Elections

Heidi Harmon announces re-election bid for SLO mayor

SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon talks about her first year in office

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon talks about her first year in office, as well as her plans for the future of the city and the Central Coast of California.
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San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon talks about her first year in office, as well as her plans for the future of the city and the Central Coast of California.

Saying she'll continue with city goals and work implemented over her two years in office, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon announced her bid for re-election Thursday.

Harmon, a progressive Democrat, said she hopes her influence will help make the city a more affordable, diverse, environmentally conscious and civil place — saying the tone and tenor of political discussion at the federal level has grown ugly under the Trump administration.

"One of the things I'm very proud of, and which I believe has helped SLO's City Council get a lot done, is that we're civil toward each other and we've maintained that civility even when we disagree," Harmon said. "We can disagree without being disagreeable."

The mayor's position and two council seats currently occupied by Dan Rivoire and Carlyn Christianson will be put to a city vote in November.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon started a neighborhood walks program in June 2017. She plans to meet with residents in more than 30 city neighborhoods to learn about their challenges and opportunities.

In 2016, Harmon edged out incumbent mayor Jan Marx, who served multiple terms on the council, by 47 votes. Asked Thursday by email if she would run again, Marx responded, "I am exploring the possibilities."

Known for consistently wearing a flower in her hair or pinned to her clothing as a symbol of her femininity, Harmon supported Sen. Bernie Sanders for president and vowed to carry on his message at a local level.

She cited City Council accomplishments, which she aligned with, during her first term that included:

repealing the Rental Housing Inspection Program;

reducing fees for development permitting for smaller sized homes, which Harmon believes will help with housing affordability;

setting the city on a path to legalize tiny homes;

implementing a straws-upon-request policy and prohibiting use of plastic bottles on city property and at city events;

approving two major housing projects;

becoming a "welcoming city" to immigrants regardless of their legal status; not directly enforcing federal laws related to immigration.

Noting the city's planned build-out to reach a population of about 57,000 by 2035 (the city currently has about 46,000 people), Harmon believes an increased housing supply in the near future will help lower the demand and reduce the city's high cost of living.

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San Luis Obispo mayor-elect Heidi Harmon, surrounded by election staff and supporters, talks of inclusiveness and more during an address in front of City Hall after her election in 2016. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

"Economic inequality hurts diversity of all types, and I want to live in a city where diversity is encouraged," Harmon said. "For a long time, the city said 'no' to new housing, and we're in the situation we're in now. San Luis Obispo is never going to be an affordable place to live, but we can do better."

Harmon said the state government, through a variety of housing laws, also has made it difficult for cities to deny projects that meet the policy guidelines and requirements put forth by a city.

Though Harmon voted to approve the 720-home Avila Ranch project near the airport and the 580-home San Luis Ranch development near Madonna Road, Harmon noted that she was the dissenting "no" vote on the council in a decision to allow a controversial housing project at 71 Palomar Ave.

"I listened to neighbors' concerns and went to the site, and ultimately I decided against it," Harmon said. "But that shows that though people's voices may be heard, and I listen and carefully consider my decisions, people might not get everything that want."

It's unclear who else may run in the mayoral race.

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