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SLO prepared for population growth of 10,000, officials say

Nacimento Lake is one of the city of San Luis Obispo’s water sources and the City Council increased its allocation by more than 2,100 acre-feet of water per year in March.
Nacimento Lake is one of the city of San Luis Obispo’s water sources and the City Council increased its allocation by more than 2,100 acre-feet of water per year in March. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

San Luis Obispo is prepared on all fronts for an estimated population growth of more than 10,000 residents over the next 20 years, officials said Wednesday, even as some residents questioned whether the city will have enough affordable housing and water to handle the influx.

Community development director Michael Codron laid out the city’s growth projections during a study session at Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting. The meeting was for discussion purposes only, with no decisions made.

Codron said the city has made sure available resources will match the city’s growth as part of San Luis Obispo’s General Plan. The city has been projecting a population of 56,686 by 2035, up from 46,456 as of 2015.

“We look very closely at water availabily, air quality, access to open space, capacity in our water reclamation facility and absolutely capacity on our roadways,” Codron said.

Codron said one city objective is to encourage people to use bicycles, carpool or walk around town. Fees assessed to developers for building new housing help pay for new pathways and alternative transportation routes.

We look very closely at water availabily, air quality, access to open space, capacity in our water reclamation facility and absolutely capacity on our roadways.

Michael Codron, city of San Luis Obispo community development director

Some residents and commissioners in the audience, however, called for more affordable housing, saying they feared an increasing number of people will have to commute to work in San Luis Obispo from other communities with cheaper housing. Some commented that climate change requires the city to take a more cautious approach to growth to avoid overconsuming water.

San Luis Obispo resident David Brody said he would like to see an estimate on the number of jobs generated by nonresidential development, saying there must be a balance between the number of new jobs and new affordable homes.

“If we provide housing, but people who work here in San Luis Obispo can’t afford them, they’ll be living in all the surrounding communities, they’ll negatively impacting air quality,” Brody said.

Brody said the Planning Commission should recommend to the City Council that limits be placed on new nonresidential development, and that the types of jobs created relative to the annual growth in housing should be reviewed.

(Secondary dwellings) are a great solution to provide affordable rental and homes for aging parents.

Charles Stevenson, San Luis Obispo Planning Commission chair

Commissioner Hemalata Dandekar suggested that zoning for smaller homes and more units will create more affordable housing.

“Studio units, if you can build more of them on the same site, you might get more developers to build these kinds of projects,” Dandekar said. “I’d just urge (the city staff) to explore this.”

Commissioner Charles Stevenson also suggested allowing more secondary dwellings. “(Secondary dwellings) are a great solution to provide affordable rental and homes for aging parents,” Stevenson said. “It’s something we should really encourage and promote.”

Codron, however, noted that secondary units now require full impact fees and owner occupancy of one or both dwellings, and are part of a larger neighborhood discussion on housing. He said the city will limit growth to its 1 percent growth policy through its issuance of building permits as it phases in development projects.

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