SLO City Council decision puts future developments in question

The San Luis Obispo City Council crushed years of effort to update its general plan Tuesday night, putting several large developments planned for the southern end of town in jeopardy.

The council failed to pass a needed vote to override the independent Airport Land Use Commission in order to proceed with updating its General Plan – the city’s blueprint for growth for the next 20 years.

Councilman Dan Carpenter and Councilwoman Kathy Smith both voted against the override, leaving a room packed with more than 75 people in shock and many of them angry.

Carpenter, who was the swing vote, said he ultimately voted against the override because of politics on the dais.

Councilman John Ashbaugh tried fervently to convince Carpenter to change his vote Tuesday night and while doing so mentioned Carpenter’s actions in a closed session meeting about the discussion that was held prior to the meeting.

"I really was on the fence until John broke the law of breaching the confidentially of closed session," said Carpenter. "Once he did that I was so angry I wasn’t going to support it. To me, if he was willing to go to that level to get his way, there is now way I was going to support it."

A four-fifths vote of the City Council was needed to override the airport commission, which has declared the city’s land use and circulation update of its General Plan inconsistent with the commission’s airport safety plan. The commission’s safety plan would allow less development in the southern section of the city.

"I think his no vote was decided before he came to the meeting," Ashbaugh said after the meeting. "If he wants to blame me for his decision it shows complete abdication of his role as a council member."

Mayor Jan Marx continued the discussion to a date uncertain, which will allow the city to bring the discussion before the City Council once again.

The pressure will now fall on the candidates running to fill two City Council seats and the mayoral seat on Nov. 4. Smith is not seeking reelection to the council. Incumbent Christianson is running for another term, as is incumbent mayor Marx.

Prior to the vote, 29 people spoke during public comment, the majority of them encouraging the council to override the airport commission and adopt the land use updates in order to provide more housing in the city.

Those same people stood and left the council chambers as soon as the vote was made –making their dissatisfaction clear—as Carpenter and Ashbaugh continued to argue on the dais.

Smith made clear early in the discussion that she would vote against overruling the ALUC, saying that said she did not support it.

"I do not have a lot of faith that these homes that are going to be developed will be affordable," Smith said.

Carpenter initially told the council that he was undecided, but was concerned about the views of people who had voiced concerns to him but didn’t attend the meeting.