Finding a parking spot close to the water in downtown Avila Beach can pose a challenge during the summer, on holiday weekends and even on a sunny Monday in late February.
Spaces often are in short supply along Front Street, the road parallel to the beach, as visitors enjoy prime parking and a lightly enforced three-hour time limit. Traffic can easily get clogged in the downtown area as drivers circle in search of a pair of reverse lights.
With those issues in mind, the Port San Luis Harbor Commission is considering whether to pursue a paid parking program in downtown Avila that could include meters on certain streets.
Installing meters could lead to more turnover of prime parking spots, which could benefit businesses in those areas, harbor manager Steve McGrath said.
It also might prompt drivers to pay for all-day parking in a lot off First Street, which the harbor district manages.
And it could bring additional money to the district — an estimated $650,000 a year in potential gross revenue, including revenue from the paid parking lot. (This figure doesn't include operational costs or initial capital expenses.)
There are 1,771 parking spots in Avila Beach and Port San Luis, including along Avila Beach Drive, according to a study completed last year. Of those, 525 are in the town of Avila, and 246 have three-hour parking limits.
Even if commissioners decide to explore the idea further, it would likely be months before visitors would have to plunk a few quarters into a parking meter.
First, the harbor district would have to get buy-in on the idea from the community and San Luis Obispo County, which manages Avila Beach's streets. And the state Coastal Commission also would have to issue a permit.
"One of the identified challenges we have in Avila is parking near the beach," county Supervisor Adam Hill said. "It doesn't really take much to jam up the traffic. If it can reduce traffic and free up spaces for residents and businesses, then I think I would be supportive."
"It doesn't really take much to jam up the traffic." — Adam Hill, San Luis Obispo County supervisor