SLO City News

Looking Back at 2017

San Luis Obispo had a news-filled 2017 and the SLO City News was busy covering the major stories for our readers. Here’s a recap of the top stories we covered in 2017.

January

17Rose Parade6- The Cal Poly Universities Rose Float, A New Leaf, makes its way down Colorado Blvd in Pasadena during the 2017 Rose Parade January 2, 2017.

The last San Luis Obispo City Council had instructed staffers to come back with some info leading to an ordinance prepared to reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles in the City in 2016. On Jan. 3 they held a study session to address the matter. A lot happened the previous  year and staff ended up needing to shuffle some more pressing matters and asking for a little more guidance in the intervening months. It took them another 10 to resolve the issue.

Initial estimates for the Women’s March around Downtown San Luis Obispo on Jan. 21 were for 5,000 participants, and organizers, City staff and law enforcement agencies from all over the County made plans accordingly. As the date of President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration approached, interest in the Women’s March on Washington, and the more than 600-partner events worldwide, grew. The list of would be marchers in SLO climbed from 7,000 people, the number used in official City estimates, to 8,000 signed up. The SLO Women’s March was roughly equivalent to, if not 1,000 people larger than, the nearest similar event in Santa Barbara.

The “Alt-Right” movement leader Milo Yiannopoulos drew a crowd of around 500 at the Cal Poly University’s Spanos Theatre as a stop on his “Dangerous Faggot” tour.  The last item, coupled with protesters burning the Confederate Stars and Bars along with a Nazi Swastika flag, saw an overwhelming law enforcement preparation for an underwhelming number of protesters set the stage for a week of local headlines. The comedian W. Kamau Bell entertained an audience of 1,200 at the Cal Poly PAC with his show, “The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in about an Hour.” A year later and racism is still very much on the public stage, but Yiannopoulos is not. He came under fire later in the year for remarks seen to endorse pedofilla.

 

February

A proposed public art installation to commemorate the 1903 visit by President Theodore Roosevelt to SLO gained a little bit more life. For anyone who wasn’t around 115 years ago, it was one of two visits paid to SLO by a U.S. President. He came to town on the train, as part of his “Great Loop” through the Western U.S., no small feat in those days. Long time Central Coast local, and sculptor, Paula Zima returned to SLO from her new home in New Mexico, bringing with her a miniature of the bronze Roosevelt proposed for Mitchell Park. She displayed the materials during an event Sunday at the SLO Senior Center, adjoining the park. Ironically, as one of Pres. Roosevelt’s lasting contributions to pop culture, include the “Teddy Bear,” Zima’s other local public works also include bears, two Bridge Bears grace the entrances to  Los Osos.

A joint proposal concerning the future of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant continued its path through the State’s review process.  Reviews and replies to written responses on the agreement were submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for consideration. Under the established review schedule, groups participating had until Jan. 27 to submit responses to the CPUC. PG&E and the joint proposal parties will replied by March 17. Designed to phase out PG&E’s production of nuclear power in California by 2025, the agreement hit a roadblock before the end of the year with a CPUC Judge declaring it unfair to PG&E ratepayers.

Two San Luis Obispo based tech companies officially joined forces, to the surprise of no one who has seen the teams working together over the last two decades. Digital West Networks Inc. acquired Norcast Telecom Networks in November 2016 but made the official announcement in late January. The companies are merging offices in the first week of February. The acquisition forms what Digital West’s staff are calling, “the Central Coast’s single largest business infrastructure provider.” Each company had roughly 30 employees and a range of local commercial customers of all sizes as well as some foreign data service clients. Tim Williams remains CEO of the newly integrated company with Jeff Buckingham becoming the president and Chief Client Officer. The pair split private ownership in the firm with Buckingham as the minority partner.

March 

Some unpleasant news, that at least some members of the public knew was coming, emerged with the City of San Luis Obispo’s 2016-17 Mid-Year Budget Review and their General Fund Five Year Forecast. The forecast projects a structural budget shortfall of over $5 million by 2021-22, in part, City staff reports, due to lower than projected tax revenues, but largely as a result of the City pension costs scheduled to increase from $10.7 million in the current fiscal year to $19.1 million over the next five years. It is also something the City’s new City Manager has begun to face for 2018, but that’s breaking the timeline.

