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Parking in SLO? Officers now using automated cameras to determine who gets a ticket

A San Luis Obispo parking vehicle pauses near a 30-minute meter in downtown. Officers are using a new automated camera system that captures images of parked cars and license plates for more accurate parking enforcement.
A San Luis Obispo parking vehicle pauses near a 30-minute meter in downtown. Officers are using a new automated camera system that captures images of parked cars and license plates for more accurate parking enforcement. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A new automated system that allows San Luis Obispo officers to scan images of parked cars and their license plates while patrolling streets will make it easier to enforce parking laws and record parking data, according to city officials.

The city has been rolling out its new automated license plate recognition system after the City Council approved the new program in July.

Scott Lee, San Luis Obispo’s parking services manager, said hundreds of warnings were issued to violators last week with the start of citations beginning Monday at the discretion of the patrolling officers.

Scanning devices mounted atop city-operated parking services vehicles will provide a data-driven technology tool to help officers do their jobs, San Luis Obispo officials say.

Automated Parking037
Parked cars line Chorro Street in downtown San Luis Obispo. Infrastructure is a key challenge for the community. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Up until now, SLO parking cops have used chalk to mark tires in a time-restricted zone, or they have taken note of cars in violation of time limits, before issuing tickets.

More tickets isn’t the goal

The automated readings come as parking has become increasingly tight in the downtown as well as on city streets around Cal Poly.

“This new system will allow us to be a lot more accurate,” Lee said. “But our goal here is not to punish people or to try to make money from this. We’re just trying to make sure the laws are being followed because that helps free up spaces.”

The City Council approved the allocation of $80,000 for the new system, and the city’s automated devices are produced by the company Genetec.

A garage project at Palm and Nipomo streets — across the street from Mission Prep High School — is planned for San Luis Obispo. The project calls for five levels of parking and up to 445 parking spaces, 5,000 square feet of commercial space, and a

The cameras are capable of taking rapid images of parked cars and licenses plates as officers drive along streets, and the images are stored for retrieval. Officers can review the captured images of parked cars and license plates to determine violations.

“Some people might be concerned about privacy, but we’re not trying to capture any information about you,” Lee said. “We won’t care whose car it is, just that a blue Honda is parked on Morro Street for example. But people should realize they’re parking on a public street and anyone can take a picture of their car.”

Lee also said some workers in the downtown area tend to park their cars on city streets for extended periods during the day. Some exceed the time limits in one spot, or move their vehicles but fail to relocate them farther away than the required 500 feet, Lee said.

“Complaints regarding parking, particularly in areas around Cal Poly, have increased since the university restricted freshmen from bringing vehicles to campus,” a July city staff report also stated.

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A meter runs at a parking spot on Marsh Street. San Luis Obispo officers are using a new automated camera system that captures images of parked cars and license plates for more accurate parking enforcement. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Parking rules

Parking limits are set at 30 minutes, two hours or 10 hours — depending on the space. An expired meter runs a fine of $45, and an overtime citation in time-limited spots with signage runs a $50 fee. Charges can multiply if cars are illegally parked well over their allowed times.

Parking services officials will coordinate with police, however, to locate stolen vehicles, and provide data for wanted or high-risk people or at-risk missing people.

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The information also will inform the city on parking data if a new development project is proposed or parking districts are considered that may restrict permits to those who live in the surrounding area.

Lee said that the City Council will have a study session meeting on Nov. 13 for an overall review of the city’s goals and strategies regarding the parking program.

To learn more about city parking, go to http://www.slocity.org/government/department-directory/public-works/parking-services/faq.

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Nick Wilson: 805-781-7922, @NickWilsonTrib

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