Letter to School Board – Dian De Sha, 2/1/13

Date:  Feb 1, 2014

To:   SLCUSD, including the Superintendant, the School Board Chair, and Board Members

RE:   Johnson Avenue proposed housing development

(It would be helpful if this could be presented to the above-named addressees for their consideration prior to the Feb 4 board meeting.)

As a fairly recent immigrant to SLO (five years on Lizzie St., across from the entrance to the Adult School/District Administration offices), I am very concerned about this proposed development.  Although I realize that this is a matter that is not yet before the City Council for approval, I am perplexed and more than a little dismayed that so much time, effort, and money is being expended to investigate the potential development of so many apartments that will use Lizzie as their only access to Johnson Avenue and beyond.

It disturbs me that the SLCUSD has been spending its funds in this manner, and that the City is aiding them in this effort.  I understand that the original intent of the District was to create separate building lots.  This project is now being designated as affordable housing (which is needed and which I support, although not in this location), however, the City and County have empty land of their own further south on Johnson that would be very accessible, not far from this site, and a more reasonable choice.  I am certain that a private developer proposing a zone change and construction of seven three-story buildings and 89 apartments on this site would have received a swift denial, saving District and City staff time and taxpayer money.

This neighborhood is zoned R1/single family, and yet we already have many non-conforming multiple-dwelling units, and these lack sufficient off-street parking.  As a result, access to the residences and to the Adult School via Lizzie and Fixlini is always limited to a single narrow lane each direction.  To avoid school traffic jam on San Luis Drive, parents (one parent, one child, one car) come up Lizzie to drop their student at the Adult School to walk down to the High School; at the end of the day, the pattern reverses.  For years, the school buses have been unable to negotiate the right turn from Johnson onto Lizzie.  A school bus is smaller than the hook-and-ladder that would be required for a fire in the proposed multi-story structures.  We haven’t had a major fire near this neighborhood since the ’80s, but we are already at risk, especially under drought conditions; this project increases that risk and surely will increase our fire-insurance premiums as well.

The project consultants noted over a year ago that there are upwards of 900 vehicle trips a day on this street.  I have counted as many as 156 cars parked in the evening at the Adult School during the week.  Were we to have a major fire on a week night, these 156 cars already threaten to impact emergency access and orderly evacuation of the already existing neighborhood above Fixlini, whose only egress is Lizzie St.  Additional residential traffic from this project exiting via the Adult School driveway will further impact emergency responses for this neighborhood, and also for the Adult School and perhaps the High School below.  With Lizzie and Johnson clogged, the congestion would then quickly spread to French Hospital, and points south; north to the High School, San Luis Drive, California, Marsh, Monterey and beyond; and westerly to Nipomo and Buchon.

Congestion, already a problem, will become a daily nightmare.  In reading the District’s report, I see that cutting off student access to the Adult School parking lot is suggested as mitigation for the increased population from the project. Since pedestrian access to San Luis Drive from the project is included in the plan, I do not see that students will be deterred.  Just this last year, when the students were told not to park at the Adult School, they immediately moved to Lizzie and Wilding, parking up every space.  (Fortunately, the situation was resolved by restoring the students’ right to park at the Adult School.)

In reading the 800+ page report released before last Thursday’s disastrous session at the Adult School, I could find no mention of the impact of this project on Emergency Access to any residences above Fixlini or beyond California/San Luis Drive.  I cannot find any consideration of access to French Hospital being impacted.  While I understand that Station #3 can easily handle the project area, the project itself will negatively affect the ability of the Fire Department to assist those of us beyond the scope of the project.  I am certain that fire and other emergencies will happen again.  An emergency plan that guarantees ready access for fire and emergency equipment for this entire area must precede any further development.

According to the project consultants, the City stepped in to assist as the lead agency because a School District cannot plan housing, only educational facilities.  Why did the City step in for such a major shift of zoning and development?  Why is the City helping the District spend tens of thousands of dollars (regardless of funding source, it is all taxpayer money) to speculate on real estate development when education in the classroom is suffering?  After all, affordable housing is a State requirement for the City to meet, not for the District.  If the District wishes to raise money, this land should be sold to a private party who can then assume the financial risks of speculation and development. By taking charge as the lead agency, the City has added its muscle to propelling this specific project forward, and that seems to be an unseemly expenditure of City influence and resources on top of those funds expended by the District.

As a fairly recent resident, it would be hypocritical for me to demand that the status quo be maintained; however, I am protected by the current zoning. Allowing a zoning change to facilitate additional congestion on already overworked and overloaded streets will put current and future residents in danger.

My husband, a 41-year resident of this address, shares my deep concerns and joins me in asking:  Is there something we are missing here?

Thank you.

Dian De Sha & John Kerr
1545 Lizzie St.


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