The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission held eight hearings in 2016 to consider the application by Phillips 66 to build a rail depot for up to 150 tanker car trains through the county each year. On March 13 and 14 the  Board of Supervisors was called upon for an appeal hearing of the Planning Commission’s 3-2 denial of that plan, and many of the same local residents, anti-oil protestors and elected officials from the rail corridor North and South, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose came out to repeat their concerns. This time the BOS voted 3-1, to uphold their Planning Commission’s decision.

April

The San Luis Obispo City Council went into a closed-door meeting the morning of April 10, to discuss, among other things, a Public Employee Performance Evaluation of City Manager Katie Lichtig and “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release Pursuant to Government Code § 54957(b)(1).” Also on the proverbial chopping block was SLO City Fire Chief Garret Olson, although a hearing regarding his future with the City was carried out separately with Public Works Director Daryl Grigsby, as the Acting Appointing Authority for similar disciplinary proceedings. At issue were formal complaints filed against the pair by members of the SLO City Fire Department alleging violations of the City’s policies against sexual harassment and conduct unbecoming officials of their station.

San Luis Obispo County, the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA), Oasis Design Associates and San Luis Garbage held a groundbreaking for a “Kompogas” Anaerobic Digestion Plant. The facility will turn organic waste into energy and has been slated for the site on Santa Fe Road for almost 2 years, with a minor delay in approval coming after an appeal from nearby property owners in August 2016. The SLO County Board of Supervisors, the members of which also sit on the IWMA board, unanimously approved the plant. In preparation for the project, last year IWMA instituted changes to the way they handle food waste versus other trash. A food scrap pail was distributed to more than 50,000 County residents, with the contents to be added to green waste pick up and sorted out of the normal land-fill waste stream.

SLO County’s new Women’s Jail got a grand unveiling March 27 and started housing female inmates that week. County Sheriff Ian Parkinson invited local media to a preview tour of the nearly $41 million, expanded and modern hoosegow. With locks that cost about $1,000 each, and an increased jail population after the statewide “realignment” that sent low level offenders to County lock up to serve their sentences, the department was at pains  to cut some costs wherever possible in other amenities.

May

Progress on a decades old community dream to connect the City of San Luis Obispo’s bike route network to the Avila Beach Bob Jones Trail – and by extension to bike corridors in Shell Beach and Pismo Beach  – got a bit closer May 9. Over the last several years that progress has been measured in bureaucratic hurdles overcome inside County government; but a major physical link at the border of the City of San Luis Obispo was finished in 2014 with a City-to-Sea Bike Trail extension. That project installed a bridge completing the Class 1 bikeway from Prado Road and the Water Resource Reclamation Facility to Los Osos Valley Road and with the addition of repainted bike lanes at the LOVR/ Highway 101 interchange last year the links are in place for City commuters. On Feb. 24, 2015 the SLO County Board of Supervisors gave the green light for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the 4.5-mile extension from the Octagon Barn to the Ontario Road parking lot and trail header to Avila Beach. However, at the Board of Supervisors May 9, 2017 meeting they were able to loosen up some funds from an unexpected source, $317,700 from the separate and postponed Avila-to-Harford Pier Pathway. Shaun Cooper, Senior Park Planner with the County explained that the Avila to Hartford project isn’t dead, but there are extra issues, especially regarding parking in the area that have set it back.

One of the advantages of a small town is getting to know people. Even in a small town, one of the last people most folks want to have an up close and personal encounter with are the Police. “We don’t always have the most favorable interactions on the job,” said SLO PD Lt. Bill Proll diplomatically as the Police Lieutenant, a 30 year veteran of the force, launched a new program, “Coffee with a Cop” on May 12.  He hung out for several hours at the Blackhorse Espresso & Bakery on Los Osos Valley Road to enact the  public outreach formula made popular in other cities. To blast one stereotype out of the water, Lt. Proll did not have doughnuts with his coffee.  Cuisine and personal biography weren’t the type of questions on the minds of citizens that gathered at the table however.

June 

A rental inspection program that was a feather in the cap for outgoing members of the previous SLO City Council in December 2016, was officially repealed by their successors April 20, a month after being served with a petition signed by 15 percent of the SLO electorate.

That petition, containing language for a repeal and replace ordinance, is the cause of a planned Aug. 22 special election, with only one item, set to cost the City some $160,000 to carry out. After some debate over wording on May 16, the approved ballot question was set to ask: “Shall an ordinance be adopted to replace former Chapter 15.10 of the San Luis Obispo Municipal Code, entitled ‘Rental Housing Inspection’ (repealed by City Council Ordinance 1632, effective April 20, 2017), with new Chapter 15.10 to be entitled ‘Non- Discrimination in Housing?’” Even the slight change in wording from the original initiative, which emphasized that it was to repeal the ordinance, drew condemnation from long time thorns in the side of City Government, SLO-based attorney, Stew Jenkins, and political activist and resident, Kevin Rice.  Backers of that petition would later lose at the ballot box.

