In the short time I have been mayor, I am proud of what the community and current San Luis Obispo City Council have accomplished on the issues that residents care about most.
We've created more affordability and inclusivity, we've led San Luis Obispo to be the national leader on our carbon neutrality goal, we've expanded our infrastructure for more choices in transportation, added to our beautiful open space, and taken on the dual challenges of Diablo Canyon Power Plant's closure and our pensions seriously. We've done all of this with your help. Being out in the community every day, learning about your ideas, has been the engine that has fueled our progress. It's the people of San Luis Obispo that make this place special. Building relationships with a wide swath of this community is the key to creating the best policies we can.
In a very divisive time, we want San Luis Obispo to be part of the solution—not part of the problem. We don't want to let fear and division win the day. We don't want a politics of exclusion and negativity. We need a politics of belonging. A politics of inclusion. A politics of engagement. It's easy to say no. It takes this community coming together to do the heavy lifting of democracy to get us to yes.
We have gotten to yes—and there is more work to do. Here's a recap of what we've done, and where I intend to lead us in the next two years:
Housing—what we've accomplished:
With my full-fledged support, this council has approved environmentally friendly projects that will yield increased housing opportunities for working people, families, and lower-income residents—all while staying well under our 1 percent growth cap.
We negotiated with developers to fund $70 million in infrastructure improvements and required more affordable housing.
We have ensured these projects give priority to local workers so that these homes stay locally owned.
We have ensured that residents can afford these homes by having down-payment assistance, maximizing deed-restricted affordable units, and offering similar programs.
We have consistently urged Cal Poly to build more student housing as quickly as possible, and house more of their students in a meaningful way so that our neighborhoods can accommodate more permanent residents.
What we'll accomplish next:
Listen carefully to residents for innovative ways to solve difficult challenges, such as upgrading our roads where needed, traffic impacts, and improving parking and issues that directly impact our neighborhoods.
Advocate for more affordable housing for families, seniors on fixed incomes, and young professionals.
Collaborate with neighboring cities and regional institutions to address our challenges on issues such as water security, homelessness, more head-of-household jobs, tourism, and improving traffic flow.
Environmental stewardship—what we've accomplished:
We have moved forward with major upgrades to our Water Resource Recovery Facility, requiring local workers on the project, and developed one of the best water portfolios in the state in the face of drought and climate change.
We have approved the acquisition of additional open space, growing one of our community's most important environmental assets, our green belt.
We have committed to becoming a net zero city, with the most ambitious goal in the United States so that our next generation can experience the SLO we cherish.
We've led the effort for Community Choice Energy so we can have a choice of energy sources that will spur innovation, access to more clean energy, and economic benefits.
What we'll accomplish next:
Expand our planning efforts to ensure we continue to have the water we need for future generations.
Preserve and expand our beautiful open space.
Continue to transition to a net zero city.
Increase transportation options so that our city has choices for all residents, whether they drive, bike, or walk.
Financial responsibility, local jobs—what we've accomplished:
In my term, we have adopted a fiscal responsibility plan that has resulted in an increase in paying down our unfunded pension liabilities and created a longer-term plan to address the problem.
I led the effort to keep our jobs local by requiring contractors on a major infrastructure project to hire local workers first.
What we'll accomplish next:
Address the impacts and opportunities of the Diablo Canyon transition.
Further pay down our city's unfunded pension liabilities while keeping SLO a full-service city.
Create more of head-of-household jobs.
I am proud of these accomplishments, and I am equally proud of how we reached our decisions: We did it by listening carefully to residents, eager to leverage the constructive power of an active and respectful community dialogue.
For example: When San Luis Drive residents expressed concerns over potential height increases in downtown, the council, staff, and the neighborhood worked together to pass an ordinance to lower the heights on upper Monterey.
Likewise, when the community spoke out against potential expansions to height allowances, we as a City Council listened and directed the Planning Commission to take another look.
I believe our city is on the right track. But you don't have to take my word for it, you can take the word of fellow voters. According to a recent public opinion survey commissioned by the SLO Chamber of Commerce, SLO voters by a wide margin believe city government is "headed in the right direction."
This survey reinforces my strong belief that if we work together and are willing to compromise, we can make our city a wonderful place for everyone to live, work, study, and play. As we consider our city's very real challenges on housing, the environment, and our finances, it is my goal to make sure that we are only adding to the San Luis Obispo experience, not taking anything away.
Join me in continuing to be a positive, constructive, solution-oriented city. I'm asking for your vote to continue to be your mayor and your voice, for your San Luis Obispo.
Heidi Harmon is the current mayor of San Luis Obispo and is running for another term. Send comments through the editor ator write a letter for publication and send it to .