San Luis Obispo City Council will hear effects of Prado Road initiative

The San Luis Obispo City Council tonight will hear the potential impacts of a citizen initiative that seeks to eliminate a part of the long-planned Prado Road extension.

At issue is the alignment of the extension, which would end at Broad Street between Industrial and Capitolio ways, just north of the Damon-Garcia Sports Fields.

The plan was approved by the City Council in 2004 as part of the Margarita Area Specific Plan, which sets parameters for development in an area between South Higuera, South and Broad streets.

The City Council will decide whether to place an initiative on the November ballot or adopt the proposed ordinance without alteration. Several council members have already spoken publicly against the initiative, including Mayor Dave Romero and Councilman Allen Settle.

Romero said putting the initiative on the ballot is the only option because enacting it would hinder years of planning. “It is way too late to try and go back and redo these plans,” he said.

Opponents say the plan would jeopardize the safety of children who play at the sports fields.

City staff says eliminating the road extension would have a ripple effect, causing long-term traffic congestion; jeopardizing future development planned for the area; possibly causing the city to lose its eligibility for state and federal housing funds; and requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars for new planning and environmental reviews of multiple city planning documents.

The city has long planned that Prado Road would act as the city’s primary east-west traffic connector.

The Prado Road extension, a 1,200-foot segment of road, is planned at the outer boundaries of the sports fields and will extend across Acacia Creek. The initiative seeks to prevent the road from encroaching on the fields or the adjacent South Hills open space.

San Luis Obispo residents Mila Vujovich-La Barre, Bill Wilson and Michael Sullivan gathered 3,753 signatures; 2,667 were needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

Vujovich-La Barre and Wilson, both proponents of what they say is smart growth, have actively opposed the aligned extension for years, saying it will put children and parents in danger while at the sports fields.

Vujovich-La Barre’s suggested alternative, which is not included in the initiative, is to widen Tank Farm Road to make it an industrial and commercial route, make Buckley Road the enhanced circulator route, and use Santa Fe Road to connect the two.

If the initiative were to pass, the already approved Margarita Area Specific Plan and the Orcutt Area Specific Plan would need to be re-evaluated for traffic and circulation effects.

However, staff is not recommending that a moratorium be placed on development in the Margarita area until the outcome of the initiative is known. That’s because only a limited amount of development may occur in the western portion of the Margarita area without the need for an east-west connection to Broad Street.