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Parking is free in Downtown SLO but city takes financial hit

Posted at 4:35 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 22:01:23-04

If you visit Downtown San Luis Obispo, you may notice, you no longer need to pay for parking.

The city has lost a big chunk of change due to this and has been forced to make cuts elsewhere.

"We're not looking at meters," said Gaven Hussey, City of San Luis Obispo Parking Program Manager. "We're not looking at the time you spend at meters."

San Luis Obispo nixed enforcement back on March 16.

"I think it's a convenience," said Lauren Jensen of San Luis Obispo. "I mean there are not very many people coming downtown but the people that are supporting local businesses, I think that's nice for us to be able to park for free."

There are more than 30 designated curbside pick-up spots around town too.

But keep in mind public safety violations are still being enforced.

"Red zones is a big one," Hussey said. "We can't have a fire meter blocked. We do have people that are parking their car just in the middle of the road to run in real quick. Those still come up."

Through all of this, the city is taking a financial hit.

In April 2019, the city raked in $393,000 in revenue. This past April, it was $162,000 from parking permits. The monthly average is $415,000. All the revenue goes back into the parking fund.

"It helps us do some of the artwork you see happening but it also allows us to do mandatory improvements for the area," Hussey explained.

This includes the Palm-Nipomo parking structure that's in the design phase.

"We are hoping to break ground in the next few years but it does not look like we are going to do that this year," Hussey said.

The city says parking revenue is not expected to return to normal until 2024-2025.

Booth attendant positions have been slashed and a hiring freeze is in place for vacant positions.

Within the next week or two, the city is slated to roll out a plan to offer reduced or validated parking in the garages, come Fall.

"Once the emergency is lifted, parking operations will still be issuing free parking and other incentives to get people to come back down to the downtown community," Hussey explained.

The relaxed parking restrictions will last through at least October.