The road to the facts on Measure H

A citizens’ initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot known as Measure H proposes to eliminate part of the long-planned Prado Road extension in San Luis Obispo — one that would run from Higuera Street past the north side of the Damon-Garcia Sports Fields to Broad Street.

Supporters of Measure H say it’s needed for the health and safety of children using the sports fields.

But opponents say it would upend 10 years of planning and studies that have cost more than $1 million — and more importantly, worsen traffic congestion and future emergency response times and jeopardize the city’s only substantial site to build more homes.

A simple majority vote is needed to pass the measure.

But a variety of interests oppose Measure H, including youth sports advocates, business organizations, current and former elected and public safety officials and neighborhood groups.

Here’s a look at some of the key arguments being made by both sides and the facts on each.

Supporters say: A four-lane “truck highway” will be approximately 30 feet from the edge of the actual playing field.

Fact: The initial phase of the road extension will be only two lanes. Two additional lanes are anticipated when the planned developments in the Orcutt, Margarita and Airport Area Specific Plans reach a majority of completion and additional lanes are needed to accommodate the growth. That could be 20 years from now, according to development estimates.

For example, the Airport Area Specific Plan, which includes plans for business development in the area, has a 35-year planned buildout.

Tentative city plans include the possibility of roundabouts at three potential locations on the road, depending on the pace of development and future traffic volume.

A city aerial map shows Prado Road an estimated 38 feet at its closest point to the outer edge of the park’s playing fields. Broad Street is about 50 feet from the fields.

However, city staff say the road will likely measure farther away than the 38 feet once constructed because it will be elevated and a landscape buffer will separate the road and the park.

Opponents say: Measure H would slow emergency response times.

Fact: A staff report analyzing the impacts of the measure, requested by the City Council on July 20, concludes that during peak-hour traffic, emergency response times to the future development in the Margarita Area would be significantly affected without the Prado Road extension — exceeding the goal of a four-minute response time set by the San Luis Obispo Fire Department.

According to city staff, the analysis took into account all existing and planned roadways.

Supporters say: The original city bond in 1999 funded 23.5 acres specifically for recreation with no mention of a road.

Fact: The city bond used to fund the design and construction of the Damon-Garcia Sports Fields does not include specific language about Prado Road. However, it also does not include any language that prohibits it.

The city’s intention to include the road in its plans for the site is clearly detailed in a staff report dated June 15, 1999.

A staff report about the purchase and sales agreement of the 23.5-acre portion of the Damon-Garcia Ranch for $2 million includes the following: “The parcel proposed for acquisition includes 16.5 acres for the sports fields, a 3.5-acre riparian creek corridor and 3.5 acres for the extension of Prado Road.”

Opponents say: Measure H does not offer an alternative to Prado Road.

Fact: A specific alternative is not written into the language of the ballot measure.

The measure’s supporters suggest redirecting Prado Road to the nearby, already approved Santa Fe Road and Tank Farm Road alignment.

Additional studies would be needed to determine whether that route could accommodate the traffic planned for the northern alignment.

A preliminary analysis presented to the City Council in July noted that traffic volume on Tank Farm Road west of Broad Street would increase by 80 percent if the Prado Road northern alignment was not constructed but all other planned roads including Santa Fe were built.

Supporters say: A comprehensive environmental impact report of Prado Road with the northern alignment has never been done.

Fact: A comprehensive EIR for Prado Road was not required, city staff said.

An environmental impact report, required by the California Environmental Quality Act, is a planning document that defines environmental impacts associated with a project.

The city did the necessary environmental studies in 1994 when the northern Prado Road extension was approved. The adoption of the northern alignment connecting Prado Road to Broad Street in 2000 did not alter those findings and did not trigger the need to redo the environmental studies already done, City Attorney Christine Dietrick said.

A review of all the potential impacts of the road extension was done in the 1994 EIR and the 2000 Negative Declaration when the alignment was changed — both documents have been certified in compliance with CEQA.