Don't you wish downtown San Luis Obispo could be more like Zurich or Monte Carlo or Côte d'Azur instead of the grimy, homeless-infested shithole that it is? What a dump!
"Downtown ambassador" Austin Bertucci is basically the only thing standing between livability and downtown SLO sliding into bombed-out Beirut-like squalor. Bertucci walks around downtown, keeping things tidy and being friendly to everyone. He's hired by Downtown SLO, which organizes the Thursday night Farmers' Market and the summertime Concerts in the Plaza series, among other things.
"We do see some drug dealing going on. We see needles show up," Downtown SLO CEO Bettina Swigger told New Times in this week's cover story ("Cleaning up"), which also lamented all the puke and poop that Bertucci cleans up in the former Happiest Place in America.
Good grief! We've got to do something about this! (Side note: Drug dealing? Where, Bettina? Please private message me. It's for research, I swear!)
The nonprofit formerly known as the Business Improvement Association founded in 1975, the Downtown Association in 1998, and rebranded as Downtown SLO in 2017, is funded by downtown businesses, which are assessed fees based on their income. The more they earn, the more they pay, like it or not. Opting out isn't an option.
Now Downtown SLO wants to create a Property-Based Improvement District (PBID), which instead of extracting more money from business owners—many of whom can barely afford to pay the absurd $2.50 to $5 per square foot rents—plans to extract money from property owners to pay for the program that would add four more downtown ambassadors like Bertucci to keep things clean, take photos of tourists in Bubblegum Alley, and talk to homeless folks about panhandling and loitering rules as well as homeless services ... located way over there, out of the downtown, like, near the SLO Wastewater Treatment Facility.
"Have a nice walk!"
If you're a business owner who happens to also own the property your business is in, think of this proposal as a twofer, as in you get to pay twice, sucker! Of course, let's face it. If you're renting or leasing, and your property owner ends up paying for the PBID, you know you're going to pay for it anyway in increased rents, right? That's real trickle-down economics at work, folks!
Is it just me, or does it already seem like cool old downtown SLO has been gentrified to the point that mom-and-pop businesses can't afford to be here? It's one national chain after another! Do we really need another Banana Republic-like store selling V-neck pullovers in taupe? Oh, I'm sorry! I meant "oatmeal" or "ecru" or "buff" or "khaki" or ... dammit, it's beige, people! It's all beige!
And to call the downtown "dirty" seems like rank relativism—it seems pretty freaking clean to me. If you expect your sidewalks polished to a high sheen, move to Zurich for Christ's sake!
And while I'm ranting, what's up with Hotel Cerro and Hotel SLO, and who are they catering to? The Tribune has reported that Hotel Cerro rooms will be $285 to $805 excluding taxes, and Hotel SLO will be $400 to $1,110 excluding taxes. Gulp! Who are these people who can afford these rooms, and why do they want to come to needle- and homeless-ridden SLO? Slumming?
Currently, Downtown SLO is soliciting petition signatures for the potential PBID from the roughly 125 property owners affected. If they gather sufficient signatures, it will be voted on, and if 51 percent of property owners vote yes, 100 percent of the property owners in the district will be forced to pay. Opting out will not be an option.
"This initiative is an ineffective solution to the issues at hand," potential PBID member Rachael Drake told the SLO City Council on May 21. "Raising taxes by a select few properties, whether business owners or home owners, to fund a cleaner downtown, when everyone enjoys downtown, doesn't seem right."
Well, not everyone "enjoys" downtown. Ask around and you'll find a lot of people refuse to come to downtown because a) they can't find parking, b) they can find parking but the meters at $2 an hour seem excessive, or c) they already bought a beige V-neck sweater online for half the price and downtown SLO has turned into pretentious Snootsville.
You think it's snooty now, wait until out-of-towners paying a thousand bucks a night to stay here show up in their Rolls-Royces asking you for Grey Poupon.
No dig on Bertucci or the idea of having more like him patrolling downtown. He does a terrific service, and if property owners want to pay for more like him, go for it, but as former NYC mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan and his The Rent Is Too Damn High political party said, "The rent is too damn high!" Seriously!
The old Rileys/Copeland Sports building has been sitting empty for years! Is it really better to write off the loss of an empty building than make rents affordable enough to allow entrepreneurial spirit to flourish downtown? Sadly, apparently it is. Look out, Zurich! We're gunning for you! Δ
The Shredder wants to open a artisanal free-range organic widget shop in downtown SLO but can't afford the rents. Send ideas and comments to email@example.com.