By Executive Director Dominic Tartaglia
This month marks the 40th anniversary of the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association and with four decades of history in SLO County, our office has achieved many great things. In that span of time we have had many great leaders to thank for shaping the future of our Downtown. Folks like last year’s Holiday Parade Marshal Robert Horch, my predecessor Deborah Cash and this year’s Holiday Parade Marshal Pierre Rademaker, just to name a few of our most recent names on that list. Contributions from the leadership of this organization have not only taken put our community on the map but they have secured a place in history where San Luis Obispo is sure to held in high esteem.
Previous leaders have given our community concerts, markets, public spaces and art that are all free for anybody to attend and enjoy. I honestly do see those things as gifts from the efforts of individuals that collectively have worked to carry this organization forward. Our committee members, volunteers, interns and our Board of Directors have dedicated countless hours and resources over the past 40 years to do whatever is necessary to keep our Downtown beautiful and economically vibrant. In the last year alone, by my best approximation, 3,635 hours of volunteer time went into this small portion of our town. For perspective, that is the equivalent of hiring one full time employee to work for 70 hours per week all year long. In short, I owe a massive thank you to our supporters.
Those numbers beg the question, “Why do people give so much to the Downtown Association’s mission to foster an economically vibrant Downtown?” The answer to that question is unique to most people but the common thread among volunteers is that they enjoy being a part of a community that grows from their contribution. Universally speaking, people find inherent value in doing work in which they can see physical change as a direct result of their input. Down here, that means a Design committee member will see artwork on the sidewalks or a Promotions committee member can watch thousands of people dancing to a concert. Through their contribution of time they have created obvious memories but what about those contributions that don’t manifest in a physical event?
I’m talking about the work of our volunteers that are currently working to draft a vision plan for all of Downtown and the groups before them. In 2016 the Downtown Association has tasked itself with taking a serious look at what our neighborhood may look like in the next 20 years and likely the physical product of many hours to come will be a document at the end of 2016. At first glance a document is rather plain but the content that will be contained within its covers will certainly set precedents for what our membership hopes to see for the future economy of this community. Those precedents are starting points that will undoubtedly be referenced for years to come to ensure another 40 years of prosperity.
Many traditions revere this time of the year as a season of giving and in that spirit I would like to thank our past and current staff, supporters and the countless volunteers that have given this community a tremendous gift, Downtown SLO. I wish you all peace, love and happiness this holiday season.