“The County Health Agency’s Drug and Alcohol Services should resume its concentrated efforts to develop a residential detox service in the County to serve its Medi-Cal and less financially able citizens,” stated recommendation #1 of the San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury 2016-2017 Report on Detox Services. According to the report, dealing with services available to people trying to get off drugs in the area, not much had improved in the last four years. In July 2014 SLO County Drug and Alcohol Services started a new program to help alcoholics and those in withdrawal from methamphetamines to detox. “The medical consequences of alcohol detox are quite risky for long term users,” Jeff Hamm, SLO County Health Agency director told the SLO City News at the time. “People don’t understand the importance of clinical intervention. ‘Cold Turkey’ is not easy.”

City of San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon started visiting the various neighborhood districts of the City on a touring schedule of walks with residents. Aside from hearing the concerns of her traveling companions for the hour, she said she was also hoping to promote exercise generally. Tthe first taking place June 13 in the South Broad Street Corridor, the portion of Highway 227 under the City’s purview. Their residents told her, to paraphrase their colorful alliteration, that it was a death sentence to attempt to cross the street at the wrong time of day.

July

While the Ringling Bros. Circus has taken down its big top for the last time, Circus Vargas is still going strong. The traveling show hoisted its tents on Madonna Rd. SLO in June. Now in its forty-fifth year of entertaining, the roving band of entertainers has managed to increase ticket sales while others flounder in this age of handheld screens and embattled activism. Katya Quiroga who produces and co-owns Circus Vargas with her husband, Nelson, said that the news of Ringling Bros. was a heartfelt loss. “We were shocked and disappointed,” said Katya, “I think when a part of the circus industry goes down and a part of the Americana culture ‘disappears,’ it hurts everybody… I think it’s a great loss for the American people, because [they] don’t get to experience this type of wholesome family entertainment as much anymore.”

On July 13 the unique unicycle juggling pair Mark Wilder and Jonathan Nowaczyk made their debut on the national stage on ABC’s re-rebooted Gong Show. And on July 20 mechanical engineer and musician Doug Groshart popped up on ABC’s long running favorite Jeopardy.  With the Central Coast’s proximity to Los Angeles production studios, familiar faces have been known to pop up from time to time, usually on CBS’s daytime game shows. This group though required a degree of specialized skills, knowledge and intrepidity. Interestingly enough this crop are all performers in their own rights.  Fresh off the prerecorded television performance, they were already a presence at the California Mid-State Fair by the time ratings came in.

In the midst of a review of their deal to Close Diablo Canyon, PG&E announced that Edward (Ed) D. Halpin a Senior Vice President and their Chief Nuclear Officer (CNO) would retire at the end of the 2017. Halpin, a 35-year veteran of the energy industry, gave notice of his intention to retire effective December 31. The company’s announcement said it gave them, ”appropriate time to ensure an effective transition period.” “Ed has done an outstanding job leading our nuclear and power generation operations and helping us provide customers with one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the nation,” said PG&E Corporation Chief Executive Officer and President Geisha Williams.

The bell at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa sounded off time for services, weddings and funerals. On July 1, with a speaker’s podium set on the Mission steps, the more than 100 people gathered in the plaza below were well aware of the fleeting passage of time. Attendees at the ‘Rally to Save Carrizo Plain National Monument’ knew they only had until July 10 for their voices to be officially heard by the Trump administration’s Department of the Interior Secreatary Ryan Zinke.

Marcus Carloni had already been with the City of San Luis Obispo for seven years, but unless members of the public are watching City Council and Planning Commission meetings like a hawk, they may not have seen his work. On June 20, his new role with the City got a very public launch on the steps of City Hall with speeches from Mayor Heidi Harmon and Councilwoman Andy Pease introducing the concept of Net Zero Energy Day on the summer solstice and Carloni as the City’s new Sustainability Coordinator.

August

The City of San Luis Obispo bumped up their interim finance director to a permanent position reporting to the City Manager, but that top job wouldn’t be Katie Lichtig’s much longer. Xenia Bradford was appointed to the permanent finance director position announced July 26 with a salary of $138,502 a year to manage a department-operating budget of $2.2 million. Lichtig announced that she would be leaving the City of SLO effective Sept. 28 to begin a new role as Chief Operating Officer/Assistant City Manager in Santa Monica.

