Tuesday, July 25, 2006

off the train?

I had a chance to attend the 2007 San Luis Obispo City Economic Forecast Seminar the other day.

(It was pretty convenient for me to attend, since it was held right here at Grace. I love it!)

Perhaps you read the articles in the Tribune. (Click here!) The news was not quite so positive and upbeat as last year. UCSB Economic Forecaster, Bill Watkins, argued that SLO City had chosen to "get off the economic growth train" and, as a result, our economic growth pales in comparison to economic growth statewide and nationwide.

I thought his powerpont slide presentation told "the story" well. What's neat, is that Watkins posts his presentation online. Go and read the Watkin's perspective for yourself and then come back and share some thoughts.

2007 SLO City Economic Forecast


Kevin Heldt said...

Interesting how it was almost identical to the report for Goleta. The next 20 years should prove interesting for the Central Coast. (Some profound thoughts I know.)

Jeannett Gibson said...

I think there are a lot of factors Mr. Watkins is forgetting when he uses a variety of numbers/graphs, but doesn't ask the "whys". First of all, all of the slides discussing the number of housing units built in SLO vs. in other county cities is a silly one. I don't know how fair it is to compare a relatively fully developed urban city like SLO to Paso or even Morro Bay. SLO City is much smaller and has much less room for infill development than the other cities in the county. Part of the reason that housing isn't being built is because, short of annexing additional land (much of which has already been purchased and deeded as permanent open space) there isn't anywhere within existing city limits TO build. (By the way, annexing land for housing is ALWAYS far more costly to cities. The 1% property tax they get comes nowhere near the cost of police, fire, sewer, water, parks, etc.). Besides, good planning dictates that the further from a city center, the less dense housing should be (w/ density concentrated in the center). So, that wouldn't really solve any of the housing problems anyway. Another reason for the decline in housing units being built is simply the increased cost of well, everything. Dry wall has gone up 3xs in the last year, lumber 4xs. Bldg. permits for housing have gone down all across CA, not just SLO.

The issue of there being no tradable goods: where within city limits, is SLO supposed to be farming? Remember, we are talking City Limits, not just what you might think is SLO city. Land is so valuable right now, and basic supply/demand is dictating that. Sure a lot of SLO residents are retirees with no kids, but that's true of a lot of other bustling cities (think Carmel, the entire Santa Ynez Valley). Creating more workforce housing is a noble idea, but doesn't typically play out well in real life. People *know* which neighborhoods they are, and they become known as such, and subsequently (with enough time) become dilapidated. The "projects" in NY started as a great idea for lower income folks to have a place to live. Sadly, we all know the outcome on that one. (I know that's probably an extreme example, but it's true. NY thought they would be solving the poverty/homeless problem in one giant swoop...read about the projects, it's fascinating).

I don't mean to say that everything is perfect in SLO City. They do tend to be pretty parochial in their views and land use practices, but in some ways, they are constrained by simple geography and the free market. Just think we should all be careful whenever we see statistics to ask more questions. Just my 2 cents.

Wow, that was long.

Andy Gibson said...

Wow. Geez wife.

I'll agree with this: "I don't mean to say that everything is perfect in SLO City. They do tend to be pretty parochial in their views and land use practices...."

I wasn't going to post and stir the pot, but I think this is more than 50% the cause of why SLO got off the train. Unfortunately, because of that feeling, I'd prefer to live in Five Cities vs. SLO if we're given the opportunity to live further north than wonderful (read:sarcasm) Santa Maria. I love SLO still, but wouldn't prefer to live there. Ok, I said it, now fire back with some living in SLO positives. I'd like to hear it, as I have obviously been discouraged by the way SLO has handled itself in recent years regarding development, etc.