Costly improvements to a small area of downtown San Luis Obispo must wait until next year after estimates for the work came in higher than the city anticipated.
The City Council said it is committed to seeing the area spruced up, but agreed to scale back the beautification plan in order to make it affordable.
The city sought bids to improve three blocks downtown on Higuera Street from Morro Street down to Broad Street.
But the estimate to get the work done came in $87,700 more than the $640,000 of general fund money the city was planning to spend.
The council agreed to scale the project back to two blocks from Morro Street to Garden Street and to wait until next January to begin the project.
Planned improvements include Mission-style sidewalks, new tree grates, pedestrian lighting, new trash cans and sign posts, as well as a fresh coat of forest-green paint on light poles.
The council agreed this week to also install conduits at the base of the trees along those two blocks to eventually put lights in the trees — something that the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association has long advocated.
Deborah Cash, executive director of the Downtown Association, said that more lighting downtown needs to be a priority to make people feel safe there after dark.
“It will make a big difference in how people perceive the downtown,” Cash said.
However, some people have questioned whether the timing is right to spend money on aesthetic improvements downtown as the city grapples with budget woes.
Richard Schmidt of San Luis Obispo wrote a letter to the council imploring it to spend the money to repair sidewalks in neighborhoods first.
“Once you fulfill your duty to protect your residents’ sidewalk safety, if there’s anything left over, then it is the time to consider vanities like mission sidewalks, not before,” wrote Schmidt.
The city will put the project back out to bid later this year with the goal of starting the improvements in January to avoid disrupting businesses during the holidays.