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City of San Luis ObispoCandidate for City Council

Photo of James Lopes

James Lopes

Retired County Planner
5,818 votes (17.13%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Bring our community together to understand the City's challenges and set priorities.
  • Listen to residents' needs and respond to concerns with helpful concepts and approaches.
  • Create more affordable housing that fits with its surroundings, parking and transportation.



Profession:Retired land use and community planner
Associate Planner III, Planning and Building Department, County of San Luis Obispo (1976–2012)
Committee member, Bicycle Advisory Committee — Appointed position (1990–1994)


California State University at San Luis Obispo Master of City and Regional Planning, Sustainable community planning and urban design (1995)

Community Activities

Advocate and Chair, Save Our Downtown (2013–current)
Advocate, SLO Neighbors United (2017–current)
Member and Chair, Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo - ECOSLO (1977–current)
Member, Preserve the SLO Life (2017–current)
Member, Bike SLO County (2015–current)

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • The Tribune - A Daily San Luis Obispo Newspaper
  • The Sierra Club - Santa Lucia Chapter

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

Creative Community Integration


Bring our diverse community together.  Engage on meeting the needs of different neighborhoods.

I have lived in San Luis Obispo since 1976 as a community planner and environmentalist.   I want to create positive community interaction so we can protect our neighborhoods and downtown, and maintain our amazing natural setting and early California history. 


I want to provide strong leadership to balance the ways we think about growth and our community.  I want to bring our diverse community together, and engage on how to honor the very assets which made us famous, while meeting the needs of different groups. 


We need to protect and preserve the quality of life for residents in our neighborhoods, by promoting peace, safety, and healthy living. I want to ensure that housing to meet our growing shortage is located and designed so that it creates new livable neighborhoods and protects our existing ones.  We should take strong action to require Cal Poly to build more on-campus housing soon, and avoid more student housing developments within the city


We need to give city residents the highest priority in the governing process.  We need a Council member who has participated with City government. My experience from serving on the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Architectural Review Commission and the Tree Committee gives me knowledge of City policies and staff relations.  My activism has included being a member of  ECOSLO, Save Our Downtown, SLO Neighbors United, Preserve the SLO Life and Sierra Club.


We need to protect downtown and other parts of our city from 75-foot tall buildings that destroy our cherished mountain views.  I favor reducing the height limits in Downtown and integrating entertainment with safe, pleasant shopping and living.  We need to plan better to stay within our capacities for water and other resources, and avoid impacts on our climate and open spaces.  I can be a voice on the Council who has been, and will be passionate for the City’s success.



James describes his goals for seven important topics during the next four years. 

GOALS for James Lopes



 We need to work against economic and academic growth worsening the housing shortage.  We need to balance the forces for growth so they avoid shortages of housing, city services and assets.  We must balance growth within our capacities for water and other resources, and with a zero net carbon outcome that avoids impacts on our climate. 

I will work towards halting the problems associated with accelerated growth in our community. Economic and academic growth has led to a housing crisis. I want to meet our current needs for adequate housing, and balance future growth with our housing supply, city services and assets and our capacities for water and other resources. We must find ways to grow without degrading neighborhoods and ruining the livability of San Luis Obispo.


We can do more to encourage housing that serves all incomes.  We can find the best areas and create new financial incentives for this development outside of existing neighborhoods.  We need a focused effort to add housing to commercial areas and shopping centers, and to financially encourage more affordable housing in smaller cottage and mixed-use environments.

My goal is to work with the community to develop housing for all income levels. We need to give financial incentives to developers to build outside or near existing neighborhoods. A focused effort must be made to add housing within commercial areas and shopping centers, as well as encourage the development of well-designed small homes and mixed use villages.


Our downtown is threatened with drastic changes, but we need to maintain what is left of its quaint charm. To do so I propose restoring the lower height limit for new buildings, implementing the Downtown Concept Plan and reducing and dispersing the growth of liquor licenses.  I want to help locally owned businesses by seeking lower rents and tax breaks, and creating business promotions and frequent theme events.  My goal is to ensure a social environment that blends commercial activity with that of residential living, fun, safety and stunning views.     


We need to make transportation a positive experience for transit passengers, bicyclists and walkers, as well as drivers.  I support the City being more effective with other agencies to fix the congestion on Highway 101.  We need to slow traffic near commercial intersections for more pedestrian protection.  Our city needs to focus bicycle projects on major streets rather than neighborhood ones.

My goal is to make transportation a positive experience for walkers, bike and bus riders, as well as drivers. I will encourage the city to work effectively with other agencies to reduce the traffic congestion on Highway 101 and on city streets.  We need more pedestrian and bike protections on major streets and intersections.

Open Space

This is not just a city.  We are surrounded by magnificent open spaces, or land that also intersect through the community.  This open space is a nature habitat for us and for thousands of birds, wildlife and plant species, My goal is to protect the habitats within our open spaces, especially from the activities that are welcome in public parks but not suitable in these protected, natural areas.  I will encourage more funding to purchase more open space and restore natural habitats. 

City Government

Improving city government means including resident needs first and increasing resident involvement.  We need city staff to support and defend city policies, standards and guidelines.  I will push for an in-depth analysis of our city’s debts and expected priority expenses, so that a holistic financial plan can be developed.  The pension debt must continue to be dramatically reduced, so that employee incomes can be restored soon.  Funds should be allocated to improve infrastructure gradually, by time frame and priority.

A Livable City


San Luis Obispo is more than a place to live and work.  I want to give more importance to maintaining our sense that this is a special place.  The area is so rich in natural history and beauty that we cannot just ignore these assets for the sake of more development.  I will do my best to protect and maintain our natural open space surroundings, engage local groups working for the environment, plant more trees, and increase funding for parks and habitats. I will encourage more diligence in reviewing development to be compatible with its surroundings and neighbors, so that our urban identity is maintained. 

Endorsement Editorial by The Tribune


The Tribune endorses James Lopes for City Council, September 25, 2018

The Tribune endorses. . . James Lopes for SLO City Council

For the council seat being vacated by Dan Rivoire, we recommend Lopes. He is highly experienced in planning: He was a land-use planner with San Luis Obispo County from 1976 to 2012, and he’s served on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and Architectural Review Committee.

He’s extremely knowledgeable about the city’s jobs/housing imbalance and the effect that’s having on surrounding communities. “Traffic,” he told us, “is becoming nightmarish in a way.” (If you commute regularly between South County and SLO, you know how accurate that is.)

A member of Save Our Downtown, Lopes is cautious about development, especially when it comes to building height. Seventy-five-foot buildings would stick out like “sore thumbs” in the downtown, he told the Editorial Board.

We believe Lopes would present another point of view on a council that, according to some critics, does not have enough diversity of opinion, especially when it comes to development.

He strikes us as being practical — of all the candidates, he’s perhaps the most outspoken in recognizing the city’s past failure to plan for adequate housing — but at the same time, he’s looking for creative solutions that would be compatible with existing neighborhoods.

For example, he believes existing shopping centers could be repurposed for mixed uses, including residential.

“That’s where 75-foot buildings can work if they’re scaled down to the neighborhood edges,” he said.

Lopes would bring professionalism and new ideas to the council, and he would be an excellent representative of those city residents who feel they aren’t adequately heard.

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