By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo wants to double its downtown parking rates to make up for money the city did not collect during the pandemic lockdown, concerning business owners who are struggling to make ends meet.
With plans to build a fourth parking structure, the city had saved approximately $13.9 million from parking fees and expected to save more, but COVID restrictions led to fewer people parking downtown. As a result, the city fell $4 million short in expected parking revenue.
The SLO City Council will consider the proposed rate increases on June 7 as part of budget discussions. City staff is proposing downtown parking rate increases for 2023 and 2025.
If the City Council approves staff’s proposal, parking rates will increase in July 2023:
- Two-hour street parking in the main downtown core will increase from $2 an hour to $4 per hour.
- Ten-hour street parking in the outer downtown area will increase from $1.50 an hour to $3 per hour.
- Parking structure rates will increase from $1.50 an hour or $6 maximum daily to $3 per hour or a maximum rate of $12.
In 2025, city staff is proposing parking rates increase by another $1 per hour for all types of parking, which will raise downtown street parking to $5 an hour.
According to Gaven Hussey, the city’s parking program manager, the city is aware raising rates will be a challenge for many, but believes the increase is key to improving the downtown.
“If we don’t increase rates next year, we will not be able to improve or repair existing parking infrastructure and build the new Cultural Arts Parking Structure that is key to helping us achieve the community’s vision for downtown SLO,” Hussey said. “Key to promoting an inclusive and easy-to-navigate downtown: Better parking.”
City staff is also asking the City Council to approve increases in parking and standing fines:
- Non-paid or expired parking tickets to increase from $40 to $45.
- Standing, stopping, or parking within intersection tickets to increase from $40 to $60.
- Standing, stopping, or parking on the roadside of a vehicle stopped,
parked, or standing at the curb tickets to increase from $33 to $60.
Many downtown business owners are already struggling in the wake of the pandemic, soaring inflation and rising crime; and worry the increase rates will create further barriers to people wanting to visit the downtown.
“The increase rates are going to discourage people further from coming downtown,” said Cherisse Sweeney, the owner of Basalt Interiors. “The timing is really poor and continues to make it difficult for daytime retailers to do business. I recently opened a new location at Broad Street and Farmhouse Lane because many of my customers do no want to come downtown.”