SLO residents sue CSU trustees over Cal Poly housing project

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comJune 24, 2014 

Here's a rendering of the proposed student housing project at Cal Poly.

COURTESY PHOTO

A group of San Luis Obispo residents wants a judge to halt construction of a large dormitory complex at Cal Poly, saying there is not enough of a buffer between the complex and its neighbors.

In a lawsuit filed Friday against the California State University Board of Trustees, the group, calling itself Alliance of SLO Neighborhoods, petitioned the court for injunctive relief, asking a judge to order the trustees to rescind the project, which they approved in May.

According to the suit, the project would have “adverse environmental impacts” on the neighborhood. The environmental impact report prepared for the project, the suit further alleges, failed to analyze or disclose how the project would impact public safety, air quality, noise and traffic in the area.

Calls to Cal Poly’s president Jeffrey D. Armstrong were referred to university spokesperson Matt Lazier, who said Cal Poly is withholding comment since it has not yet been served with the suit.

Attorney Babak Naficy, who is representing the neighbors, was not available for comment Tuesday.

In a news release, the neighbors characterized themselves as professors, plumbers, doctors, architects, laborers, lawyers and other professionals who live near the proposed complex.

“We support Cal Poly’s efforts to increase on-campus housing and will support the construction of responsible student housing on campus,” the release states.

However, they claim in the release, the project is contrary to the California Environmental Quality Act, and it failed to offset measures that would be detrimental to the neighbors.

Cal Poly pursued the 1,475-bed freshman complex so new students wouldn’t have to find rental units in the community and could live on campus. The complex, the university proposed, would improve the social, academic and behavioral aspects of students’ college experiences.

Once built, an estimated 46 percent of students — about 8,775 of 19,000 — would live on campus, up from the current 38 percent, or 7,300.

The project, which is set to begin construction in the winter of 2015 and open in fall 2018, would consist of seven three- to five-story towers on the south side of campus, near the Alta Vista and Monterey Heights neighborhoods. The area is now a parking lot near Grand Avenue and Slack Street. During meetings about the buildings, prospective neighbors spoke against the project, suggesting it be built elsewhere on campus or that the project be downsized.

The university has said the proposed location for the complex is the best site because it keeps first-year students together, closer to existing housing and dining, and because other locations are more costly to build on.

While Cal Poly’s master plan required that the university establish and maintain buffers between the campus and surrounding neighborhoods, according to the suit, the university trustees amended the plan to allow the dorm complex.

The environmental impact report prepared for the project, the suit contends, failed to disclose all impacts of the complex and failed to consider reasonable alternatives. The report also failed to detail the overall cost of the project, the suit stated.

Earlier this month, the San Luis Obispo City Council considered whether to pursue a lawsuit in the matter. With several of the neighbors in attendance, the council voted whether to consider litigation, but it did not receive majority support.

While CSU trustees approved the environmental impact report for the project on May 21, Cal Poly still has to have approval from the trustees for its final design and financing plans.

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