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San Luis Obispo expands Safe Parking Pilot program at Railroad Square Lot

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Angel Russell
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Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo is now operating the Railroad Square Safe Parking Program for about $65,000 annually

The City of San Luis Obispo recently made improvements to their Safe Parking Pilot program at Railroad Square, which offers a place for individuals to sleep in their cars at night.

After 7 p.m. every night, the SLO Railroad Museum parking lot off Santa Barbara Avenue becomes a temporary place for people to get a nights’ sleep in their car.

Jason Harris stays there with his dog, Rockie, inside an RV.

“It causes much more hassle for us to go out there and park in the street, and get tickets every three days to move," Harris said.

Harris said he used to move to different locations throughout SLO County to park for the night, but he would constantly receive warning citations that if he didn’t move his car, he would be fined or his vehicle would be impounded.

“So here, you can just come here every night and just be safe [with] somewhere to sleep," Harris said.

The program allows up to 20 vehicles to park for the night. They check in at 7p.m. and must leave by 7a.m.

Lawren Ramos with the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, which operates the parking program, said an average of 10 to 15 vehicles use the spots each night.

“It’s all ranges of folks," Ramos said. "We have people that are employed and working, some that are disabled or can’t work and are trying to figure out what their next step in life is going to be.”

Ramos said the city temporarily closed the parking lot recently to make safety improvements.

Now, each stall is marked, a staff member checks in and checks out individuals, and a road barricade goes up after check-in to limit the number of users.

Ramos said he understands some nearby neighbors may have concerns about the program.

“We have to take a compassionate look at the solutions that we are providing and say, ‘Do we have enough solutions for enough people?’" Ramos said. "These are our neighbors, and that’s the way I approach it, that’s the way we approach it.”

Ramos said the pilot program will run through the end of the year, and then the SLO City Council will look at whether or not the program has been successful and if it should be extended or implemented permanently.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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