San Luis Obispo The Heart of Central California
The hills of San Luis Obispo during the Spring.
Photo Credit: Brady Teufel
By: Wikipedia San Luis Obispo (Spanish for St. Louis, the Bishop) is a city in California, located roughly midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on the Central Coast. Founded in 1772 by Spanish Fr. Junípero Serra, San Luis Obispo is one of California’s oldest communities. The city, referred to locally as San Luis or SLO, is the county seat of San Luis Obispo County and is adjacent to California Polytechnic State University. The population was 45,119 at the 2010 census.
History The earliest human inhabitants of the local area were the Chumash peoples. One of the earliest villages lies south of San Luis Obispo, and reflects the landscape of the early Holocene when estuaries came farther inland. These Chumash people exploited marine resources of the inlets and bays along the Central Coast and inhabited a network of villages including sites at Los Osos and Morro Creek. San Luis Obispo was also a popular stop on both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 with the rise of car culture. Due to its popularity as a stop, it was the location of the first motel, the Milestone Mo-Tel. Among San Luis Obispo’s historical buildings is the former San Luis Obispo Carnegie Library, located at 696 Monterey Street. The San Luis Obispo Carnegie Library was built in 1905 with a grant of $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie, who funded the establishment of 142 California libraries in the early 1900s. The Romanesque style building was designed by architect W. H. Weeks of Watsonville, California and was built by contractor Joseph Maino of San Luis Obispo.
Demographics The 2010 United States Census reported that San Luis Obispo had a population of 45,119. The population density was 3,489.4 people per square mile (1,347.3/kmÂ˛). The racial makeup of San Luis Obispo was 38,117 (84.5%) White, 523 (1.2%) African American, 275 (0.6%) Native American, 2,350 (5.2%) Asian, 65 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 1,973 (4.4%) from other races, and 1,816 (4.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6,626 persons (14.7%). The Census reported that 43,937 people (97.4% of the population) lived in households, 967 (2.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 215 (0.5%) were institutionalized. There were 19,193 households, out of which 3,178 (16.6%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 5,690 (29.6%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,336 (7.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 586 (3.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,104 (5.8%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 124 (0.6%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. There were 20,553 housing units at an average density of 1,589.5 per square mile (613.7/kmÂ˛), of which 7,547 (39.3%) were owner-occupied, and 11,646 (60.7%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.6%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.7%. 17,225 people (38.2% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 26,712 people (59.2%) lived in rental housing units.
Seals lounging on the rocks at Avila Beach.
Photo Credit: Brady Teufel
Culture The Madonna Inn is a famous local landmark. Established by Alex Madonna in 1958, the inn is famously eccentric. The Fremont Theater, a historic Art Deco theater from the 1940s, still plays first run movies on the huge screen. Murals adorn the walls of the main theater while neon swirls light the ceiling. The Palm Theatre boasts solar heating and is home to the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Another destination is Bubblegum Alley. Since about 1960, people have been sticking chewed gum on the walls of this alley. The doctor’s office on the corner of Santa Rosa and Pacific streets is one of very few commercial buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. San Luis also has a Carnegie Library which is now home to the San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum. A sculpture of a child and bear at the Mission in downtown San Luis Obispo. A fish was added after the photograph was taken. Lots of mystery surrounds the “underground city”, or the series of tunnels that exists beneath the city. One of the largest Mardi Gras parades West of the Mississippi used to be held in San Luis Obispo, but it has been canceled recently because of difficulties related to crowd control and alcohol consumption. Cal Poly’s open house, Poly Royal, was held annually from 1933 to 1990. It was canceled in 1945 due to war rationing. It began as a show-and-tell for students to display their projects. It traces its origins to the 1904 Farmer’s Institute and Picnic Basket. By the 1980s, as the college became “the most popular...university in the 19-campus CSU system”, Poly Royal began drawing over 100,000 people from throughout the state, including 126,000 people in 1985. Concerts, parties, and other entertainment were added and it earned $3–4 million in revenue for the city every year.
A sunset off the Central coast. Following a “mini-riot” in 1989 at an off-campus apartment during Poly Royal, the events in 1990 would cancel the event “indefinitely.” Two nights of rioting on April 28–29 led to 127 arrests, over 100 injuries and 14 police injuries on top of “several hundred thousand dollars” worth of damage. A liquor store near campus, Campus Bottle, was destroyed by revelers demanding alcohol. The second night was much larger than the first as people were leaving a concert on campus and parties off-campus were broken up and revelers flooded the streets. Mayor Dunin called the events “the worst experience in the history of San Luis Obispo.” After a meeting between Mayor Dunin and University President Warren Baker the following Monday, Poly Royal was canceled from that point forward. The name Poly Royal returned in 2001 as “Open House Presents Poly Royal”, a scaled down version that was designed for students and parents. San Luis Obispo has been home of several other events, including a stop on the way of the Olympic Flame Relay, the Tour of California bicycle race, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, an annual Mozart festival, held every July, and a long-standing Christmas Parade. Another attraction is the development of Edna Valley into a well-known wine region. Just south of the city, people can spend an afternoon wine tasting several wineries in the area with a very short drive. The wine region extends north beyond Paso Robles (30 miles north) and south to Santa Ynez (70 miles south). During Summer months, local residents and visitors congregate in the Mission Plaza for a free outdoor concert every Friday evening. The event is called Concerts in the Plaza. Other noteworthy events include the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, Festival Mosaic, and the Plein Air Festival.
Photo Credit: Brady Teufel
San Luis Obispo hosts a Farmerâ€™s Market every Thursday night from 6-9PM on Higuera Street, between Osos and Nipomo Streets. During this weekly event, the street is closed to vehicle traffic while vendors sell food and goods and various visual and music artists perform for the crowds. Since June 2000, the first Thursday of every month is The Bike Happening (also known as Bike Nite) in San Luis Obispo. People gather after the Farmerâ€™s Market at the Mission Plaza with their bikes. The bikers then go around on multiple circuits on the main streets of downtown adhering to the traffic laws (for the most part). The ride is considered a fun/social ride meant to encourage people to get back on their bikes and to have fun. Each Bike Happening has a theme and a large portion of the crowd is in some costume adherent to the theme. One of the cultural focal centers of San Luis Obispo is the Christopher Cohen Performing Arts Center built on the Cal Poly Campus, which was constructed utilizing the donations of local businesses and individuals. The Performing Arts Center consists of multiple venues, including the original Spanos Theatre. The largest venue, Harmon Hall, seats 1,300. Many high school and college programs are scheduled. Local artists perform plays, music and dance. The addition of the Performing Arts Center attracts many touring performances which are usually not found in communities of comparable size to San Luis Obispo. The Summer of 2007 was the opening concert of the Forbes Pipe Organ, which was built elevated into a side wall of Harmon Hall required the donation of a further $3 million for purchase and installation.