Save Our Downtown endorses James Papp and Sandra Marshall

October 15, 2020

James Papp


Save Our Downtown was disappointed with the arguments the SLO Tribune editorial board put forward in their endorsement of Heidi Harmon for San Luis Obispo Mayor and their endorsement of Andy Pease and Jan Marx for City Council.

Let’s begin with Councilmember Andy Pease. To her credit, Andy Pease opposed the Anholm Bicycle Plan, extending hours of use of the Cerro San Luis Natural Reserve and supported an appeal of 1042 Olive Street. She is one of the more accessible members presently serving on the council.

Save Our Downtown has supported Andy in the past because we believed that she shared some of our values. However, the Tribune’s claim that Andy is willing to scale back her consulting business in order to avoid recusing herself in the future rings somewhat hollow.

Andy claimed that she was going to do this four years ago. In the last four years she has had to recuse herself 23 times, the most of any other council member. Her recusals meant that she was unable to comment and vote on three neighborhood appeals, approvals of the Avila Ranch and San Luis Ranch developments, approval of the Performing Arts Facility, the Nipomo-Palm Street garage, the decision on all-electric new buildings and the approval of the 1144 Chorro Street mixed-use project, a 75 foot tall building located in Downtown San Luis Obispo.

Worse yet, when Andy Pease was free to comment and vote, she approved the Froom Ranch annexation, the East Airport annexation and the Fiero Lane/Clarion Court annexation – all of which contribute to urban sprawl.

Andy Pease approved amendments to the Tree Ordinance giving greater latitude to the Arborist to unilaterally approve tree removals without involving the Tree Committee. Andy Pease approved changes made to the city’s development review processes effectively diluting the oversight responsibilities of our Tree Committee, the CHC and the ARC.

And Andy Pease approved the modified dark charcoal color that was (in defiance of ARC direction and in contradiction to the city’s community design guidelines) incorporated into the 1135 Santa Rosa Street building.

This is why Save Our Downtown is endorsing James Papp for City Council. Dr. Papp will not have the need to constantly recuse himself as he is neither heavily invested in providing consulting services to the development community nor is he beholden to any special interest groups.

Dr. Papp would never have allowed the approval of a 75-foot tall building located within our historic downtown district, he would never have allowed our advisory bodies to become mere “window dressing” as a means to expedite the development review process and most importantly he would never allow the city to ride roughshod over the city’s historical ordinance or community design guidelines.

Sandra Marshall

For the above same reasons, Save Our Downtown is also endorsing Earth Day Alliance Director Sandra Marshall for mayor. Unlike Heidi Harmon, Sandra would never let development projects cut down hundreds of mature trees along Madonna Road that once served as habitat for Herons and Monarch Butterflies.

Sandra has a proven track record on environmental protection and understands the relationship between protecting the carbon sequestration provided by such vegetation in fighting climate change. Sandra Marshall has suggested that the city require at least 25 percent of homes in new projects be affordable. Even the Tribune editorial board thought that this was a good idea.

Sandra believes that as a tourist town we must protect and preserve our downtown charm, history and architecture, keep building heights reasonable and preserve our mountain views and blue skies.

And unlike Cherisse Sweeney and contrary to the Tribune’s claim, Sandra has significant previous political experience. She has served as a board chair on the board of directors for the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo and has been involved in political campaigns and events either as a volunteer or paid staff member since 1976.

She has been deeply involved in the local environmental movement beginning with Prop 15, Mothers for Peace, and the Abalone Alliance.

In 1991 she created Information Press, a free monthly progressive paper distributed throughout San Luis Obispo County from 1991 to 2017. She hosted the Information Press Hour radio show from 1993 to 1998.

Beginning with Spring Fest in 1994 and morphing into Earth Day in 1999, she coordinated an annual free Earth Day Fair for SLO County residents and visitors.

Finally, we are concerned that Cherisse Sweeney will join in with the development community’s on-going efforts to amend (i.e., further dilute the effectiveness of) our community design guidelines. One of her campaign statements underlines this concern: “Re-examine widely accepted practices, regulations and fees to foster housing accessibility and affordability for all.”

Save Our Downtown’s argument has been that weakening regulations will not lead to more affordable housing…it will only lead to increasing the developer’s profit margins. And once we’ve weakened the regulations (or ignored them as the city is currently doing), inappropriately scaled and contextually jarring building designs will overwhelm our historic downtown.

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This dude isn’t worthy of any votes. He’s absolutely NOT what SLO City needs. He lacks the ability to do the job. He would be a complete disaster like Mayor Harmon. Learn from your previous mistakes.

The malaise that this country is experiencing right now stems from distrust. Many of us distrust our Mayor and City Council. This is because the political “handlers” who surround these people tell them what they should say and what they shouldn’t say. It’s all about “messaging”. James Papp is an anomaly. He is authentic and speaks his mind. Yes, this can appear to be reckless, but only if we’re talking about those who care only about themselves. James Papp cares deeply about others, though it is easy to characterize him as an egomaniac. Why? Because he speaks eloquently, sometimes too passionately, about our shared values knowing full well that these values do not conform to the City’s current “agenda” – an agenda that includes the mantra “build-baby-build”. James Papp is not a “political hack”. We don’t need any more “political hacks”. These are imposters who care only about one thing…themselves and their next reelection. So please reconsider your vote if you haven’t already voted. Vote for James Papp.

Well, if they win, the Kabuki theatre acting as a City Council meeting on Tuesday nights in SLO could get even more bizarre.