Free Sunday parking may end in downtown San Luis Obispo

The cost of parking in downtown San Luis Obispo may soon go up as the City Council considers charging motorists to park on Sundays.

Eliminating complimentary parking on the historically free day is just one of several recommendations being made to the council Tuesday to raise the revenue needed to build a $20 million parking structure at Palm and Nipomo streets.

The council will also be asked to increase the hourly meter rate to $1.50 from $1.25 in an area being dubbed the “super core,” which is in the heart of downtown.

Combined, the plans could bring an additional $389,859 in parking revenue to the city — with Sunday fees alone generating about $244,859 a year.

Charging more in the “super core” area, which includes 400 meters, would raise an additional $145,000 annually in parking revenue. Staff will also ask the council to consider installing meters that accept credit cards in that area.

A plan to charge for parking on Sundays went before the council in 2006, but church leaders blasted the idea, saying that parishioners would be forced to pay for business needs.

“In 2006, it was different economic times,” said Robert Horch, parking services manager. “Parking revenues have decreased just like anyone else’s, and we still need to build the structure.”

A significant number of parking spaces will be lost when the Chinatown and Garden Street Terraces projects develop — increasing the need for the new structure.

City staff is recommending charging for Sunday parking from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — two hours later than the 9 a.m. suggestion made five years ago.

Horch said the later time is when most businesses open downtown and would allow parishioners to attend morning services without paying too much for parking.

“We are very sensitive to the long tradition of not charging on Sundays, and these are difficult choices,” Horch said. “We are aware of the potential pushback that we will likely face on these, and we respect that.”

The San Luis Obispo Downtown Association supports charging for parking on Sundays but is recommending against raising the meter cost in the centralized area downtown.

“Because parking is currently free on Sundays, downtown employees take advantage of unmetered parking and occupy much of it, depriving shoppers and guests of those spaces,” wrote Deborah Cash, executive director of the Downtown Association in a memo to the council.

Horch said the goal is to encourage people to park in one of the parking structures and free up the metered spaces downtown for people who are there for a specific, quick stop.

“The parking fund is tied directly to the success of the downtown, and we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that,” Horch said. “It has to be a very delicate balance.”

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

City council to discuss parking proposals

The San Luis Obispo City Council will consider charging for parking on Sundays and increasing meter costs in part of downtown at its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday at 990 Palm St.

The staff recommendations:

Charge for parking at the parking meters and parking structures on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., beginning July 1.

Increase the hourly meter rate for on-street parking from $1.25 to $1.50 in a designated area downtown that includes 400 metered spaces beginning Nov. 1 and keep structure rates at 75 cents an hour.

Direct staff to check out the cost of buying and installing meters that accept credit cards for the metered area where rates will increase.