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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The character, attraction and any sense of progress for all citizen’s in the city of SLO, went out the window when Mayor Heidi Harmon was elected. Her lack of leadership, integrity, tolerance, and inclusiveness for all, is obvious in the lack of transparency by the city’s recent actions. She’s selfish, lacks intelligence, and is blinded by her corrupt ideology. Kick her down the road before she does any further damage.

mary margaret

I completely agree with your opinion piece. The Mayor and Council in SLO have not been listening to residents and need to be voted out in November. They are subtly uncivil to speakers by not looking at or listening to the speakers during public comment unless it’s one of their fans. When in council chambers it’s quite obvious. If one sends an email there is no response if one disagrees politely with their stance.

Now under the guise of the covid emergency they’re running wild and they’re able to do all kinds of egregious actions with the total support of City Mgr. Johnson, City Atty. Detrich and the department heads developers, realtors and the Chamber of Commerce.

Thank you for penning this Mr. Cooper!


Finally, an op-ed writer who understands Aristotelian rhetoric. Thank you, Mr. Cooper. Hoping you can coach Mr. Gurnee and Mr. Duenow on how to present a proper opinion piece. Paul Harvey was always the master, so maybe they should look back at his library.

Not sure I still agree with you, but at least you give me a reason to take your arguments seriously.


I don’t see what the problem is. We’re erasing our history anyway. I’m sure the people who built those places had narrow out of touch with our woke culture views.


That first sentence says it all. Thanks Allan…


I have a similar problem in my town. After I complained about a public provided utility a low level politician told me that if I kept complaining he would give the contract to a private company. He said I would be ran out of town if that happened. Then he explained how smart he was for buying property years ago when it was cheap. Sometimes I think these politicians are only looking out for themselves and the friends that gave them the dough to get into office.


What is SLO’s cultural heritage and why do you get to decide where it starts and ends? I think adding more housing to the interior of SLO would be wonderful for the city’s culture, character, and history. History didn’t stop when you moved in.


It did when you did…


Ok? What does that even mean, Keith?


These people must be removed from office. And, to used their own phrase, by any means necessary.


Isn’t the SLO City Council violating the Brown Act by muzzling the public? The Brown Act applies, of course to the city council. But it also applies to all commissions and advisory groups. Filing a complaint with the SLO County Grand Jury is one way to approach this.


Brown Act? “We don’t need no stinkin’ Brown Act.”

BTW, the new 2020-21 SLO County Civil Grand Jury should be installed and impaneled by now, so the timing should be perfect to file a complaint with them. If, upon second thought, there even IS a new Grand Jury, because of all the CV restrictions.

Does anyone know? Do we have a new Grand Jury for the coming year? Or has that been put on hold as well?

Jorge Estrada

Rock, scissor, paper is a game with a quick answer. Paper, time, money is the game government plays at your expense and the answer is, don’t hold your breath.