It’s been free to park pretty much anywhere in downtown San Luis Obispo since the COVID-19 pandemic started, but, like so many of the other gestures implemented at the beginning of the pandemic, free parking is coming to an end.
In a recent Instagram post
, the city of SLO announced that it would once again start charging fees at all 30-minute and 2-hour parking meters beginning July 27—and the city will be issuing parking tickets to those who fail to pay the meters. People will still be able to use the city’s three downtown parking garages and 10-hour meters free of charge until further notice.
“At some point in time we do have to bring back fees in general,” said Gaven Hussey, SLO’s parking program manager.
After three busy weeks in downtown SLO, each with 50 percent parking occupancy or above, Hussey said now felt like the right time to start charging.
Parking has been free downtown since March 16,
FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
NO LONGER FREE SLO is once again charging fees at all 30-minute and 2-hour parking meters. People will still be able to use the city’s three downtown parking garages and 10-hour meters free of charge until further notice.
When the city decided to waive general parking fees and tickets for some parking violations in an effort to increase customer traffic in the downtown area to support struggling local businesses.
Hussey said SLO’s parking garages and spaces downtown were close to zero capacity through late-March and April.
“If there were a dozen cars in the Marsh Street parking structure,” he told New Times
, “that was a good day.”
But now, as community members and visitors return to downtown SLO, Hussey said free short-term parking is having the opposite of its intended effect. People who work downtown are filling up the spots right outside restaurants and stores meant for potential customers making quick stops. Hussey said the city is hoping that workers will start taking advantage of the free spots in the city’s parking garages instead.
The change comes amid surging cases of COVID-19 in the region. SLO County reported it’s eleventh coronavirus-related death on July 29. As of July 29, 1,689 SLO County residents had tested positive for COVID-19
, and there’s no end in sight to the various restrictions on businesses throughout the county.
Hussey said fees at the city’s parking garages will likely be revisited around Labor Day weekend, and that the city is issuing warnings to individuals in violation of parking rules downtown before writing actual citations, which he said typically cost about $50.
“We’re really trying to make sure that we notice the community appropriately,” he said. ∆