Plan for downtown Pismo Beach includes Ferris wheel, parking changes

Strategic plan recently approved by City Council must go through the city’s planning process

clambert@thetribunenews.comJune 16, 2014 

Imagine taking a trolley ride to the downtown core of a classic seaside town and walking toward the pier, where a Ferris wheel awaits. Nearby, children play in a public fountain or use a slide to reach the beach below.

Others climb or pose for photos on huge letters spelling “Pismo Beach.”

These are a few ideas contained within a strategic plan for downtown Pismo Beach, which was recently approved by the Pismo Beach City Council.

The strategic plan is both the culmination of several months of community outreach, including multiple workshops and a survey of tourists, and the starting point for change in this key part of Pismo Beach.

The plan will be used as a guide for future improvements downtown — though the individual concepts, which include turning the pier parking lot into a public plaza, will all go through the city’s normal planning process before any change would take place.

It offers a glimpse toward the future and a long-term vision that will steer planning efforts, city officials said.

“Looking at this plan, I think we have a very bright future,” City Manager Jim Lewis said.

Downtown Pismo Beach includes the area bordered by the intersections of Dolliver Street (Highway 1) and Price Street, Highway 101, Pismo Creek and the ocean.

The strategic plan divides the area into five districts, each with suggested improvements. For example, “Restaurant Row,” a name referring to the many cafes, restaurants and wine bars on Price Street, could benefit from more landscaping, trees and small string lights.

The plan also suggests the wooden promenade on either side of the pier be extended even farther up and down the beach, to encourage visitors to leave their cars at their hotels and walk downtown.

Other ideas include more outdoor dining, public art and street lighting or decorative sidewalks to better connect Restaurant Row to the pier area.

Some community members said downtown could be improved by cleaner streets and more consistent street features, said Erik Justesen, CEO/President of RRM Design Group, which completed the plan.

“A lot of people see it as a jewel in the rough, and some effort in crisping it up was on their minds,” he said.

Some improvements could happen as soon as this summer, Community Development Director Jon Biggs said. He’ll ask the council to approve some funds in next fiscal year’s budget to add landscaping to the city’s paid parking lots and pay for new banners — things to increase “the charm of downtown.”

Bigger changes, such as those proposed for the parking lot next to the pier, are further away. The plan includes two ideas; both involve turning the parking lot into a public plaza with space for entertainment.

One option suggests closing Pomeroy Avenue from Cypress Street to the pier plaza and moving parking underground; the other idea keeps the street open and adds some diagonal parking.

A few residents attending a recent City Council meeting said they were concerned about losing parking spaces and the impact that closing Pomeroy Avenue could have on businesses.

The council agreed to table all of the circulation and parking options in the strategic plan. The ideas will be evaluated as part of an update of the city’s circulation element (part of its general plan) and will come back to the council at a future meeting.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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