Parking fines in SLO increase to $33

Parking fines will go up by $3, bringing a total ticket price to $33, the San Luis Obispo City Council has decided.

City officials say the increase is needed because of an additional $3 state surcharge to fund court operations that will go into effect Dec. 7.

The state surcharge will be in effect until July 1, 2013. The City Council on Tuesday asked staff to add a similar provision to the city’s own resolution. The $3 will be removed 60 days after the state surcharge ceases.

City Council members were reluctant to increase the fine, but said they didn’t have any other choice.

“I hate this $3 surcharge, but I don’t see any way to vote against it,” Mayor Dave Romero said.

The city would have had to subsidize about $90,000 annually from its parking fund if the increase was not approved, according to city staff. That fund is used to pay for parking operations, including the future construction of the Palm/Nipomo parking structure.

The city last increased parking fines by $10 in 2009 to cover state and county surcharges — increasing the cost from $20 to 30.

Some business owners are concerned that raising the ticket prices again will detour people from shopping downtown.

Parking downtown and in the parking structures declined overall last year, according to Tim Bochum, deputy director of public works.

The number of citations issued also dropped by about 24 percent — from 40,062 issued in 2008-09 to 30,087 in 2009-10, he said.

City officials are launching a campaign to encourage downtown visitors to park in one of the city’s three parking structures.

The city is marketing 10 benefits for parking in the structures, including: the first 60 minutes are free; there are no time limits; cars are protected from the weather; and it is cheaper than pumping money into meters.

The campaign also boasts that the views from the top of the parking structures are “spectacular.”

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