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Building precedent

If you believe Measure J is about a Target, think again



Riddle me this, dear reader: Where lies the widest road on earth?

Beantown's infamous Central Artery? The ever-bustling 405 streaming through Los Angeles? Perhaps that imperious and perilous juncture north of Atlanta where I-16 and I-75 collide?

Someone with a blue belt in GoogleFu might promptly answer: the infamous 160-lane Monumental Axis in the South American metropolis of Brasila.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Urban legend.

The answer is Stateline Avenue, a tiny thoroughfare running just a few hundred meters semi-perpendicular to the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. Bisecting the unincorporated border town of the same name, Stateline marks the most geographically intimate and ideologically defined rift between the West Coast odd couple of California and Nevada.

On one side, regimented but handsome regional planning provides an unobstructed view of the town's spectacular surroundings. Then, just two lanes away, laissez-faire development reaches endlessly upward, unharnessed and unchecked an utterly cancerous presence in an otherwise pristine national treasure.

Stateline is why smart planning matters.

Pushing reasonable growth on the current political landscape can prove a frustrating business. Due in part to a planning environment conceived during the folly-ridden 20th century a period that brought America such urban wonders as Houston and Los Angeles and the virtually infinite resources of developers, the mindless will of capital frequently finds a way to break through public opinion.

Whether the goal is pumping some affordable housing into an urban renewal project, protecting unique environmental habitat from the bulldozer, or shielding the Main Street economy against the fly-by-night retail leviathan, sometimes activists must pick their battles. This time, the local warhammer landed hard on Ernie Dalidio and his still-proposed retail "ranch."

Now, old Ernie doesn't quite fit the role of villain. His project, while obstructive and potentially detrimental to downtown, could make a larger footprint. His tactics are not the stuff of radical upstart documentary, nor is his behavior painfully obsequious or offensive. Compared to the nefarious means of insidious local land-wranglers like Kelly Gearheart, Dalidio is practically ready for beatification.

As the election season unofficially kicked off in early September, much of the Measure J opposition mistakenly began painting a drastically different picture spreading half-truths, confusing traffic theory with empirical data, and forming inappropriate ties with dubious special interests. The publicized follies of the various anti-Dalidio campaigning sadly proved as harmful to the argument against the project as completely unnecessary to it from the get-go.

It's a shame, because the lies tend to distract people from the honest and salient crux to this argument: SLO clearly said "no" to the development more than once, and Dalidio subsequently maneuvered dangerously and fairly childishly by placing the matter on the county ballot. This, good people, is a San Luis Obispo city issue.

But just to assure the deep-harrumphing county residents that this isn't just SLO being SLO, allow me to outline a few of the keynote objections:

Dalidio Ranch will rezone ag land, further obstructing the view of the morros and plopping a sewage-treatment facility in the middle of a neighborhood (ala Los Osos' Tri-W).

The development will impact the health of our award-winning downtown and harm surrounding local businesses. What might a Whole Foods mean for New Frontiers, or a Target for various small-clothing retailers? We can argue numbers all election season, but revenue will seep out of downtown to a significant extent.

The plan offers more in the way of window dressing than mitigation for the very palpable economic and viewshed impacts. These supposed "community amenities" include such items as a little organic farm, soccer fields, and a curious rerouting of the Bob Jones bike trail extension. Show me a bicyclist who would actually endorse that route, and I'll show you someone who's gone over his handlebars one too many times. Wasn't the point to connect the Bob Jones with the proposed Railroad Safety Trail?

Then, there's the borderline comical Monarch Viewing Area, where if they can get monarchs there we'll certainly have a place to view them.

Most importantly, however, the initiative itself fails to shackle the developer to his promises. Other than a $4 million deposit an un-guaranteed drop in an ever-deepening bucket the funding scheme for the Prado Road interchange never actually appears in black and white. Nor do the soccer fields. Nor does the certification for the organic farm. Promises like these too often sputter out when investors pressure on the bottom line, good intentions or not.

However, even these concerns while valid are also beside the point at this late inning in the game, as are the unfortunate balks of the "No on J" crowd. The real question, Skip, is what right do I, as a San Luis resident, have in dictating the future of a Super-Mega-Ultra Wal-Mart in Atascadero or any other development in any other city I don't live in? Going a step further, what dangers exist in taking planning choices out of the hands of not only municipal governments, but out of the municipal arena all together?

This groundbreaking attempt to defy the logical answers to these queries though devoid of contempt or villainous intent is reckless and irresponsible.

"God made a mistake," joked lambasted, Texas-based Dalidio Ranch investor Scott Dabney the first time I met him. "He put Austin in Texas and Bakersfield in California."

I liked Scott Dabney instantly.

However, Mr. Dabney, Ernie D., and your fellow investors, I still oppose your project, and so does the majority of San Luis Obispo.

That, gentlemen, should be the end of this discussion.

Staff writer Patrick M. Klemz thinks he might have just messed with Texas. Forward your lone-star rage to pklemz@newtimesslo.com.

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