Six-story parking structure planned for downtown SLO — and it could add 600 spaces

A new six-story parking structure envisioned for a growing downtown San Luis Obispo hub with increasing parking demand is moving forward in early planning efforts.

The conceived garage at 1144 Higuera St. would border Santa Rosa, Higuera, Toro and Monterey streets on a parcel located across the street from the County Government Building at 1055 Monterey St.

It would provide 500 to 600 parking spaces to be shared among area workers, residents and visitors — a partnership between the city, county and property owner Nick Tompkins under the business entity 1144 Higuera Investments LLC.

The garage would have some private and public spaces on a plot located behind the newly completed Bank of America building, located on the same block. The space where the structure would go currently includes private parking and a tattoo parlor.

The proposed project also is on the same block as Tompkins’ three-story, 45-foot mixed-use building of about 26,000 square feet that’s currently under construction to add new office, retail and restaurant space.

parking garage map.jpg
This red lines depict the portion of the parcel at 1144 Higuera St. in SLO where a proposed six-story parking garage would go in. City of San Luis Obispo

Details still need to be worked out

“This is new territory for us,” said Tim Bochum, the city’s deputy director of public works. “Our standard process for building parking assets is usually the city acquires property over a number of years, cobbles together enough funding to move forward with design and environmental (planning), and then we move forward with full construction.”

But in this case, Tompkins approached the city and the county after purchasing the land with the partnership idea in mind to move the project along much more quickly, Bochum said.

Some details of the proposal still need to be worked out, such as how to divide the number of parking spaces among the parties.

The city of SLO and county are moving forward to plan a new six-story parking structure in downtown SLO to serve workers, visitors and a growing number of residents. The property on the corner of Toro and Higuera Street. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

But the parties have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which SLO council members voted 5-0 to approve Tuesday. The county Board of Supervisors also unanimously voted Tuesday to approve the MOU, which lays out a basic framework for future planning.

Construction is eyed for a 2022 start, finishing in 2023, according to a preliminary project schedule, pending future project planning approvals. The county would build the structure, and the city would operate it, according to the MOU.

Tompkins would be entitled to 82 spaces, with the rest used by the county and city.

“County employees do park in these surrounding neighborhoods quite a bit, and that’s one of the reasons the county is actively looking at this,” Bochum said.

Opportune site for infrastructure

The SLO City Council last August adjusted its zoning in the upper Monterey Street area, in the vicinity of the potential parking structure, to allow building heights to reach a maximum of 75 feet from the previous 45-foot limit. Future development could limit parking options and the opportunities for cost-effective, functional parking, and SLO officials viewed this parcel as a potentially opportune site for the infrastructure.

“As the city expands permit parking into residential areas, free parking utilized by county staff will continue to be reduced while staff and services are expected to grow over the next 20 years,” SLO officials wrote in a staff report.

The government agencies would pay an annual base rent to lease the site, estimated to be $288,000, as well as some costs related to remediation work associated with the portion of the parcel and a percentage related to acquisition costs.

The city of SLO and county are moving forward to plan a new six-story parking structure in downtown SLO to serve workers, visitors and a growing number of residents. The building is on the corner of Monterey and Santa Rosa. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

The cost sharing of the future operations and maintenance, the ground lease/option and construction costs will be subject to future negotiations, according to the county’s staff report. The city and county will split the $180,000 fee to complete cost estimates, conceptual design and environmental review.

SLO currently operates three parking structures — two on Palm Street and one on Marsh Street — and is in the process of completing the design of a fourth structure on the corner of Palm and Nipomo streets.

Tompkins’ adjacent three-story commercial project is expected to be ready for occupancy at the end of 2019, Tompkins told The Tribune. Which businesses could move in have yet to be determined, Tompkins said.

“We’ll have office space upstairs and food and retail on the ground floor,” Tompkins said. “It will be one floor of retail and two floors of office space.”

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.