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Proposed homeless shelter's fate is up in the air 

Why are people planning to come to the Airport Land Use Commission meeting? Even Commission Chair Roger Oxborrow thinks it’s boring, so he’s wondering why locals are suddenly so interested in the forum that typically sparks mundane discussions on the merits of mini storage sheds.

The recently roused attendees are probably making their presence known because the commission’s Feb. 17 meeting could either move forward or kill a new homeless shelter in SLO.

“All of a sudden we just attacked Mom, apple pie, and homeless people,” Oxborrow joked, indicating he would vote against the project. But the commissioners who might deny the project say a refusal wouldn’t be prompted by the fact that it’s a homeless issue.

“I don’t have any problem with a homeless shelter … but what I’m concerned about is anything that goes in that spot that’s not compatible with the airport,” former commissioner James Gleim said.

In fact, Gleim was replaced as he was absolutely going to deny a proposed shelter on a vacant county-owned parcel next to the county Department of Social Services. A 12-year veteran of the commission, Gleim was removed in September by Supervisor Adam Hill. Tracy DelRio took his place.

In July, a subcommittee of commissioners indicated the project didn’t comply with the Airport Land Use Plan—but county planning staffers are recommending approval anyway.

If approved, county and city officials would join together on a $6- to $8-million, 200-bed homeless services campus in an attempt to provide 24-hour shelter to the area’s homeless residents, who currently have to bounce between the Prado Day Center and Maxine Lewis shelters.

The one-acre property is near public transportation access and separated from neighborhoods. The bit of land is also under the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport’s main flight path, which has some commissioners nervous about noise impacts to people who would be sleeping there—and the threat of plane crashes.

Oxborrow stressed that if commissioners decide to deny the project (with a necessary two-thirds majority), it’s to protect the airport and people from the flight path.

City Councilman and Airport Commissioner Allen Settle probably won’t be one of the no votes.

“I’d rather see them in the service center, not on the streets or the parks or the creeks,” Settle said of homeless locals.

If the commission denies the shelter, there are other potential locations, but none as good. Asked what the backup plan is, Hill laughed: “There’s not a really good backup plan.”

The SLO City Council can override the commission, but said Mayor Dave Romero, “We prefer to see if we can work things out with them.”

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