San Luis Obispo’s commitment to urban sprawl

Allan Cooper


The San Luis Obispo Planning Commission will be reviewing and probably certifying the Froom Ranch final Environmental Impact Report 0n Aug. 12. In my opinion this is a textbook example of bad planning.

However, it occurred to me that some may question why I, under the aegis of Save Our Downtown, am addressing the Froom Ranch mixed-use development as this project is far removed from our Downtown core. My reason for this is as follows.

Our city council and members of the planning commission have repeatedly used the argument that tall buildings in our downtown core will deter urban sprawl. I and others have repeatedly argued that there is no linkage between the two.

Approving the 75-foot-tall, mixed-use project at 1144 Chorro Street will not prevent the development of a Froom Ranch. And Froom Ranch is a classic example of urban sprawl. It involves annexing and urbanizing land formerly located within our permanent greenbelt, it places development above the 150-foot elevation line and it would result in an increase in projected population growth that would conflict with the city’s overall land use planning principles.

Aside from generating sales tax revenue for City Hall (apparently the city’s number one overriding consideration), there is very little to recommend this development as it will be placing over 1,200 residents in harm’s way. It is located under a flight path (with all the associated risks of noise and safety), it is adjacent to a high fire severity zone, it will generate new vehicle trips exacerbating peak hour traffic flow along Los Osos Valley Road and, in the event of a catastrophic wildland fire, it presents unavoidable challenges to evacuating assisted living and special care individuals. It should be noted that wildland fires and debris flows are an ever-increasing threat due to climate change.

The city’s inevitable approval of this project will prove our point – that there is no direct linkage between locating tall buildings in our Downtown (which Save Our Downtown vehemently opposes) and deterring urban sprawl.

By approving this project, members of the city council and planning commission will simply prove how hypocritical they are when making this “tall not sprawl” argument. Since the city is apparently committed to urban sprawl – even at the risk of placing our residents in harm’s way – we ask that this specious argument be finally put to rest.

Allan Cooper is the secretary of Save Our Downtown in San Luis Obispo.