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SLO purchases 36 vehicle barriers to protect downtown events 

San Luis Obispo's downtown farmers' market and other big city events are about to get a lot more secure.

At its June 21 meeting, the SLO City Council signed off on the purchase of three dozen anti-vehicle barriers, which will be rolled out every Thursday night to block the entryways to the popular downtown farmers' market.

click to enlarge BETTER PROTECTED The city of SLO recently purchased 36 anti-vehicle barriers to protect its weekly downtown farmers market. - FILE PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • File Photo By Dylan Honea-Baumann
  • BETTER PROTECTED The city of SLO recently purchased 36 anti-vehicle barriers to protect its weekly downtown farmers market.

The barriers—each 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide, and 700 pounds—will be installed in a line across streets to thwart attempted vehicular attacks. According to the company that makes them, Meridian Rapid Defense Group, the barriers have "heavy-duty back plates" that "dig into the vehicle."

SLO decided to purchase a set of movable barriers after spending years planning for a more significant investment in permanent, retractable bollards downtown.

That project, which was estimated to cost about $1.3 million, was ultimately scrapped due to "high installation and ongoing maintenance costs," according to a June 21 city staff report.

The three-dozen Meridian barriers—called Archer 1200s—cost the city $331,280 total and take less than 10 minutes to deploy via trailer, according to SLO and Meridian.

"Unlike fixed bollards, our barriers are non-lethal to the driver and minimize shrapnel spray. They are 100 percent reusable after impact and have a lifetime warranty," a fact sheet for the product read.

The barriers are a welcome addition to the farmers' market, its nearly 100 vendors, and thousands of attendees, according to Bettina Swigger, CEO of the Downtown SLO association, which puts on the event.

"We're really grateful," Swigger said. "We as the producers of the farmers' market have the safety of the vendors and marketgoers top of mind."

Recent market attendees may have already seen the vehicle barriers in action, as the city bought 16 of them as part of a pilot program, installing them at either end of the Thursday market on Higuera Street.

Painted bright colors (some have market-themed art, like pictures of strawberries), Swigger said the fixtures blend in nicely.

"They're really cute and on-brand," she said.

The addition of barriers does add some logistical challenges to an already logistically challenging event, Swigger acknowledged. Because all market vendors will have to be inside the barriers before they are set up, the timing around the 5 p.m. street closure and the 6 p.m. market start time will get trickier during setup.

"The city has really helped us with this," Swigger said. "They work with our team on our deployment schedule so it works when the vendors come in." Δ

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