Preserve the SLO Life is a grassroots community group that has come together to file a lawsuit against the city of San Luis Obispo over its approval of Avila Ranch, a 720-unit housing development planned near the airport.
None of the parties involved in this lawsuit is taking a not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) stance toward this development. We recognize the need for residential housing in the city of SLO to support recent growth and meet demands of a statewide housing shortage.
We support “affordable housing” and are not trying to stop this project. The big question that remains is, will any of these houses actually be “affordable”? We just learned that homeowners will be hit with an annual tax of between $2,000 and $3,000 to cover the cost infrastructure, maintenance and project-related services. Also, the prices of the homes — estimated to range between $250,000 and $750,000 — aren’t guaranteed.
Our purpose is to address California Environmental Quality Act violations and the inadequate mitigation measures concerning, but not limited to:
▪ Traffic danger
▪ Air quality
▪ Water overdrafting
▪ Sewage burden
▪ Loss of ag land displacement
▪ Biological impacts
We are a coalition of community members advocating for adequate and appropriate environmental assessment of development, infrastructure and other community-impacting projects in and around the city of San Luis Obispo to ensure the long-term sustainability of our unique community.
Many of us expressed our concerns, both verbally and in letters, at the Planning Commission hearings on both the draft EIR and the final EIR for the Avila Ranch project. We attended the SLO City Council meeting where this project was approved in one meeting. Our concerns were ignored and the city left us no choice but to file a lawsuit.
One large concern is for safety on our roads. The city made many “overriding considerations” and approved unacceptable “mitigation measures” that further compromise traffic safety. Traffic will be in gridlock during peak hours on many of our roads. The city does not have proof to support the premise that this project will reduce traffic by causing people to move to SLO.
The cumulative effect of Righetti Ranch (300 residential units), San Luis Ranch (500 residential units plus commercial and a 200-room hotel), Avila Ranch (720 residential units plus commercial) and the pending Villagio (380 residential units plus commercial) on our roads is tremendous. There are very few road improvements planned and, in fact, some roads are being decreased in size to provide safer accommodations for bikes.
Sustainable long-term improvements that were planned under the recent LUCE (Land Use Circulation element) update need to be advanced, but short-sighted mitigation measures with significant negative impacts to human health and safety are being used instead. While it was represented that these future plans will address the concerns of Avila Ranch and other projects, there are no guarantees, and funding will be an issue so long as developments continue moving forward without contributing “fair share.”
We need adequate infrastructure before developments arrive. One other complicating factor is Cal Poly. Single-family homes in San Luis Obispo are approximately 35 percent owner-occupied, and rentals are 65 percent. Student population continues to grow, and owner/occupant restrictions as approved will not stop new residential units from being owned by students in partnership with parents or investors. The student population is around 21,000 and nearly two-thirds of these students live off-campus.
The community needs to get involved and say “enough” to the city. More housing will not reduce the market value and there is a job wage/housing imbalance in SLO. We need a traffic plan that will accommodate all this extra traffic without compromising safety, or we need to decrease the amount of building until such a plan can be attained. This is too much, too fast, and without appropriate analysis or mitigation. Smart growth is everything in preserving the unique character of our communities. If we want to improve our infrastructure, incremental funding through long-term planning is imperative. If we want to protect our air, water, health and safety, each and every project needs to be held to the highest standards.
Your voice can make a big difference in assuring that the right long-term solutions get put in place to preserve this thing we call the SLO Life. Please join our efforts.
San Luis Obispo resident Kathy Borland is a retired registered nurse and college instructor. Jim Waldsmith, also of San Luis Obispo, is a veterinarian. Reach them at http://preservetheslolife.org.