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As other pandemic restrictions lift, San Luis Obispo parklets could become permanent

Courtesy: Francisco Martinez
A parklet in Downtown SLO.

The issue of permanent parklets is widely debated across the Central Coast, with some cities choosing to extend their programs and others opting to remove the parklets altogether.

The San Luis Obispo City Council last year directed staff to pursue making the parklets permanent, and now the city is collecting public input on finalizing the ordinance.

San Luis Obispo’s Active Transportation Manager Adam Fukushima said the city is encouraging people to comment on the draft Outdoor Dining Guide, which staff developed out of response to public support for parklets.

“We’ve had some time to codify some design guidelines and some operational policies just to bring it from a temporary program to a permanent one,” Fukushima said.

Other cities aren’t so sold on making parklets permanent. Paso Robles removed their parklets over public concerns about parking and equity issues, specifically around which businesses get to benefit from them and which do not. But Fukushima said San Luis Obispo has an existing process for addressing those concerns, and the new ordinance would strengthen that.

“A lot of what we’re doing is bringing this in line with already-existing processes,” Fukushima said.

Fukushima said the city has been lenient on the design and materials of parklets until now, even providing free materials for

SLO Chamber of Commerce

parklet construction. But if the city council makes the program permanent, there will be more guidelines for how the parklets downtown look and operate.

“Going forward, we want to see more designs that kind of match the beauty of the downtown,” Fukushima said. “So we want to see parklet structures made out of wood and made out of metal, that kind of have a more artistic element to it as well as have more structure and be able to withstand the elements going forward and be able to last for years to come.”

According to Fukushima, the city isn’t charging businesses fees for turning a parking space into a parklet. But that could change.

“There is a cost to removing parking spaces to the city, there are impacts to the parking fund that funds the parking structures downtown as well as maintenance for sweeping around it, maintenance for the pavement, tree-trimming and things of that nature. We estimate that to be about $8,000 per parking space per year," Fukushima said.

The Active Transportation Committee will discuss the draft plan at their May 19 meeting at City Hall. The San Luis Obispo City Council will give the ordinance a first reading on their July 5 meeting, and could finalize it on the second reading on July 19.

Residents can comment on the plan at those meetings or online at the city’s Open Town Hall website through May 29.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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