Elections

Growth, affordability and water: Candidates for SLO mayor offer diverging views

San Luis Obispo City Hall.
San Luis Obispo City Hall.

Election season is well underway in San Luis Obispo, with candidate forums already taking place citywide, and a crowded field revealing divisions on key issues such as housing affordability, growth, water and Cal Poly’s impacts on the city.

Three candidates are running for mayor and seven are vying for two open seats on the City Council.

To better inform your vote on Nov. 6, here are the three mayoral candidates’ responses to three key survey questions posed by The Tribune, as well as biographical information to help get to know them better. Check Sunday’s Tribune or online Saturday for city council candidates’ responses.

The next candidate forum will be hosted by the SLOU40 group on Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Madonna Inn. Registration is free, but seating is limited and attendees are asked to RSVP.

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San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Heidi Harmon

Running for: Mayor

Occupation: Mayor

Age: 49

Education: Cuesta College, Early Childhood Education; Cal Poly SLO, Liberal Studies with a minor in History

Prior Experience in Office or Running: Ran for State Assembly in 2014; was elected mayor of San Luis Obispo in 2016

1. How would you make housing in SLO more affordable?

One way to create housing that working people, families and seniors can afford is to design and build exactly that kind of housing. During my term as mayor, housing has been a top priority. We have approved projects and policies that will lead to significantly more housing for middle-class families and lower-income households while staying under our 1 percent growth cap. I will continue to work with Cal Poly to ensure that they will house the majority of their students in the years to come. Working together, we can support thriving neighborhoods and create a shared prosperity for the next generation.

2. Do you think SLO has been allowing too much development?

I understand why some residents feel there’s too much development. When previous councils approved the projects that are most visibly affecting us now — the hotels, 22 Chorro — they had no idea that all of these would be under construction at the same time. Housing is a major city goal that is strongly desired by our community. The projects that we have approved while I’ve been mayor are well under the 1 percent growth cap. We are developing in a responsible manner to accommodate the needs of our workforce, our seniors, our neighborhoods and our business community.

3. Is the city doing enough to address climate change?

None of us can afford the luxury of thinking we’re doing enough. I ran on a promise to do something about climate change, and I kept that promise. Under my tenure as mayor, the council — for the first time ever — made climate action a major city goal. It is a guiding principle in all city decisions from housing to transportation, from water security to waste reductions and everything in between. Most significantly, we committed to becoming a net-zero energy city. I look forward to the economic benefits, a cleaner environment and improved quality of life that climate action will bring.

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San Luis Obispo mayoral candidate T. Keith Gurnee. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

T. Keith Gurnee

Running for: Mayor

Occupation: Planner and Urban Designer

Age: 71

Education: Cal Poly SLO, City and Regional Planning, 1973

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: San Luis Obispo City Council, 1971, 1975

1. How would you make housing in SLO more affordable?

We need to realize that we can’t build our way out of this problem. We have a perfect storm of circumstances that are working against housing affordability in SLO. Ours is a highly coveted place to live. Add the growth of Cal Poly, the increasing imbalance between jobs and housing availability, the rising costs of labor and materials and high application processing and impact fees, and you have that perfect storm. But we can do better about meeting our low- and moderate-income housing needs and addressing the need for housing our local working people and protecting that housing resource long term. Cal Poly needs to provide more housing on campus, and I have ideas on making that happen. We need to creatively examine opportunities for “starter homes,” smaller units that could be clustered with support facilities in appropriate locations for people and families just getting their start in life.

2. Do you think SLO has been allowing too much development?

Absolutely. I am for responsible growth in keeping with our small-town character and consistent with our resource and infrastructure needs. We already have nearly 2,000 residential units in the pipeline waiting to be built. But with our council calling for 75-foot-tall buildings with reduced parking requirements that are utterly out of character with our community, we are turning the “happiest city in America” into “anyplace USA.” With our city meekly succumbing to the top down dictates of the state’s Housing Accountability Act, and its intrusions upon local control, it will force the city to approve any and all projects containing affordable housing, regardless of its impacts on our community. I will fight back against such abusive legislation by joining forces with the Livable California group and the League of California Cities to craft a statewide initiative to return local control to our cities and counties.

3. Is the city doing enough to address climate change?

No. This council talks about climate change but takes only symbolic actions to address it. With climate change, we can expect lower rainfall amounts, extended periods of drought, higher rates of evaporation and the need to fight wildfires on a year-round basis. As mayor, I will call for a fundamental re-evaluation of our water resources and its ability to sustain us well into the future.

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San Luis Obispo mayoral candidate Donald E. Hedrick. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Don Hedrick

Running for: Mayor

Occupation: Artisan welding serviceman

Age: 71

Education: Cal Poly SLO, Industrial Technology

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Ran for mayor in 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014, and City Council in 2013.

1. How would you make housing in SLO more affordable?

Attract business that can pay better paying high tech jobs. We need to keep Cal Poly’s feet to the fire to do better with housing more students on campus. That would release more housing for the workforce. Perhaps housing costs could be lower if there were less pressure from students on the city’s limited housing stock. The current direction or Agenda 21-style stack and pack along the tracks comes with the plan to discourage cars by aggravating the parking problems. We need to find a way to include the tiny house possibility in our neighborhoods.

2. Do you think SLO has been allowing too much development?

The developers own the selected officials and the commissions appointed. When the incentives to build are offered to bait in development to meet state and federal pressure, it is not a matter of allowing too much development. The state and feds are involved with the pressuring of the cities to accept more development. But they paint the picture with too broad a brush considering the restraints of geography. SLO is ringed with our scenic mounts that give limited room to grow, and water resources are not equal for all cities.

3. Is the city doing enough to address climate change?

Climate change is the repackaged junk science of global warming, which didn’t live up to the claims when for the last decade plus has been actually cooling. The city should be pulling out of the Climate Action Plan and Agenda 21/30 from whence it came. Humans have had a minor impact on greenhouse gases compared to the natural sources, which are ignored by the globalist elite. The whole scam of climate is ignoring the cosmic forces sweeping through our solar system with all the planets and sun showing the induced heating.

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