I’ve only lived in San Luis Obispo for about 3 years. My views on development are generally agnostic. I don’t have a particularly long-term view to form solid opinions. From my perspective, the city has an amazing balance of an old-fashioned downtown and big box convenience, and has controlled growth well enough to keep the natural vistas intact in a way that other places like Santa Barbara have not. In other words, things are pretty damn good here.
But I’ve lived in places that had that balance and then lost it, and lost it damn quick. I’d hate to see that happen here.
In the November, 2006 election, the entire county voted on whether a large parcel of land should be developed. The land is technically not in the city, but it is surrounded by the city, and abuts no other city. When the city council approved the development, local residents forced a referendum, and voted the development down.
The more recent vote, however, was county-wide. And the only precincts that voted “No” were in the city of SLO proper, with one exception. In fact, the majority of the city voted No. Yet the project will go forward because voters who will not have to face any of the consequences of either the development or non-development of that land decided that it was “fair.”
I have no say about what happens in the rest of the County. We do not elect supervisors at large, so I only get to vote for my district’s supervisor. So, only indirectly do I have any say in whether there will be a stop light in Creston or an office park in Pismo Beach.
Yet these others may have tipped the balance for this city towards a path that its own residents did not want. Again, I’m agnostic. I’m not convinced that this development will have the drastic consequences that its opponents fear, but I’m certain that it is a possibility, unlike its proponents, who assure us that it will actually alleviate traffic. (Sure it will. It was never about that, it was about trading traffic for convenience.)
It is incredibly hard to define who should have a say in what local issues. Obviously, if the South had their way, segregation would still exist. It took federal law to control that. And people outside of the artifically drawn political map of the city have interests within it.
Likewise, the direct democracy that was reflected in this vote is by definition no more or less flawed than the direct democracy that overruled the project in the past. But it should stick in people’s mind that proximity to the project more or less corresponded with its rejection.
SLO residents regardless of whether they are for or against the development, or more or less neutral like me, should be deeply troubled by this precedent.
Anyone wanna sign my petition to permit a Planned Parenthood in Paso Robles or an Evangelical Megachurch in Cambria? I think I am entitled to vote on that now.