Housing in the downtown core could be great... if there were the services and facilities to support it.
My big questions are:
What fair and effective strategies will the city facilitate to protect surrounding neighborhoods from spill-over parking from adjacent high intensity uses? This was a general plan priority in the past.
What is the city doing to encourage and ensure the availability of basic essentials for those living downtown, in order to make reducing reliance on cars realistic?
In the past, people living in downtown SLO had access to things that regular people need every day. The heart of downtown had a grocery store (where Mountain Air and other businesses are currently), a meat market, an affordable bakery, another smaller grocery, a "dime store", department stores, and even a hardware store. These shops allowed residents to meet their daily needs. Downtown SLO no longer offers the things people need for daily life.
Use of buses and bikes to get essentials is time consuming, and makes it difficult to get anything more than a shopping bag or two home, especially if you want frozen foods frozen. Uber and Lyft get expensive. How many of our city leaders are willing to live without cars?
The sad truth is, most people are reliant on cars. Expecting the residents of up to 500 new units to live alone (expensive!) or without cars is unrealistic. Expecting people to pay for off-site parking is unrealistic, unless landlords are required to provide a spot (on-site or paid off-site) for tenants.
In Europe, I’ve gone months without a car. Public transportation is plentiful, fast, and efficient. There are plenty of small food markets where people can pick up groceries on the walk home. Downtown SLO isn’t like this.
They will have cars. So where will they park? Most likely, on the streets of adjacent neighborhoods, further affecting residents of our historical neighborhoods, where parking is already at a premium due to downtown employees parking there. This need for parking doesn't stop at 5pm, since many downtown businesses are staffed late into the night.
Historical homes don’t always have adequate off-street parking, due to changes to transportation modes since the homes were built. This means many residents in the surrounding neighborhoods rely on street parking. Adding up to 500 housing units in the downtown core will affect residents in our historical neighborhoods.
Try carrying your items from Costco or the home improvement store a few blocks from the nearest parking spot. (Or on the bus or a bike, if you live in the downtown core.)
Residential parking districts aren't a solution. They impede the rights of residents to host people in their homes for things such as book clubs, celebrations, and volunteer meetings.
Why should homeowners pay the price for increased density and decreased parking requirements, when developers and landlords are the ones benefiting?
I’m looking forward to answers to my questions. I understand the importance of providing more housing. We need it. But we need to prepare for it in ways that are realistic and will enhance, rather than degrade, resident experiences.