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The San Luis Obispo City Council met Tuesday, Feb. 18 to review potential plans to revitalize the Mission Plaza restrooms downtown. Other options discussed were either adding a standalone café or modern food trucks to the surrounding plaza.

The project has been in the works for two years now. Members from the design team presented the preliminary site plans. They asked for feedback from the council on whether they would prefer a standalone café or mobile food operations before taking the next steps. 

During several community outreach programs, the team received comments regarding safety concerns in the Plaza, with various problem areas pointed out and needing to be addressed.  

“There were drug paraphernalia and needles found, and so we really need to look at ways to reorganize the space to attract people and families to want to use Mission Plaza,” RRM Design Group project consultant Debbie Rudd said.

The design group met with 62 stakeholders from local businesses, churches and residents to see how to best utilize the space. 

Phase 1 includes renovating the restrooms. The City plans to clean them up and minimize hiding space.

The City also plans to create a hub to attract families with a food and beverage-type kiosk. The kiosk drawn in the plans is an octagonal shape about 10 feet across, to increase visibility from all angles. Both the restrooms and the kiosk will include ornate details taken from surrounding local business fronts, the History Center and the Mission building itself. 

“Bringing this kiosk brings in a piece of art,” architect David Gibbs said. “Even if it’s not even being used, it’s this piece of art that’s in the plaza that’s activated for so many purposes.”

The majority of the council was against the idea of a food truck area, as they said they believed it would most likely pose a threat to the history of the Mission and other surrounding businesses. 

“We would rather that the city focus on keeping the restaurants clean than spend a lot of time coordinating different food trucks to come in and activate the Plaza,” downtown San Luis Obispo CEO Bettina Swigger said.

Mayor Heidi Harmon said she disagreed. She said she likes the idea of mobile food vendors and wants to see more of them in the community.

“I hear what people are saying, that the mission is such an important historical part of our community, there might be a little bit too much of a juxtaposition between the historical structure and food trucks,” Harmon said.

There are already some local café businesses showing interest in the potential new space in Mission Plaza. The Hidden Kitchen co-owner Amira Albonni expressed her interest in the concept plans. She said The Hidden Kitchen is ready to expand because their current location is about the size of  a home kitchen. 

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