Bouquets and Brickbats: Charging for Sunday parking is too expensive

Who knew that charging for Sunday parking in downtown San Luis Obispo would be so pricey? Originally, it was estimated that the city would spend $11,000 to install new signs with the updated parking fee schedule. Since then, the cost has jumped nearly tenfold, to $102,500.

For that price, we should get gold-leaf lettering, right? Wrong.

Here’s what’s driving up the cost: Because the new parking signs are bigger than the old ones, new posts will have to be installed. And it turns out that the city underestimated the number of signs that will be needed.

But before we fling any brickbats, we should explain that the feds also bear some responsibility. That’s because the new signs need to meet Department of Transportation standards that call for bigger, better, more reflective street signs. The new, easier-to-read signs are supposed to increase safety, especially at night.

In fact, traffic and street signs in cities and towns across America were supposed to be replaced by 2018 — with local governments footing the bill. But due to cost concerns, the Department of Transportation recently agreed to put the brakes on that. Instead, it’s proposing to allow municipalities to continue using existing signs until they wear out. That makes sense.

Meanwhile, back in San Luis Obispo, city staff reasons that as long as the signs are being replaced, the new ones should meet updated federal standards. We can’t argue with that.

What we can argue with is the City Council’s decision to charge for Sunday parking in the first place. If not for that, none of the signs would need replacing — and Sunday shoppers would be a lot happier to boot. Hmmm now where did we park those brickbats?

Red panda makes debut at zoo

How about a giant bouquet of fresh bamboo for Ruskan, the adorable red panda at the Charles Paddock Zoo? The 2-year-old male has been living at the zoo in Atascadero since last year but didn’t make his public debut until this Saturday.

Red pandas, native to China, Bhutan, India and Nepal, have been designated as a vulnerable species because of declining habitat. They look more like a raccoon or fox rather than a mascot for a Chinese restaurant chain.

The zoo has placed Ruskan in a temporary exhibit while it builds a more permanent home. We hope the public display of this cuter-than-cute furball will inspire an attendance panda-monium for the zoo to help its mission of conservation and education.

See pictures of the adorable red panda at www.sanluisobispo.com.

High local gas prices are frustrating

We’re fuming over the recent news that San Luis Obispo County has the highest average gas price in the state. Because of a combination of factors — including commodity trading, our geography and our status as a tourist destination — the average price of $3.97 per gallon in San Luis Obispo County beats even the $3.95 average in San Francisco.

Granted, many of these factors are out of our control, but it doesn’t limit the frustration and burden on our wallets. We’ll just have to chalk it up as just another cost to living in this beautiful area. Even though we can’t do much to steer the average downward, we still award an exhaust-covered brickbat to high gas prices, with hopes that autumn brings a fall in the rates.