Downtown Perspective

The last couple of months our Communications Coordinator, Zoya Dixon, and I have been talking about creating a next level media experience for our readers. This little written piece is just the tip of this month’s iceberg: we have companion videos, a companion podcast, and even an interactive map for this month’s Downtown Perspective. In our podcast you will get to hear Zoya jumping on board and interviewing this month’s subject, our very own Downtown Ambassador, Austin Bertucci.

Austin has been with our Downtown SLO team for nearly three years, and I would say within his first month the community had warmly embraced him. He quickly became a pinnacle of our Downtown community and is quite possibly the most popular and loved man in Downtown San Luis Obispo. We agreed that he was the perfect person for unveiling our enhanced story-telling for Downtown. We wanted to know about his daily routines and the connections he has made in the community, but more importantly, we wanted to introduce you to the beauty of this man’s soul and the incredible work that he does every day.

In our conversation with Austin, it was apparent he is an early-to-rise type of guy. His ideal morning starts by riding his bike to 7 AM Mass and enjoying a sunrise stroll over to Linnaea’s Café for a cup of coffee and relaxation. This is where he generates the energy that fuels him through the day’s activities that could include hiking, playing music, quality time with friends, and a movie on his days off. However, from Monday through Friday, Austin takes his role as Downtown Ambassador seriously.

Austin rides his bicycle to work every day and jokes about ringing his bell aggressively along the bike path to greet other commuters and communicate as they ascend and descend the Jennifer Street Bridge simultaneously in “rush hour traffic”. His morning routine begins with a game plan: he reviews the previous day’s happenings Downtown and sets an action plan to complete unfinished projects from the day before, or continue the ongoing maintenance of our public spaces. First, he sweeps some sidewalks and greets guests and residents. From there his day may include cleaning up litter, helping guide tourists to attractions like Bubblegum Alley, checking in with businesses, and talking with the local homeless population.

The work with the homeless population is something that Austin never expected when he joined our team, but he found himself drawn to working with those individuals. Austin told us the story of a gentleman he worked with that had developed an illness, found himself down on his luck and frustrated by misunderstandings with available services and medical bills, but resolved to get a home again. As Austin tells the story, you will not hear him take credit for this man’s success in getting housed, but it is apparent that he was a key piece in helping this man stay motivated and find resources. Just one hour later we met the man, David, and he proudly announced that he had enrolled in a full course load at Cuesta College, and was working towards a career in counseling. That video is on our website and was just one example of Austin’s generosity and caring that we experienced as we followed him throughout the day.

The work Austin does is demanding, physically and emotionally, and I had to know what his lunch routine was. Zoya and I pressed him and discovered that he enjoys visiting Natural Café for something healthy, or for some great Mexican food he heads over to El Matador. Most days, however, he brings a lunch and takes an hour near San Luis Creek at the benches near the Secret Garden, where he just takes in nature and unwinds a bit. He noted that he had been enjoying the recent presence of several fish species in the creek and a hawk that were a wonderful juxtaposition of wild nature in the middle of our city core. This attention to nature that Austin possesses seems to radiate, and his down-to-Earth approach to being an Ambassador makes him our Downtown rock star.

I don’t think that Zoya and I could have found a more perfect person to help us kick off our next level of Downtown experience. Thank you for your work, Austin!