San Luis Obispo Police sought a suspected prowler who might also be a thief. According to Lt. Bill Proll on Aug. 11 police were given a surveillance video from a front porch camera of a home in the area of San Luis Drive and Upper Monterey Street. “The suspect in the video walks up to the front door at 3:45 a.m.,” Lt. Proll said, “and uses his cell phone light to look around. The suspect is only on the porch for a few seconds and then he leaves the residence. The suspect is described as a white male in his 20s wearing a T-shirt with what looks to be a panda on it. He is also carrying a backpack.”

If supporters of the Carrizo Plains National Monument thought they might be able to breath a sigh of relief after making their voices heard last month, Violet Cavanaugh, vice-chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribe, has something to say. “The entire Antiquities Act, which governs monuments and preservation, is what’s really under attack,” she told a SLO City News reporter. “It’s so much more than Carrizo; they [the Trump Administration] want to log the Sequoias, to frack public lands, to open the shoreline to drilling. Right now, we’re fighting back to hold onto the protections we already have.” Cavanaugh, and both former and current local Congressional Representatives were featured speakers at a rally in SLO’s Mission Plaza, with attendees sending postcards and other comments to the Secretary of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

San Luis Obispo County updated its official website, making it more user-friendly while spending less than half of the money County Supervisors budgeted for the work. The brand new website, see: www. slocounty.ca.gov, is the product of months of work by more than 100 County employees who worked to update the website’s content, design and structure.  County Communications Analyst, Whitney Szentesi said, “This is part of our effort to put the people we serve first. The citizens of San Luis Obispo County have told us that they want to access public information and conduct business with the County online in a simple and intuitive way. This updated website will boost self-service, citizen engagement and transparency, while also enhancing County operations.”

About 1,000 people attended the Outshine The Darkness peaceful candlelight vigil and a rally in Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo. The event was to show solidarity with Charlottesville, Va. and the recent act of domestic terrorism where one person was killed and more than a dozen injured when a vehicle plowed into a crowd of people protesting white nationalists and neo-Nazis marching. The event raised $5,925 for Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, the C-ville Victim Relief Fund, and Congregation Beth Israel.

September

A touching memorial service took place at SLO’s Fire Station #1 on Sept. 11 dedicated to those who lost their lives as a result of three coordinated terrorist acts some 16 years ago. As is becoming traditional since the dedication of the permanent monument at the firehouse, the service culminated in a rose ceremony in which members of the community placed white roses on an I-beam salvaged from the World Trade Center wreckage. In the years that the steel has been exposed to the elements in SLO, rust has streaked the concrete display platform, but the wear of time is not as obvious as the marks left on it the day that it fell back to Earth. The permanent memorial around the 1,500-pound beam consists of 403 metal posts in a semi-circle both red and blue, representing the 403 emergency workers who died in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. A special guest at this year’s event was Robert Booth, a volunteer fire fighter who was at ground zero in the aftermath of the attack and has kept his FDNY hat from that day with him all these years. His group was credited with finding some 10 people in the rubble. The ceremony featured bagpipes, student singers from San Luis Coastal Unified School District, artwork by 5th graders, and the reading of a poem that won an 8th-grade writing contest.

With the City of SLO committed to building inward and upward to address needs for housing and new office space, the administrative folks over at Cal Trans District 5 were happy to have their relatively new building on South Higuera Street lauded as an example of desirable redevelopment. On Aug. 30 they held a, “LEED Celebration and Tour” of the Midway Building at 22885 S. Higuera St. Disregarding for a moment the Pacific island theme, the spot was so named because it is the shiny new-looking building halfway between their other SLO yards. It also houses the employees moved over from the Atoll Business Center on Laurel Lane. The new facility was recently certified as Gold under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The points based system was devised by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to, “evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage market transformation towards sustainable design.”

