SLO City Council faces monumental choice

A plan to put signs directing the public to key destinations downtown and a monument welcoming drivers to the city at its northern edge will go before the San Luis Obispo City Council tonight.

The so-called “wayfinding” program is intended to point people toward locations such as Mission Plaza, the courthouse, downtown and highway access.

It has been a goal of the city’s Promotional Coordinating Committee — a seven-member advisory body focused on promoting the city — for more than a decade, according Brigitte Elke, principal administrative analyst for the city.

“It was driven from feedback of visitors trying to find things downtown,” Elke said. “Many times visitors come down Santa Rosa Street and never know when to turn and they end up at the Amtrak station.”The council will be asked to approve $50,000 for the signs — money that has already been set aside for community promotions in the city’s general fund.

The council will also be asked to approve the conceptual plan for an entry monument at the southwest corner of Highland Drive and Santa Rosa Street.

A National Scenic Byways Grant through the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments would finance a majority of that project’s cost. However, the city might be asked to pay for up to $50,000 of the project estimated at $185,000.

The monument — larger than one at the southern edge of the city off Highway 101 — would be about 12 feet tall with the highest portion reaching 21 feet. It would be lit at night and surrounded by landscaping. Multiple city advisory bodies, including the Promotional Coordinating Committee, the Cultural Heritage Committee and the Architectural Review Committee, have endorsed the wayfinding program. It would be used to guide the design of future entry monuments and directional signs.

The goal is to create uniformity for future signs downtown, said Pierre Rademaker, who was a sub-consultant on the project.

“There is very little signage now and what there is is hidden,” Rademaker said, adding that throughout the design process, the city sought input from local tourism businesses, nonprofit organizations and the arts community.

The city’s emblem, used on proclamations, the city lapel pin and official documents, was also updated as a part of the program.

The symbol, which depicts the Mission San Luis Obispo surrounded by the city’s name, was updated to remove the floss silk tree that adorned the front of the mission for more than 40 years.

That tree, amid much controversy, was removed in 2008 after the mission asked for the city’s permission to remove it because its roots had caused damage to the steps leading to the mission and to one adobe wall.