Opinion Columns & Blogs

Measure H arguments are wrong

Is Measure H really about the health and safety of our children who play at the Damon-Garcia Sports Fields off Broad Street in San Luis Obispo?

Although proponents are playing that emotion-filled card pretty heavily these days, the accumulated body of evidence — city staff and council reports going back more than a decade — suggests that their end game is really one of finding the right track to derail the long-planned Prado Road extension from South Higuera to Broad Street.

Measure H supporters have campaigned against the northerly extension of Prado Road on a variety of issues. Here are a few of their assertions, and the facts:

The argument: The 23.5-acre site was bought only for playing fields and there was no mention of a road being part of that purchase.

The facts: A June 15, 1999, council report from then-Parks and Recreation Director Paul LeSage, said in part: “The parcel proposed for acquisition includes 16.5 acres for the sports fields, a 3.5-acre riparian creek corridor and 3.5 acres for the extension of Prado Road.”

The argument: Measure H proponent Mila Vujovich-La Barre has said on numerous occasions that she was on a site selection committee and that she was never informed about a road.

The facts: There seems to be no record of a site selection committee with regard to the city choosing the Damon-Garcia property for sports fields.

Elaina Cano of the City Clerk’s Office ran a search of city records using the words “Mila,” “site selection,” “site selection committee” and “parent committee” and found no references in City Council minutes.

Marti Reynolds of the city Parks and Recreation Department ran a similar search of the Parks and Recreation Commission and Joint Use of Recreational Facilities files covering 1997 through 1999 and didn’t find Vujovich-La Barre’s name mentioned.

No mention of a site selection committee, no mention of Vujovich-La Barre.

The argument: Funding for the road was illegally included in the bond financing for the fields.

The facts: City Council minutes of Oct. 16, 2001, show that “the city’s bond counsel assured the City Council that, contrary to the public testimony, there was no problem with using a portion of the bond proceeds for the purchase of the road because as general fund-backed bonds, the proceeds could be used for any legitimate public purpose.”

The argument: The road will destroy an American Indian artifact site.

The facts: As far back as 2004, the Planning Commission and City Council addressed the artifact site as one of 17 mitigation measures that the city would take in building the road. In short, it will be protected and not destroyed.

The argument: The city hasn’t completed a comprehensive environmental review of the proposed extension.

The facts: According to a Jan. 3, 2004, letter from then-City Administrator Ken Hampian to Vujovich-La Barre, the City Council in February 2000 adopted the currently proposed northern extension. As part of that change, an amendment to the Circulation Element included environmental study, which was then accepted by the Planning Commission and City Council.

In short, all of the demands of the California Environmental Quality Act had been met by the city for the northern extension of Prado Road.

When Vujovich-La Barre continued to maintain that no overriding EIR had been completed for the Prado extension as to CEQA requirements, City Attorney Christine Dietrick wrote her on Sept. 3, 2010, and said in part: “There has never been any requirement, obligation, or other reason for the city to do such an EIR because all of the environmental impacts of that alignment have been fully disclosed, discussed, and analyzed in compliance with CEQA.”

The argument: The road is a four-lane truck highway that will come within some 20 feet of the playing fields.

The facts: The plans show a landscaped two-lane road (with the option of widening to four lanes in the future) with three roundabouts and a Class 1 bike path running from end-to-end of the extension.

There’s nothing in the extension’s plans to limit the road to trucks; in fact, the whole reason for the extension is to help move all kinds of traffic across the southern section of town — a goal of six past City Councils.

As for the road coming within 20 feet of the playing fields, the truth is that when (and if) the road is built out to four lanes, it will be no closer than 70 feet to the fields at one short point of the road.

Bottom line? The question of children’s safety in passing Measure H is a canard, especially when considering that the Broad Street frontage to the fields is 76 feet.

If childhood asthma is the overriding concern as to whether parks should be located next to busy streets — or vice versa — then the playing fields at Laguna Middle School are being polluted by Los Osos Valley Road, South Street is too close to Meadow Park, Highway 1 is too close to Santa Rosa Park and the list goes on. The simple truth is that there is no park in San Luis Obispo that isn’t next to a street or highway.

In contrast to the plainly bizarre pro-H plan of widening Tank Farm Road and using Buckley and Santa Fe roads as feeder routes for east-west routes across southern San Luis Obispo, the Prado extension makes a lot of sense.

Rather than children’s health, the reason behind the opposition probably has its roots in the amount of infrastructure that will be part of the build-out of the Margarita Area Plan, which will be serviced by a Prado extension.

The plan calls for some 800 clustered, moderate-income homes and some commercial structures like a neighborhood store to be phased in over a 20-year period.

Horrors!

Homes affordable to families who earn depressed head-of-household wages?

How dare they!

A new in-fill (not sprawled on the edge or hinterlands of town) neighborhood that will have community parks and open space?

Oh, the inhumanity!

Measure H proponents say they aren’t being listened to by the city, and that’s why they’re ballot-box planning. Yet the paper trail indicates otherwise: The city, which has a well-deserved reputation for careful, deliberate planning (some would say overly so), has taken thousands of hours of testimony and staff time to hammer out and explain the Prado Road extension.

It’s not the city that isn’t listening. After more than a decade, the pro-H crowd refuses to pay attention. And using children’s health as their latest justification in their never-ending campaign shows what level their tone-deaf arguments have devolved.

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or 781-7852.

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