A SLO City Council Merry Christmas to downtown shoppers

December 8, 2015

SLO parking 1

OPINION by RICHARD SCHMIDT

Monday, downtown shoppers hoping to park in the 60-plus public parking spaces in the San Luis Obispo City lot off Broad and Marsh streets, were greeted with signs telling them the lot is closed permanently, and yellow construction tape blocking entrances and exits. So, right at the beginning of the holiday shopping rush, the city erects yet another impediment to shopping downtown.

The lot, which was bought and paid for by taxpayers for public use, has been transferred to a developer to erect one of the new tall tourist-serving view-blocking projects (Garden Street Terraces) taking over our beautiful downtown. Thus, parking passes from public use to private gain. Views are transferred from street level to the windows and balconies of high-paying hotel customers.

In addition to parking, the transfer includes some very expensive public restrooms with some very expensive public art on them. All surrendered by the city council acting as fiduciary for the public. And they claim there’s no such thing as developer welfare in this town.

This parking is the third major swath of downtown public-owned parking to be transferred to developers. The Copelands got the Court Street parking lots, and also the Chinatown parking lots, for pennies of what they were worth. Collectively, that means hundreds of parking spaces acquired by the public, with their tax dollars, for public use, have been transferred by the city council, acting as fiduciaries for the public, to developers for their private use — for far less than the fair value of the assets transferred.

Taking away public parking during the Christmas shopping rush illustrates the myopia facilitating this entire enterprise of transferring public assets to developers. It has nothing to do with serving the public, which is supposedly why we have a city council.

Downtown doesn’t look especially healthy these days. Lots of vacancies, and it’s unclear who’s going to occupy all the new space being built. Can there be still more restaurants and bars? How viable is retail in a downtown without convenient parking? How many boutique hotels are economically viable? The one boutique hotel we have is thriving, and adding a tall new building with more rooms. It is about to be joined by four more upscale downtown boutique hostelries collectively containing hundreds of pricey new tourist rooms. SLO parking 2

This seems an economic crap shoot. It’s happening so fast, moreover, the buildings will be built before anybody knows if they’ll be viable.

One of the few bright spots downtown is the return of thrift shops. There used to be lots of thrift shops, real local stores, and “experimental” businesses downtown, before a handful of monopolistic property owners lined Higuera Street with corporate chain stores found in every suburban strip mall. Thrift shops are the paradigm of our time: cheap slightly used stuff for the masses made feasible by cast offs from those with too much stuff. They may reflect the inequality of our culture, but they also bring back a reason to go downtown again.

As downtown transforms more and more into a partyland for the young and for tourists, there’s less and less reason for residents to bother going downtown. General retail seems doomed. With public parking being taken away, it’s easier to go to the mall or shop online. So thrift stores – the more the better – are good for downtown.

As for the city’s timing for their latest parking lot closure, it’s just one more indicator how clueless the gals and guys who run this city have become. Merry Christmas residents – you can walk a half mile to shop from where you park. The city’s big Christmas gift is to WestPac, the Garden Street developer.

Will they write a thank you note to all of us?
Richard Schmidt is a former member of the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission. He recently wrote in CCN about views disappearing from downtown due to the city’s approving a slew of tall view-blocking buildings.


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Slowerfaster

Who would want to go to that purgatory of snobs to waste time and money anyway ?


womanwhohasbeenthere

This is brought to you by the same idiots who do road work in front of SLO High School every year the first week of classes. None but the best and brightest here.


Parking should be free in December – period! Or just don’t write any tickets during this time.


Mariposa

Absolutely agree. Free throughout December and go back to pre-July 2011 ‘no parking fees’ on Sundays ever!


SamLouis

Those restrooms (which cost over $250K) were a terrible waste of taxpayer funds! They were horribly designed which made them difficult to maintain and ultimately led to their closure.


While we’re talking restrooms, how is it that Emerson Park has no restrooms at all? It has soccer/softball fields, basketball courts, playground equipment, bocce ball courts, vegetable gardens and picnic tables but no bathrooms? I cannot imagine that a similar private property wouldn’t be required to have restrooms.


What it does have is snotty/rude signs on the SLO City Recreation Departments offices which sit on the edge of the property proclaiming that their bathrooms are for employees only.


The arrogance and incompetence of civil service…


demiseofslo

When I was 16, a parking ticket downtown was $8 for an expired meter. I am now 27and I believe it is $60 now.


WTF


Mike Byrd

I gave up shopping or dining downtown SLO quite a while back when the city changed policy and denied my three-wheel vehicles access to parking structures. No 60 minutes free parking for me.


About the same time I had a question about parking a vehicle towing a trailer in downtown Ventura. The police chief gave me a call, advised me were to park securely and thanked me for visiting Ventura. I love shopping and dining in downtown Ventura because I feel welcome there.


agag1

In the early 80’s visiting downtown SLO was a treat and I enjoyed it…often.

There was always something new and interesting–something you didn’t see everywhere else.

Sad to say, it has been more than 10 years since I’ve wanted to go downtown. Now I rarely go, SLO has lost my business. It’s also lost much of its’ attraction and unique character. Not to the tourists or Cal Poly kids, of course, they seem to like it well enough, but more and more locals steer clear.


TWEEKSBALMER

Is the Mayor related to Karl or Groucho?


moderator

Are you buying or selling?


mkaney

I disagree with what happened in this deal, but that’s water under the bridge. It’s damn ignorant to block this lot off before the Holidays though, and it’s almost like the city wants to rub it in the faces of locals how much power they have and that there is no end to the stupidity which they intend to wield with it.


kayaknut

“Almost like the city wants to”, leave off the almost, the city clearly is telling the locals to go F themselves and that the council is in control.


nunsense

well, if there was real interest in generating downtown shopping, there would be things such as “free parking” saturdays during the holiday season. instead, businesses will find its not worth people’

s time to find a parking spot and face a hefty fine if they are late getting back to their vehicle. too bad, really.