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SLO holds first 'state of the city' address, citing 2017 accomplishments and 2018 challenges

The city of San Luis Obispo has taken steps to provide more housing, reduce plastic waste and eliminate mandatory rental inspections, marking some of the city's accomplishments in 2017.

But major financing challenges remain — including lowering sales tax revenues, convincing voters of needed tax increases to help fund $400 million in new infrastructure and paying down pension costs.

The city held its first state of the city address Wednesday, highlighting accomplishments in 2017 as well as challenges ahead.

Mayor Heidi Harmon and City Manager Derek Johnson addressed the audience for more than an hour at the event that was recorded in a Facebook Live video.

Accomplishments included: declaring San Luis Obispo a welcoming city to all people people irrespective of immigration status; repealing the Rental Housing Inspection Program; limiting single-use plastic bottles and cups on city property and events; providing $850,000 for a development project housing mentally ill people as well as approving two major housing projects in the city; and approving a pilot program to reduce noise complaints.

Future challenges include bracing for the economic impact of the Diablo Canyon power plant closure, balancing its budget with pension challenges and obtaining capital improvement projects funding.

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View of San Luis Obispo from Terrace Hill. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The city will hold a community forum Monday to address proposed sales and property tax increases to help pay for many planned infrastructure projects citywide. City officials say that about $400 million is needed to fund improvements such as a new police station and revamped Mission Plaza project.

Some offices in the police station are the size of a closet and the facility is generally in need of replacement, said City Manager Derek Johnson.

The city also is facing challenges with a growing online consumer market, meaning it will have to rethink how it encourages retail business throughout the city to sustain and grow sales tax revenues, possibly by facilitating unique commercial experiences and boutiques, Johnson said.

The city also is planning to establish an art district downtown, offering venues for locals and tourists to appreciate artwork in a concentrated area.

The address covered a wide range of other topics with the goal of informing and sharing key information with the public.

“This year’s theme of 'Community Builders' emphasizes the things that are possible when we work together and the importance of us all recognizing how we play a role in building community,” Johnson said.

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