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By City Manager Rachelle Rickard
January 2016

Today, Atascadero’s downtown area is a beautiful setting which includes our extraordinary Historic City Hall building, lovely landscape plantings and beautifully restored fountains, which sits alongside the serene Sunken Gardens with its impressive fountain and Wrestling Bacchantes statue - all of which together serves as the City’s center for a wide variety of events.

Additionally, as I write this article, we’re very excited about two new restaurants in the downtown area that are now completing their improvements and are soon to open. A new pedestrian bridge that will connect Sunken Gardens to Colony Square and Galaxy Theatre is in its final planning stages; a new property owner is moving forward with purchasing portions of the currently vacant Colony Square land with the intention of completing the previously approved tenant space; and new walkway paths along Atascadero Creek are being planned.

One key element still missing from the downtown area is an active and vibrant restaurant and retail environment. These types of businesses could remain open in the evening, taking advantage of the beautiful setting and adding to the sense of place. The area surrounding Sunken Gardens would be ideal for this type of use, but currently is predominantly filled with medical and dental offices.

When the Downtown Revitalization Plan was adopted in 2000, it was envisioned that our downtown would be predominated by “multi-story mixed uses with retail uses on the ground floor and residential and office above”. As part of the City’s effort to foster a gradual transition from office to restaurant and retail uses, staff is currently looking for ways through zoning to encourage this shift. A zoning amendment could be used to discourage the expansion and replacement of first floor office uses in key areas of the downtown. Other options, including potential incentive ideas, could also be a component.

City staff is currently evaluating the options and will bring a recommendation to the Council in early 2016.  Items open for consideration will include:

  • What areas should be included in this zoning amendment?
  • Should ground floor offices be prohibited, or should there be another option?
  • Is there a way to accelerate this transition?
  • Would this zoning change potentially create vacancies or limit property upgrades?
  • What other ideas might be considered to facilitate this change?

All those with an interest in how to best implement improvements and changes to our downtown zoning are encouraged to attend the upcoming Planning Commission and City Council meetings when these ideas will be discussed. Planning Commission meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays each month; Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays each month. Agendas for all public meetings are posted about a week in advance and can be found on the City’s website at www.atascadero.org .

As always, if you have any questions about this or any other topic related to the City, please feel free to contact me at rrickard@atascadero.org .

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