ATASCADERO - By the third outing in their tour of Atascadero North, South, East and West, City Manager Rachelle Rickard had the original 15-minute staff presentation prepared for the City Council’s “Talk on the Block” series down to a 10-minute highlight reel.
About 20 residents, mostly neighbors of the Atascadero Lake came to the Pavilion at the Lake Park Tuesday, June 4, joined by Rickard, Police Chief Jerel Haley, Fire Chief Casey Bryson, Public Works Director Nick DeBar and Finance Director Jeri Rangel, as well as the entire City Council and Mayor Heather Moreno, who spearheaded the idea for the gatherings.
While previous meetings had the subjects of traffic safety for elementary schoolers in the South of the City, and the possibility of a rent stabilization ordinance for mobile homes addressed briefly as the Council is not allowed to deliberate during informational meetings, the lakeside meeting heard about the condition of roads not maintained under city jurisdiction and air quality during burn season.
Sticking around for one-on-one time with any constituents who wanted their attention, members of the City Council seemed happy to be ending a meeting in the daylight hours with time to talk rather than their usual Tuesday schedule.
Speaking for the elected representatives, Moreno said the feedback from residents, “thrills and delights us,” and they were glad that an audience turned out.
Despite the crowd numbers being dwarfed by the size of the meeting space, which usually hosts banquets and dances, it was still double the usual number who turn out to meetings at City Hall for public comment.
Issues brought up include the new ubiquity of “vaping” in public spaces as a replacement for traditional tobacco products, something the Council will look at in a hearing on a new local ordinance June 25.
A resident also inquired about what the City is, "going to do about all the homeless,” to which Chief Haley noted, “it’s not illegal to be transient. It’s not illegal to look run down or to smell bad. We’re here to address illegal behavior [that impacts the community.]”
As part of the Community Action Team initiative with the County of San Luis Obispo’s Behavioral Health Department, he added there are new resources, including a person on duty to aid the transient homeless in unique ways, such as getting medications to the mentally ill.
With that said, he personally arrested an individual earlier in the day for “trying car doors,” in the Vons’ parking lot, and has a personal “pet peeve” about shopping cart theft, saying “don’t put your filth where my vegetables are supposed to go.”
Issues brought up for which staff could not report progress were on what to do with the 40 miles of roadways which the City did not take charge of at its founding and have since deteriorated without maintenance provided by adjacent property owners.
If City workers directly aid residents with repairs there will be liability issues as the grading cannot be brought up to code. The City does try to offer asphalt cold patch material to residents for their own installation, however.
Mosquito mitigation, something formerly handled by the County until the last budget crunch, was also a concern as the summer heat begins.
As of press time, the final Talk on the Block was scheduled to be held at Monterey Road Elementary School on Thursday, June 6.