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SLO City is employing an old-school, temporary land-grab to keep the Los Osos Valley Road widening project flowing

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THIS LAND IS OUR LAND :  The ARCO AM-PM gas station on Los Osos Valley Road, currently in escrow, felt the wrath of an anxious City Council—or maybe not. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • THIS LAND IS OUR LAND : The ARCO AM-PM gas station on Los Osos Valley Road, currently in escrow, felt the wrath of an anxious City Council—or maybe not.

The city of San Luis Obispo is dusting off an old tool rarely used these days: eminent domain.

But the issue may not be as contentious as one might expect—yet, anyway. For one thing, such a large step was hardly even debated by an often-divided City Council. And another, the new property owner hadn’t contested the move as of the meeting when the action took place, though the owner was noticed.

The temporary acquisition will complete a necessary step of the long-awaited Los Osos Valley Road/Highway 101 interchange project.

On July 16, the SLO City Council unanimously approved a “Resolution of Necessity” to acquire a temporary construction easement through eminent domain and authorize $50,000 to be spent on outside legal counsel, as well as the continued engineering and appraisal services.

Also authorized was the expenditure of $15,500 to compensate the owner of the property, the ARCO AM-PM gas station and food mart at 12424 Los Osos Valley Road.

The easement is needed for construction on a retaining wall running alongside Perfumo Creek for support of the south-bound off-ramp, as well as work on the property’s two driveways.

The property is currently in escrow, which is expected to close by the end of this month, according to City Manager Katie Lichtig.

The project, which the city has been working on with Caltrans since 2001, will eventually widen Los Osos Valley Road to four lanes at the Highway 101 interchange to alleviate the day-to-day congestion that has become the black eye of city planning. The project will also finally improve interchange off- and on-ramps and include 6-foot-wide sidewalks and 6-1/2-foot-wide bike lanes.

According to a city staff report, the city needs access to the easement by February 2014, based on the current project timeline. To accomplish that, it needs to begin the eminent domain process now, should negotiations with the owner not advance on their own.

Lichtig pointed out that the resolution doesn’t mean the situation can’t still be avoided through continued negotiation.

The owner of the property couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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