Future development in San Luis Obispo is a key concern for the three candidates for mayor.
Incumbent Mayor Heidi Harmon is being challenged by Keith Gurnee and Donald Hedrick.
Gurnee decided to run after the city council approved the Anholm bike path, which will connect the Foothill Boulevard area to downtown SLO, right through Gurnee’s neighborhood.
“The council’s not listening and it’s time to step forward and do something right,” Gurnee said, noting his neighbors largely protested the bike path plans. “I think the priority for bike infrastructure are cattywompus. To put these bike lanes right down the throat of historic neighborhoods makes no sense to me.”
Gurnee, who markets himself as the first and only Cal Poly student elected to the SLO City Council, is challenging one of SLO’s biggest bike supporters.
“We still need to do more to make sure whether you’re driving, walking or riding your bike, you feel safe doing that,” Harmon said.
Transportation, along with affordable housing, top Harmon’s priority list.
“Density is one of the better ways to get people closer to work, closer to public transportation and more affordable accommodations, so you might see more density in downtown and I think it’s a decision we’re making as a community,” Harmon said.
But Gurnee is opposed, saying buildings six stories high and taller would “obliterate our character.”
Hedrick, running for mayor for the sixth time, also disagrees.
“I’m not against development so much, I’m against outsiders coming in and taking our town away from us,” Hedrick said.
Hedrick, who praised Pres. Trump and said his own attitude toward globalism makes him a “poor cousin” of the president, believes San Luis Obispo is being shaped by outside interests.
“I’d like to see our development being done by local efforts, local efforts with roots in our community,” he said.
Hedrick makes frequent appearances at city council meetings where he offers unique insights, like his position on extending last call.
“Let’s keep (bars) open all night, then people don’t even have to go home and if they don’t have to go home, they wouldn’t need a home,” Hedrick said. “We could be curing the homeless problem.”
Gurnee and Harmon rarely agree on how to best shape the city, but both noted that whoever takes on the position of mayor will have to address two main issues.
“The city is well over $150 million in liabilities from the pension bubble and they’re not paying it off quick enough and there’s a day of reckoning ahead for that,” Gurnee said.
Each candidate envisions a different set of solutions and vision for SLO’s future but voters will decide who represents what Oprah once called the “Happiest City in America.”
Mayor is a two-year term.