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Downtown SLO's beautification project is $258,000 over budget 

Making three blocks of downtown San Luis Obispo pretty is getting expensive.

The lowest bidder for a downtown beautification project budgeted by the SLO City Council for $640,000 came in at $898,009, according to a city staff report. The $258,009 overspend, the report claims, was caused by City Council requests for some pricey options like pole painting ($27,500), more trash cans ($20,000), and including conduits and pull boxes for future tree lighting ($230,000).

The bidder also presented a lower offer for a scaled-down project; that offer came in $87,000 over a city engineer’s estimate.

The report also puts much of the blame for the price tag on the demands of the businesses in the three-block area of Higuera between Morro and Broad streets, the focus of the planned “beautification.”

“Staff had anticipated higher costs than usual because of the stiff requirements imposed in the contract for working downtown,” the report states.

Because of the requirements of downtown businesses, construction can only happen between 2 and 10 a.m., can only proceed in 80-foot stages, and would involve complete removal of any equipment from the site to “lessen the visual impact during the day,” according to the report.

The plan called for sidewalks to be broken up and replaced by “Mission-style” sidewalks, tree grate upgrades, trash cans replaced with spiffy new models, and some large trees felled and replaced.

City staffers are asking the City Council to reject the bid and will be presenting some options to scale down the scope of the project—and, perhaps, lower the cost. Nevertheless, the report states that if the project goes ahead, it will require “approximately $135,000 in additional funding to cover the base project costs and contingencies.”

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