The San Luis Obispo branch of the Automobile Club of Southern California is celebrating its 100th birthday. As part of the celebration, Auto Club staff will be greeting guests at the San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market on Thursday, Sept. 21, and the Automotive Concours at Monarch Dunes on Sunday, Sept. 24.
“We are proud to have been a part of the San Luis Obispo community for 100 years,” said Darci Buliavac, the Auto Club’s San Luis Obispo branch manager. “We encourage members to visit us during our centennial events to help us celebrate and allow us to thank them for their membership.”
The San Luis Obispo branch now serves more than 87,000 members in the area. It offers free DMV vehicle-related services, a full-service travel agency, maps and travel publications, insurance services, discount attraction and movie tickets, and many other member benefits.
Members and non-members can visit the Auto Club booth at the downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 21, and the Automotive Concours at Monarch Dunes in Nipomo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 24 to see historical displays, including an antique Auto Club vehicle, and receive free commemorative gifts.
The Auto Club was founded in Los Angeles in December 1900 by 10 horseless-carriage enthusiasts. When the San Luis Obispo branch opened in 1917, it was the twelfth Auto Club branch. Today, the Auto Club has 84 branches throughout Southern and Central California.
The San Luis Obispo branch has occupied five buildings over the last 100 years. Its first location was at the intersection of Osos and Monterey streets from 1917 to 1921, then the branch moved down to 994 Monterey St. in the historic J.P. Andrews Building, which is still standing. The next location was custom-built for the Auto Club at 1134 Monterey St. in 1923 in the region’s Spanish Colonial Revival style, which was used for most Auto Club branches built at that time. The branch remained at that location for 37 years until 1960, when it moved to 699 California Blvd. In 1974, the branch moved to its current address at 1445 Calle Joaquin.
One of the main reasons San Luis Obispo was chosen as an early Auto Club branch was the Club’s desire to establish easily accessible services for members in each of the 13 counties it served. Another reason was its important location in the state’s developing highway network. Even a century ago, thousands of automobiles passed daily en route between Northern and Southern California, and the unimproved roads of that time were subject to frequent outages. The Auto Club magazine Touring Topics (now Westways) stated in its March 1918 issue: “Within the limits of San Luis Obispo County are several important passes and grades on the Coast Route concerning which immediate and authentic information is necessary to properly direct travel during storm periods … The location of the branch … makes it possible for (the) Club … to be advised of highway conditions in San Luis Obispo County at all times.”
The Auto Club also played a role in successfully championing a major $1.5 million bond measure for San Luis Obispo County roads in 1919, less than three months after it failed at the polls by barely missing the required two-thirds majority vote. Just before the successful December 1919 election, Touring Topics published a detailed listing of the roads and bridges that would be constructed or improved with the bond revenue.
In addition to posting road signs throughout Southern California and San Luis Obispo County before public agencies assumed all responsibility for signage, the Auto Club completed the signposting of the National Old Trails route from Kansas City to Los Angeles, which became Route 66, the iconic highway of westward movement. The Auto Club has advocated for highway funding and traffic safety measures for all road users over the past century and initiated its signature service of roadside assistance in 1924.
For more information on Auto Club membership and services, visit the San Luis Obispo branch or AAA.com. The branch phone number is (805) 543-6454. Branch hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.