SLO City Council plans to raise downtown parking rates

Parking could cost twice as much in downtown San Luis Obispo next year, if rate increases are approved by the city council on Tuesday.

City Council is considering changes that would double the rates for on-street and downtown structure parking and remove the free hour of parking in garages – to help pay for the construction of a new parking structure in the center -city, according to a city press release.

“We know that increasing parking rates now would be very difficult for many, however, if we do not increase rates next year, we will not be able to improve or repair the existing parking infrastructure and build the new one. cultural arts parking structure that is key to helping us achieve the community’s vision for downtown San Luis Obispo,” Gaven Hussey, parking program manager, said in the release.

Why does the city need to increase parking rates?

The city is pursuing a new parking structure as part of its plans to create a cultural and arts hub on the outskirts of downtown.

In 2019, the city approved plans for a 50-foot parking structure at the corner of Palm and Nipomo streets, as well as a new approximately 23,000-square-foot building to house the SLO Repertory Theater.

The new structure was expected to cost about $31 million at the time, and that money was expected to come from the city’s parking fund.

Fees paid to city structures and parking meters go to a specific parking fund, which is used to pay for new structures, repairs and other parking improvements, according to the news release.

To date, the city has set aside $13.9 million for the new structure, according to the release — well below what the city had planned at the time.

This fund was hit hard during the coronavirus shutdown when businesses were closed and people weren’t parking downtown, and then during the recovery when the city offered free parking and postponed rate increases.

As a result, the city lost $4 million in expected revenue that would otherwise have gone to the fund, according to the release.

“For years we saved for a fourth parking structure, but the closure during the most difficult times of the pandemic really hurt the parking fund,” Hussey said in the statement. “At the same time, we are seeing unprecedented increases in construction costs. The bottom line: If we don’t raise rates next year, we won’t be able to upgrade or repair the existing parking infrastructure and build the new Cultural Arts parking structure.

How much will the downtown parking charges change?

If approved, parking rates would increase in July 2023:

  • 2-hour on-street parking in the main downtown core would increase from $2 to $4 per hour.
  • 10-hour on-street parking in the outer city center would increase from $1.50 to $3 per hour.
  • Structure parking would increase from $1.50 to $3 per hour, and the maximum daily rate would increase from $6 to $12.

So what does this realistically look like for drivers?

Those who park in a 2-hour street lot — which is mostly in downtown surrounded by Marsh, Nipomo, Palm, and Santa Rosa streets — would be charged a maximum of $8 to park on those streets, where they would previously only pay $4.

For those 10 hour street spots, you could be charged up to $30 for what would have been $15 before.

Meanwhile, in structures, drivers will no longer have one hour free to park, in addition to rising costs, meaning that the price of parking in the structure for four hours, which would typically cost $4.50 , will now cost $12.

The board will also consider another rate increase that would take effect in 2024; in this, fares would increase by $1 for central downtown areas.

The city should also consider increasing its parking fees.

If approved, getting caught after your parking meter expires would cost you $45 instead of $40, and stopping or parking at an intersection could cost you $60, down from $40 previously. Roadside parking violations would increase from $33 to $60.

How to comment on the parking increase plan

City Council is considering the rate increase as part of its supplementary budget deliberations at its meeting on Tuesday evening.

Those wishing to provide public comment may do so at the in-person meeting or by submitting their comments by mail (addressed to the City Clerk’s Office at 990 Palm St.), by email via or by calling 805-781-7164 and leave a voice message.

Public comments before the meeting must be received three hours before the meeting.

This story was originally published June 3, 2022 11:28 a.m.

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and events in the South County area, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after earning her journalism degree at Cal Poly.

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