Plan for parking structure in downtown San Luis Obispo rises

The San Luis Obispo City Council is moving forward with a plan to build a parking structure at Palm and Nipomo streets downtown.

The issue has become controversial over the years as some critics question the need for an additional parking structure downtown and its $20 million price.

The council directed city staff to hire a consultant to do a state-mandated environmental impact report studying the potential for adverse impacts of demolishing two houses, owned by the city, in the area where the structure is to be built.

The city bought those houses, at 610 and 614 Monterey St., for $1.5 million several years ago in anticipation of the project.

The latest report is expected to cost $75,000, which would be paid by the city’s parking fund.Included in the design of the parking structure are plans for a potential theater or other cultural center.

A handful of people encouraged the council at a recent meeting to proceed with the environmental study to allow for the future theater to be included in the project, which has been long envisioned by conceptual plans.

Representatives of the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre said they hope to lease that spot when the time comes.

To date, the city has spent $157,000 from parking revenue on the initial design of the garage.

Officials estimate that the environmental review would be completed by year’s end, and then wind its way through the city’s various advisory bodies before going to the council for final approval in 2014.

Councilwoman Kathy Smith, who supported proceeding with the environmental review, cautioned the city not to proceed with building the structure until it was necessary.

“Don’t invest the dollars until we really need the spaces,” Smith said. “The Little Theatre is one of the greatest assets of our community it needs to be their responsibility to pick up the cost for that. I hope the theater gets itself committed.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.