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Paso Robles to bring back paid downtown parking in April 

After a nearly month-long hiatus following internal city review, a revamped paid parking program will return to downtown Paso Robles starting April 5.

"I am in the silent majority of people that we need a parking program," Councilmember Steve Gregory said at the March 5 City Council meeting. "We have too many visitors. We have to start somewhere, and this is better than what we had before. We need to give this a chance."

click to enlarge ONTO APRIL Paso Robles is set to bring its paid parking program back into effect starting April 5 after pausing it in February. - FILE PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
  • File Photo By Camillia Lanham
  • ONTO APRIL Paso Robles is set to bring its paid parking program back into effect starting April 5 after pausing it in February.

The Paso Robles City Council voted 3-2—with Councilmembers Chris Bausch and Fred Strong voting no—to reestablish the paid parking program, establish the official enforcement zone, and set the strategy for a new parking payment app, kiosk, and sign rollout by April 5.

According to the staff report, the parking rate will be $1 per hour, subject to adjustments up to $5 per hour by the City Council. That rate will be enforced within the downtown parking zone, which includes a segment of 10th Street to 14th Street, Spring Street to Pine Street, and the 900 block of both 12th and 13th streets.

Paso Robles City Manager Ty Lewis said the staff's goal was to ensure that each detail regarding where, when, and how the parking would be enforced was paramount to the city's evaluation of the program after pausing it in February.

"We are focused on upgrading things like the parking app and upgrading the screens on the kiosks to make sure they are clear," Lewis said at the meeting. "We want to make sure the bugs are worked out. We want to educate the community so we can reduce confusion."

Lewis said city staff anticipates offering warnings more than actual citations in the first month of the new program to ensure that everyone understands how the program works.

Part of that clarity was the second item the council heard on March 5, which passed 4-1, with Bausch dissenting.

According to the staff report, it will allow senior citizens who purchased year-long passes through the old parking program to seek the same refunds offered to non-senior residents at the Feb. 20 City Council meeting. That program launched in late February and offered refunds for any incorrect fees or charges between Feb. 4, 2022, and Feb. 6, 2023.

Some residents and council members didn't want paid parking to come back to downtown in any form.

"The parking enforcement 'pause' we have been experiencing these past weeks has been wonderful. ... It has pumped excitement into the downtown that I haven't seen or felt in years," resident Jeff Carr said via public comment. "This parking program, including its execution and management, has been a failure."

Councilmember Strong told his fellow council members that he could not vote to adopt the revised program in any form as he found nobody in his district who supported it.

Strong and Bausch attempted to table adopting the parking program changes by motioning for a substitute motion, which failed 3-2.

"I think we should pause paid parking because of the acrimony it generates," Bausch said at the meeting.

As an alternative, Bausch suggested that the city explore eliminating the paid parking program and replacing it with a timed program. He suggested it may be time for the city to explore finding a lot for a parking structure to better accommodate visitors' needs.

Mayor John Hamon countered by saying that the city had neither the staff nor the funds to accommodate a timed parking program. He stressed that even though he didn't personally like the idea of paid parking, the city had to find a way to generate revenue from the downtown public parking spaces.

"I believe we have finally done it correctly [even] if it's a work in progress; it's logical for me to proceed this way," he said at the meeting, noting that the council would likely review the program in a year anyway. "As an administrator who has to make a hard decision to manage a city's resources, I feel we need to put this in." Δ


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