SLO County Roundup

SLO County

A judge Tuesday appointed a third doctor to evaluate Andrew Downs’ mental competency to stand trial on charges of murder and assault.

Downs, 20, of Atascadero is accused of shooting and killing two women at Santa Margarita Ranch on Christmas Day and breaking into a man’s home in Atascadero and striking him with a wrench.

Two doctors already have examined Downs — who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. One psychiatrist determined that he was competent to stand trial while another found he was not competent.

Downs is scheduled to return to Judge John Trice’s courtroom at San Luis Obispo Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 24 for a report on the third doctor’s findings.

Mental competency is based on whether a defendant can understand the nature of the charges and assist in the defense.

— Nick Wilson


The environmental and economic analysis of a Walmart proposed to be built in Atascadero comes out today.

The report also includes a look at the impact of an adjacent shopping center in Atascadero.

The project has been a controversial topic in the town for at least three years.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. paid about $427,000 for the state-mandated environmental and economic analysis, which began in May.

The retail giant is proposing a store with 123,000 square feet of retail and grocery sales, plus about 6,500 square feet of outdoor garden services at El Camino Real and Del Rio Road.

There will also be two commercial lots on about 10,000 square feet and the possibility of one 44-unit multifamily residential parcel.

The Annex component adjacent to the proposed Walmart building has more than 120,000 square feet of commercial space and the possibility of single-family residential development.

The public has 45 days to review the findings in the report and offer feedback. The review period ends March 18.

Printed copies of the report are available at City Hall, 6907 El Camino Real; and the Atascadero-Martin Polin Regional Library, 6850 Morro Road. It can also be downloaded from the city’s website, www.atascadero.org.

— Tonya Strickland

San Luis Obispo

A little more than a week before its WinterMezzo — a weekend of classical music performances — Festival Mozaic has named its new executive director.

Bettina Swigger, a native of Albuquerque, N.M., will head the 41-year-old classical music festival. Swigger, who officially started the job Monday, replaces Curtis Pendleton, who held the job for 10 years before announcing she was moving to Canada to be with family.

Swigger actually worked with Festival Mozaic musical director Scott Yoo when she was manager of the Colorado College Summer Music Festival, a festival for young professional musicians. More recently, she served as the founding executive director of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, an organization dedicated to expanding access to arts and cultural activities through advocacy, technology and audience development.

A classically trained viola player, she has been active in community orchestras, chamber music groups and rock bands. Her mother is an artist, her father is an English and humanities professor, and her sister is a piano professor.

Swigger, who holds a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, will move to the county with her husband, who is a writer and musician.

The WinterMezzo Series, beginning Feb. 11, will feature two of the world’s rarest violins and a program featuring duets and trio sonatas from the Baroque to the modern era.

— Patrick S. Pemberton