Maintaining and expanding open space, encouraging different types of housing, and improving alternative forms of transportation, including bike, pedestrian and transit, were chosen Saturday as major goals for San Luis Obispo for the next two years.
The San Luis Obispo City Council held a daylong workshop to discuss and set its top goals for the upcoming 2015-17 fiscal year budget. The council identified 10 priorities and then narrowed them down to three major goals.
“I think this is really fascinating,” Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said after council members had submitted written ballots ranking the goals and the results were announced.
“It’s really revealing,” Councilman John Ashbaugh added.
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Finding ways to deal with homelessness in the city topped the list of priorities for the last two-year budget, but was not included on Saturday’s list. Instead, that issue was folded into a goal focused on helping to create additional workforce, affordable, supportive and transitional housing options.
“By creating low-income rental housing we may solve a major (part) of the homeless issue,” Councilman Dan Carpenter said.
In addition, the council’s previous goal on homelessness had included supporting plans to build a Homeless Services Center at 40 Prado Road. That project now is well on its way.
The council last week approved a grant agreement detailing how $250,000 would be paid to Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, which plans to build and operate the center.
Meanwhile, part of the transportation goal includes moving forward with projects in the city’s bicycle master plan, such as extending a railroad safety trail and completing the design for a portion of Bob Jones Trail.
During the discussion of an open space goal, several council members mentioned wanting to acquire up to 841 acres north of the city near Cuesta Grade to add to its greenbelt (the council recently authorized issuing a request for proposals to appraise land on two separate properties).
“We are on the verge of major open space protection possibilities,” Mayor Jan Marx said.
Unlike previous years, “neighborhood wellness” was not included among the top three goals, though it was listed among four other important council objectives. Neighborhood wellness includes responding to neighborhood disturbances such as noise, parking issues, housing violations and rowdy parties.
The second-tier priorities are restoration of Laguna Lake; fiscal responsibility with a focus on reducing unfunded liabilities; and a goal focused on downtown, including adopting a downtown concept plan, developing a plan to expand Mission Plaza, and improving safety, infrastructure and maintenance.
“Laguna Lake is a poster child for deferred maintenance on an asset,” Rob Davidson of Friends of Laguna Lake said in urging the council to adopt conservation of the lake as a major goal.
Three additional priorities were discussed but did not make the list of major goals – though they may end up in city work programs.
They are improving and maintaining park facilities; putting into place the Climate Action Plan, including advocating the establishment of a local clean energy program; and addressing delayed maintenance of key infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, storm drains and facilities.
“I hope that staff will look at the value of taking care of some deferred maintenance if it is going to end up saving money long-term,” Marx said. “The fact that it’s at the bottom doesn’t mean that it’s not really important.”