SLO County is a great place to live. Here are 10 small ways to make it better

This painting by Robert Maja looks great on a utility box. It would look even better on a bigger canvas—like the side of a building.
This painting by Robert Maja looks great on a utility box. It would look even better on a bigger canvas—like the side of a building. Tribune file photo

We aren’t ignoring big-ticket needs like affordable housing, high-wage jobs and a fix for Highway 101 gridlock through Shell Beach. But today, we’re focusing on smaller, more doable goals that shouldn’t require an environmental impact report, years and years of planning and tens of millions of dollars.

Here are 10:

More—and better—parking

Yes, we need more parking, especially in downtown SLO. But it’s not just the quantity of parking that matters. It’s the quality. Having to fish for nickels and dimes in this day and age is ridiculous. The city of SLO has some parking meters that accept credit cards. It needs more. And how about selling all-day parking passes at a few central locations, good for any metered space in the city?

As for the parking itself, the spaces at many lots around the county are TOO SMALL. No one pays attention to those “compact” designations. Vehicles the size of small tanks park in compact spaces, making it impossible for drivers of cars that actually are compacts to see around the behemoths when they try to pull out.

And speaking of seeing, most garages, and many lots, could use more lighting.

Oh, and how about making it easier for us to find our cars when we’re ready to go home? If you’ve turned a big empty field into a parking lot, please put up some signs to give us a general idea of where we left our cars when we come trudging back, in the dark, hours later.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. At the Vina Robles Ampitheatre in Paso, for instance, General Manager Paul Leatherman told us he’s putting up signs attached to bike racks to designate the various rows in the dirt parking. Thanks, Vina Robles, from all of us who have spent several minutes searching for our cars in a blind panic.

Bring back Mardi Gras

Or Poly Royal. Or La Fiesta. The point being that San Luis Obispo needs a signature event for everyone—not just cinefiles or art aficionados or wine connoisseurs.

Sure, there’s some special event in Mission Plaza at least every other weekend, but SLO needs something that involves shutting down streets, parading, shopping for tacky souvenirs and eating something really, really sloppy.

After all, Arroyo Grande has the Strawberry Festival. Cambria has scarecrows. Paso Robles has Pioneer Days. SLO needs something big. If Mardi Gras is too decadent, how about an old fashioned Fourth of July celebration?

A (fenced) dog park in every community

As a couple of readers have pointed out, the city of San Luis Obispo has a dog “area” at Laguna Lake—but it’s not a full-fledged, fenced dog park. (And according to one disgruntled poster on BringFido, a visitor was fined $516 for having a dog off-leash in the wrong area of the park.)

There is a bona fide (meaning fenced) dog park at El Chorro Park, across from Cuesta College, but given the number and popularity of canine companions, every city could benefit from a dog park.

Fix the sidewalks

Potholed streets get more attention, but sidewalks that are cracked, buckled and uneven present more of a trip-and-fall hazard, especially for walkers who are unsteady on their feet due to illness or disability. And please keep surrounding vegetation trimmed—nobody wants to get whacked by a tree limb while out for a leisurely stroll. And while we’re on the subject, how about a campaign to keep bicyclists from riding on the sidewalk?

More ways to beat the heat

It does get hot here, especially in North County. Sure, you can buy a wading pool and stick it in the backyard, but how much cooler would it be to incorporate splash pads at our public parks? Paso Robles would be a great place to start. In case you’re not familiar with splash pads, they are literally pads that squirt water into air from ground nozzles—often intermittently to give kids more of a thrill. Splash pads are enormously popular. In fact, they’re being called the new public pool—only you don’t need a life guard and they’re a lot less expensive.

Safer bikeways

As we’ve said before, posting a “share the road” sign does no good if there’s not enough road to share. We need wider bike lanes and—even better—protected lanes that place a physical barrier between cyclists and motorists. Lives depend on it.

In areas that are bike friendly, how about a bike-share program? Visitors can use a credit card to cover the deposit and/or rental fees, tour around, then return the bike at various stations around the community. The idea has been raised by city council candidates during campaigns, but then it’s dropped. Too bad.

Cut the clutter

Clutter takes many forms. Weeds. Trash. Green poop bags that dog owners neglect to toss in the garbage. Rusted-out cars. Stained, threadbare couches with big “free” signs attached—as if offering them for free somehow makes it OK to dump them at the side of the road. Obnoxious signs like the big “Hillary for Prison” one we spotted on the Nipomo Mesa. (Please, can we have a break from politics for a few months?)

Splashier street art

We have painted cows, painted trash cans and painted utility boxes. Let’s think bigger. How about some painted walls, maybe? If we really wanted to be daring, we could dedicate a few “permission walls” where it’s legal to paint graffiti—and also legal for the next artist to paint over it. If we can put up with Bubble Gum Alley, surely we can live with a Graffiti Place.

Ugh. Do something about gross public restrooms

We’re told the men’s room at Mission Plaza smells like wolverine. The women’s room isn’t so bad, but could use a coat of paint on the doors. And is there any way that a hand-washing or hand sanitizer station could be installed near the restroom at the Bob Jones trail head?

Year-round music

There are plenty of free, outdoor concerts in the summer—at bandstands, wineries, parks, plazas, farmers markets. But here’s the great thing about living on the Central Coast: It rarely gets below 60 degrees! So how about an occasional outdoor concert during the other nine months of the year?

Want to add to the list?

If you have a way to make SLO County a better place—without breaking the bank—email us at letters@thetribunenews.com.

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