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Pismo rescinds offer to purchase Main Street homes to make room for parking 

Juliet Kussman and Michael Rex have lived in their rental near the intersection of Main and Dolliver streets in downtown Pismo Beach for more than two decades.

click to enlarge RESCINDED After facing outrage from community members, Pismo Beach rescinded its offer to purchase several Main Street homes to make way for parking. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIET KUSSMAN
  • File Photo Courtesy Of Juliet Kussman
  • RESCINDED After facing outrage from community members, Pismo Beach rescinded its offer to purchase several Main Street homes to make way for parking.

The location is perfect—just a few blocks away from the beach but far enough from the pier that their street isn't constantly overrun by traffic and tourists (or at least it's not as bad in other parts of Pismo). They're close with their neighbors, they've known their landlord for so long that they consider him family, and their rent hasn't gone up in years.

So when Rex and Kussman found out in March that the city offered to purchase their home at 340 Main St. and others around it to make room for a parking lot, they were scared, despite the city's promise that they'd provide all property owners and tenants with significant relocation funds.

"There is no way you could put us in a better spot than we're in right now," Rex said.

A lack of adequate parking for tourists and residents alike has long been an issue in Pismo Beach, and the city has been working for years to create more parking in an attempt to appease residents and fix the traffic congestion issues that are worsened on weekends by those slowly making the rounds to snag a free parking spot. COVID-19 and the use of parklets for outdoor dining eliminated the already few spots to park downtown, and city staff say one of the city's biggest parking lots downtown—a privately owned lot near Old West Cinnamon Rolls that the city leases—is likely to be sold or developed in coming years.

As a way to mitigate these problems, the city purchased one parcel of land at 330 Main St., directly next to already existing city parking, in hopes of eventually acquiring the homes at 320 and 334 Main St. to make room for additional parking spaces.

The parcel at 334 Main St. has three homes on it, including the rental that Rex and Kussman have lived in for 23 years. Although Rex and Kussman said their landlord and neighbors made it clear to the city they didn't want to sell, Pismo City Council met on April 20 and approved a relocation plan for both the property owners and tenants living on those lots.

Through the relocation plan, which city staff said would only be necessary if the Main Street property owners were willing to sell, impacted tenants and property owners would have been offered thousands of dollars in rental and relocation assistance, as required by state law. Such assistance would have cost the city an estimated $220,000, according to a staff report.

But City Manager Jim Lewis said the city rescinded its offer to purchase the lots on April 26 after both parties declined to sell. The larger issue of parking and other potential solutions, Lewis said, will be addressed at an upcoming City Council meeting sometime this summer.

"They have made it clear they are not interested in selling to the city, and we were only pursuing an amicable transaction," Lewis wrote in an email to New Times.

Kussman and Rex said that while they're grateful to the community members who openly opposed the acquisition and City Council for hearing their concerns, they're still worried about their neighbors, rental tenants living in the home recently purchased by the city. Rex said he's heard unconfirmed rumors that the city still plans to tear that home down and put in a few parking spots.

"They're going to throw out tenants for a parking lot?" he said. "For seven parking spots?"

City Councilmember Scott Newton shared similar sentiments at the April 20 meeting. Parking is lacking in Pismo, he said, but so is housing.

"And so for us to remove affordable housing that's not being produced quick enough to keep up with demand, I think it's a slap in the face to the residents and a slap in the face to our efforts to actually help with the affordable housing crisis," Newton said. "If we're going to be looking to add additional parking, then we should be looking at dirt lots, we should be looking at property that's underutilized, but definitely not property that has housing, has people on it already." Δ

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