April 4, 2024
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Our view: SLO invests in future by approving housing


These days, the headlines on the housing front are grim indeed.

The New York Times described Coastal California as being in the middle of a full blown crisis with average home prices crossing $500,000 and making much of the state out of reach for all but the wealthiest families.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not yet succeeded in putting pressure on coastal communities to meet their housing mandates. He’s getting push back from no-growth advocates and political conservatives who want to force communities to build, not subsidize them for following the law. It’s not clear how effective state measures will be and grass roots efforts like a recently formed working group out of California Lutheran University are in the earliest stages.

Fortunately, a few Central Coast cities are recognizing the need for workforce housing and stepping up to secure a better long-term future. One of them is San Luis Obispo, where a coalition of business and community leaders has been engaged in a dialog on workforce housing for more than a year.

Those efforts are forging a new consensus around housing and the result was that on July 18 the San Luis Obispo City Council approved San Luis Ranch, a 580-unit housing, office and hotel project just off Highway 101 near Madonna Road. Even more encouraging, the vote was 4-0 with one abstention.

Cynics will point out that this is the parcel that Ernie Dalidio tried unsuccessfully for years to develop in various iterations only to be rejected over and over again by the city’s political establishment. It could be argued that developer Gary Grossman has succeeded mainly by placing better political bets.

But he does have a strong design concept and a reputable team headed by RRM Design Group. The site still needs to be annexed into the city of San Luis Obispo, a prospect that also looks likely to sail through the approval process.

Also working its way through approvals is a larger, 700-plus unit housing project off Buckley Road near the southern edge of the city. That project will go through the city’s planning commission on Aug. 9.

San Luis Obispo has recognized that it needs to build housing for at least some of its new generation of technology workers, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has stepped up with ambitious plans to house its own faculty and staff.

That’s a lesson that other communities in our region should take to heart.


Old Spanish Days Fiesta, the event that celebrates the colonial history of the Central Coast, kicks off in Santa Barbara later this month. It is a week when the pace of business seems to slow down a little, when rivals can share a drink or a taco and when the past seems to seep into our iPhone-driven lives.

And we’ll take a few minutes to recognize Rhonda Ledson Henderson, this year’s La Presidente. Her day job is executive vice president of Radius Group, where she brings a wealth of experience in commercial real estate to her role.

She’s a fifth-generation Californian whose family set up a dairy farm in Rancho Los Osos during the very earliest days of commercial development on the Central Coast.

In her welcome to this year’s program, she encourages all of us to “step away from the complexities of modern life” and “enjoy a little of our inheritance from old California.”

Editor’s Note: Our July 14 editorial misspelled the name of the late Walter “Bud” Hartman, former owner of Taft Electric. Apologies to his family and friends.