Mayor Heidi Harmon ran on a platform of increasing inclusive affordable housing and working towards proactive community engagement. She also wanted to make San Luis Obispo a more eco-friendly city and reduce homelessness in the city. Halfway through her term in office, these goals have manifested in various ways.
Connecting to the community
Harmon began a neighborhood walk program in June 2017, both as a way for residents to get to know their mayor and to encourage regular exercise. The walks also serve as an opportunity for people to bring up concerns and issues they may have with the city.
Harmon said she believes there is a core group of people who attend city council meetings and who will actively reach out to the mayor’s office to express concerns. The neighborhood walks provide a chance for her to hear different concerns and voices.
“I can tell you I have never had, that I can remember, someone coming to a council meeting and telling me about their concern about speed of traffic and traffic in general,” Harmon said. “But on every single neighborhood walk I’ve had, that’s been one of the number one concerns.”
Community engagement, and especially engagement with the Cal Poly community, is one of Harmon’s strong suits. Harmon has spoken at several on-campus events advocating for issues and causes she feels strongly about.
However, Harmon’s strong liberal stance on these issues worries some of the more conservative students on campus. These students said they are concerned that even if their voices are being heard they will not necessarily be taken into account.
“She’s so partisan that I’m not sure it really matters. I mean, theoretically, if you were very against the type of things she stands for, you could talk to her about it in one of these situations; but the idea of trying to build more of a community with her office is seriously subverted by the fact that she associates with such partisan groups,” construction management junior and Vice President of Cal Poly College Republicans Roberta Martin said.
Increasing affordable housing
One of Harmon’s goals during her term was to accomplish a four-point plan to create more affordable housing in San Luis Obispo. One of these points, the repeal of the Rental Housing Inspection Program (RHIP), was accomplished within the first couple months of her term.
The four points of her plan are as follows:
- Increase student housing on campus.
- Legalize tiny houses
- Making new developments housing by design
- Repeal the RHIP
“We’re very enthusiastic about Mayor Harmon and the job she’s done so far. And we look forward to supporting her for reelection in November,” economics senior and Cal Poly College Democrats President Sebastian Hamirani said. “Making sure housing developments that are coming into the city have a mixture of price ranges makes it so that people can bring their family to San Luis Obispo and take advantage of the opportunities here. Regardless of whether they have a low or high income.”
Progress toward sustainability
Aside from housing, the city has also taken more steps towards becoming more environmentally friendly. The City of San Luis Obispo hired the first sustainability coordinator in it’s history and has also worked toward eliminating single-use plastic cups and bottles from city property.
The city council also wants to end Columbus Day and instead celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day to make San Luis Obispo a welcoming city to all people regardless of documentation status.
In the second half of her term, aside from continuing to create more affordable housing, Harmon wishes to create effective solutions to homelessness.