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Unity must prevail 

The Dana Reserve project should have been unanimously approved by SLO County's supervisors

The recent approval of the Dana Reserve by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is a milestone for our community, addressing crucial housing needs designated as a Tier 1 Priority by the county. It is the largest, most affordable housing project ever approved, includes tens of millions of dollars of currently needed infrastructure, and will save individual Nipomo Community Service District (CSD) ratepayers an average of $750 per year (according to the developer) as opposed to if the project was not approved.

That is a win for all of us.

However, we must express our concern regarding the 3-2 vote margin rather than a unanimous 5-0 decision, and the chilling effect such a close vote might have on future affordable housing development.

Particularly concerning, however, are the factual inaccuracies spread by one supervisor, who vehemently opposed the project.

While explaining his opposition to the project, 4th District Supervisor Jimmy Paulding repeated several erroneous statements. At best, it appeared Supervisor Paulding was incapable of understanding simple facts about the project. At worst, Supervisor Paulding, whether deliberate or not, participated in a consistent campaign of misinformation and disinformation.

Some of Supervisor Paulding's more significant and troubling incorrect statements include the following:

• Supervisor Paulding stated the Dana Reserve would incur a negative cost to the county. He stated this despite contrary analysis provided by county staff and third-party experts, which estimated a positive financial impact. He shared his own guesses at numbers and then stated, "That is the way the math adds up to me," as if his off-the-cuff calculations should be taken over more formal professional analysis.

• Supervisor Paulding made claims of insufficient water availability for the project, which were contradicted by analysis from the Nipomo CSD and third-party studies, and which not only affirm adequate water resources but also project savings for existing ratepayers within the Nipomo CSD.

• Supervisor Paulding asserted concerns about fire risk on the project. He did this despite expert analysis thoroughly reviewed by county fire officials contradicting such a belief. This underscores the importance of relying on expert evaluations and sticking to the facts. There was no need to spread such false fear. It was unproductive and pure fearmongering.

• Supervisor Paulding affirmed an alternative development for the same land crafted by a group dedicated to changing the housing project's plans, while casting doubt on the credibility of projections from the developer's experts. He appeared to arrive at these conclusions without investigation of the matter prior to his vote and against significant third-party and county-led analysis displaying otherwise.

• Supervisor Paulding expressed concerns over fiscal impacts to the Lucia Mar Unified School District (LMUSD). In reality, the Dana Reserve was the first development in county history to ever pay more than the state legally requires since the state set a standard in 1996. This was confirmed in a written statement from Lucia Mar's superintendent in which he also stated that the project fully funds all necessary upgrades needed. Additionally, the Dana Reserve also includes 84 deed-restricted affordable housing units for teachers and LMUSD staff—something Supervisor Paulding voted against building.

Many of Supervisor Paulding's contentions are in direct contradiction of the conclusions reached by the SLO County Planning Commission, including his own appointed commissioner, and county staff who have dedicated some years to analyzing this development. Given the paramount importance of addressing housing needs as a Tier 1 Priority, it is imperative for our elected leaders to acquaint themselves thoroughly with the facts of housing proposals. Decisions of this magnitude must not be swayed by erroneous assumptions.

Supervisor Paulding's inability or unwillingness to understand the basic facts of the project led him to vote against the housing project—one that includes a $3.2 million in down-payment assistance program, donates about $10 million in land, completes tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure currently needed in Nipomo, and that would lead to a savings for each individual Nipomo CSD ratepayer.

That is unacceptable.

The reality is that Supervisor Paulding's comments sounded more like an anti-growth NIMBY trying to hide behind "legitimate" concerns.

Our 194 members, made up of a bipartisan and diverse coalition of community members, refuse to believe this is how our elected officials should act. This must not be the case. This cannot be the case.

As an elected leader in our community and within his position of authority, Supervisor Paulding perpetuated a series of mistruths. These mistruths stoked the flames of division and unnecessarily drove a community further apart.

Our belief is that leaders must unite, not divide.

Therefore, we call upon our elected representatives to prioritize factual accuracy and informed decision-making in all matters, but particularly those related to housing. If we do not do this, we will only continue to see our communities' in-fighting. Δ

Generation Build is a 70-plus member pro-housing group in SLO County. Respond with your own opinion for publication by submitting it to [email protected].

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