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“It’s a start”: SLO City Council’s decision to lower downtown parking rates brings relief to local business owners

Parking in Downtown San Luis Obispo.
Photo by Amanda Wernik.
Parking in Downtown San Luis Obispo.

On Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo City Council unanimously voted to reduce parking rates in the downtown area as much as they could afford. This decision came after business owners expressed concerns about high prices pushing customers away.

“We’re sorry, and we hear the pain and frustration,” Councilmember Emily Francis said at the meeting. “I think it's important for us to acknowledge that and also to say that we're ready to make some changes here tonight.”

Katy Hemler, the owner of Hemp Shak, noticed a decline in sales last summer when parking costs went up. Now, she welcomes the move to lower rates, but said the City still has work to do.

“It’s a start in the right direction,” Hemler said. “I feel like they're gonna need to do more to get our customers back.”

Street parking in the downtown core will be reduced to $2.75 per hour, which is down from a maximum of $4 per hour. Parking further from the town center will be $2.25 per hour.

Garage parking rates will decrease from $3 per hour to $2, but the first hour will no longer be free.

Hands Gallery Owner Sara Vaskov wishes the City could have done more, but said she understands their reasons.

“We would have liked to have lower rates and kept the first free hour, but that just was not economically feasible at this time,” Vaskov said.

The Council decided to get rid of the free hour because they said it encouraged people to leave sooner, which they thought was bad for businesses.

KCBX Reporter Amanda Wernik graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a BS in Journalism. Amanda is currently a fellow with the USC Center for Health Journalism, completing a data fellowship that will result in a news feature series to air on KCBX in the winter of 2024.
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