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SLO parking rates increase, free parking hours decrease; online petition opposes changes

Downtown SLO
San Luis Obispo’s parking rates are increasing in July while the ability to park for free from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. is ending July 19";

The City of San Luis Obispo has increased the fee to park downtown, and will be decreasing the hours of free street parking in the next couple of weeks. While the city said the increase will help fund a parking garage project, some downtown business owners and employees are opposing the changes.

Hourly rates to park in downtown San Luis Obispo went up July 1 by 25 cents per hour. The parking garages are now $1.50 an hour, and on-street parking now ranges from $1.25 to $2.00 per hour depending on the zone.

SLO Parking Manager, Gaven Hussey, said these rates were actually approved to start back in July of 2020, but got delayed due to the pandemic.

“We recognized there was a lot of hardships on the businesses, and our customer base with a lot of job losses," Hussey said. " We did not think it was prudent to raise the rate at that time that would negatively impact some of the businesses.”

Hussey said with the state's reopening, downtown SLO is lacking parking to meet the demand. He said the increased rates will help fund a $43 million dollar parking garage at Palm and Nipomo streets, which will add 450 parking stalls. 

“It’s a big project that we need to get accomplished," Hussey said. "Pre-pandemic, we were at capacity. Our parking structures were 80 to 85 percent full on a daily basis, and right now where we are at, we are getting back to those numbers.”

Currently, on-street free parking begins at 6 p.m. But effective July 19, paid parking hours will increase to 9 p.m.

Downtown Business owner Hannah Naitove — owner of Project XO, a date night planning service for SLO County — said these changes are coming at a bad time with the uncertainty of the pandemic still lingering.

“Japan is shutting things down again," Naitove said. " I think going slow into coming off a pandemic is important, because you don’t know what’s going to happen again.”

Naitove has started a petition online, gathering signatures to plead to city council to maintain the current parking hours.

“9 o'clock! No city does that," Naitove said. "8p.m. is the max time I saw in cities like San Francisco and Boston. If you’re going to increase your timing, meet somewhere in the middle, maybe 7p.m. But to go from 6 to 9, that's a 3-hour difference.”

As of Friday, the petition has more than 700 signatures, with a goal of a thousand.

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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