About the Colony

Why Atascadero is bad for business

Lon Allan
Lon Allan

Once a year I have blood drawn as part of my medical checkups.

For the past five years I’ve gone to the Atascadero Patient Service Center in Hotel Park, which shares the parking lot with our new library. But last week I learned the clinic was closing, with a note on the door that those of us living here can get continued service by driving to Templeton or Paso Robles.

There was another person waiting at the door with me and she wondered why Atascadero keeps losing basic services. We drive to San Luis Obispo to serve on juries, get a driver’s license and more, she said.

I tried to explain to her what I think is the E.G. Lewis “curse” that plagues Atascadero. Atascaderans were different from the very beginning because this community was artificially inserted between two already well-established cities — Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. We’ve never been a very good place to conduct commerce because our residents love living among the rolling hills and oak trees and don’t mind buying their goods and services out of town.

For many years Atascadero was the awkward stepchild of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, who didn’t pay too much attention to us. We didn’t have a city council until 1979 that could fight for us. Our one native son politician, Sen. Chris Jespersen, did help us get the National Guard Armory and the state mental hospital.

When county voters approved the formation of a community college district back in 1963, land was offered free here in Atascadero for the campus. The Santa Margarita Ranch property was also offered free. Both sites were rejected because it became obvious that a new college campus had to be located in San Luis Obispo.

Atascadero didn’t even get a fair chance at having the North County campus located here during that expansion in the late 1990s.

We did get some county services in the Hotel Park complex such as the clerk-recorder and assessor’s offices, both now upstairs in the new library building.

We got a golf course built here, but when cityhood was approved by the voters, the county kept the links and gave us the zoo. I bet they’re still laughing about that one.

Even when Atascadero approves the pending Eagle Ranch project, about two-thirds of the property taxes will still go to the county while the city provides police, fire and other city services with the one-third that’s left.

The coming of Wal-Mart will suck the final life out of Atascadero’s efforts to development of any kind of a downtown.

But I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. We are a giving community as evidenced by the new library, the homeless center and even an upcoming effort to build a playground for children with special needs.