SLO planning commissioner ousted after vote against development

Scott Mann

Months after casting the lone dissenting vote against the planned Avila Ranch development, a member of the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission was asked to resign by two SLO City Council members. [Tribune]

Scott Mann, a project manager with a local architecture firm that focuses on sustainable building, served eight months on the SLO Planning Commission prior to resigning in mid-November. Mann said council members Carlyn Christianson and Dan Rivoire forced him to resign. Christianson and Rivoire serve as the council’s liaisons to the planning commission.

The Avila Ranch project, is a planned 720-home development on a 150-acre site near the San Luis Obispo airport. City officials have for years pushed for the project to be approved despite regulatory hurdles related to its proximity to the airport and other neighborhood and environmental concerns.

As a planning commissioner, Mann expressed concern about the project’s environmental and neighborhood impacts, including potential air quality impacts due to the adjacent airport runway and a nearby concrete manufacturing plant. Mann also expressed dissatisfaction with the mixture of bicycle, pedestrian and industrial traffic the project is expected to create.

After being asked to resign by Christianson and Rivoire and failing to garner support from fellow Planning Commissioner John Fowler, Mann decided to resign, saying he feared his reputation could be damaged if the decision on his removal was left to a planning commission meeting.

Christianson and Rivoire reportedly said the request that Mann resign was not related to a specific project, nor was it personal. But Christianson said Mann wanted the Avila Ranch project changed, and he was struggling to remain within his purview and was not generally upholding the city’s general plan. The councilwoman also said Mann was seeking to set new city policy, rather than sticking to his job of interpreting existing policy.

However, Mann said he was not being political. He said he did not believe the Avila Ranch project met CEQA guidelines, nor did it contain infrastructure and service support that aided the city’s implementation of its general plan.

Retired SLO County planner Mike Wulkan has replaced Mann on the city planning commission. Wulkan participated in his first meeting last week.