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SLO City Council still split on whether to override Airport Land Use Commission 

The San Luis Obispo City Council has still yet to reach an agreement on how to plan for future growth in the city, with a critical vote resting in the hands of the newest and youngest member.

Freshman Councilman Dan Rivoire, about four hours into his first City Council meeting on Dec. 2, asked that the city hold off for another week on a decision of whether to override the SLO County Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) in order to approve the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) update of the General Plan.

click to enlarge A RIVOIRE RUNS THROUGH IT:  With four votes needed for SLO to override the county Airport Land Use Commission, freshman Councilman Dan Rivoire (pictured far left) is poised to be the deciding vote. At a Dec. 2 meeting, Rivoire asked for more time to weigh the issues and hear from constituents. - PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI
  • PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI
  • A RIVOIRE RUNS THROUGH IT: With four votes needed for SLO to override the county Airport Land Use Commission, freshman Councilman Dan Rivoire (pictured far left) is poised to be the deciding vote. At a Dec. 2 meeting, Rivoire asked for more time to weigh the issues and hear from constituents.

“I don’t want the audience to feel that we will never find a conclusion here,” Rivoire said.

At issue is a plan to override the ALUC, which found the city’s LUCE incompatible with its existing Airport Land Use Plan. Residential, commercial, and manufacturing developments are planned (though not approved) in the area, but airport commissioners have asked the city to scale down the prescribed density and make other adjustments, citing concerns over future noise complaints, and potential dangers from airplanes that use the surrounding areas to ditch out in the case of an emergency.

The LUCE hasn’t been updated since 1994, and the recent effort has a bankroll of about $1.35 million through combined grant funds and an expenditure from SLO’s general fund.

Members of Johnson Aviation, a consultant for the city, concluded that the city’s land-use plans would be suitable around the airport.

Nearly all members of the public who attended the meeting asked the city to move forward and override the ALUC. Many said the higher density would provide much-needed workforce housing in a city that has grown too unaffordable.

“There’s no debate, no question about it; we are in need of additional housing supply in this city,” said Jeff Eckles, executive director of the Home Builders Association of the Central Coast.

A handful of people disagreed with city staffers, including former ALUC commissioner Robert Tefft, and the local Caltrans deputy district director, Aileen Loe.

“While there are many, many strengths of this plan … Caltrans considers the issues related to noise and public safety as remaining unresolved,” Loe said.

Several speakers said that the city could be liable to litigation from Caltrans if it moves forward with the override.

However, councilmembers remain divided on the issue, with Mayor Jan Marx, Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson, and Councilman John Ashbaugh one vote shy of the necessary majority they need to override the ALUC.

“The basis of it is pilot judgment and pilot preference; it is not scientific evidence; it is not data driven,” Marx said of the ALUC.

Councilman Dan Carpenter remained firm that the city should not override, and despite the showing of support from the public, said he met with other constituents who are not in favor of the city’s plans.

“I believe we’ve been on a collision course with the airport for decades and now backed ourselves into a corner,” Carpenter said. “… Are the interests of the developers more important than the quality of life we enjoy?”

The city is scheduled to revisit the issue on Dec. 9.

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