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SLO needs affordable, smart housing 

Peter Johnson did an excellent job of representing all sides in "Building Up" (March 5), but I want to clarify that this is not a case of preservation versus affordable housing. The North Higuera district—bounded by Marsh, Nipomo, Higuera, and Carmel streets—has been a mostly working-class mixed-use neighborhood for 150 years. Thirty years ago, the city fathers and mothers, having turned their own neighborhoods into protected historic districts, decided to line the much more historic North Higuera neighborhood with motels and dump all of the unwanted historic houses of the city in the interior of the block where no one would see them. This was on the assumption that no one of consequence (by their standards) lived or worked there.

Fortunately that didn't happen, but more recently, the city mothers and fathers decided to dump all of SLO's luxury high-rises in North Higuera, with 12- and 14-foot ceilings and lots of additional hotel suites creating eco-unfriendly tall sprawl. 545 Higuera-486 Marsh, at more 50,000 square feet, is the size of the new SLO air terminal, dropped in among 1,000-square-foot cottages and bungalows. As a 50-foot-tall nearly 300-foot-long wall, it provides 39 unaffordable studios and one- and two-bedroom housing. But 550 Higuera, the development that replaced the trailer park across the street, ugly though it is, provides 60 more or less affordable studios and one-bedrooms ($1,350 a month) and two-bedrooms ($1,850 a month) on a smaller lot in only two stories of normal height that doesn't cut a historic working-class neighborhood in two with a big white wall of rich people.

The city doesn't need more big housing, it needs more smart housing.

James Papp

San Luis Obispo

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