It’s called a “funicular,” and it looks like the result of a passionate hook-up between a trolley and an escalator. The device, which consists of a tram-like vehicle pulled along a slope by a cable, was chosen by the Morro Bay City Council on Nov. 13 as its preferred means for connecting the city’s popular harbor area to the oft-ignored shops and restaurants of downtown.
Currently, an old, zig-zagging staircase straddles the slope between Centennial Park on Embarcadero Road and two restaurants on Market Street. The staircase is the only pedestrian-friendly connector, but it doesn’t accommodate the handicapped.
According to a staff report, the city owned a parcel on Market Street for years, which leaders hoped would be utilized as a conference center. When those plans fell through, they sold the land to George Salwasser, a restaurateur who also wanted a piece of an abutting city-owned parcel (now a parking lot). As part of the purchase and sales agreement, the city gave Salwasser the extra land, but he would have to design, engineer, install, and maintain a lift station of some kind to improve access to the downtown area. He won’t have to pay any construction fees.
Salwasser had designs drawn up for an elevator and the fancier funicular and asked the city which project he should pursue.
“The costs will be borne by Mr. Salwasser,” city attorney Rob Shultz said. “He provided us with these options and asked which one we’d like him to build.”
Council members voted 5-0 for the funicular, hoping that the oddness of the lift would be enough of an attraction in and of itself to encourage tourists to explore more of the city.