The San Luis Obispo City Council fulfilled a long-held goal at its Oct. 18 meeting and approved a program that will eventually bring a series of signs to the city that will direct passersby to the city’s major tourist sites, including a giant sign to greet drivers at Highland Drive and Santa Rosa Street.
Why, in this age of nearly universal access to personalized navigational systems (i.e. any cell phone), would the cash-strapped city need a new set of expensive signs? A city staff report states the “sign program is all about getting visitors where they need and want to go. This encourages visitors to stay and see all the city has to offer.” The signs will also bring the city up to rough parity in tourist signage with fellow county-seat cities like Santa Barbara and Ventura.
The program will eventually put what the city calls “Entry Monuments” at all the road entrances to the city. The first such piece, on Santa Rosa Street, will dwarf the existing entry signs and has been designed to incorporate a real bronze bell. The sign will be 36 feet wide and nearly two stories high. The plan includes oak trees beside the sign with redwood trees flanking it.
What the new signs and entrance monument will cost is a bit hazy. The project is stretched over different budget years, but it looks like it will cost $100,000 for the initial batch of “Wayfinding” signs. The giant entry monument will cost $185,000, according to staff estimates. The city hopes to get a $135,000 national scenic byways grant through the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments to help with the cost of the entry monument.
In the short run, the council only had to add $50,000 to what had already been budgeted. This, however, will only be a down payment on the program; no one in the city government seems to have any idea what the long-range costs will be.
When asked by Councilwoman Kathy Smith how many signs the city was getting for its investment, Bridget Fraser, senior civil engineer in charge of the project, said she didn’t know yet.
What is known is that there will be a lot of money spent on the signs program.
The city has already spent $59,000 on consultants to design the new signs and the entry monument, as well as redesign city emblems and decide on a new font for city signage.
Smith ended up voting for the sign program, but insisted that any additional expenditure come back to the council for another vote.
Councilman Andrew Carter voted for the sign program, but voted against the entrance monument.
“I can’t support a double-decker bus sized sign,” Carter said. “Not in this financial climate.”