Elections

Where Atascadero candidates stand on Sunken Gardens, business development

Three candidates are competing for two seats on the Atascadero City Council, from left, Susan Funk, Heather Newsom and Mark Dariz.
Three candidates are competing for two seats on the Atascadero City Council, from left, Susan Funk, Heather Newsom and Mark Dariz. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Atascadero is in the midst of election season, with candidates campaigning for a City Council race that will be decided in November.

Two council seats are up for grabs, and three candidates are vying for a chance to serve the city. All are newcomers, as Councilman Brian Sturtevant opted not to run for another term, and Councilwoman Heather Moreno is running unopposed to replace outgoing Mayor Tom O’Malley.

The Tribune sent each of candidates a three-question survey asking them about their stances on important issues facing Atascadero, from medical offices in the Sunken Gardens to economic development. You’ll find their responses and a brief introduction below.

Susan Funk
Susan Funk ran a narrow second place in the race for two seats on the Atascadero City Council. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Susan Funk

Running for: City Council

Age: 60

Educational background: MBA, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, with a certificate in public management; BA in music, Yale University

Occupation: Owner of the Kailos Group Inc., a small business doing management consulting in the healthcare industry.

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: First time running for public office.

What is the top issue facing the city and what would you do about it?

Our key challenge is building an economy strong enough to support the community we want to become, while retaining our small town charm. Being a bedroom community does not generate the revenue Atascadero needs to serve its people and maintain its roads. Building a vibrant downtown is essential – we can’t attract the businesses and jobs we need if people experience Atascadero as eight exits in search of a city. I will work actively with merchants and investors to attract constructive investment in entertainment, dining and niche retail, and promote restoration of the Printery for multipurpose community use including performing arts.

How can Atascadero make the Sunken Gardens a vibrant gathering spot when the current mix of tenants includes numerous medical offices?

Build up, which I’ve advocated at council. If the Sunken Gardens area is enlivened by a rooftop restaurant or an upstairs comedy club, and along East Mall a restaurant or ice cream parlor where properties may open up, some commercial investor will offer enough money for a West Mall outdoor dining site that a dentist/doctor will relocate or move upstairs. The city can facilitate this strategic transition by waiving certain fees for medical/dental office relocations out of downtown, and when updating the master plan require non-conforming uses downtown to share lots with conforming uses within a few years unless infeasible.

What would you do to bring more businesses to Atascadero?

I’ve already spoken with a MindBody executive about establishing an Atascadero satellite and with Chamber CEO Derek Kirk about BridgeWorks and expanded offerings to recruit tech jobs. I will work to establish broad access to fiber-optic cable throughout downtown and north to the Del Rio area to help attract tech businesses and entrepreneurs. Recently I hosted a community forum discussing the vacant commercial property at ECR and Santa Barbara Road with the developer who recently acquired it, where topics included how residents can help the new owner attract the businesses they want to patronize. That’s my kind of win-win solution.

Mark Dariz126445
Atascadero Planning Commissioner Mark Dariz is running for a City Council seat. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Mark Dariz

Running for: City Council

Age: 51

Educational background: Bachelor of Architecture, Cal Poly

Occupation: Architect

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Atascadero Planning Commissioner, 2011 to present

What is the top issue facing the city and what would you do about it?

The priority issue facing the city is revenue. This is not unlike most other communities. The safety and welfare of our residents is of utmost importance. If tax dollars are not there, we cannot adequately provide essential services for the city. The number one way to increase our tax base is to foster a robust economy. We need to bring business to our city and find a way to fill the vacancies in our commercial areas.

How can Atascadero make the Sunken Gardens a vibrant gathering spot when the current mix of tenants includes numerous medical offices?

Atascadero has already changed its zoning ordinance around the Sunken Gardens in hopes of adding to a pedestrian-friendly shopping and dining downtown. This transformation may take time, but the plan is solid.

What would you do to bring more businesses to Atascadero?

It is important that the city work with prospective business owners as well as current business owners to make Atascadero a business-friendly community. A friendly atmosphere in City Hall as well as incentives are important. Impact fees can be a big burden on new businesses. A fee deferment program would allow the business to focus on establishing a strong economy while still satisfying their obligation to the city.

Heather Newsom
Heather Newsom was the top vote-getter in the Atascadero City Council election. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Heather Newsom

Running for: City Council

Age: 41

Educational background: Accounting, University of Alaska, Anchorage; Associate’s Degree, Red Rocks Community College; Accounting, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Occupation: Owner of Grand Business Solutions, LLC, an accounting and tax company

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Atascadero Parks and Recreation Commissioner, 2017 to present

What is the top issue facing the city and what would you do about it?

It is important for the city to generate more revenue to be sustainable for years to come. I will work to ensure a balanced budget and responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

How can Atascadero make the Sunken Gardens a vibrant gathering spot when the current mix of tenants includes numerous medical offices?

The existing council has made zoning changes for future development of downtown. These changes would allow both retail and service businesses to be located in Sunken Gardens in multi-level properties with retail on the ground floor. I think it is important to attract more retail businesses and offer incentives for service-based businesses to relocate. I will work to encourage business development within Atascadero to promote financial security for our community.

What would you do to bring more businesses to Atascadero?

As an accounting business owner, I have helped other businesses for 16 years; I understand the challenges businesses face. I will collaborate with businesses in our community to integrate their values and experience into our everyday procedures and implement policies that support opportunities for their success with the ultimate goal of enhancing our entire community’s well-being. We must support our emergency services, our parks and recreational resources and all of the basic services that make life safe and enjoyable for our community.

Local news matters: We rely on readers like you more than ever before, and we currently offer free access to five stories a month. Support us further with a digital subscription to help ensure we can provide strong local journalism for many years to come. #ReadLocal

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden
Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

  Comments