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What you should know about The Marketplace

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During past weeks, SLO residents have been subjected to much misinformation regarding the Marketplace development. On April 26, SLO voters will decide whether this project moves ahead in its present form. Voters' decisions should be based on factual information. Therefore, I submit the following, supplemented by my observations and explanations:

Size The Marketplace proposes to construct 48.7 acres of general retail, which includes stores and required city parking. This is much smaller than the area we consider downtown. It is approximately the size of the two Madonna Road centers on the adjacent sites.

Traffic Upon completion The Marketplace is expected to generate 20,000 vehicle trips per day. Many of these are already shopping at the adjacent Madonna Road centers. Many other trips will be generated by city residents. But many will be generated by shoppers driving past SLO on Highway 101 on their way to North County or South County and Santa Maria. The Prado Road interchange will allow most shoppers direct access to the center (and adjacent Madonna Road centers) from 101 without having to use city streets.

The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) finding adopted by the City Council states: "Traffic circulation impacts will be reduced to less than significant under the Existing + Project Scenario with the implementation of mitigation measures identified in the EIR." The finding also states that the project will "improve city traffic circulation."

Open space The shopping center, roadways, and affordable housing will cover 68.2 acres of farmland. The development agreement calls for: "a) Developer will provide a conservation easement preserving 54.7 acres on-site in agriculture or open space, and b) Developer will pay up to $192,000 to preserve 24 off-site acres in open space."

The city is planning to use the $192,000 as our share to obtain federal and state open space grants to acquire a much larger acreage at the edge of the city. The 54.7 acres to be preserved on the Dalidio Farm are primarily along 101 to minimize changes in the views along the freeway.

Housing Even with open space, floodplain, and airport related limitations, The Marketplace will provide 60 affordable housing units. Most of the jobs created will be filled by students and will not create the need for additional housing.

The city has recently adopted the Margarita Area Specific Plan, which is located near Prado Road less than 1 mile from The Marketplace. The first 328-unit phase of a total of 868 homes is now under city development review.

The EIR finding adopted by the City Council states that Land Use (housing) impacts of The Marketplace will be mitigated to a "level of insignificance."

Prado Road interchange For many years the city has planned an interchange at Prado Road, but simply had no way to fund it until the Marketplace Project came before us and agreed to advance the funding. The Marketplace will generate 52.4 percent of the need for the interchange, and other nearby properties expected to develop in the near future will generate 17.7 percent. The Marketplace will advance this 70.1 percent as it builds the interchange, with the city responsible for 29.9 percent to be paid from traffic impact fees from other new development (not by general taxes).

The development agreement calls for the city to assist in payment of the bonds by contributing some of the new sales tax generated by the Marketplace. This payment is estimated at $750,000 per year when the project is built. I believe this is an excellent deal for the city since the developer has the basic obligation to pay off the bond backed by the value of the Dalidio Ranch. New development is paying for all the interchange cost, however most of the revenue will be generated by shoppers spending their money in SLO rather than in nearby cities.

Air quality The EIR finding adopted by the City Council states: "Mitigation strategies help to reduce project emissions to the degree feasible and ultimately put the air basin in closer compliance with established state and federal standards." Stated another way, as shopping trips from SLO to other communities are reduced, there will be fewer vehicle miles traveled and a subsequent improvement in air quality.

Downtown viability Based on a comprehensive study by the city's economic consultant, Allen Kotin, around 30 percent of The Marketplace revenues will come from existing business within the city. This will come primarily from large stores similar in nature to those proposed for the Marketplace. Kotin's study states: "In summary there should be relatively modest adverse impacts on downtown retailing resulting from the proposed San Luis Marketplace." In future years, all areas of the city will benefit as SLO regains its place as the regional shopping center of the county.

City revenues After sharing in the cost of the interchange, adjusting for transfers and the cost of city services to The Marketplace, city net revenues are conservatively estimated at $750,000 a year. These are tax revenues now going to other communities and will help our city continue to provide a high level of services to our residents.

Possible county approval When the Board of Supervisors allowed the city to reconsider The Marketplace in 2002 to "work with the applicant in good faith," the majority of the Board indicated that if the city could not stick to the agreement, the county would provide Mr. Dalidio a level of fair play and property rights. The county still has this project in a "pending" file.

If city voters turn down The Marketplace, I have no doubt the project will be returned to the county, which might well approve it with no city control. In recent years the supervisors have approved numerous projects with water and sewer solutions obtained on-site. As a civil engineer I am confident that both could be resolved on this project. If the supervisors approved this project all of the conditions carefully worked out by the city (open space, interchange, traffic mitigation, downtown protection, affordable housing, etc.) might easily be eliminated. And the city would lose $2.1 million a year in tax revenues.

Credibility of the City Council City Council members and city staff have been working through the Marketplace development review process for years with the assistance of multiple planning, economic and environmental studies, and reports. Our one objective was to produce a development that would meet the best interests of the city.

Final Council votes on The Marketplace were March 1. Those voting in favor were Ken Schwartz, John Ewan, and myself, Mayor Dave. Recently elected councilman Paul Brown, downtown businessman, has diligently studied Marketplace documents and is also a strong advocate.

We believe the city has crafted a wonderful project for our community. Please join us as we guide San Luis Obispo to become the very best city in California.

Vote yes on April 26. ³

 

Dave Romero is mayor of San Luis Obispo. He can be reached at dromero@romeroformayor.com.

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