From giving pedestrians and bikers priority over cars to making high-crime areas of downtown safer, these decisions will have also have an impact on students — whether they’re involved in making them or not.
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A group of sustainability advocates, business interests and neighborhood activists have assembled to build a long-term plan for land use, resources, traffic, housing and other critical functions.
But the city task force is missing one group: students.
The 15-member committee is revising two elements of San Luis Obispo’s general plan, also known as its “blueprint for the future.” The first component is land use, which addresses the development of land for housing and building in the city. The second — circulation — concerns public and private transportation.
Neither have been updated since 1994.
These policy choices will “guide decisions into the future,” said Kim Murry, deputy director of community development.
From giving pedestrians and bikers priority over cars to making high-crime areas of downtown safer, these decisions will have an impact on students, whether they’re involved in making them or not.
In addition to these two areas, the task force reviews “opportunity sites,” or possible places for expansion. One of these is the former Pacheco Elementary School near campus on Grand Avenue.
Murry said the task force began looking into converting that site into housing “consistent with surrounding area.”
Students from Cuesta College and Cal Poly make up the majority of the current residents.
While this could have been welcome news to students searching for affordable housing, the possibility was dismissed.
“The people living around that site had some serious concerns,” Murry said regarding the combination of the housing expansion and the 1500-person new residence hall Cal Poly has tentatively planned for 2018.
“They came out and said, ‘We think this a bad idea. Please don’t do this,’” Murry said.
The task force will strongly influence San Luis Obispo’s future, especially with decisions about land use.
“It’s really, really powerful to participate in the community meetings, because there’s a group of folks that really have the time and the energy to participate, and sometimes we don’t hear the voices of Cal Poly students,” Murry said.
No one on the task force is an “official” university representative, although one of the members, Hemelata Dandekar, is a city and regional planning professor. Stephan Lamb, former associate director of Student Life and Leadership at Cal Poly, was on the panel but resigned.
According to Murry, the members weren’t chosen to represent various demographics. The city didn’t seek stakeholders — they just wanted people “who have an interest and a passion for this sort of thing” to apply.
Cal Poly students, who might not have known a task force was being assembled, have so far missed out on an opportunity to shape their city.
“I would say it’s not as great as a range in demographics,” Murry said. “The youngest member is probably 30 and the oldest is into retirement.”
The planning stage, however, is only halfway done. There are weekly meetings, open to the public, where citizens can provide input on the group’s progress and ideas.
The most recent meeting was Thursday in City Hall.
There are also public workshops, where people comment on projects like the Pacheco school housing conversion. A date for the next workshop has yet to be announced.