Saying he wants to bring “new ideas and a fresh approach to civility” to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, San Luis Obispo City Councilman Dan Carpenter on Friday announced that he’ll challenge Supervisor Adam Hill in 2016.
Hill, who has already announced that he’ll run for re-election, also faces a challenge from former Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson to represent the district that includes much of San Luis Obispo and the Five Cities area in southern San Luis Obispo County.
“This has re-energized me,” Carpenter said in an interview Friday. “I feel like I can be relevant again in public-policy making.”
Carpenter has lately been in the minority on the San Luis Obispo City Council on a range of issues and said he feels as though his contributions have been minimized. But he said he still has a desire for public service.
He describes himself as a strong supporter of fiscal sustainability and an independent thinker not beholden to any political party (he’s registered no party preference).
The Board of Supervisors is a nonpartisan entity but shifted to a more conservative majority after the November election, with Hill and Supervisor Bruce Gibson in the minority. First District Supervisor Frank Mecham has said he won’t pursue a new term in 2016, while 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold will seek re-election to her seat. Gibson and 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton were elected to new four-year terms in November.
Carpenter said he would bring a middle-of-the-road, independent and pragmatic approach to the board. He describes himself as fiscally conservative, more left-leaning on social issues and a strong supporter of individual property rights.
Carpenter said he thinks the board has been engulfed in partisan views that are polarizing and detrimental to constituents.
“I think the current 3rd District supervisor has taken that respect for our constituents to a new low, and I want to bring back the feeling that when people come to a meeting, they are respected,” Carpenter said.
In response, Hill called that statement a “made-up issue” and added that he believes Carpenter “is somebody who when he doesn’t get his way, goes and attacks his own council members and his own city staff, which I find inexcusable.”
Carpenter said he’s working on position statements on various issues, but said his top concerns for the county include water, preservation of open space and conservation.
He said he has concerns about water, circulation and safety on a proposal to build 1,000 to 1,500 homes on the Wild Cherry Canyon property, which extends from Avila Beach and into the Irish Hills near San Luis Obispo.
Peterson has also said she does not support further development in Price Canyon, Wild Cherry Canyon and the Nipomo Mesa unless sufficient water supplies can be guaranteed.
Hill said Friday that he can’t imagine the Wild Cherry Canyon development going forward in its current state and is starting to craft a conservation proposal for the entire 2,400-acre property.
Hill also took a jab at Carpenter, noting that the SLO councilman voted against San Luis Obispo’s donation of $75,000 from reserves to the Pismo Preserve project last August.
Carpenter said he did not support giving such a large amount — city staff had recommended donating $10,000 — toward land outside San Luis Obispo when he thinks the city hasn’t taken enough care of its own properties.
On the SLO City Council, Carpenter has been on the losing end of split votes on several issues the council has approved in the past few months: a new four-story hotel on Monterey Street; an ordinance to allow temporary homestays in owner-occupied homes; and an ordinance to regulate offensive odors.
He was the lone dissenter in a December vote to override a ruling by the Airport Land Use Commission, which allows the city to move forward with long-range plans for large residential developments at the city’s southern edge.
Carpenter said Friday that he supports building more housing but was concerned that the council’s override could harm the airport’s future expansion plans.
He has also lobbied to scrap plans for a new $4.4 million Homeless Services Center on Prado Road and said the money should instead be used to get individuals into permanent housing. He said Friday that he remains committed to finding ways to house people first and then bring services to them.
Carpenter said he also was proud of his efforts to bring a vote on repealing binding arbitration before local voters in 2011.
He was appointed to the council in 2010 to the seat vacated by Jan Marx when she was elected mayor. He has also served on the city’s Planning Commission and Cultural Heritage Committee.
Carpenter was re-elected in 2012, and could still seek re-election to the council if he’s unsuccessful in the June 7 primary. He said he hasn’t decided whether or not he would do so; right now his focus is on what could be a heated and expensive campaign for the supervisor’s seat.
Carpenter said he anticipates that he’ll need to raise about $250,000. Last year’s 4th District race was the most expensive supervisor contest in county history.
Carpenter is a fifth-generation SLO resident and former owner of a downtown business, Hills Stationery Store, which closed in the mid-1990s. He and his brother continue to manage some property that their family owns downtown.