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SLO City Leaders look to improve downtown

Posted at 11:15 PM, Mar 19, 2019

The city of San Luis Obispo is looking to boost the economy of downtown and make streets safer, cleaner and prettier.

Council members met Tuesday night to discuss a plan that would do just that.

Rewind to July 2017– that’s when council approved an up to $75,000 grant to hire a consultant by the name of PUMA to conduct a feasibility study for community services.

Council members heard from the lead organization–DOWNTOWN SLO– about what that study found.

As the only DOWNTOWN SLO ambassador, Austin Bertucci, cleans streets, greets visitors, connects with residents, removes graffiti, helps homeless people and much more.

“There are four pillars that fulfill downtown and they are clean, safety, hospitality and education,” said Bertucci.

He says if the city had more ambassadors, the downtown area would be even nicer.

“I do my best to walk all over downtown but it’s overwhelming when you are having to respond to different needs so having someone else to patrol those areas and respond to those needs and share the burden would be a phenomenal help,” said Bertucci.

A new plan (item 16) called the Property-based Business Improvement District (PBID) would provide services from Beach to Pepper Street with a focus on Higuera and Marsh.

It aims to reduce crime, create jobs, beautify streets, boost the local economy and introduce services to the homeless.

The DOWNTOWN SLO CEO says it’s needed in this quickly developing community.

“How can we stay ahead of these changes and make downtown beautiful, safe and welcoming for everybody,” said Bettina Swigger, DOWNTOWN SLO CEO. “We want to make sure people can get here and when they get here they feel that it is safe for them to bring their families and stay a long time and spend their money ultimately.”

DOWNTOWN SLO is a Business Improvement Association where business owners chose to charge themselves for services in the downtown core area.

Downtown property owners would pay a self-assessed property fee that could generate tens of thousands of dollars in additional funding for downtown

“Private residences, that includes financial and non-profit institutions, the city and the county,” said Swigger. “It’s going to give them some skin in the game and a platform for advocacy they don’t currently have.”

$800,000  is needed mostly to expand the ambassador program and form an oversight committee.

Swigger says not much opposition is apparent at this time. She says some property owners expressed an unwillingness to pay, but a desire for additional resources around their land.

Council member Gomez and Christianson removed themselves from the discussion due to personal conflicts of interest.

The remaining council members went ahead with the staff recommendation and gave the city manager the okay to move forward with a petition process for property owners.

Majority of those affected people will have to petition in order to move to a special ballot.

DOWNTOWN SLO is engaging in the petition process through May 10 in order to gather enough signatures to bring the PBID formation to a vote.

Property owners within the proposed district are asked to take part.

For more information, click here.

Voting on the special ballot is expected to take place in June or July of this year.

If property owners successfully vote on this matter, the community services would be ready to go January of 2020.