City of San Luis Obispo allocates money for park, financial software

San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx.
San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Residents in the north Broad Street neighborhood of San Luis Obispo took a big step toward getting the community park that they’ve been waiting on for about four decades.

The City Council on Tuesday set aside $900,000 for the park, which advocates estimate could cost more than $2.5 million.

The community park, which would likely be 1 to 2 acres, is envisioned for the area between Highway 101 and Foothill Boulevard along Broad Street and Chorro Street, west of Santa Rosa Street.

The city’s General Plan, in its “Unmet Needs” section in Chapter 7 on Parks and Recreation, calls for a park in that vicinity, which only has a 0.13-acre playground at 870 Mission St. called Anholm Park, although Santa Rosa Park to the east is nearby.

Anholm residents say the community park concept has been tabled in city planning since the 1970s.

The council approved the $900,000 allocation, as part of a surplus in this year’s budget of more than $6 million, with a 3-2 vote. Councilmembers Dan Rivoire and Carlyn Christianson dissented.

No specific site has been designated for the Anholm area park, but the money would help pay for the creation of the new recreational area once land becomes available.

“There are few sites left for a park since our part of town is nearly built out,” said Richard Schmidt, a park advocate. “Nonetheless we’re not proposing a specific site, but rather a funding mechanism so money will be available whenever any of the remaining sites come on the market.”

Schmidt said that he estimates the cost could be about $2.5 million, based on a recent sale price of nearby property. He unsuccessfully lobbied for the $2.8 million, designated for a financial software program, to be used toward the community park.

Schmidt hopes any additional funding needed for a land purchase would come from other sources, including additional city or state funding.

“Major traffic arterials divide us from (Santa Rosa and Throop parks), and that is certainly an issue for both children and elders,” Schmidt said.

The council had considered using the $900,000 for general Capital Improvement Plan needs.

Let’s do what we said we’d do.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx

But Mayor Jan Marx, in addition to councilman John Ashbaugh, urged the council to set the money aside for a park, and said it’s time to step forward with its longtime commitment to residents. In the past, the city didn’t have money available when potential sites arose.

“Let’s do what we said we’d do,” Marx said.

Other surplus allocations included $1 million toward unfunded pension costs, $2.8 million for a financial software system, money for sidewalk enhancements and safety gear for police.

The surplus is a result of prudent spending by city departments and increased revenues such as higher-than-anticipated bed, sales and property tax funding, according to city officials. Bed tax revenue is up 6 percent over last year.

Some who commented publicly Tuesday said the software system is a waste of taxpayer money and only increases bureaucracy.

But City Manager Katie Lichtig said a new system would increase efficiency, significantly reducing workload for staff in compiling financial reports and tallying expenses.

“This proposal is about ensuring that staff is able to spend their time applying their skills to their core function,” Lichtig said. “This allows us to serve the residents and community members in the best, most efficient way possible.”