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It’s a ‘year of transformation’ for Pismo Beach. Here’s what to expect

This time next year, Pismo Beach might well be almost unrecognizable from how it looks today.

If past years were for approving major projects in the city, 2018 is going to be a year of implementation, Mayor Ed Waage said, with some major renovations to big swaths of the city getting underway.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff going on, and this is the year a lot is really either going to start or be completed,” he said. “It’s going to be a year of transformation.”

Here are some of the biggest changes residents and visitors can expect in the coming year:

Shell Beach to lose the wires and get some walkability

One of the biggest projects happening in the city is the long-anticipated overhaul of Shell Beach Road to make it more appealing to residents and visitors.

The project, which has been in the works since 2015, will take $12.2 million to pave the road and sidewalks; build a separate multi-use path for pedestrians and bikers; add benches, trash cans, bike racks and lighting; and in general make the street more walkable, City Manager Jim Lewis said.

“It’ll be transformative,” he said. “The feel of Shell Beach will be entirely different.”

The project has been delayed in recent years because of confusion on how to move the utility lines below ground (also known as undergrounding).

Waage said it is now on track for a ribbon cutting in May, with expected completion sometime in fall 2019.

“It’ll be huge,” he said.

Pier renovation ahead of schedule — and might even be done this year

The Pismo Beach Pier closed in March 2017 for a massive $8.7 million renovation, with an expected reopening date of around September 2019.

The project is replacing the original section of the pier from 1924, upgrading the electrical and lighting and bringing in new deck boards, park benches, drinking fountains, trash cans and possibly some form of public artwork. It’s being done in phases so parts of the pier can be open during peak tourist season.

Though it was expected to take about 30 months to complete the phased construction, work is ahead of schedule, so Waage said he thinks the pier could be ready to fully reopen by as soon as next January.

“Well it depends on the weather and stuff — but perhaps by the end of this year or beginning of next year,” he said. “So look for a ribbon cutting hopefully New Year’s next year.”

Parking and traffic will be priorities

Parking and traffic are perennial issues in Pismo Beach, especially at the height of the summer season when spots are scarce and turning onto Pomeroy Avenue becomes a herculean task with hordes of tourists crossing the road.

The city this year hopes to address some of those issues, starting with a new traffic circulation plan coming before the council in February.

The council will consider making some downtown streets one-way to make more of a circular path through the area, Lewis said, as well as other ways to avoid the “pedestrian scramble” when people block the flow of traffic crossing streets.

“We’re trying to make all that smarter and more effective so we can move people around better,” Waage said. “Circulation has always been a big problem downtown.”

The city is also getting new parking meters that will accept credit cards and connect to an app to let people know where open spaces are. It will also change the software in the parking lot machines to make the process of buying a ticket easier.

As for traffic on Highway 101 through Pismo Beach, Lewis said the city intends to keep pushing on Caltrans to lengthen the auxiliary lane from Avila Beach to Spyglass and add more of a shoulder, plus other improvements.

No recycled water just yet (but you can get a sneak peak)

Another long-brewing project for the city is its Regional Groundwater Sustainability Project.

In the midst of the drought, Pismo Beach and other South County cities embarked on an ambitious project that could recycle up to 2,400 acre feet of water per year, or about 782 million gallons, and reinject that water back into the groundwater basin.

Though residents won’t see any actual construction on the project this year, it is still moving forward, Waage said.

Environmental documents and securing a location for the second treatment plant (the first will be at Pismo’s own wastewater plant) will be at the top of the list for things to get done this year, he said, as well as finalizing how the entire project will be managed upon completion.

While that’s in the works, residents will get a chance to witness recycled water in action later this year.

Lewis said a private vendor has supplied and set up a water-recycling facility at the city yard to be used in a demonstration sometime this year showing how the process works.

“So what we will be doing is taking our live wastewater, running it through a machine,” he said. “It goes through all the processes it would be going through; there’s a faucet, you can pour it and drink it at the end. Waste in, clean on the back.”

Lewis said the demonstration would act as a public-education tool to build support and credibility for the larger regional water-recycling project.

Waage has already volunteered to be the first to take a drink of water from the demo.

“It’ll be a leap of faith,” he said with a laugh. “If I can drink the water, anybody can.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

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