San Luis Obispo is asking Cal Poly to take a closer look at how its proposed 20-year master plan could impact a number of critical city services, including law enforcement.
In a lengthy evaluation of the university's draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the master plan, city staff raised a number of concerns that the projected growth of both the campus and student body would strain its police department's ability to provide services to residents.
"While the city supports the goals of the master plan, the unmitigated impacts that will have both quality of life impacts on our residents and fiscal impacts on our operations need full analysis and appropriate mitigation," Michael Codron, SLO's community development director, said in a Jan. 8 letter to the university attached to an analysis and comments on the master plan from the city.
According to the city, the university's draft EIR does not adequately account for the impact that growth under the master plan would have on emergency services, specifically the SLO Police Department. According to the draft EIR, the current version of the master plan would increase the number of on-campus residents to 6,800, as well as an additional 3,308 people resulting from five new residential neighborhoods.
"The addition of this many new students to the area will create additional strains on the city's police department," the analysis states. "Even though students might relocate from off-campus to new on-campus housing, the reality is that the city's total population will increase as a result of the master plan as units previously occupied by students are filled with new residents."
Worries about the impact of a growing student population on SLOPD's resources aren't new. Former City Manager Katie Lichtig raised similar concerns in a September 2017 letter to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, written shortly after the university announced that between 1,000 and 1,200 more students than expected were enrolled for the fall.
"The San Luis Obispo Police Department believes there will be increases in certain student related call types," Lichtig wrote. "Call types that significantly involve students are alcohol related, noise, DUI and parking/abandoned vehicles."
"If the city faces these impacts from an unexpected enrollment increase of 1,000 to 1,200 students, impacts to the University Police Department under the master plan, which anticipates 6,800 new on-campus residents and over 5,000 more headcount students, will be significant," the city's analysis noted. "The [draft EIR] requires revision and recirculation to address these impacts"
In addition to concerns about law enforcement, the city also called on the university to revise its EIR to better address and mitigate impacts on other critical city services such as water, wastewater, and transportation services, all of which it says could be affected by the growth of the campus. Speaking to New Times, Codron expressed hope that the two entities could continue to work together to address the concerns raised by the city's analysis.
"The city is fully engaged with Cal Poly and their leadership team," he said. "We are hopeful that the outcome is consistent with the guiding principles that the City Council has provided to us and can support growth on campus in a sustainable way."
In a written statement to New Times, university spokesman Matt Lazier indicated that Cal Poly was reviewing the city's comments and working on a response.
"As part of the overall EIR comment period process, we are reviewing all comments and will respond to each one," he said. "There is not a set time frame; it will take as much time as it takes to consider and thoughtfully respond to each comment." Δ