Why Are the City’s Parking Lots Scanning License Plates?

While parking at the city lot at Anacapa and Haley, I was surprised to see a message on the monitor saying my license plate was being scanned. When did this start? What are they looking for? —F.

The city’s Transportation Planning and Parking Division has the following info on its website:

License plate recognition, sometimes shortened to LPR, is a feature on some software that can detect, read, and store video of a car’s license plate. Used primarily in traffic monitoring in parking lots and gated security entrances, this allows the camera to capture a license plate number which is then compared to a database. The image will be processed through Skidata analytics software to determine fees accrued in the downtown parking facilities.

According to a division supervisor, the testing has been going on for about a month at various lots. I thought the city might also be looking for parking or even moving violations, but the supervisor said that this is just one more move toward touchless payment—in other words, your fee will automatically be calculated without you having to take or redeem a ticket, the way it is at the Paseo Nuevo lot. (Although one certainly imagining the police demanding access to the information.) [See the update below.]

Other touchless upgrades are coming next year. From the division’s website:

EMV Compliant Card Readers: Tentative go live date April 2021
EMV cards are smart cards, also called chip cards, which store their data on integrated circuit chips, in addition to magnetic stripes. EMV cards must be physically inserted or “dipped” into a credit card reader. EMV chip card transactions improve security against fraud. The use of a PIN and cryptographic algorithms provide authentication of the card to the processing terminal and the card issuer’s host system.

Touchless Payment Options: Tentative go live date May 2021
Examples: *Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay*
Contactless payment is a secure payment method using a debit or credit card, smartcard, or another payment device by using RFID technology and near-field communication. To use the system, a consumer taps the payment card near a point-of-sale terminal equipped with the technology.

SWEB Mobile Payment: Tentative go live date July 2021
With the SWEB Mobile Pay, paying is easier than ever, no app, no registration, no cash. Customers simply scan a QR Code on their entrance ticket to complete the process online via their smartphones.

UPDATE: A reader on Instagram said that the city sells the data to skip-tracing companies, so I reached back out to the Transportation Planning and Parking Division. From Parking programs Supervisor Sarah Clark: “The City has adopted a policy that governs our use of Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR), which should answer most of your questions. Data are only provided to law enforcement with a warrant or court order, and we do not sell data under any circumstances. The vendor that supplies and maintains our parking equipment, including the ALPR system, can access the data as needed to provide technical support or service, but they are also prohibited from selling it or disclosing it.”

Got a question? Email [email protected] or text 917-209-6473.


Previous Burning Questions:
••• What’s inside Paseo Nuevo’s State Street tower?
••• What’s the point of these markings on Laguna Street?
••• Why is there a giant red shoe off Highway 101?
••• Is Timbers Restaurant in Goleta really going to reopen?
••• Will the Dorinda Triangle ever get beautified?
••• Are we no longer allowed on the SBHS baseball field?
••• What does “SBTP” on this post mean?
••• What’s up with the “no e-bike” signs on local trails?
••• Why is Franceschi House in a holding pattern?
••• Why is there a train station inside this State Street storefront?
••• What’s happening with this derelict house in Summerland?
••• Is there a story behind Lucky Penny’s bell?
••• Why is there wood on some power lines?
••• Can you explain how sundowner winds work?
••• Why is there a pressure cooker attached to this utility pole?
••• What’s this concrete ramp thing on East Beach?
••• Why does “USA” get written on the street?
••• What are those poles in the ocean near the Ritz-Carlton Bacara?
••• Are people really allowed to set fires in the middle of Montecito?
••• What’s the story with the half-finished lot next to the Montecito Country Mart? 


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ES Corchero

The city parking/meter patrol also cruise and ticket in the city parking lots. I learned this the hard way for forgetting to attach my updated annual sticker to my license plate and got a ticket for it!


I have always enjoyed interacting with the nice people working in the kiosks (usually college students) as I exit the lots. I find it sad that one more personal connection will be lost to automation in our town.