Residents share wish lists for SLO

200 attend forum to offer input on city’s spending priorities

acornejo@thetribunenews.comJanuary 9, 2013 

A renewed focus on revitalizing Mission Plaza, implementing the city’s freshly drafted Economic Strategic Plan and building a long-sought skate park were among an array of proposals given to the San Luis Obispo City Council on Tuesday.

Nearly 200 residents packed the Ludwick Community Center for the customary forum to share their hopes for the city’s 2013-15 budget.

Fifty-one people presented their ideas to the City Council and staff; dozens of others scribbled their desires on sticky notes.

Those ideas will be compiled and given to council members as they prepare to set the city’s major goals and prioritize spending at a daylong meeting on Jan. 26.

Themes from the business community included making downtown more pedestrian friendly, reducing the number of transients and updating the city’s master plan for the area.

Business people also asked the city to implement the Economic Strategic Plan, a five-year guide to economic growth meant to bring more middle class jobs to the city. That plan reduces cumbersome permitting and deals with a lack of infrastructure.

Residents asked the city to make more of an effort to control sub-standard housing for students and to continue to focus on what they describe as neighborhood blight from parking, trash, noise and cracking sidewalks.

Special interest groups such as the San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Group and the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo also asked that bike lanes continue to be improved and that preserving and maintaining open space throughout the city remain a spending priority.

The city enters the 2013-14 fiscal year with $5 million more than budgeted, mostly because of grueling negotiations with employee groups that will result in $3.2 million in annual savings. The City Council will decide how that money will be spent.

Many residents cautioned the city to have a backup plan should Measure Y, the city’s half-cent sales tax increase, not be renewed after it expires in April 2015.

If that were to happen, the city — as the budget is projected now — would be spending $7.3 million more a year than it was bringing in.

The council was also asked to closely analyze its pension liabilities and continue to drive down salary and benefit costs.

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