More than two years after a man died in a San Luis Obispo parking lot, the city is looking to improve the safety of its existing parking lots and the planned future garage in the Cultural Arts District.
The San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously at its June 21 meeting to approve the parking expense. They include $1.4 million for the new structure and $200,000 for the existing buildings.
“We have three people who have died falling out of these parking lots in San Luis Obispo, and I really wish this didn’t happen to anyone else,” Atascadero resident Mary Jane Jodry told The Tribune. “The last was my son two and a half years ago.”
Her son, Thomas Jodry, 21, died after falling from the third floor of the Marsh Street parking lot in San Luis Obispo in September 2019.
Jodry’s cause of death was ultimately ruled “undetermined”, but his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against David Allen Knight, who had been drinking with Jodry before his death.
Mary Jane Jodry believes there are several areas where the city can improve the safety of its downtown parking structures, and has attended council meetings and met with city staff to talk about safety.
Do SLO parking structures have to meet new safety standards?
The parking structure at the corner of Palm and Morro streets opened in 1988, while the Marsh Street garage opened in 1990 and expanded in 2002. The city’s third parking structure, also located on Palm Street, opened in 2006.
The report presented a maintenance project plan for these structures, which included repairing cracked concrete, loose barrier cables and deteriorated concrete joint sealants.
But renovating old garages is difficult, said Gaven Hussey, the city’s parking program manager.
Because the structures were built before many safety standards were in place, he said, the city is not required to update them under state and federal laws.
The city council recently approved funding to consider adding security features such as phone booths to older structures, Hussey said, but it’s unclear when those additional security upgrades will be in place. The city is currently evaluating which security features are most feasible to add.
Phone booths are concentrated in the expanded portion of the Marsh Street structure and the Palm 2006 structure.
Hussey said phone booths allow people to connect with law enforcement, especially when alone.
In order to prevent fatal falls, Hussey said San Luis Obispo is considering adding wiring and netting to its parking structures.
The city recently added barriers around heating and cooling units on upper floors of structures, he said, as well as signs displaying the phone number of a suicide prevention hotline. .
“We understand things are going to happen, but anything we can do to help mitigate these incidents in our parking structures is our goal,” Hussey said.
Cameras in parking lots are a tough job, city says
One of the main changes Jodry would like to see in parking structures in San Luis Obispo is more security cameras.
Security cameras currently only cover pay stations, so when an incident occurs, it’s hard to know what happened.
“If people saw cameras, they wouldn’t even hang around here,” Jodry said, adding that cameras could also help prevent vagrancy and crime.
According to Jodry, the presence of more cameras could have given more answers to his family. The circumstances surrounding her son’s death remain a mystery as there is little documentation of what happened, she said.
Hussey said San Luis Obispo is studying the possibility of adding security cameras to parking lots, but added that the city does not currently have the online storage capacity needed for more video footage.
He noted that the presence of cameras does not necessarily prevent a crime from occurring.
According to Hussey, the new garage to be built near Palm and Nipomo streets will have security cameras on each floor that will both help with security and also calculate the structure’s occupancy rate.
The new structure will also have a taller barrier and more fencing in areas with larger windows.
Additionally, Hussey said, the city is considering adding more daytime staff and nighttime security to parking structures. The city currently has one security guard to patrol all three parking lots, but hopes to have more by the end of July.
Jodry hopes that the efforts of his family and other members of the community will improve safety inside the city’s parking lots.
“It won’t bring my son back. There’s a lot at stake in our case,” Jodry said. “That’s just one aspect that I really want taken care of.”
This story was originally published June 28, 2022 9:39 a.m.