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2005-04-30
San Luis Obispo, CA. Voters Reject Target, Lowe’s Project

On April 26th, the voters of San Luis Obispo in a special election voted 51% to reject a big box superstore project, including a Target, Lowe's and an Old Navy. Voters rebuffed the so-called Dalidio Ranch Marketplace. There were actually three measures on the ballot, A, B and C, which would have changed city's comprehensive plan and its zoning code to pave the way for a 650,000-s.f. development. The final measure, C, was a development agreement between the city and Marketplace planners. The landowner has threatened to ask the county for approval, because his land was never annexed by the city. But for the voters of San Luis Obispo, the victory was also over their own city council, which had approved the massive retail plan despite vocal opposition to the scale of the project by area residents. Citizens were forced to gather signatures to place a referendum on the ballot to overturn the Council's decision. "This sends a clear message that San Luis Obispo is not interested in going the way of so many other California cities," a community organizer told The Tribune newspaper. "They don't want to sacrifice their downtown for projected sales tax revenue." The landowner, Ernie Dalidio, responded: "We are committed to building this. I haven't spent 13 years on this for nothing. We don't want to go to the county, but we plan on presenting them a project similar to this." The developer's plan in this case had a healthy dose of corporate welfare. The deal behind Measure C would have allowed the developer to build a highway overpass to the new superstores, and then get reimbursed by taxpayers by diverting sales tax revenues from the project to the developer, instead of to city coffers. In essence, the developer would simply front the money, while the taxpayers paid for a new road to the developer's front door. The mixed use Marketplace also had 60 housing units. The land in question is still part of the County.

What you can do: It's important to remember that voters in San Luis Obispo were voting on a retail development, and 51% of them did not want it. This was not a landfill, or a nuclear waste dump, this was three very well known retailers. Residents appropriately argued that the new stores and new roads needed would only detract from investments already made in the city's downtown. This is another case of the citizens having to lead their elected officials away from the edge of an economically ill-considered proposal. For the names of local activists in the San Luis Obispo struggle, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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