As summer slowly draws to a close, the energy of a new school year emerges, and the City is preparing to move into the next, exciting phase of making Atascadero and our Downtown corridor a place where folks want to hang out, spend the day, and bring the whole family. I’m hearing from lots of residents about how exciting these positive changes are—but I’m also hearing concerns, which I understand.

Change can be scary, and I get that. We’re used to seeing things a certain way and it’s jarring when presented with a new reality. But it’s important to remember that change is essential for a City to thrive and grow. Look how beneficial change has been to our community over this past decade! Without new housing and business opportunities, our kids and grandkids won’t be able to find decent local jobs or affordable places to live, and they’ll have to move away. Additionally, new families won’t relocate here, meaning we miss the talent and treasure they could bring. This in turn in may lower population and further reduces the services and opportunities the City can provide.

We can’t let that be Atascadero’s future.

One of the concerns I hear most frequently is parking. Parking is always a sensitive subject in communities. When there isn’t enough parking, people become frustrated. As Atascadero experiences continued investment in Downtown activities, restaurants, attractions, and public improvements, we will face growing pains, and future street improvements and paving projects will temporarily restrict parking, but it’s important to continue supporting our small businesses by walking that extra block or two to keep your favorite business healthy and thriving. Unleashing our Downtown’s potential means creating a space folks can access and enjoy through a variety of ways—not just driving, but also biking and walking. The great news is that in mid-2024, the City will begin construction on 140 new parking spaces right in the Downtown center of El Camino Real.

You may not know this, but long ago El Camino Real used to be a dirt pathway for horses and buggies before it became a roaring concrete highway right through Downtown Atascadero. Many years later, Highway 101 replaced ECR as the main thoroughfare for folks traveling up and down the state. And now, the City is ready to grow and change again, to make our Downtown a place for the whole family to hang out all day. We want to make our Downtown core a charming environment that matches our community’s pride, so that residents, visitors, and our kids can enjoy the Downtown space safely and securely.

By adding landscaping, public art, gateway arches, ambient lighting, and more, we are creating an environment that people will want to stay and play in. This increases foot traffic which increases business sales, which increases local revenue streams that improve our public safety, parks, roads, and many more essential City services.

As always, we will work to overcommunicate and engage as we move projects forward. Stay tuned. If you have any questions about events or activities happening with the City, questions about some of the above-mentioned projects, or questions about any other topic related to the City of Atascadero, feel free to email me at Here’s to a bright future ahead!

Jim R. LewisCity Manager, Jim R. Lewis

Jim Lewis was appointed City Manager of the City of Atascadero in July 2023. Jim has proudly called Atascadero home for more than 20 years. Jim holds a Bachelor’s in Public Policy and Management from the University of Southern California as well as a Master’s of Public Administration in Public Finance and Management from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. Prior to his appointment as Atascadero’s City Manager, Jim served as Pismo Beach’s City Manager for the last 10 years, and before that served Atascadero as Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director for eight years. Jim is deeply experienced in municipal management: he currently serves on the League of California Cities Board of Directors, representing the City Managers of California, and serves on the California City Management Foundation Board of Trustees. He is a longtime member of Atascadero Kiwanis, Atascadero Bible Church, and volunteers in Pack 51 Cub Scouts as Den Leader. Jim and his wife love living in Atascadero, and their two kids are students in the Atascadero Unified School District. If you see Jim out and about, say hello!