SLO council votes to limit free parking on Sundays

Religious leaders are concerned new rates will burden people who attend services downtown

acornejo@thetribunenews.comApril 6, 2011 

Free all-day parking on Sundays will end in July in downtown San Luis Obispo. The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to charge motorists to park during certain hours.

The council also voted 5-0 to increase the hourly meter rate to $1.50 from $1.25 in November in an area being dubbed the “super core,” which is in the heart of downtown.

The move will bring an additional $351,125 in parking revenue each year to the city — with Sunday fees alone generating about $206,125.

The plan garnered criticism from downtown religious leaders who said the toll of the parking fees will be unfairly placed on their parishioners.

The new Sunday fees will be charged from 1 to 6 p.m. City staff had suggested charging for Sunday parking from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Three of the five churches that will be affected by the new Sunday parking fees urged the City Council not to charge until after noon to allow their parishioners to attend morning services without worrying about pumping change into meters.

Several religious leaders also argued that many of the thousands of churchgoers who attend morning services downtown would be less inclined to stay there for lunch or shopping after services if forced to pay.

Old Mission Church asked that the council not charge for Sunday parking at all.

“Though unintended by design, anything less amounts to an indirect tax upon the ability of local citizens to worship freely,” the Rev. Russell Brown wrote.

In 2006, the City Council decided against charging to park on Sundays after similar concerns were raised.

“We’d all like parking to be free,” Councilman Andrew Carter said. “But it does cost the city to provide it.”

Charging more in the “super core” area, which includes 400 meters, will raise an additional $145,000 annually in parking revenue.

The council also agreed to pursue installing new meters in that area that accept credit cards to make the increased fee less of a burden on motorists.

All 400 meters in the super core will be replaced at a cost of $223,335.

The money raised from the increased fees will be used to partly fund a $20 million parking structure at Palm and Nipomo streets.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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