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Atascadero wants people to stop downtown — so it’s planning a big change to El Camino Real

Take a walk over the new pedestrian bridge at Centennial Plaza in Atascadero

Atascadero christened its new pedestrian bridge and plaza between Sunken Gardens and Colony Square as the downtown slowly begins to take shape.
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Atascadero christened its new pedestrian bridge and plaza between Sunken Gardens and Colony Square as the downtown slowly begins to take shape.

In five years, Atascadero’s main downtown street will likely be narrowed from four lanes to two — and city officials are choosing from three different plans to make the area more inviting for diners and shoppers.

The “traffic calming” concept has been in the works for about two years and would involve adding additional parking and cutting down the amount of driving space on El Camino Real from Rosario Avenue to Highway 41.

City officials hope a narrower, less busy roadway will increase pedestrian traffic and encourage more businesses to locate downtown.

“We want to try and get ahead of this,” Nick DeBar, public works director told The Tribune on Friday. “We’re getting a lot of interest in development downtown.”

The City Council commissioned a $100,000 traffic study in 2017, and officials have developed three potential plans. All the proposals involve adding parking near sidewalks or in the middle of the road, in addition to bicycle lanes or shared lane markings.

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Atascadero’s first plan to narrow El Camino Real, which would reduce the road to two lanes for the entire downtown stretch. It also includes short turn lanes near Sunken Gardens. City of Atascadero

The first plan would reduce El Camino Real to two lanes for the entire downtown stretch, converting the recaptured space to new parking and landscaping. It also includes short turn lanes near Sunken Gardens.

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City of Atascadero

The second plan would only reduce to two lanes from Highway 41 to Traffic Way, leaving four lanes from Traffic Way to Rosario Avenue. It offers fewer parking spaces and less landscaping improvements.

Plan3.jpg
City of Atascadero

The third plan is very similar to the first, but without the extra turn lanes at Sunken Gardens.

DeBar said city officials have drawn inspiration from Lancaster Boulevard in Lancaster, a Southern California city in Los Angeles County. That street now has angle parking in the middle of the road, in addition to parallel parking near the sidewalks.

The city is hosting a series of workshops to gather public input before presenting a conceptual plan to the City Council — likely during the next couple of months.

Once members give a plan the go-ahead, city staff will start putting together a financing plan and applying for grant funding, DeBar said.

Open houses will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Hall in council chambers on the fourth floor.

City officials will also answer questions on Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. at an informational booth at the Atascadero Farmers Market near East Mall and Palma Avenue.

For more information, contact the Community Development department at 805-461-5035.

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She also covers communities in northern San Luis Obispo County. Lindsey became a staff writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. She’s a native Californian raised in the Midwest and is a proud graduate of two Chicago schools: DePaul University and Northwestern University.
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