Credit: Carolyne Sysmans | Mustang News

San Luis Obispo City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday that makes downtown parking free during the holiday season and select days throughout the year.

Parking structures will now be free from Thanksgiving through Nov. 28, Dec. 24-26, Dec. 31 – Jan. 1 and on all Sundays in December. Additionally, the resolution allows for the city manager to suspend parking fees on certain days throughout the year.

In the past, parking has only been free on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Suspending parking fees is meant to incentivize locals to shop downtown, according to Parking Program Manager Gaven Hussey.

“Our local residents don’t like coming and shopping on the days that are high tourist-driven days,” Hussey said. “This is a way to help bring them back in on the weekends where they have availability.”

Councilmember Jan Marx brought up concerns during the meeting about losing parking funds.

“I am feeling protective of our parking fund because I want to see that new parking structure built as soon as possible,” Marx said, referring to the city’s longtime plan to build an additional parking structure.

The incentive comes after downtown businesses lost revenue due to the pandemic. However, the policy will remain in action even after this year, because it allows for quick decision making on when to suspend parking fees to encourage downtown activity, City Manager Derek Johnson said.

“What we saw during the pandemic was that we had a need to provide service to our community and be able to react quickly,” Hussey said.

Johnson said the city frequently adjusts parking policies, but this ordinance would make it so city officials do not have to go through city council each time.

“I think it is a great compromise between where we know there is some need for economic support and where we know we want to keep our parking fund going when we can,” Vice Mayor Carlyn Christianson said.

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