Santa Maria Planning Commissioner Robert Dickerson has such spite for the state Legislature’s attempts to facilitate housing development that he refused to vote on the city’s attempts to comply with accessory dwelling unit requirements that went into effect 10 months ago. 

“I cannot express any more than I have many, many times in the past my disdain for what Sacramento is doing for our way of life,” he said during the Nov. 1 commission meeting. “I do recognize that it is not us, it is Sacramento. I get that.” 

I guess he’s following in the footsteps of the elected official who appointed him to the Planning Commission: Mayor Alice Patino, who’s spittle for state laws that impact the city is infamous! 

The way of life he’s describing? Well, I’m guessing it’s that ol’ fashioned single-family home suburban neighborhood with emerald green, well-coiffed lawns and not a single granny unit or ADU in sight! And absolutely no street parking! 

The reality is, Dickerson, that the policies that created the idyllic life you believe exists and also helped perpetuate the realities currently afflicting the state—too many people, not enough affordable housing—need some redefinition. The lifestyle that you long for is a myth for many residents who you claim to represent on the Santa Maria Planning Commission.

Santa Maria is behind when it comes to building affordable housing units, although it’s good at building the less affordable ones. And ADUs can help! 

But Dickerson believes that it’s “unconscionable” to “inflict” the impacts of ADUs on already existing neighborhoods. I guess those neighborhoods should stay static and never change, ever? 

That doesn’t make any sense, because if there’s one thing this little birdbrain has learned, it’s that change is inevitable—whether you purchased your house or rented an apartment, everything is subject to change. Even if it’s the progressive libs at the state level commanding the plebes from rural country towns like little ol’ Santa Maria to get with the program.

I wonder what Dickerson thinks about the whole oak tree issue the Dana Reserve project is causing in Nipomo. Will chopping down 3,000-plus oak trees change the rural nature of the area in which the 1,300-plus unit housing development is proposed? Should the folks who live there currently have more say in what happens with that 288 acres than the developers who own the property?

These little private property conundrums sure do crop up every now and then. Should a private property owner be able to build an ADU on their property? State says yes. Dickerson wants to say no. What about cut down oaks? Tough one. 

That’s a lot of oak trees. Like, a lot. 

But don’t worry, developers say, we’re forever protecting other trees both on and off the property and we’re planting new oaks to replace some of the ones we chop down. So, really, “for every tree impacted, 5.6 will be permanently protected.” 

I guess that’s one way to spin it. 

Another way to spin it is that 3,000 destroyed oak trees is 3,000 oak trees too many, which is what some community members and environmental advocates are saying. 

The real question, though, is whether the SLO County Board of Supervisors decide that housing needs trump environmental concerns or not.

The canary thinks choices are a losing game. Send help to [email protected].

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