A group of residents concerned about the impact of an approved 720-home housing project in San Luis Obispo have sued the city and the developer, claiming it will increase noise, traffic, light and air pollution, among other negative effects.
Homeowners associations of the Los Verdes Park complex located at the corner of Higuera and Los Osos Valley Road, as well as a group called Preserve the SLO Life—Buckley Road (consisting of neighbors, city residents and project opponents), filed the lawsuit in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Oct. 19.
They argue the city failed to “adequately disclose and mitigate project-related impacts.”
“Our biggest concern is health and safety,” said Sarah Flickinger, a mother and resident of Los Verdes Park. “Our primary goal is to get some real long-term solutions. We’re not against the project, but we still need to sort through how we’re going to accommodate this growth.”
Our biggest concern is health and safety. Our primary goal is to get some real long term solutions.
Sarah Flickinger, San Luis Obispo resident (Los Verdes Park)
The project, slated for 150 acres on Buckley Road near Vachell Lane, was approved by the San Luis Obispo City Council on Sept. 19. At the time, council members indicated that the demand for housing superseded opponents’ arguments that the project would congest the city with traffic, take away agricultural land and contribute to changing the city’s character from a rural community to one with a more urban feel.
City Attorney Christine Dietrick and Stephen Peck, a representative of Avila Ranch developer Andy Mangano, both said this week that the environmental impacts were fully addressed over a three-year planning process that included a full environmental impact report.
They cited numerous planning hearings, studies and opportunities for public comment and feedback.
“The city’s utilities staff studied environmental impacts in great detail,” Dietrick said. “If under any circumstances we believed the city couldn’t handle the growth, city staff would not have recommended this project for approval.”
The developer’s impact fees to pay for sewer, water and other services are expected to be about $65 million, with an additional $3.5 million to $4 million going to the San Luis Coastal Unified School District for its facilities.
If under any circumstances we believed the city couldn’t handle the growth, city staff would not have recommended this project for approval.
Christine Dietrick, city attorney
As part of the agreement, Mangano is footing the bill to extend Buckley Road from Vachell Lane so it connects directly to South Higuera, at a cost of about $7 million.
Peck said the development conforms to all city policies and features what he called “unprecedented environmental mitigations.”
Flickinger, however, would like to see Buckley Road extended to the Highway 101 interchange to divert traffic away from the Los Verdes neighborhood. That idea is part of the city’s long-term planning, called the LOVR/Buckley bypass, but Flickinger wants to see the project expedited.
She also would like to see a sound wall and light wall installed to buffer the neighborhood from passing trucks and cars, and a Los Osos Valley Road street traffic signals (at least for bikes) at the housing complex’s entrance at Los Verdes Park Drive, saying it’s dangerous to ride on the busy street currently.
Peck said he’s limited about what he can say due to the litigation process, but countered that “all of those issues were raised during the environmental review process and adequately addressed in the final EIR.”
Kathy Borland, representing Preserve the SLO Life, said that cars travel too quickly on Buckley Road already, putting lives at risk, and more traffic will add to the problem. She would like to see a widening of Buckley and traffic-slowing measures on the road, among other concerns.
But, Peck said, “the necessity for widening Buckley was studied and a traffic study determined that the current two-lane configuration had adequate capacity to accommodate existing and future traffic levels.”