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2004-10-21
San Luis Obispo, CA. Residents Organize to Stop Huge Big Box Corporate Welfare Scheme

Citizens in San Luis Obispo, California, have organized to make sure the voters of their city have the final word on a huge tax giveaway to powerful big box sprawl developers. Here's their report: "San Luis Obispo, a university town of about 44,000, located at the southern end of Big Sur about ninety miles north of Santa Barbara, has a vibrant, successful Downtown which has won national prizes. The town has no air pollution and is surrounded by productive agricultural land. On July 6, 2004 the San Luis Obispo City Council voted in favor of a massively out of scale "Power Center" on prime agricultural land, complete with a new freeway interchange paid for by public funds. The 650,000 s.f. San Luis Marketplace was designed by Southern California developer Bill Bird and financed by Waco, Texas billionaire Scott Dabney. His financial partner, AIG Baker , has developed many sites for Wal-Mart and Home Depot. The developers say that Wal-Mart will not be a tenant, but the project is big enough to accommodate one. And, Wal-Mart sneaked into a neighboring city after that developer got vested property rights for a Target, then did a last minute switch to Wal-Mart, leaving the community with no recourse. We believe that could very well happen with the San Luis Marketplace.In response to Council's July 6th decision, outraged neighborhood advocates, environmentalists and Downtown business people formed an coalition called Save San Luis Obispo (SSLO) to mount a referendum to overturn it. The Council tried to make the decision "referendum proof" by segmenting the approval process into three separate parts each several weeks apart. But that did not stop SSLO. We just circulated three separate petitions and thousands of registered voters signed them. The first Petition has qualified for the ballot, and the other two Petitions are being verified by the City Clerk. The special election date could take place as early as mid February 2005. We are urging voters to reject the Marketplace for the following specific reasons: 1) The Marketplace threatens our Downtown the same way Wal-Mart has killed so many other great downtowns and small businesses. 2) Better sites which are not prime agricultural land exist for "big box" developments in the City. The best examples are on Los Osos Valley Road near U.S. 101, where vacant big box building sites have already been approved. 3) If the Marketplace is built, taxpayers will be ripped off by a City give-away of sales tax estimated to start at $750,000 each year for 30 years to Marketplace developer Bill Bird. This unprecedented windfall - totaling more than $20 million - sets a dangerous precedent with the City unfairly favoring new businesses. 4) The estimated cost of the Prado Road interchange road work has increased to $22 million - not the $12.5 million commonly reported - and the actual cost is likely to be even greater. Moreover, the City has agreed to write a blank check to cover all of the additional costs for work needed to prevent flooding or protect the environment due to the construction and operation of this overpass. Inexplicably, the Project’s EIR didn’t cover these impacts, so right now we can only guess at the nature and scope of the work for which the City will be paying. It is clear, however, that these uncontrolled costs could mean cutting police and fire protection, parks, youth sports and street repairs. 5) The County is unlikely to approve the Marketplace if the City doesn’t. A recent engineering study from a respected local firm showed that the County would require a massive septic system. This would force the Marketplace to scale back by more than half its originally proposed size. 6) The Marketplace will cause severe air pollution and traffic gridlock. Traffic generated by this massive project (more than 20,000 additional daily trips) will make driving through town miserable for everyone, force through-traffic into neighborhoods, and make some parts of our community nearly impenetrable.

What you can do: The organizers of this effort to stop big box sprawl urge readers to visit their (evolving) website at savesanluisobispo.org. They would appreciate any help you can give them. If you want to make a donation, please send a check and your name, occupation, employer, phone number and email address to: SAVE SAN LUIS OBISPO PO Box 4312, San Luis Obispo CA 93403-4312










 
 
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