On April 7, SLO's Architectural Review Commission became the third advisory group to reject a controversial plan that would change 6,000 square feet of Mitchell Park into a parking lot for a senior center. Despite the groups' decisions--and public outcry from neighbors--the City Council seems resolute in its support of the change.
Mayor Dave Romero, who has been a proponent of the parking lot for years, said that the seniors who use the facility at the corner of Santa Rosa and Buchon streets have requested the parking lot since the '80s.
"We've looked at many solutions," Romero said. "The obvious, simple, and quickest solution is to build a small parking lot."
Opponents of the project, including the group Save Mitchell Park, have criticized the plan for being a band-aid rather than a solution to providing services for seniors. Critics have pointed out that the council is already working on a plan that would relocate the senior center to accommodate an aging Baby Boomer population. Most projections foresee a new facility 10 years in the future.
The current proposal includes 14 parking spaces, but at the cost of four on-street spots. Opponents have pointed out that the Marsh Street parking structure is only three blocks away.
Since February, the plan that would change an underused area of the downtown park--slated for a "specialty garden" in the master plan--into an overflow parking lot for the senior center has been rejected three times: first by the Cultural Heritage Committee, which rejected it on the grounds that it's inconsistent with the look of the historic neighborhood and the historic use of the park. The group further requested an environmental impact report to assess the impact a new lot would have on the neighborhood.
The city's Parks and Recreation Department first approved the plan, but elected to revisit the idea on April 2 after public protest. After more than an hour of testimony from concerned citizens, the department repealed its earlier recommendation to the City Council.
Finally, the Architectural Review Commission unanimously rejected the plan.
Now, with an environmental impact report underway, the proposed parking lot will come before the City Council on May 6.