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Public Works crews continue to tackle storm-related projects in San Luis Obispo

Posted at 6:30 PM, Feb 07, 2023

San Luis Obispo City Public Works crews are still working to restore the city to pre-January storm conditions — a monster project that has a hefty price tag.

Repairing all January storm damage, a job that is far from over, is estimated to cost the City of San Luis Obispo $7-$9 million. That’s money coming directly out of the city’s yearly budget. While they hope to get reimbursed by FEMA, the repairs are out-of-pocket up front.

First, they focused their efforts on road repairs but now they have shifted to debris damage. Cleaning out creeks, culverts and confluences. They hope to get trails currently closed to the public, back up and running.

Whitney Szentesi, Public Communications Manager for the City of San Luis Obispo, says while debris cleanup may seem simple, there are lots of costs involved.

"Debris cleanup is multi-faceted, it includes labor, it includes equipment,” explained Szentesi. “For example, we are bringing in a crane Friday over by San Luis Creek”.

Thomas Everett, the owner of the Refinery Salon, is up close and personal with some of this week’s damage repair.

His salon teeters on the edge of a storm-related sinkhole. Damage so bad his building was red-tagged for a period of time, deemed too dangerous to inhabit.

“First, we thought the building was going to fall into the creek, then the city planners and everyone came out and then we became more concerned with the gas line,” said Everett.

Assaulted by heavy rains, the earth eroded to the point that the gas line became exposed. At risk of a gas leak and sitting on unsteady ground, the City of San Luis Obispo had to move fast.

“They quickly shoved dirt up against it and put in a mini fence to support it even more but they’re going to have some major work to do back there,” said Everett. “It broke the whole creek underneath; all the concrete is gone.”

This spot on the corner of Broad Street and Lincoln is just one of over 100 reported areas mangled by Mother Nature and with the $7-$9 million estimated cost coming out of pocket, regularly scheduled projects could be on the chopping block.

“At this point, we're really focused on restoring the city infrastructure to pre-storm conditions and then we’ll take a look at other things that might have to differ in terms of other work,” said Szentesi.

A pre-storm city is still months out and millions of dollars away.

The City of San Luis Obispo is asking FEMA to reimburse them for the cost of storm-related damage to public infrastructure but the city says they do not know when they will find out if they are approved for that coverage.

To find a list of closures and what projects the city is prioritizing next, you can go to their website.