SLO Council considering ousting controversial committee chair

James Papp

The San Luis Obispo City Council will consider on Tuesday firing the controversial chair of the city’s Cultural Heritage Committee (CHC). [Tribune]

CHC Chair James Papp is an architectural historian who has clashed with city officials over proposed downtown SLO developments. Papp opposed the city council’s decision to proceed with a 50-foot-tall, mixed-use project located close to historic homes.

The CHC chair and other opponents of the project argue the development would alter the character of downtown. 

Additionally, Papp has argued against the delisting of downtown SLO commercial buildings from a city list of historic properties. Papp said the council’s call for his firing hinges on the CHC’s review of the proposal to delist historic downtown buildings. 

SLO Councilwoman Andy Pease, who serves as a council liaison to the Cultural Heritage Committee, said Papp should not serve on the CHC any longer because his manner of questioning and deliberation limits the participation of others. Pease said Papp has repeatedly used language attacking others and has described a historical evaluation submitted to the CHC as “dangerous” and “nuts.”

Pease said Papp is extremely knowledgeable and a great resource for the community, but he has crossed the line at times in how he addresses members of the public.

But, Papp said he stands by his language because it was based on clear laws about historic buildings. Papp said the council is attempting to exert political influence over the CHC and that he is being fired for doing his job.

Papp has also criticized the city council in Tribune opinion columns. 

The CHC chair is serving a committee term that ends on April 2, 2023. Papp was appointed chair of the advisory body in March 2019.