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Housing Project Looks a Go

On July 5, City of SLO staffers, now working with developer Gary Grossman for more than two years, recommended the City Council adopt a mitigated environmental review and go ahead with an annexation of the former Dalidio property.

To kick off, the City’s Community Development Director Michael Codron said it was “nice” to be in front of the Council with a project that might address some of the City’s strained housing issue head on.

While Councilwoman Andy Pease had to recuse herself due to work done with the RRM Design Group inside the last year, her four remaining colleagues seemed amenable during the special meeting held the day after Independence Day.  Other incorporated cities in the region cleared their legislative slates for the month, as many of the people that would be affected by their decisions would be on vacation. However SLO has a lot to get through on the matter and turnout did not seem dampened by the meeting timing. Even after three hours of public hearing, the item was continued to July 18.

As proposed by the company Coastal Community Builders, the San Luis Ranch Specific Plan would green light development on the 131-acre property between Highway 101 and Madonna Road.  Elements of the agricultural operation currently in place and open space preservation plan would remain. In fact they would encompass more than two-thirds of the site.

In total 580 homes are slated, but they would come in phases, and as alluded to during repeated variations by the approximately 50 members of the public commenting on the Wednesday night, the issue of who would afford to live there, and how soon overcame any generic opposition to the project as whole.

“People that work here can’t be expecting cheap housing on any of these projects because of the price of land in San Luis Obispo alone,” countered Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson, a former member of both the City and County’s Planning Commissions. “We’re always going to have that pressure and we’re not going to build ourselves out of it…. you do the best you can and some folks will win that lottery over time.”

The numbers are stark. Christianson sited some 30,000-commuter workers into the City, which historically has a 1 percent growth rate on a population base starting at 40,000.   In short SLO is the economic engine of the County but the relative prosperity of residents is not available to all workers.

She delineated between the Federal definitions of affordability, around 30 percent of monthly income at a percentage of the area’s median income as defined by the census, and the $500,000 median she said was a normal expectation from  “head of household earners.”

Only 34 deed-restricted “affordable housing” units will be a part of the overall project under the proposal recommended for adoption by staff.

SLO’s Mayor Heidi Harmon opened the Council discussion with a warning in part, speaking to that point, “We have an opportunity tonight to see how we can shape this place….and how we can make it available and sustainable to those that live and work here….to be the representatives that the people elected,” she said. “They elected us to stand with the residents and to make sure that they have the opportunities to live meaningfully.”

She continued with the subject on a track that will no doubt be picked up at the community forum July 11 at the Ludwick Community Center, after the deadline for this publication.

“If people have to spend the majority of their income just putting a roof over their head,” she said,  “they will have no room to support businesses and community organizations…entrepreneurs and people from diverse backgrounds will move onto places where they can live sustainably and the very things that make us unique will disappear.”

– By Camas Frank

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