Public comment to planning commission on SLO Marketplace EIR
2004-05-26 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. (it continued, I left). I wrote these notes while listening to the presentation.
For some background info visit lettertotheeditor, and this article in the SLO Tribune. Speakers were limited to three minutes. Thanks to my practice writing an earlier speech, I knew I'd be under. I think I had a minute to 40 seconds left when I finished.
Hello, I'm Colin Leath, and I reside at one-six-one-seven Santa Rosa St, San Luis Obispo.
I'm a member of the carfree movement -- a worldwide network of people working to make places more friendly to people who cannot or choose not to use cars. People who cannot use cars are children, the disabled, the elderly, and the poor -- this is a social justice issue as well as an environmental issue.
The problem with car use is the social and community degredation caused by physical environments built to allow convenient car use.
The Marketplace project as it stands now is not as socially responsible as it could be because it encourages car use without planning or progressing toward a reduced-car-use- or carfree-future.
A more desirable alternative would be a high-density mixed-use development around a public transit hub connecting with San Luis Obispo's downtown. San Diego's City of Villages plan and vision is one California example of that sort of development.
However, it sounds like you can't do that in this location because of the airport.
Airplanes have cars beat -- they have the highest uninternalized costs -- things like noise and air pollution -- of all forms of transportation, and the design of this project has been severely limited due to those costs. It is somewhat ironic that the design has been forced to be largely non-residential (and therefore more auto-centric) due to airport noise... Which as any long-time Point Loma, San Diego resident will tell you is unlikely to decrease over time.
If you proceed with this project, I recommend that you seriously consider requiring a plan for a transition to a car-reduced or car free future. A key part of such a transition will involve an airplane-reduced or airplane-free future.
I conclude by reminding you that San Luis Obispo was built around a railway and that rail travel has one of the fewest uninternalized costs of all motorized transportation modes.
In an ideal world, you could shut down the airport, and build a high-density, mixed-use, carfree and quiet and road dust free environment centered around a public transportation hub. If you continue to use cars and highways, I recommend looking into burying them, like has been done in towns in Switzerland.
Critique: I basically read my notes, and didn't look up. There are grammatical inconsistencies / awkward parts. I got the feeling (though since I wasn't looking, I can't say for sure), that people valued what they were hearing. The address was to some extent off-topic, as they were meeting for the purposes of evaluating the Environmental Impact Report... but perhaps not.
Notes: I came because Joe Gilpin sent out an email reminder (I had to email him to be added to the announcement listserv, because automated signup wasn't working). I had seen a notice for the meeting earlier... but then I think it disappeared. It makes a huge difference when one can walk to the city (and also county) planning meetings! It makes a huge difference to have like-minded company (Joe) who you know from elsewhere (city-sponsored pedestrian plan input meeting the preceding Thursday).
It was interesting to see the dynamic of personalities and hear the various qualities of speakers.
I was impressed that a young attractive woman was on the planning commission, Andrea Miller. Everyone else was older (40 +). It was interesting that the commission was split on various issues and how they worked to resolve the issue, and who the personalities were on each side. Also interesting was how the different commissioners approached their role of finding the EIR adequate or not... a different thing than expressing whether they supported the project.
I'm curious what happened at the end, but after 2320 or so something told me it was time to leave, and I walked back to the hostel. My first planning meeting and first public comment. Will I make a habit of this? I don't think so, but who knows.
Some other interesting facts:
- The community was successful in stopping TARGET from going in somewhere... the line for that planning meeting was out the door and overflowed to two rooms, or so.
- The downtown was not always as nice as it is. About 20 years ago they closed some streets (just one?), and now Berkeley planners have visited to learn from SLO:"Most people have long forgotten that it took a referendum to close Monterey Street in front of the Mission," said Vice Mayor Ken Schwartz, who helped lead the charge to block off the street. "It was in the face of opposition by the City Council, which was dominated by business leaders who were concerned about the loss of parking."
(From the article "San Luis Obispo serves as model for downtown revitalization: Berkeley civic leaders inspired by Mission Plaza, creek" by Julie Lynem.)
Julie has written most of the articles I've linked to recently--I should get to know her--she probably knows where all the planning-related things are happening.
If you can't access the article copies from the links, let me know and I can send you a copy.