Local nonprofit organization Bike SLO County got their hands on 30-brand new kids’ bikes during a Bike-Build-a-Thon, August 23. Trek Bicycle and local bike shop Foothill Cyclery assembled the fleet for a  ribbon cutting ceremony, with the bikes set to be used to teach bike safety and skills to elementary school children throughout SLO County, including students at three elementary schools which have been identified as serving disadvantaged communities: Oceano Elementary, Nipomo Elementary and Lillian Larsen Elementary in San Miguel. These three schools were identified in SLO Regional Ridehare’s On-Bike Education Grant funded by the Caltrans Active Transportation Program Cycle 2. “Bike SLO County is the implementing contractor for SLO Regional Rideshare’s Safe Routes to School program to provide inclusive classroom and on-bike safety and skills education to elementary school children throughout SLO County over a three-year pilot program” said Bike SLO County Executive Director Mike Bennett in a news release.

City of SLO City Manager Katie Lichtig departed San Luis Obispo after eight years.  California’s particular brand of chartered city offers a unique blend of mayors independently elected from the rest of their council, and of city managers that have tremendous power to shape events but which serve at the will of the entire elected body. That’s a tad different from other areas of government, in which a permanent staff may serve removed from direct appointments, or more at the pleasure of a single elected official as their own representative in the cogs of bureaucracy.  Lichtig set the stage for her replacement Derrick Johnson having groomed him for the role over the last two years.

October

San Luis Obispo police took special note of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, donning pink badges throughout the month of October. The gesture was in support of breast cancer survivors and breast cancer support organizations, according to a news release from the SLO Police Officers Association (SLOPOA). Police also awarded three honorary “Survivor Badges” to local cancer survivors, and sold lapel pins to raise money for breast cancer support groups.

On Oct. 8, the SLO  City Farm held it’s first Annual Fall Harvest Festival at the Calle Joaquin Agricultural Reserve. Off the beaten path at 1221 Calle Joaquin in SLO, behind the Madonna Shopping Center, the farm has been managed by the nonprofi t Central Coast Grown [CCG] for the last three years. But, it has taken them awhile to smooth out the property’s rough edges and get programs in place. Steven Marx, CCG Board President, explains that’ve had a lot of, “trial and error at the farm and in the organization,” in the time since signing a 20 year lease with the City, but they’re now in a position to “welcome the public out to their own land.” Educational programs have been ongoing with gardens and co-operative classes from nearby Pacific Beach Continuation High School. As well there was a grand opening celebration and fair at the site three years ago. In general though, Marx said, members of the public haven’t been out at the farm on a daily basis.

Seven Sisters Brewing held it’s Grand Opening with owner and brewer Steven Van Middlesworth doubling as a balloon artist to set the atmosphere in the child and dog friendly hangout. In the complex of businesses behind Trader Joe’s and Food-For-Less, off Tank Farm Road, the new brewery took several months to open after renovations and permit wrangling with the City of SLO. That’s work Middlesworth handled largely by himself. They’ve blended some naturalistic elements into the industrial building that used to house a furniture store and have themed most of their offerings off of the Seven Sister “Morros” stretching out to sea. Those are also artistically represented in an wall-long mural dominating the tasting room interior. Due to building occupancy constraints, hours heading into 2018 will be  5 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Tuesday-Friday and 2 p.m. -10 p.m. on weekends.

At the bottom of the world, about 850 miles from the South Pole, a group of scientists used to the temperate Mediterranean climate of the Central Coast kept warm at their research base. Team B-030, a collection of scientists with, according to their own description, “a passion for understanding how animals survive in the environments in which they live,” are about a month into their stay, depending on delays. When the SLO City News reached Cal Poly Biology Professor Heather Liwanag, the team’s principal investigator, on Oct. 9 they were still assembling team members and getting ready to spend 10 weeks focusing their lives around a group of Weddell seal pups. Liwanag took some of her down time for an e-mail postcard and Q&A from McMurdo Station, the primary U.S. run research base and largest population center on the continent, established in 1956.

Derek Johnson had been on the job barely 10 days as the City of SLO’s new city manager when he sat down for half an hour to discuss what he’s planning to do about the City’s $148 million public employee pension debt.While the first meeting between a newly appointed City leader and a local journalist usually focuses more on goals that led one to apply for the job, or a little taste of personality for the public, the rising pension costs that had loomed in some corner of public consciousness for several years now took on the aura of a crisis with the start of the month.

November

A somewhat contrite County budget office admitted to making a nearly $10 million mistake in the 2017-18 County revenue projections that take the budget from black to red ink. County officials said instead of an estimated $3 million to $5 million surplus their new fi gures estimate a $2.8 million to $4.8 million deficit in FY 2018-19; at the worst case scenario, that means a $9.8 million difference. The fallout and other options will be explored in the new year, along with a myriad of marijuana tax related items.

