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Candidate Interviews for San Luis Obispo 2016 Council and Mayoral Seats
On September 12th, 2016 and on September 26th, 2016, Save Our Downtown invited the six candidates running for Council and the two candidates running for Mayor to respond to a set of 14 questions. All but one attended. We recorded their answers to these questions and then made our endorsements. We endorsed Mila Vilavich-LaBarre and Mike Clark for Council. We were unable to arrive at a consensus regarding which of the two candidates for Mayor we could endorse.
Our reasons were as follows. We felt the other Council candidates were out of their depth when answering many of our questions. Mike and Mila were the two most articulate and well-prepared candidates interviewed.
More specifically, Mike and Mila supported limitations on new building heights in our Downtown Core. The others were opposed to supporting limitations or waffled on this issue. Secondly, Mike and Mila were the only two Council candidates in support of limiting the number of alcohol outlets in our Downtown. Again the others were either opposed to the idea or waffled on the subject.
The questions we asked each candidate are listed below.
(Questions to be asked of every candidate within the allotted 30 minute time period)
Modify Existing Ordinances
Would you support incorporating into the Downtown Core urban design considerations which go behind the Community Design Guidelines (such as form-based codes)?
Background: The City is envisioning, but has not committed to, a Form-Based Code for the downtown as a City-led process in conjunction with Cal Poly. The effort would be informed by and follow the completion of the Downtown Concept Plan. In lieu of developing and adopting a Form-Based Code, Save Our Downtown is recommending that our Community Design Guidelines be incorporated into our more enforceable Zoning Regulations.
Advisory Body Qualifications
Would you support adopting more rigorous advisory body
Background: Advisory Body appointments are currently perceived to be “political” in nature and not based exclusively on qualifications. With the exception of the ARC, the PC, CHC and Tree Committee, qualifications are as follows: “Members must be residents and registered voters of the City.”
On the PC there are only three professional planners among the seven members. On the ARC there are only two architects among the seven members. On the CHC there is only one member with a background in history (and that’s not even “architectural history”) among the seven members. And on the Tree Committee there are only three members with a background in forestry or biological sciences among the seven members (see below for more detail on this).
Expediting the Permit Process
Should City planners avoid employing a strict interpretation of the Community Design Guidelines in order to mitigate the substantial costs and delays incurred by the developer?
Background: Through Senate Bill 226, the State of California, along with our Governor, is supporting expedited assessments of urban infill projects or “categorical infill development exceptions” within existing neighborhoods because there is the mistaken belief that truncated planning will bring down the cost of housing. We oppose circumventing the planning process as a means to reduce the developer’s costs because there is no guarantee that the developer will pass on these cost reductions to the public.
Modify Existing Ordinances
Are you in favor of sponsoring / advocating an ordinance
limiting the number of bars/ restaurants with bars in downtown?
Background: The approved work scope for the Zoning Regulation Update includes the following: 2.7.26 LUE Program 4.32 “Alcohol Use Permits” “The City shall incorporate into its zoning regulations specific criteria for evaluating use permits for bars/taverns, night clubs and late night drinking establishments.” However, not included in the Zoning Reg Update work scope is LUE 4.29 “Coordination of Late Night Environment” which would enact additional regulations on Downtown drinking establishments, nor was there any mention of the inclusion of a much-promised “Public Convenience and Necessity" (PCN) policy which would give the City legally-defensible criteria for permitting or not permitting alcohol outlets downtown.
Would you support advocating that the Council revisit
(downwards) the Downtown height ordinance?
Background: So far, after eight meetings, the Creative Vision Team overseeing the update to the Downtown Concept Plan has yet to mention two vision statements that are important to Save Our Downtown and the public at large: maintaining our small town charm and maintaining our historical ambiance. From the input gathered throughout the Downtown Concept Plan outreach process to date, our consultant, Michael Baker International, has learned that the vast majority of community members who have participated value the following things about our downtown: “The small town feel and historic character” and “Meeting participants broadly supported limitations on new building height.”
Would you consider amending the Zoning Ordinance to
include relevant parts of the Community Design Guidelines?
Enhanced Role For Advisory Bodies
Would you support giving the Tree Committee a more
proactive role in the designation of Heritage Trees, in protecting trees in new developments, in setting its own agendas and in advising other advisory bodies?
Do you agree that the City should change the name of the Cultural Heritage Committee to Cultural Heritage Commission and vest the Cultural Heritage Commission with final review authority over designations and permit reviews, with appeal to the City Council or the courts?
Advisory Body Training
Would you advocate more frequent training sessions for staff
and advisory body members?
We believe that these training sessions should broaden the
range of training topics to include urban design, evolution of the City plan, architectural history, CEQA and pertinent City
documents. What do you think of this?
Would you advocate that City planners participate in
workshops and awareness walks conducted by S.O.D. and other interested groups?
Enhanced Public Participation
Do you support giving the public more timely online access
to applicant plans?
Would you advocate the use of on-site “story poles” to
illustrate to the public the actual proposed height of a structure?
Expediting the Permit Process
In determining whether a Negative Declaration may violate
CEQA should the City enlist the services of expert testimony,
such as hiring a noise expert or botanist? Or should these
services be eliminated because of the substantial costs and
delays associated with the EIR process?
Cash Mob - Phoenix Bookstore
On May 7th, 2012, Save Our Downtown held a "Cash Mob," an event that gathers community members together through word of mouth and social media to shop and provide a boost to a local business. The event drew more than 50 participants, who each spent a minimum of $10 on books. In a pleasant but perhaps unsurprising outcome, the enthusiastic chatter of participants created a lively atmosphere of discussion and community that is quintessentially San Luis Obispo.
See the coverage in the Tribune:
Cash mob floods SLO bookstore
Cash Mob at Phoenix Bookstore
Photo Source: Joe Johnston, The Tribune, Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Jane Jacobs Discovery Walk: Downtown San Luis Obispo
On April 30th, 2011, Save Our Downtown hosted more than 30 locals to a walk around Downtown. From residents to students, City officials to neighbors, design enthusiasts to transportation planners, everyone was invited to learn a little and share a little about their perceptions of the Downtown. Our shared experiences revealed the important qualities that make location a special place and the features that could further amplify the core features of this charming environment.
Recurring statements about the features of Downtown are listed below.
What was appealing?
What was not appealing?
Where would people linger?