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Welcome to SLO road sign not welcomed by all council members

A rendering of a monument sign proposed for Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo.
A rendering of a monument sign proposed for Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo.

A new welcoming sign is planned for the northern edge of San Luis Obispo along Highway 1 directly across from Cal Poly at Highland Drive.

The City Council recently agreed on a split 3-2 vote to contribute $125,000 toward the $250,000 sign. The rest of the project, being managed by the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG), will be paid for by a federal grant from the 2006 National Scenic Byway Program.

It is one of three planned signs along Highway 1. The other signs will be located in Cambria and San Simeon as part of SLOCOG’s Scenic Byways Gateway Project.

The San Luis Obispo sign, intended to be a welcoming statement for people coming into the city from the North Coast, will be similar to two monument signs already on Highway 101. However, the existing San Luis Obispo signs on Highway 101 have been criticized as being too small for passing motorists to see.

The monument at Highland Drive — larger than one at the southern edge of the city off Highway 101 — will be about 12 feet tall with the highest portion reaching 21 feet. It would be lit at night and surrounded by landscaping. The sign probably will be installed sometime next spring.

Councilman Dan Carpenter, who voted against funding the sign, said that he would instead like to see the money used to improve gateway signs on Highway 101 by making them larger.

“I don’t see this as critical, especially as the other two signs are sitting out there in the weeds where people can’t see them,” said Carpenter. “People coming into the city on Highway 1 don’t have a choice but to go through the city but people traveling on Highway 101 do.”

Rich Murphy, project manager at SLOCOG, said the grant funding was earmarked specifically for the purpose of enhancements along Highway 1 because it is a scenic highway. He said the project may seem costly, but the communities will benefit.

“With good community definition comes economic vitality and a sense of place,” said Murphy.

The San Luis Obispo sign is the most expensive of the three planned signs. The sign in Cambria will cost $51,376 and the San Simeon sign is estimated at $107,180. The shortfall between the $304,000 grant and the $659,000 needed to complete the project was met by a $40,000 contribution from the county, $10,000 form the San Simeon Tourism Alliance Board, $125,000 from San Luis Obispo and $180,000 from SLOCOG.

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