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Save those quarters: It’s going to cost more to park in downtown SLO

Elizabeth Tymn of Shell Beach pays for parking with a credit card at a downtown San Luis Obispo meter, in this 2015 photo.
Elizabeth Tymn of Shell Beach pays for parking with a credit card at a downtown San Luis Obispo meter, in this 2015 photo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

It’s going to cost you more to park in downtown San Luis Obispo after the City Council voted to raise rates this week.

The council on Tuesday unanimously passed a new two-phase ordinance that increases parking rates in city garages and metered spaces by 25 cents an hour on Jan. 1, followed by another 25-cent increase on July 1, 2020.

Hourly metered parking rates currently range from 75 cents to $1.50, depending on the zone and type of meter. Starting Jan. 1, those increased rates will range from $1 to $1.75. Then on July 1, 2020, they’ll rise again, ranging from $1.25 to $2.

Parking structures will continue to offer the first 60 minutes for free.

Parking Meters057
Parking in downtown metered spaces and garages will increase 25 cents an hour on Jan. 1, and then another 25 cents on July 1, 2020. Joe Johnston The Tribune

In addition, fines for expired meters and passenger loading zone violations will increase from $33 to $40 beginning Jan. 1, among other parking-related fine increases.

“Parking is expensive,” said Assistant City Manager Derek Johnson. “Some of our garages are 20-plus years old. It takes a lot of money to maintain a parking structure, and a lot of vehicles use them every day. This is the cost of doing business.”

The reason for the rate increases are to cover projected shortfalls in the parking budget over the next few years. Due to the recession and other factors, the city has not increased parking rates for several years. The last major increase was delayed in 2008, approved in 2011, and not implemented until 2015.

The city is planning to add a new parking garage at the corner of Palm and Nipomo streets, which will cost $23.6 million, $17.6 million of which will be covered by debt payments and the rest through a parking reserve fund. The structure is slated to add 400 to 445 spaces while removing 77 metered parking spots on city-owned property at the site.

Parking is expensive. Some of our garages are 20 plus years old. It takes a lot of money to maintain a parking structure and a lot of vehicles use them every day. This is the cost of doing business.

Assistant City Manager Derek Johnson

The structure, to be built across from Mission Prep high school, is undergoing environmental review and design work, with construction expected to begin in 2019-20.

Aside from the cost of the new parking garage, the “annual working capital balance would continue to decrease due to expenditures exceeding annual revenue,” according to a city staff report.

Work that aims to extend the life of the Marsh Street parking structure, for example, is planned for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The repairs include resealing decks, painting, replacing lights and upgrading the elevator.

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