Starting next summer, the parking rates in downtown San Luis Obispo could increase significantly. In order to build a fourth parking structure and make repairs to existing structures, the city is proposing downtown parking rate increases for 2023 and 2025.
"It's ridiculous for a town like San Luis Obispo to charge those kinds of rates. We're not in New York City, you know? I mean, come on," said Laura Bjorkland, Apropos co-owner.
Small business owners are not pleased to hear about the proposed increase and say parking prices and a lack of availability are already hurting business.
"I have a lot of customers, long-time customers, who say I'm not going to shop here anymore because they can't park," said Bjorkland.
"It impacts me very much because when people buy my art, they have to be able to carry it to the car," said Gene Francis, Gene Francis Gallery owner.
Francis says fewer customers are having this problem because fewer people are coming in due to the parking situation.
"So, I end up having to take it and deliver it. It's become really frustrating," said Francis.
"I don't like paying too much so I mean if you're coming down for business, it's a business area. I mean, you want to encourage," said visitor John Roarty.
Paula Delay is a local artist who sells her work downtown and says parking issues are interfering with customers accessing her venue. She thinks San Luis Obispo needs more parking but doesn't think parking rates should be increased because local businesses are already struggling.
"People want to come in, they want to dine, they want to shop and if you give them two hours free, the lost revenue is going to be offset by the revenue that the local merchants are going to pick up," said Paula Delay, San Luis Obispo resident.
Dan Weeks comes to his office downtown just about every morning and avoids the parking meters at all costs due to the expense.
"I think there's enough parking if you're willing to walk a few blocks. That works for me," said Weeks.
He says he's okay with a parking rate increase.
"Personally, I think it's a good idea because they'll figure out how much they should increase it to actually have full capacity. It's hard to know until you do it what people are willing to pay," said Weeks.
If approved, two-hour street parking in the main part of downtown will increase from about $2 an hour to $4. Structure parking will be $3 an hour or a maximum daily rate of $12, up from $1.50 per hour or $6 a day. 10-hour street parking in the outer downtown area will be $3 an hour, up from $1.50.
If approved, the rate increases will begin next summer in July of 2023.
The city council will consider the proposed increases on Tuesday, June 7. Community members can provide public comment during the city council meeting in person. Public comment before the meeting must be received at least three hours prior to the start of the meeting.