San Luis Obispo – Development Around Airport in Question

San Luis ObispoReferendum may derail SLO City Council vote to override airport commission Kevin P. Rice is organizing a campaign against the City Council’s possible override of the safety plan for development around the airport

Kevin P. Rice, a San Luis Obispo resident and frequent City Council critic, is mounting a campaign against an expected council vote to override the Airport Land Use Commission’s safety plan, which limits the city’s future growth.

Rice is organizing a committee to launch a referendum against the override should the council pass Dec. 2, one day after newly elected Councilman Dan Rivoire is sworn in. In October, the council voted 3-2 to override the safety plan, failing to get the required 4-1 vote. The council majority now needs Rivoire’s vote for passage.

The airport safety plan determines what development can occur around the airport, based on safety and noise impacts and future airport operations.

The controversial issue has been a source of political tension on the five-member council and is being closely watched by several key developers in the community who depend on the override vote for future projects.

The council’s prior decision to not override the airport commission makes it impossible for the city to implement long planned changes to its General Plan, or master plan for growth – leaving both developers of future projects and advocates of the new plan in limbo.

Proposed developments emphasizing housing are now stalled. They include the 131-acre San Luis Ranch planned for the Dalidio property on Madonna Road and the 150-acre Avila Ranch near the airport on the north side of Buckley Road.

A referendum would likely delay the process for at least six more months.

To put a referendum on a ballot, Rice must collect about 2,500 signatures – about 10 percent of the registered voters in San Luis Obispo. He can start gathering them after the council ordinance passing the override has been adopted on a second reading by the City Council and verified by the city clerk. The earliest that will happen is Dec. 17, City Clerk Anthony Mejia said.

Mejia then has 30 days to verify the signatures. Once qualified, the council will be given the option of repealing the ordinance or calling an election.

The city would have to pay for the election. The last special mail-in ballot election, held in June 2013 to replace Councilman Andrew Carter, cost the city $61,900.

Rice said the reason for the referendum is twofold, beginning with the votes against the override that were cast by council members Dan Carpenter and Kathy Smith. Rivoire will replace Smith on the council.

“I am very unhappy that the council is openly engineering the vote in a way that would make Smith and Carpenter’s vote irrelevant,” Rice said. “To me, that is a real affront to the people.”

Rice is also opposed to the override, saying that noise and safety standards set by the Airport Land Use Commission should remain.

“At a time when the airport is looking to expand down the road, the city is looking to shove housing in there.”

Rice said he is not opposed to the entire general plan update, just portions of it.

“I’m not saying throw it in the trash can, I’m saying a different plan is needed.”

Mayor Jan Marx, who is strongly in favor of the override, noted that the referendum would pose a significant cost to the city at a time when she believes the override has the support of many residents in the community.

Marx said Rivoire’s win reflects that support because he publicly voiced his support for the override during his campaign.

“In my mind, if you look at who was elected in the recent election, to a certain extent, one can infer that the community has already expressed their support for the override and land use update,” she said.