances is one 2880 sf bedroom? Why not? You’d have to ask Heidi how much that will cost in contributions.

Don’t confuse them with math!

OK, no math. A bedroom has a maximum of one door to the interior of the unit and a maximum of one door to the outside with no fixed or building integrated (ceiling tracked) interior partitions other than for closets or bathrooms.

This is sad. Why have Architectural Review Commission and Planning Commission if the City Council can override their decisions? There was a time when Carlyn Christianson supported our those commissions and accepted their expertise. Gomez and Harmon will ALWAYS vote pro-housing, pro-bike. Time to think about new candidates for 2020.

Poor citizenship begets poor representation, which begets poor behavior that leads to poor judgment ultimately yielding poor planning that will lead to poorer people.

Breaking the grip of apathy is a very good solution for “We the People.”

You know, it’s an interesting chart. The problem is that you have to actually live in Mississippi or Alabama or Louisiana to take advantage of the couple of dollars advantage you might gain. No thanks. The central coast of California is easily the best place in the world, in my opinion.

I’m not sure why citizensoldier even cares about this stuff unless he’s moving. If that’s the case he should report back and tell us about the sweltering humidity, bugs the size of cats or the stifling poverty. I’m not sure he understands the difference between the poverty we face here—a group of unfortunates who live in their cars and sometimes hang around stores—with the systematic poverty and decrepit living conditions which pervade corridors of the old south.

Bye bye SLO, hello Costa Mesa. Big fish, little pond syndrome wins again….