We’ve seen some bad examples of ballot-box planning over the years, but Measure H — the initiative that would prevent the city of San Luis Obispo from extending Prado Road — is perhaps the worst of the bunch.
That a small minority of residents would attempt to thwart a project that is critical to traffic circulation, emergency response and future growth is unfortunate enough. What we find especially egregious, though, is the highly misleading information used to sway voters.
Some of the proponents of Measure H would have you believe that the Prado Road extension was some sort of top-secret plan sprung on an unsuspecting public. In an attempt to play “gotcha” with city officials, they point out that the “bond” for purchase of the Damon-Garcia property contains no mention of a road.
The bond itself may contain no such language, but plenty of other documents do — starting with the 1962 General Plan. Implying that the city was attempting to hide something is a red herring and distracts from the real issues at hand:
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Is the Prado Road extension needed?
Will it endanger children using the Damon-Garcia fields or detract from recreational use of the property?
To answer the first: Clearly, another east-west thoroughfare in the south end of town is absolutely necessary.
Traffic on existing roads, especially Tank Farm, already is a problem, and will only worsen if Prado doesn’t go through.
We aren’t just talking about an inconvenience to motorists; lack of another through street would also pose a major threat to public safety. Fire and ambulance officials have warned that response times will be lengthened if the extension doesn’t go through; a Fire Department analysis estimates that response times could be up to two to three minutes slower in some areas.
Another factor: Future projects — in the planning stage for decades — would be jeopardized because of traffic circulation problems.
If the Margarita, Orcutt and airport areas were allowed to fully develop without the Prado extension, the city estimates traffic on Tank Farm Road west of Broad Street would increase by as much as 80 percent. That’s unacceptable — and would almost certainly lead the city to scale back or cancel plans for housing, light industry and commercial development in those areas, in addition to plans for more parks, playing fields and open space.
That may not matter now — nothing is being built in this rotten economy — but it will make a big difference in the future, as the city attempts to provide additional affordable housing, jobs and recreation areas for its residents.
Proponents of Measure H have suggested alternative routes for a through road, yet the measure itself does not provide for any future project — it only cancels what has been decades in the planning.
And for what reason?
The main argument seems to be to protect those using the Damon-Garcia sports fields — particularly children — from noise, visual blight and air pollution. Campaign material even suggests that a “Yes” vote on Measure H could help prevent childhood obesity, diabetes and asthma by preserving a “recreational gem.”
The Prado extension will not encroach on the Damon-Garcia fields in any way. When the road is built out to four lanes — and that’s not expected to occur until far into the future — it will come no closer than 70 feet to the playing fields and will be buffered by fencing, trees and an embankment. By comparison, Broad Street is now 76 feet away from the fields. A difference of 6 feet is negligible, and hardly reason to stop the project.
Besides, if the Prado extension were indeed a danger to children and a threat to recreation, why in the world would so many youth sports advocates publicly oppose Measure H?
Bottom line: The Prado Road extension will prevent gridlock in the southern end of the city; ensure timely responses to accidents, fires and other emergencies; and allow for future growth. It’s the result of years of planning — including an extensive study of alternatives — and should not be rejected based on scare tactics and misinformation.
We strongly urge a “No” vote on Measure H.