OPINION by ALLAN COOPER
Over the past year, I have been privileged to work with a large, non-partisan, grassroots group of San Luis Obispo residents. This informal coalition of residents, dubbed “SLO Neighbor’s United,” shared a concern about the systematic destruction of our city’s character and quality of life. We decided to search for mayoral and city council candidates who would vow to protect and preserve our small town charm.
We found those persons in T. Keith Gurnee, Sarah Flickinger and James Lopes.
All three advocate preserving existing residents’ quality of life by insuring that we live within our means. They are mindful of the impacts that new development will have on our scarce water (Lake Nacimiento is 13 % full even after our first rain) and antiquated road infrastructure.
They advocate that general and local revenue measure funds be spent on essential services (as our local revenue measure was originally intended to do) and will oppose using general funds for salary increases or pet projects promoted by either the council, staff or unelected, special interest groups.
Over the past two years, Mayor Heidi Harmon and the council have become the face of fast-moving large development projects, high-end housing tracts, “exclusive” bike lanes, reduced parking in an already-dense downtown and reduction of public participation. Mayor Harmon is still a novice to local politics and dedicates most of her time as an advocate for national-progressive platforms.
None of our candidates are novices to municipal politics. Keith is a retired urban designer and community consensus seeker. He is a former member of the San Luis Obispo City Council, Planning Commission and a former Planning Director for Morro Bay. Keith is an old hand at conducting interactive workshops with a long track record as an environmentalist and CEQA expert.
Jamie has served as a land-use planner with San Luis Obispo County for 36 years and served on the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, Architectural Review Committee and the Planning Commission.
Sarah has been a neighborhood advocate and past HOA president in the Los Verdes Parks, has successfully settled three CEQA challenges to development with the State of California CALTRANS, the City of San Luis Obispo and the Avila Ranch developers on behalf of the neighborhoods, worked to have new infrastructure included in the LUCE, has worked professionally in advertising, marketing, communications and media and has extensive community service.
Keith, as mayor, will push back against under-parked, over-scaled, incompatible housing developments even if the state has made it more difficult for cities to deny these projects. He will push back against projects like 22 Chorro based on traffic impacts alone.
And he will insist that existing residents will not be saddled with the ever-increasing infrastructure costs incurred by future development. As Keith has said, “I am for growth that’s consistent with our character and scale, not for growth that obliterates it.”
In the final analysis, we support Keith, Sarah and Jamie because they are clear-headed, practical and will bring professionalism and new ideas to the council. Moreover, they will be excellent representatives of those city residents who feel they aren’t adequately heard.