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Garden space could grow from park paving

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San Luis Obispo City Council members have approved the new $150,000 parking lot, planned to serve the senior center at Mitchell Park, ending a yearlong saga. Although a plan to build a parking lot was approved in May last year, residents from near the Mitchell Park neighborhood continued to express their opposition to the lot. Many people spoke against the plan, which adds a net 11 parking spaces at the cost of a “specialty garden” formerly slated for the same location. On Jan. 6, the Council approved a smaller lot than originally planned, at a reduced cost, with a 3-2 vote. Council members Jan Marx and Allen Settle were in the minority.

The revised parking lot was considered by many to be a compromise because it avoided a historic tree and stayed clear of the near-by playground. The cost is expected to be about $150, 000, instead of the nearly $200,000 originally allotted for the project.

“We’ll actually have less concrete when we’re done,” Mayor Dave Romero joked at the meeting. “Because [the parking lot] will be asphalt.”

Still, many neighborhood residents were outraged, noting that the park’s “master plan” formerly allowing for a garden space was changed to a parking lot. The project has also been criticized because there have been no traffic studies on the area.

Marx, who made the Mitchell Park issue part of her platform when she was running for the council, criticized the plan during the meeting, calling it the “opposite of smart growth.”

Marx pushed for an amendment that would require the city to dedicate equivalent open space, particularly a community garden space, in the Mitchell Park area, as part of the approved parking lot. The idea was rejected when the city manager warned members not to commit to something so specific. Eventually, after most of the audience had left City Hall, the council directed staff to look at possible garden locations as part of a community gardens report. Details about the need for community gardens will be presented at the Jan. 15 special budget meeting. There are currently about 80 people on the city’s waiting list for community garden space. ∆

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