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A clouded view of water and housing

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To: Honorable Mayor Jan Marx and City Council members:

The water forum held in mid-April promulgated numerous questions and various responses, which I will not attempt to reframe or acknowledge in detail. Since I was unable to attend due to having received no written notice, my comments are based on my own sense of things as a resident of San Luis Obispo.

It is quite clear that we face a dire water shortage about which there are a range of views as to severity and likely prospects. No one has a crystal ball. That said, residents are paying more and using less while city officials push huge projects with no end in sight. All of them use water. 

We also have a well-documented housing crisis that precludes thousands of people who work here from gaining access to housing.

I understand SLO is a tourist destination and that the city benefits financially from dollars spent here as well as fees generated from development. My concern is that economic benefits (not just to city coffers) severely weight planning decisions and cloud objectivity. Also, I don’t believe there is a shortage of hotel rooms.

Furthermore, I see little reason to trust the charts, models, and consultants that seem to be orchestrated to persuade the public that all is well and to just let things be managed by city officials. 

In view of the ongoing drought and weather prognosis as well as water resources available in the near future, development planning should be limited to housing that is affordable to the workforce at every level. This overriding need is consistently overlooked and under-developed, negatively impacting the local economy and overall civic health of our city, not to mention its appeal to tourists. I work at the homeless shelter, and I know of many who are holding down jobs and sleeping at the shelter (if they are lucky enough to get a bed there) because they do not have the wherewithal to secure housing in our tight market.

The proposed project at Santa Rosa and Monterey can serve as an excellent model of sound planning by eliminating the hotel and moving forward on ground floor retail that helps support low-cost housing units to be developed by Peoples Self Help Housing. There is already a huge hotel planned for upper Monterey Street. 

Sadly, housing that is affordable to people of very modest means seems to be the last priority and planned only in miniscule allocations. Despite repeated documentation, it appears that city officials are not really concerned about the very real housing crisis. Just like the drought. 

In my view, your position, authority, and responsibility require you to address the needs of the people who already live here ... whatever their resources might be. It seems to me that this duty is obfuscated by the clouds spun by fat cats and big city dreams.

-- Susan Pyburn - San Luis Obispo

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