Kelly Walitsch

Essay #5

Eng 134

To Be or Not To Be?

             Since the early 1900’s the Dalidio family has farmed on the Dalidio Drive Property and produced quality, agricultural products, which you may see a sample of at the weekly Thursday evening Farmer’s Market that runs along Higuera Street downtown.  San Luis Obispo is a major producer of agricultural commodities, and the Dalidio property has been a contributor. For many years now, the city has been debating whether to construct the Dalidio Marketplace on these one hundred and thirty-one acres.  Many say that this marketplace will strip the town of its uniqueness and hurt the smaller retail shops downtown, bringing more competition and possibly running stores out of business and leaving them boarded up, while others say that it will help San Luis Obispo grow and have long term benefits. 

            When I heard of the news that a new marketplace was in the process of being voted on in San Luis Obispo, I became interested.  Growing up in a large city, San Jose, I was used to the variety of stores I had to choose from and the range of prices on merchandise.  Here in San Luis Obispo, many residents as well as tourists’ shopping sprees occur in the well-known downtown area, where the vast majority is small shops, with over priced items.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Downtown San Luis Obispo, and enjoy spending sunny Sunday afternoons window shopping and sipping cups of coffee while people-watching, but I am a broke college student, who would like a place to go to find an assortment of reasonably priced items.  And this being a college town, I am sure many students think the same way.  Having this train of thought in my head, I decided to go drive by the Dalidio property and see what all the controversy was about.

Borrowing my roommate’s car, I drove to where the marketplace would be built.  As I turned down Dalidio Drive, SLO promenade was on my left, which contained big name companies such as Bed Bath and Beyond and Sears.  I thought to myself, there are chain stores here that bring competition to Downtown, but it does not seem to me that Downtown is suffering too much. Would the new marketplace cause noticeable damage to the small shops? This was another reason for me to side with the development of the project. 

            I continued on my way down Dalidio drive, and to my right was the fertile, agricultural land, which seemed to be over flowing with green plant life. Soon my previous thoughts of the marketplace began to fade. The scene was beautiful, and I could now see why San Luis Obispo residents would want to keep it that way.  Driving up from the south, this is the first view people get of SLO.  Replacing the vast landscape with franchise companies, visitor’s first impressions will no longer be of the unique, agricultural town it used to be, but of just a regular city.

            On my way back from the drive, I was not sure of where I stood in this debate.  On one hand I would love to have a shopping center where I would be able to purchase reasonably priced items, but on the other hand, by destroying the land, much vegetation would be lost, and the small town effect that San Luis Obispo has may be diminished. 

            Both sides of this issue have convincing arguments to support their claims on the three measures involved with the construction of the Dalidio Marketplace.  The first measure, Measure A-05, explains how the land will be distributed among retail, businesses, industry, and interchange and roadways.  The second measure, Measure B-05, explains the zoning regulations, and the third measure, Measure C-05, is about the Special Tax Reimbursement Agreement. 

Those for the new marketplace state that plans for development have been in progress for forty years, and technically the Dalidio Property is not within the city, so unless its appropriated, the city has no control over it. They also state that the Dalidio family had a compromise where only half the property would be developed, while the other half would remain open space and could stay in agriculture.  Those against this marketplace say that this is a “battle for the Heart and Soul of San Luis Obispo,” that by commercial sprawl, there would be an increase in traffic, and over thirteen percent of Downtown’s sales would be sucked away.  They also seemed to refute their opponents by saying that sixty percent of the property would be developed, not the fifty percent that they claimed, and if the marketplace was not approved in the city, it would not be approved by the county.  Those for it shot back with the fact that experts envisage that the Downtown will profit on the whole because the Marketplace will re-establish SLO as “the place to shop” in the area, and that the merchants have already been competing with big name companies currently established in the city.

These arguments were still not enough for me to make my decision on what side I would take, so I decided to look further into the debate.  It seemed to me that the opponents of the Marketplace used more of an emotional take on their arguments, such as saying that it was “the battle for the heart and soul” of San Luis Obispo, while those for it used more fact-based arguments, which people cannot ignore due to their feelings, because then this debate would be based on only emotions.  As I continued to read into the debate though, the opponents did have well thought out points, though not as prominent as those for the Marketplace. Those opposed say that, while their opponents state that the Special Tax Reimbursement will give fifty percent of the net sales to the city, providing police, fire, street maintenance and parks, it may cause harm to the financial stability of the City by instituting a sales tax giveaway of $750,000 each year, for thirty years, to the developer. All the arguments for and against were well thought out, and I still had not come to a conclusion of where I stood.

I determined the only way for me to decide was to visit the Dalidio Property once again, and take a harder look at what was being debated.  This time I parked the car in the shopping center across the street, and walked out to the property.  What lay before me seemed to be vastly different from what I saw the first time I was here.  Now, standing on the side of the Dalidio Property and gazing out, I saw a whole different view.  What I thought were crops growing was in fact weeds on the side of the property, and there were symmetrical rows of soil with only a few sprouting some kind of produce.  In the distance there was a lot of greenery, but I was unsure if it was weeds or crops since I could not get a closer look.  I could see the freeway in the background, and I wondered, would people really miss this patch of land if the Marketplace was built? There were still rolling hills and mountains that gave San Luis Obispo beautiful scenery when people drove through. Would the Marketplace take that away from it?

On my way back from the Dalidio Property I saw a sign advertising the stores that would be put in if the registered voters voted yes, one of which was Target. I love Target, and it would be wonderful if there was a Target close by.  The closest one is in Paso Robles, and since I do not own a car, it is difficult for me to make a quick run there.  Maybe I am just being selfish, or maybe the reason I would love to have the Marketplace is because I have not lived in San Luis Obispo for very long and I am used to living in a big city where there are many shopping options. But I knew there were many residents in SLO who have lived here their whole lives, and would be devastated to see their town grow to be just like every other city, and no longer continue to be unique.  This is the main reason why I still have not yet come to a conclusion on where I stood in the debate.  Yes I would love to have a wider variety of shopping opportunities, but would I want to support something that may take away the uniqueness of a town that so many have loved for many years?