John Spatafore, a community leader instrumental in shaping youth sports and education, who has guided the campaign to create a consolidated homeless services center, and served as co-chair of the No on Measure H Committee, was named the Citizen of the Year during the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner on Saturday January 16, 2016.

“Special communities like ours are built by people with compassion for others; people who regard civic participation as both a responsibility and a privilege,” said Dave Cox, vice president and COO at Barnett Cox and Associates. “John is one of those people.”


Click here to see photos from the 111th Annual Dinner


For the last five years, the San Luis Obispo-based attorney has successfully led the effort to form the Homeless Foundation of San Luis Obispo County, and through creativity and persistence helped to bring together the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, the Regional Transit Authority and the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County to secure funding for the purchase of land for a homeless services center.

The controversial and often challenging process surrounding the location of the proposed homeless services center resulted in the purchase of a lot that, when complete, will consolidate existing day and night services under one roof and enhance services available for families and children. A campaign to raise the needed funds for the facility is nearing its goal.

Spatafore has been instrumental in creating some of the community’s more treasured landmarks. He was a founder of the youth sports group whose work produced the Damon Garcia Sports Complex, co-founder of the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center, and spent countless hours in leadership roles volunteering for Cal Poly Arts and ArtsObispo, ensuring access to the arts for years to come.

“John has profoundly and positively impacted local education, the arts, youth sports and economic vitality, and he has done so much of this work out of the public eye and without regard for attention and accolades,” said San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ermina Karim.

In 2010 Spatafore served as co-chair of the successful No on Measure H campaign, ensuring the extension of Prado Road, connecting South Higuera and Broad streets, as planned developments move forward in the surrounding area.

Spatafore has dedicated years to the San Luis Coastal Unified School District serving on the board of trustees as well as president, spent two years on the California School Board Association and volunteered countless hours to the San Luis Coastal Superintendent’s budget task force that guided the district through devastating budget cuts.

A regular attendee of civic meetings, Spatafore often speaks on issues ranging from downtown vitality to the need for smart planning for the city’s airport area.

“John’s self-effacing style and wicked sense of humor underpin his fierce determination to create positive change,” Cox said. “Our community is better for his many efforts.”

Spatafore and his wife Deborah moved to San Luis Obispo in 1979 and raised two daughters while generously giving their time to community and philanthropic endeavors.