Dozens of participants attending a public workshop Saturday on Cal Poly’s master plan update had suggestions for the university on a wide range of topics — including bicycle safety, traffic flow, development and neighborhood relations.
Their feedback — much of it scrawled on poster-sized paper in response to specific questions — indicated some don’t like the idea of a proposed hotel and conference center on campus, while others hope to find ways to improve traffic flow, particularly at the Grand Avenue entrance.
The event marked the second opportunity for the public to tell Cal Poly officials what type of campus it wants to see over the next two decades — and how university activities and decisions affect the community.
The master plan update of a 2001 document is expected to take two years of planning, which will include additional future public meetings. The final draft will provide a blueprint for the campus for the next 20 years.
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Concerns expressed by the approximately 75 participants Saturday included the impact of the campus’ growth on adjacent family neighborhoods, including potential for increases in traffic, noise and blocked views.
Don Winger, a 50-year resident of the neighborhood bordering Cal Poly and a former electrical engineering faculty member, said he doesn’t want to see the streets around him turn into “Isla Vista of the north,” referring to the neighborhood bordering UC Santa Barbara known for its loud parties, run-down housing and unkempt appearance.
Winger said that when he first moved in, his neighborhood had more faculty and families, and well-kept properties created an appealing, attractive place to live. The area is now in danger of becoming overrun by students living together in neglected housing and throwing noisy parties, Winger said.
Winger was involved in workshops for the 2001 master plan and felt as though some of the public’s views were ignored by Cal Poly when the final version was approved by the Cal State University Board of Trustees.
“I felt like during the last master plan process, valid input from the community wasn’t listened to,” Winger said. “I hope this time we’re taken seriously.”
Many workshop participants also wondered about how parking on and around campus could be affected, and whether students have enough entertainment on campus.
One commenter wrote: “Maybe provide more on-campus entertainment, potentially for under-21 students (nonalcoholic nightclub, dances, entertainment), that goes late (i.e. until 2 a.m.) to keep underage students from off-campus parties.”
Asked their thoughts on Cal Poly’s exploration into building a hotel and conference center, as well as an events center, on campus, some of the responses were critical.
“Ridiculous idea!” one commenter said. “Cal Poly should focus on academic programs and excellence, not on showmanship and entertainment.”
Another argued the hotel and conference center plan would harm the local hotel industry, which doesn’t need the competition.
Local hotels could provide internships for Cal Poly students in hospitality, the commenter stated.
Cal Poly has said the hotel and conference center idea, if pursued, could provide an academic training resource for students interested in the tourism industry — and establish a needed venue for a variety of conferences.
One supporter of the hotel and conference center idea said it would provide cultural opportunities and supply multifaceted benefits to the community, local industry and students.
Suggestions offered by workshop participants included finding ways to make bicycling on campus safer, including redesigning an intersection near the railroad tracks and football stadium to better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.
Others suggested a traffic study at the Grand Avenue campus entrance and a roundabout at Grand Avenue and Slack Street to improve traffic flow into the campus. Six advisory committees will help with the planning of the master plan update, including representatives from the San Luis Obispo City Council and the city’s staff; the San Luis Coastal Unified School District; the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments; various Cal Poly colleges and staff departments; and the local business community.
The Cal State University Board of Trustees ultimately will decide whether to approve the plan.
The first workshop was held Nov. 5 at Cal Poly and was attended by an estimated 175 people.
“There are a lot of steps to this process, and we’re in the beginning stages,” said Betsy Kinsley, Cal Poly’s chief of staff to university President Jeffrey Armstrong. “We want to know how we can better serve people in our academic mission. And that just doesn’t include 18- to 22-year-olds — that means everyone from 0 to 115.”
Joel Neel, the director of facilities, planning and capital projects, said the public will have several chances to weigh in formally and informally over the next several months — including during the latter environmental impact report stage — and that input will be thoughtfully considered.
Neel said he grew up in San Luis Obispo and has a vested interest in a collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship between the university and city, just like many of the city’s residents in attendance Saturday.