SLO’s $50 million proposed parking garage boondoggle

March 7, 2023

Leslie Halls


Why would anyone even consider giving away/trading valuable city property and taking on another $50 million in bonded indebtedness to meet alleged future parking needs that the city’s own consultants see no need for? The council’s logic is, we don’t have the money now, but it will cost more in the future, so let’s go into more debt now, while interest rates are at their highest peak in forty years, to build it and save some money in the future when we may need it!

The city has been technically insolvent for years, owing over $160 million to CalPERS for employees’ retirements and millions more in outstanding bonds. The last thing the city needs to do is take on more debt for any reason.

Perhaps the council members have not been downtown recently to see the all the vacant retail spaces, many of which have been sitting empty for years now. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to find ways to get those spaces occupied and generating sales tax revenue?

The Little Theater claims it will draw 50,000 people downtown every year. With 206 seats, this means they plan to have 246 sold out performances every year, or five sold out performances every week. Is this realistic?

Will theater patrons really park in a parking structure by the theater, walk around  past the homeless to a restaurant, eat out, then walk back in the dark to go to the play? If they are just going to a performance and then going home, they are not benefiting downtown businesses.

I chaired the Promotional Coordinating Committee in the 1980s, when building a performing arts center was originally proposed. The reasons the PAC was ultimately put at Cal Poly and not downtown are still valid reasons today: the building would not be in use most of the time, the city would bear the brunt of maintenance, and it would eat up a large section of potentially more valuable (read: revenue-generating) space.

Part of the funding agreement for the PAC was that local organizations would have the opportunity to use the PAC. If this is not happening frequently enough, that agreement should be revisited. The parking is right there, and Cal Poly built the parking structure – not the SLO taxpayers. Also, there is usually no charge to park there.

Lastly, many new venues have come on board in the past 30 years since the recession in 1990 – the PAC, the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande, and numerous wineries that cater to local performers. This project has outlived its time and should be shelved along with the cassette tapes and landlines that were in use when it was first conceived.

Leslie Halls is president of the San Luis Obispo Property and Business Owners Association. She has lived in SLO for more than 40 years.

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Do NIMBYs really think that we would be better off if SLO were frozen in amber for then next 100 years? The argument is simple – our city is growing and with it our downtown, the structure is needed for the long term. In the coming decades we will be building more mixed use structures in an expanding downtown core which will bring more residents and more business. Our old town (thankfully) has small roads and limited space, so it will be necessary and ideal to provide more access to efficient transportation methods and outdoor space for businesses; it’s plainly unrealistic to have parking spaces on Higuera for a couple of lucky cars. (If you want to drive exactly where your destination is, try the countryside, or an In-n-Out). As we decrease on-street supply and increase the resident/visitor demand, a modern parking structure on the southwest edge of downtown will be a corner stone of long term vitality. Have a little vision for the future of SLO, its unfortunate how expensive it is, but the council is right, it’s not getting cheaper.

I must have missed something, I don’t see downtown growing, I see nothing but a disaster, stores closing left and right, parkletts taking up parking spaces, several of which don’t get used, bums and trash throughout, hard to navigate because of bike lanes, that get little use, planters and bulb outs preventing you from making turns onto side streets. People don’t want to walk they want to go to town do business and get out, not walk 1/2 mile, nor ride a bus, this parking garage is not needed.

You didn’t miss anything. Raising parking meter rates, removing traffic lanes for seldom used bike lanes, total nonsense.

How many bicyclists do you see carrying shopping bags???? NONE! Folks, you get what you vote for!

The city needs to focus on solving its insolvency issues by creating more incentives for the private sector to generate more income. Creating more debt is total insanity.

I was interested until you lost me with bigoted nonsense at:

“Will theater patrons really park in a parking structure by the theater, walk around past the homeless to a restaurant, eat out, then walk back in the dark to go to the play? If they are just going to a performance and then going home, they are not benefiting downtown businesses.”

I won’t even bother picking that argument apart but know that I’ve lived within a block of the proposed site for 15 years and there are multimillion dollar homes and fine dining restaurants right there, so you can get out of here with that trash.

“and should be shelved along with the cassette tapes and landlines that were in use when it was first conceived.”

Oh, the hypocrisy.

Ya, why change your oil now? Wait till it becomes very costly. Don’t we have a history of growth? Parking is always a pain in populated areas. It won’t get better with time.

“The Little Theatre” is long gone and now replaced by a professional theater group, SLO Repertory Company and they are selling out many of their shows post-COVID. The theater is part of a planned “arts center” that includes the three other museums and all the restaurants in the Creamery directly across the street.

And the $50 million would become $100 million.

Wow, the senile NIMBY dullards can do basic math, how impressive!

Typical Government at work spend money they don’t have on things they can live without as it’s the taxpayer not them who foot the bill. Is there any Government run entity that is not in debt? !! NO !!!

Unless you want to raise taxes astronomically, and remove 3/4ths of the City Police, Fire, Public Works, and Utilities etc. You have to expect the City to take on debt for capital financing of large infrastructure projects. This is true in essentially all private business as well, no one pays cash for the construction of a new building. Come on! Also you realize it’s the taxpayers who want this project? This isn’t an out of nowhere idea, it’s been in the works for decades and it’s the taxpayers elected representatives who have finally decided to stop kicking the can.

Absolutely no reason for this. In many parts of the country parking garages are owned/managed by private companies. If this is needed, a company will put up the $ to buy the land and build the garage. city comes out way ahead converting the land to $.

“CaPiTaLiSm WiLl fIx ThIs!!”

Always has.

We don’t care if projections are absurd – we want one! And what’s this about free parking somewhere in SLO? We need the change that ASAP! Signed City Counsel