Harmon and Christianson’s poorly conceived plans for SLO

Allan Cooper


Mayor Heidi Harmon and Council Member Carlyn Christianson are campaigning on the premise that they have made significant strides in addressing San Luis Obispo’s “climate action plan” by adopting the Community Choice Energy program, by forcing us out of our cars and onto bicycles by taking away our parking and by increasing density and height in our downtown core and in our neighborhoods to counter sprawl, though sprawl is indeed taking place – witness the Righetti, San Luis and Avila ranch developments.

Permit me to counter the new mantra we’re hearing from these incumbent candidates as well as from the self-proclaimed YIMBY’s. Their argument is that “if more people are living in our town, more people are affording to live in our town.”

Within the city limits of Los Angeles, there are approximately four million people. LA is the fifth fastest growing city in the nation. Nevertheless, the median cost of a home there is about a million dollars.

If we are to learn from this example, rapidly increasing our population by building more homes will not result in more affordable housing. But doing so will make developers very rich because the bar is set so low on the number of affordable units they must provide. The belief that housing will miraculously “trickle down” to the less affluent members of our community by giving away the keys to market-rate developers is a pernicious myth.

What our incumbent candidates don’t want to talk about is that all of this new construction and increased population will not only overtax our infrastructure, but will ultimately make impossible our ability to adapt to climate change.

Both Harmon and Christianson seem to be dancing around four proverbial “elephants in the room” and those are job creation, Cal Poly enrollment growth, solar-powered electric cars and biome carrying capacity.

The council is tasked with maintaining every five years a five percent growth cap on commercial square footage. But this cap on commercial square footage fails to take into consideration that job growth has averaged three and a quarter percent per year, far exceeding the maximum one percent per year growth in our housing supply. And so follows more traffic due to an explosion in our daytime population plus an increasing jobs/housing imbalance.

Cal Poly growth over the past four years has averaged two and a half percent per year. Some of these increases may be absorbed by on-campus housing but this burgeoning on-campus student population will still have an adverse impact on our roads, water and waste water treatment capacity.

The council’s argument that we must reduce the number of cars in order to reduce our GHG’s will no longer hold up when most of us will own solar-powered electric cars. And finally California’s carbon footprint is six times the State’s biome carrying capacity and this number most likely is higher for San Luis Obispo. This will only get worse as our climate becomes more like that of the Mojave Desert.

There is such a thing as “right sizing” a city’s population and SLO has far exceeded its “right size.” Yes global population growth must be absorbed somewhere but not where there is no longer any slack in the environment’s carrying capacity.

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2 Comments about “Harmon and Christianson’s poorly conceived plans for SLO”

  1. Louie337 says:

    It is just so mind bending when I drive around the southern end of the city where literally thousands of homes are scheduled to be built. The amount of water has never been a consideration in the current mad approval coming out of this Council. And they are all environmentally conscious. Or, are they? And as it is, Harmon is the lead on the council, or so it appears. We simply do not have the water and other utility and road infrastructure and yet the builders continue to build houses which those who are driving here to work will NEVER be able to AFFORD! Every other notion is simply not true. And a continually pronounced “lie” to the public citizens. The paucity of affordable housing is just a huge and mean-spirited joke here in SLO. And I second the outrage at the veritable give away to the builders for “affordable units” which will never actually exist, as SLO does not require of the builders in considerable quantity because we might alienate the builder from building. Folks decide to live here often AFTER they get a job here. Quickly they realize that their property taxes alone can amount to a number they cannot afford, let alone the payments on the $600,000-700,000 housing prices that are common here in SLO.

    We cannot and should not try to encourage folks that wish to live here that we will create sufficient quantities and prices of “affordable” housing. It hasn’t happened since I have known about SLO (40 years been visiting and living here)and have lived here for over the past 10 years now. Why should anyone expect it to happen is beyond my comprehension. Oh, that’s right, they are being promised affordable housing. Except it is not being delivered and never will be.

    Truly SLO is a form of never never land.

  2. obispan says:

    I listened to Harmon’s idiocy on Congalton’s show. She cannot articulate how ruining the town and lining Monterey Street with 7 story buildings will build our way to affordability. 22 Chorro is $1,200 to $1,400 a bedroom. The only thing they can do is increase the population of the City and further strain resources, and that’s what the developers backing SLO Progressives intend to do. Why doesn’t Santa Barbara build their way to affordability with high-rises up and down State Street? Because they know that the housing will be absorbed at a market rate that cannot be forced down by supply in that market, or ours, and the only result will be high-rises on State Street. They stopped having this debate 20 years ago. Heidi says that now we “are more aware” and while she can’t identify a solution “we can, together, solve it”. She is a classic tool to be manipulated and her ego is so huge that any developer that satisfies it has a blank check from the City taxpayers. When the City’s not flat out giving away land (I support the City SELLING land at market rate) it is giving away our quality of life and making no effort to balance infrastructure requirements with development. Maybe she can try this first in Pismo Beach, then Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, then come back. I want to live in Beverly Hills and I demand affordable workforce housing, goddammit, it is my right!

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