Council holds a moment of silence in honor of fallen Detective Luca Benedetti

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero City Council met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 11 at 5 p.m. for closed session, and open session began at 6 p.m. 

The meeting began with recognition of Detective Luca Benedetti of the San Luis Obispo Police Department, who lost his life in the line of duty on Monday, May 10. Prior to working with SLO, Det. Benedetti worked for Atascadero for four years. The council held a moment of silence in his honor before moving into the agendized items.

The first presentation was from Catalina Hubbard, the program coordinator at the San Luis Obispo Count of Governments (SLOCOG) for Bike There. From Thursday, May 20 to Sunday, May 23, there will be 120 participating locations in the county to check in at. SLOCOG encourages participants to share the experience by posting with #bikethere. Additionally, SLOCOG performs a regional transportation plan update every four years and currently is inviting the public to provide feedback on everything from bike lanes to internet impeding their ability to work from home through their surveys on slocog.org/engage from now until the beginning of July.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Next, the consent calendar was presented, and Council Member Susan Funk requested item 2 to be pulled for a short discussion. All other items were passed 5-0 before discussion began. Funk inquired about the landscaping needs and how residents could become involved in those discussions.

City Manager Rachelle Rickard clarified that the item tonight was to just express the intent and that a hearing would be held on Jun. 8. “We are going out to bid for landscaping contracts this summer; if people are interested in giving input on what that bid looks like, now would be the time to contact our public works department.”

Following the clarification, Council Member Charles Bourbeau made a motion to approve item 2, which was seconded by Council Member Funk and approved by the council 5-0.

Next, City Manager Rickard gave her updates, starting with Mr. Putter’s Paddleboats and Watercraft Concessions, which held their soft opening and plans to be open daily starting memorial day weekend and throughout the summer. 

The Rock Snake in Atascadero is currently at 7748 rocks and needs to be at 8500 before the city can apply for the Guinness Book of World Records, so the city is encouraging everyone to get out and add a painted rock.

The Charles Paddock Zoo currently has a new baby Prehensile-Tailed porcupine. It doesn’t take long for them to start looking like adults, so the city is encouraging everyone to get out and see the baby before too long.

The Citywide yard sale is being held on Jun. 5, and the last day for registering is May 29. Find more information at atascaderoyardsale.com. All proceeds will benefit Parents for Joy for ongoing improvements and maintenance of the all-inclusive Joy playground at Colony Park in Atascadero.

Lastly, Rickard touched on the ongoing request from public for in-person meetings, explaining that the city is trying to be as inclusive and transparent as they can while they prepare for hybrid meetings. They are aiming for July to have people back in chambers, which depends on the availability of technology equipment so that they can accommodate both the in-person attendees as well as those who wish to still social distance.

Public hearing 1 for the Title 9 Chapter 17 (Cannabis Activities & Regulations) Municipal Code Amendments to add non-storefront Cannabis delivery services and security provisions (CPP20-0011) was continued to the next meeting on May 25. In accordance with the Brown Act, the item was open for public comment before moving on, but none was submitted. 

Public Hearing 2 was to hear objections for any weed abatement removal notices that were given out. This item was led by Fire Chief Casey Bryson, who explained that any properties not maintained receive notices of the city’s intent to hire someone to remove any weeds as a critical piece of the fuel management program for community fire safety. There were 2828 notices mailed out, but no objections were raised at the meeting, so the motion to move forward with the work of abatement was passed 5-0.

The meeting moved on to management reports, in which Ryan Betz presented on the downtown street tree renewal program. Betz started with the note that maintenance of sidewalks, wells, and street trees is the obligation of the property owner. However, the city has shown a strong history of supporting downtown, including the health of the trees. In July 2020, $75,000 was appropriated for phase 1 of the Downtown Street Tree Renewal Program, with which many problem trees were removed, sidewalk hazards were repaired, and streets were prepared for tree replacements. Additionally, alternatives to tree grates were explored, and the city found a flexible, porous paving system which is a mixture of recycled rubber chips, aggregate, and a binding agent. Water easily flows through to maximize water to the trees, and the substance is crack resistant, ADA compliant, and actually comes in at a cheaper cost than cast iron tree grates.

The final portion of Phase 1 was the Downtown Tree Guideline, which provides guidance to staff on which trees should be planted on which streets, both for aesthetics as well as safety and longevity of sidewalks. 

Phase 2 will involve moving forward with the proposed plan outlining new tree implementation as well as the removal of a few remaining trees. 

The motion to move on to Phase 2 was passed 5-0.

Moving to committee reports, Council Member Bourbeau announced the integrated waste management meeting Wednesday and the finance committee meeting on Thursday, and Council Member Funk announced the design review meeting Thursday to discuss the Del Rio Ranch.

Lastly, Deputy City Manager/City Clerk, Lara Christensen brought up for individual determination three bills that are currently in the committee process. These bills were SB 6, SB 9, and SB 619, with which the council approved their support to align with the League of California Cities decisions on these bills.

Following this, the meeting went back into closed session, in which the community was asked to log off the virtual platform the City was using so the Council could conduct closed session. 

According to Luke Knight, IT Manager for the City, Zoom does not have the ability to create “Breakout Rooms” for the webinar format that the City uses for Council meetings, so at this time, Closed Session is continued to the end of Regular Session. Knight said that staff would work on a way to ensure public participation for this type of occurrence.

At 8:41 p.m. Knight responded with an update that the Council ended Closed Session and did not return to Open Session for a report.

The next city council meeting will be held on May 25, and the link to the meeting and agenda can be found on the city’s website atascadero.org