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New downtown SLO project closes streets to open up dining and shopping

June 18 marks the start of a new San Luis Obispo project aimed at providing more space for downtown restaurants and shops, doing so by closing down streets to car traffic.

Santa Barbara has launched a similar program by closing down several blocks of State Street and allowing other downtown businesses to turn nearby parking spaces into parklets, so they can put out tables and chairs to ensure physical distancing.

For the next year, stretches of San Luis Obispo’s Monterey and Higuera Streets will close down to vehicles every Thursday and Friday evening from 5 to 8 p.m., and for most of the day on Saturdays and Sundays.

“Those are our hours right now—they may change over time if there's demand to have this seating available,” said Luke Schwartz, San Luis Obispo’s transportation manager. ”And we'll be making tweaks as we go to make sure that it's working best for everyone.”

Schwartz said business owners can apply for a city permit that grants permission and a set of conditions to follow. Restaurant owners can then put out their own tables and chairs, and room will be made for a wide pedestrian walkway.

In addition to closing down a few streets, the Open SLO plan calls for seating set up at Mission Plaza, “so folks can grab take-out from their favorite [downtown] restaurant and enjoy a meal creekside,” Schwartz said.

Details on closures and the Open SLO pilot project can be found at OpenSLO.org.

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