San Luis Obispo City Council needs to stop muzzling the public

July 9, 2020

Allan Cooper


Many of us believe that the San Luis Obispo City Council will go down on the wrong side of history when it comes to listening to the voices and concerns of ordinary citizens. Why do we say this? Because this council has been, over the past four years, successful in eroding the effectiveness of our tree, cultural heritage and architectural review committees and commissions.

Moreover, this council has succeeded in muzzling the general public by repeatedly denying advisory body appeals, raising the cost of appeals, by generally ignoring public testimony and seldom acknowledging letters addressed to them in the city’s correspondence file.

In the name of fast-tracking project approvals, this council has consolidated all final advisory body decision-making in the hands of the Planning Commission. This, in spite of the fact that members of the Planning Commission are mostly unqualified to make decisions having to do with arboriculture, historic preservation or architectural design. T

This Council is similarly fast-tracking project approvals by discouraging advisory bodies from revisiting projects, even when the applicants have stubbornly refused to respond to their recommendations. Continuances are now being systematically removed from staffs’ lists of approved alternative actions.

And this Council has greatly enhanced the Director’s authority by leaving him, in collaboration with the applicant, with the onerous task of overseeing and resolving changes recommended by these advisory bodies. All of this done behind closed doors.

Besides this being an election year, what has motivated us to say all of this now? Lately, this council has politicized advisory body appointments by culling out highly qualified applicants who had, in the past, disagreed with the council.

In 2018 Council Member Carlyn Christianson effectively forced out Scott Mann from the Planning Commission and last Tuesday she again forced out Dr. James Papp from the Cultural Heritage Committee because she, the Council and the development community had disagreed with some of the decisions they had made. This has left advisory body seats empty.

A rumor has it that the council is now seriously considering reducing the number of members on the Cultural Heritage Committee from seven to five members. This is not a fiduciary decision because members on the CHC are not paid. Then why would the Council do this if not because of complaints coming from the development community.

We, the citizens of San Luis Obispo, who value broad public participation in the pursuit of preserving and enhancing our town and its historic fabric, urge you to take all of this into consideration before you decide to vote the council back in this coming November.

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Great article Allan. We may not have always agreed but this time you are absolutely right. How about a run for city council? I may not live in SLO anymore but I am always willing to support the people that are trying to defend the city against evil.