San Luis Obispo lowers parking rates in response to public outcry

May 15, 2024


In response to backlash from the public, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted on Tuesday to lower parking rates.

During its meeting, the council considered three options. The first option consisted of keeping the first hour in parking structures free while slightly lowering the parking structure rate. The second option was to lower all parking rates while eliminating the free first hour in structures. The third option was to combine the first two.

The council voted unanimously in favor of lowering all rates and eliminating the free first hour in structures.

Starting July 8, the cost of parking in downtown structures will decrease for $3 per hour to $2 per hour. The maximum amount for a day in a structure will drop from $12 to $8.

On-street parking in the downtown core will decrease from $4 per hour to $2.75 per hour. Outer perimeter parking rates will decrease from $3 per hour to $2.25 per hour. 

Additionally, the cost of a parking structure permit will drop from $85 per month to $45 per month. Likewise, the parking time limit in the downtown core will rise from two to three hours.

Lastly, the city cut in half the price for businesses to offer parking validation for the structures. Businesses will be able to purchase 100 validation tickets for $100. Each ticket will cover one hour of parking.

“Downtown visitors who choose to stay longer to enjoy the vibrant downtown that we all love will soon save money on parking,” Interim City Manager Whitney McDonald said in a statement. “To our community: Thank you for staying engaged and patient through this process. We hear you and we are going to make downtown San Luis Obispo parking more affordable and easier to use. Some changes will happen this summer, but other improvements will take a little bit longer.”


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Now for Gods sake… please shorten the red lights in town….

Saving a dollar or two on parking is not what influences my decision on whether to shop in SLO or not; it is the convenience factor. City planners aimed to discourage cars in SLO, and they are succeeding. It is not easy or fun to visit SLO anymore. Traffic and parking is restricted, so people will avoid what is restricted.

Planners have tried to control the public’s behavior by restricting what is allowed instead of designing the infrastructure to how people choose to live. People are choosing to shop and eat elsewhere.

I wonder how long the photographer had to wait for a bicyclist to come along for the photo? Or, was the bicyclist a prop?

Just returned from Sonoma – amount I paid for downtown parking – ZERO.

This is an economic issue. Raise ( or charge for parking) and the volume of shoppers decreases and so does the sales tax collected. Small businesses downtown pay tax on the profit made, lower the number of shoppers and the small businesses have lower profits and the city in return has less revenue. Is the cost of paid parking (including the over-paid parking staff) worth the loss of a vibrant downtown.

I’ve commented this before, but the city only gets a small slice of total sales tax. If someone spends two hours downtown and spends $100 the city is only going to see a dollar or two of revenue which would only succeed and maintaining structures, infrastructure, and enforcement IF everyone is spending $100 an hour, which or course is silly. Sales tax is nice, but it’s not enough.

Land has value, people pay for the value of parking downtown, if it’s free, it’s the taxpayer who has to subsidize the land value as opposed to the motorists who utilize the value. It’s fair and market oriented.

It doesn’t matter to me what they charge, I still have no desire to go into downtownSLO. Besides fighting the incredible hassle just driving through the town, I am fairly certain that there is not much downtown for me. It just seems to be all bars and “fancy” restaurants. And the retail stores don’t fill my wants or needs.

The other thing is that as an almost 70 yr. resident of this county ( I was born in Mountain View Hospital), I do remember when San Luis was a great place to live, when you could go downtown and get whatever you needed without a lot of hassle. Nope, the cost of parking means nothing to me as a trip to SLO is just not worth the effort.

I agree, SLO doesn’t have anything that Morro Bay can’t beat, and FREE parking!

I prefer SLO’s downtown: Buona Tavola, Flour House, Luna Red, Ebony, Woodstocks, Firestone, Old SLO BBQ, Louisa’s, Sidecar, Antigua, High Bar… (I know I’m missing a bunch) don’t think can be beat. Add to that bookstores, movie theaters and Farmers Market. Morro does have better seafood and a record store (outside the downtown), but it’s too touristy I think.

Looks like a lot of restaurants…don’t really care to try any of them. But I do remember Snow White Cafe, Scrubby and Loyds, Spudnuts, Hamburger Haven, Pittengers, The Tower Cafe, The Smile Inn, Corcorans and the other family oriented restaurants along with a great selection of retail stores where one could find anything from a hammer to a ream of paper, a shovel to camera, from Five and Dime stores to the department stores. There was litary

All the places (except maybe one) are perfectly family friendly. The college kids can be annoying late at night – but I’m almost never out that late so it isn’t an issue for most people who don’t want that kind of experience.

As for retail there are still good spots (Mountain Air, Boo Boo) but I’ll admit that a lot of the stores aren’t for me (which is fine, they’re just for someone else).

The problem with department stores is that they take up a lot of space and have pretty low margin which is difficult in a downtown environment – we need more people living in downtown to patron those kinds of unspecialized basic amenities establishments, otherwise for hammer will send someone to Home Depot, paper to FedEx (which is downtown), and a good selection of cameras can be found on the Internet. In the modern age brick and mortar businesses need retain customers by providing experiences. The Internet can’t provide you a pizza from a 1000 degree oven, or a 20ft tall movie screen, a comfy cafe to sit with friends, or a unique spin on an Old-fashioned. The only way to see more family restaurants and little grocers in downtown is to build more housing in and near downtown.

I heard that the city will be removing those new touchless machines at the entry of at least one (just one?) parking structure. I wonder how many hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars were wasted on that?

Eliminating the first hour of free parking is a huge mistake. I am not going to pop in downtown for a quick purchase or bite to eat if I have to pay for parking.

Lower rates or first hour free – those were the only two options, can’t have both. The community voiced their opinion for the former so that’s what the council went with.

The city could have very well included a free hour of parking as part of their option to reduce the parking rates.

Take a look at the Council Agenda and the budget tables. It doesn’t work, doing so anyway would have been very fiscally irresponsible and created a deficit that taxpayers would have to pick up.