The long long time on the first story to kick off 2016 came to fruition in November. Visitors and residents in the City of SLO now have only until March 2018 to blissfully ignore the status of plastic drinking straws inside or outside their restaurant provided beverages or to get a plastic bottle of water at the Thursday Farmers Market. On Nov. 7 the City Council gave final unanimous passage to a pair of ordinances designed to cut down on the City’ plastic waste footprint. Council and staff justified branching out for another set of product regulations  – a follow up to a ban on sale of expanded polystyrene – under the auspices of their Climate Action Major City Goal for 2017-19. While certainly an environmentally minded approach, it remains unclear how encouraging patrons at dine-in establishments not to get a plastic straw, or restricting water bottle sales on City property and sponsored events will impact carbon emissions.

The grand re-opening of Sinsheimer Park Playground brought out the child in kids and adults alike as a couple of council members and city manager took their turns sliding down one of the features of the $1.1 million park renovation. City officials helped community members celebrate with a ribbon cutting and hot dogs, giving thanks to the men and women who made it happen, including the tax payers of San Luis Obispo.

The Cal Poly Loggers won first place at the Cal Conclave collegiate logging competition held at Cal Poly Nov. 4. Bioresource and agricultural engineering junior Will Kraemer emerged as the top male competitor, winning the title “Bull of the Woods.” Intercollegiate teams of coed students regularly take part in the events, which test traditional forestry field skills. For the Cal Conclave, Humboldt State University, UC Berkeley and Northern Arizona University sent their “Jacks and Jills” to the Central Coast. Events included tree climbing, power saw work, single and double buck with cross cut saws, and an obstacle pole.

Drivers on Los Osos Valley and Madonna roads got some relief from the construction delays and lane closures, at least during the day, as work on the multi-million dollar maintenance project shifted to nights. Work on the repaving of two of SLO’s busiest roads is 80-percent completed, and the City announced that work will shift to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the next few weeks, as 4-month project wraps up. It was expected to be done sometime in mid-November, according to a City news release. The project is repaving and sealing LOVR between Calle Joaquin and the outer western City Limits and repaving and sealing Madonna Road from LOVR and the Hwy 101 overpass.

December

As 2017 draws to a close, the New Year will usher in new rules regarding recreational use of cannabis and an expanded, industrialized production of medical marijuana throughout San Luis Obispo County. For much of the past year, communities throughout the county have been preparing for these changes and weighing their own regulations to govern how, when and where cannabis will take a more prominent space in the marketplace. Like the microclimates that define the local weather, the emerging cannabis industry is taking shape differently in each region of the county.

San Luis Obispo City Council voted to move forward with the city participating in a “Community Choice Energy” or CCE Program, to further help residents and businesses combat climate change. A CCE Program “could enable investments in new, renewable energy projects to reduce green house gas emissions,” reads a news release from the City. The program is a new way for people to buy energy that comes from climate-friendly sources, like hydroelectric, solar and wind, through the City Administration.

A new count, conducted last January, showed the number of homeless people in San Luis Obispo County had dropped, and the County is claiming that shows its efforts to combat homelessness are working, despite the lack of available, let alone affordable housing continuing to grow. SLO County’s homeless population dropped by 26 percent, according to the County, since the last census completed in 2015. Also, the number of homeless military veterans dropped by 38 percent over the same time period, according to the “2017 Homeless Census Survey and Report.”

Philanthropist, B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., pledged to match all donations made to the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County now through Dec. 31, up to $20,000 the agency announced. “The Hughes Charitable Foundation is pleased to provide matching funds that will feed hungry families in SLO County,” said Molly Cooney, executive director of the Hughes Charitable Foundation. “It is the Hughes Charitable Foundation’s hope that this gift will encourage others in the community to give and multiply their impact on the lives of locals in need.”

An early morning vehicle crash in San Luis Obispo sparked a house fire that left three Cal Poly students homeless. The female driver of a bakery van reportedly fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a building. Power lines fell, creating a blaze in a historic home on adjacent Morro Street. Student resident Sergio Cois said the crash woke them up and they noticed fire coming from their gas meter. There were four people in the house when the fire ignited and they all escaped without injury. PG&E crewmen worked to restore power as the area was blocked off to traffic through the morning hours. The students were covered in soot as they salvaged their personal possessions from the charred home and piled everything on the sidewalk. “We planned to stay here through some of the holiday,” Cois said as a friend wiped soot off of a collection of bongs. “But we’re just going to pack up and go home.”

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