Shell Beach streetscape project to move ahead

This is a rendering showing a proposed multi-use path along Shell Beach Road that would be open for pedestrians and bicyclists.
This is a rendering showing a proposed multi-use path along Shell Beach Road that would be open for pedestrians and bicyclists. Courtesy of city of Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach won’t scale back on its long-awaited Shell Beach streetscape project, despite uncertainty over how it will pay for the proposed updates.

The City Council directed staff on Tuesday to move ahead with plans to update a segment of Shell Beach Road between Cliff and Terrace avenues, in spite of a $4.1 million funding shortfall. The council has not yet decided how it will make up the shortfall, but is expected to consider the issue in November.

$12.2 millionEstimated cost of the Shell Beach Streetscape project.

The city initially expected to pay for part of the $12.2-million project through an Active Transportation Program grant from Caltrans, city public works director Ben Fine said at Tuesday night’s meeting. Other aspects of the project are already funded through a combination of state and federal grants and city funds.

The city was recently notified that it would not be getting the $4.1-million Caltrans grant, so the council was forced to consider whether it would like to self-fund the project, or scale back.

Ultimately, the council indicated it would be willing to assume the additional costs because of the project’s importance, but directed staff to find out if the city could pay for the project as it goes, rather than financing it from the start.

“The concern that I have is that the staff report immediately jumped into financing a shortfall,” Mayor Shelly Higginbotham said. “I just don’t want us to jump to this point where we are going to immediately finance $4.1 million. I just don’t think that’s a good way to do business.”

The need to update Shell Beach Road to improve traffic, safety and the look of the area has been on the city’s radar for close to a decade.

At the public’s urging, city officials and the citizen-led Shell Beach Improvement Group began formal work on a Shell Beach master plan for the streetscape project in 2007, which was then finalized by the City Council in 2009. Since then, the city has held more than 20 public workshops to update residents on the status of the plans and garner input.

The current plans call for moving overhead utilities underground; upgrading the water lines; installing new street lights, benches, trash cans and recycle bins; adding bulb-outs — or curb extensions — to slow traffic; and building a multi-use path offset from the road that could be used by pedestrians and bicyclists.

The project would reduce the amount of on-street parking available along Shell Beach Road from 181spaces to 139, a cause of concern for residents who claim it is already difficult to find parking.

“One of the things in Shell Beach that takes up the most time talking about it is parking,” Pismo Beach resident Effie McDermott said Tuesday. “It’s a major issue in Shell Beach.”

McDermott urged the council to consider adjusting the proposed bulb-outs to additional spaces, and consider the impact those curb extensions could have on side street parking as well.

The council directed staff to look into McDermott’s concerns, and return with further information on potential additional parking at its second meeting in November.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie