A “yes” vote on Measure H will give San Luis Obispo city residents the rare opportunity to preserve more than four acres of land for recreation and to safeguard the natural, open connection between the tranquil South Hills Open Space and popular Damon-Garcia Sports Fields.
This initiative came about as a last resort. Community members, none of whom stands to benefit financially, have worked for more than a decade with City Council members and city officials. Since 1997, we have spoken at meetings, participated in site selection trips and discussed funding for recreation and open space.
The Damon and Garcia families were paid $2 million by the city for the 23.5-acre sports fields site, favored by many for its proximity to the South Hills Open Space and established neighborhoods. The original city bond in 1999 funded 23.5 acres specifically “for recreation,” with no mention of a road.
Community members raised concerns immediately once the alarming decision about the “Northern Alignment” of Prado Road was revealed in February 2000. It had been approved by a narrow, late-night 3-2 City Council vote, without an environmental impact report either on the extension or the entire length of Prado Road, from South Higuera Street to Broad Street as had been recommended by the Planning Commission in December 1999.
Then city officials stated for years that this small extension of Prado Road, if ever built, would never jeopardize the integrity of the Damon-Garcia Sports Fields site and that an environmental impact report would reveal any potential problems with the construction of this extension. A comprehensive environmental impact report of Prado Road with the “Northern Alignment” has never been done. Promises have been broken.
Originally intended to extend to Orcutt Road, Prado Road as an east-west connector lost its viability as a cross-town thoroughfare when Johnson Avenue and Orcutt Road residents objected. It has further lost its purpose since the $80 million proposed interchange at Highway 101 and Prado Road at the other end has become uncertain due to the economy and Caltrans regulations.
Prado Road would not “dead-end” at the sports fields as the opponents’ false and misleading rhetoric and negative campaign material assert. Measure H will create a “win-win” solution. It will allow the city to choose an alternative, such as redirecting the Prado Road truck highway to the nearby, already-approved, aligned Santa Fe Road and Tank Farm Road.
Currently, Tank Farm Road serves as our industrial and commercial route and may be widened to four lanes. This alternative, already in the Airport Area Specific Plan, has been lauded by respected civil engineers as superior to the “Northern Alignment.” Also included in the Airport Area Specific Plan, Santa Fe Road will connect to Buckley Road as our enhanced circulator route.
The utilization of a logical, alternate route for the Prado Road extension will move east-west traffic more efficiently and prevent an ill-conceived new Prado Road traffic signal on Broad Street between the nearby signals at Industrial Way and Orcutt Road that would add more congestion on Broad Street. These improvements to the city’s woefully outdated traffic circulation plan will spark other forward-thinking measures to increase traffic efficiency and improve bicycle paths, pedestrian facilities and public transit, further reducing greenhouse emissions.
Measure H will protect everyone who uses the sports complex and the open space from the visual blight, noise and air pollution created by 14,000 projected vehicle trips and from idling diesel trucks at the proposed signal at Prado Road and Broad Street. It will eliminate the need for a large, expensive, unsightly concrete bridge over Acacia Creek within the sports fields site.
A “yes” vote will also protect significant adjacent environmental features: Acacia Creek, serpentine rock outcroppings and a 5,000-year-old registered Native American archaeological site.
Since the election is near, we formally asked the city and our opponents to stake out the road with us for voters to witness the proximity of the proposed extension of Prado Road to the actual perimeters of the playing fields. To date, our invitations have been rejected. Why? The road, depicted on the city website, just does not fit.
We are not about “no growth.” We are for “smart growth.” It is unconscion-able to put a truck high-way approximately 30 feet from the edge of the actual playing fields when there are already-approved components of a more logical route.
Moreover, it is unsafe for children to use an unsecured pedestrian passageway beneath an elevated highway to access playing fields from the proposed Margarita development.
In this era of increasing childhood obesity, diabetes, and asthma, this “golden opportunity” will retain land for healthy recreation, protect children’s safety, initiate better traffic solutions and increase tourism, business and property values. The beauty of our sports fields and open space, our city’s charm and the quality of life citizens value most will be preserved.
“Yes” on Measure H will stop reckless, outdated development on land intended for recreation and preserve the serenity and park-like setting of this community gem.
For more information, visit www.voteyesonmeasureh.com. Measure H proponent Mila Vujovich-La Barre has taught in the San Luis Coastal Unified School District for more than 27 years. Rosemary Wilvert is the former president of Citizens for Planning Responsibly, educator, health advocate and “soccer grandma.”