As Tour of California bike race nears, local officials work on the details

Front Street in Avila Beach.
Front Street in Avila Beach. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

With less than three months to go before 128 riders sweep through San Luis Obispo County as part of the Amgen Tour of California, local officials are busy ironing out plans for parking, traffic and other logistics.

County officials don’t know how many thousands of people might pack into Avila Beach to watch a stage finish on May 16, but they’re busy plotting parking areas and shuttle spots to get cycling enthusiasts to the area as easily as possible. There are also plans to have a large bike valet area.

“May is (national) bike month, so we’re trying to make this a very bike-friendly event and encourage as many people as possible to bicycle into the race,” said Greg Schulte, assistant county administrative officer.

County staff is also working out a contract with AEG, the Los Angeles-based company that owns the tour. The contact is expected to cover hard costs, including public works and public safety staffing, barriers and portable toilets on the day of the event.

The arrangement is unusual — normally cities that host the tour raise thousands of dollars to cover costs associated with a stage start or finish. Often, much of the money comes from private donations or sponsors.

Schulte said he expects to take a contract between the county and AEG to the Board of Supervisors in mid-March.

It’s unknown at this point how much AEG will pay for public services. County staff is still determining how many public works employees and sheriff’s deputies they’ll need to work that day, as well as how many bathrooms are needed.

The so-called “soft costs,” such as the time county staff is spending to work out the details of the event, won’t be covered, Schulte said.

The Avila Beach Tourism Alliance, an arm of the county Business Improvement District, has agreed to spend $30,000 to pay primarily for hotel rooms and meals for tour organizers. The tourism alliance is funded with special assessments added to the normal transient occupancy tax paid by overnight visitors to hotels in the county.

The tourism alliance is also looking for sponsorships to raise money that can be given to local nonprofits and groups in Avila Beach, said John Sorgenfrei, owner of TJA Advertising, which handles marketing for the tourism alliance.

County Supervisor Adam Hill held a meeting this week to answer questions from local residents and business owners. Concerns primarily have included public safety issues, such as emergency access, parking availability and traffic problems.

Hill acknowledged the concerns, but said county staff has been working on plans to address all those issues. The one big unknown, he added, is how many people will show up on May 16.

Still, “we think that the whales coming for that two-week period caused much more chaos that this will,” he said, referring to a period in August when humpback whales showed up off the coast near Avila and crowds of people came to town to vie for a view.

More information — including specific details on road closures, parking areas and shuttle stops — will be released as the tour draws closer.

Learn more about the race

San Luis Obispo County officials will hold a news conference March 4 to share more details about the Tour of California stage finish in Avila Beach on May 16, including traffic and parking issues. The event, open to the public, will start at 11:30 a.m. on the Avila Beach promenade. If it rains it will be held at the Avila Beach Community Center, 191 San Miguel St.

The Tour of California is looking for volunteers to assist with the race. Many of the positions available are course marshals, who are assigned along the race course to assist race staff and local law enforcement authorities in each city. Additional volunteer positions, such as media support, security and volunteer check-in, are being recruited by the 12 host cities as needed. To volunteer, go to www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/Tour/volunteer.html.

Stage 5 race route

The detailed route has been set for this year’s Tour of California, which will start along the beach in Santa Barbara, pass through Orcutt and Guadalupe, and enter San Luis Obispo County heading north on Highway 1.

The 16 teams will ride along the Mesa before turning onto Valley Road, riding past Arroyo Grande High School, through the Village of Arroyo Grande and on to Highway 227 toward San Luis Obispo.

Then, they’ll take Buckley Road past the San Luis Obispo County Airport, head a few miles down South Higuera Street to Ontario Road, take a right onto San Luis Bay Drive and then another right onto Avila Beach Drive and go into town, where they finish at Front and San Antonia streets.