PASO ROBLES — Don’t worry parking meters will not be popping up in and around the downtown square anytime soon.
Instead, the Paso Robles City Council unanimously voted, 5-0, on Tuesday, Aug. 7, to follow the “near-term” parking action plan presented by Dixon Resources Unlimited.
“I think this is an important step,” said Councilmember John Hamon. “To me it’s something that we need to do. We have come to this point so many different times, and we back off.”
DRU’s overall parking plan also includes mid- and long-term steps, which is where the option of paid parking is mentioned.
Julie Dixon and Emily Kwatinetz of DRU outlined 10 near-term steps the city should undertake to help alleviate some of the parking strain in the downtown — including identify employee parking locations, outreach and incentives, identify shared parking locations, signage, and measure progress. The city already budgeted money to tackle the near-term components. Some of the near-terms steps may require approval from the council to implement.
The downtown area is defined as roughly between 6th and 15th streets and between Riverside and Vine streets with the core between 10th and 13th streets and between Pine and Spring streets.
According to DRU, “Paso Robles likely has a parking management issue, rather than a parking supply issue.”
They noted that parking spaces around the City Park began to fill up as early as 7 a.m. while most of the businesses were still closed — an indication of business owners and employees parking in the downtown core.
Dixon and Kwatinetz said in addition to extensive outreach over the past couple of months, including two public forums at Park Cinemas, they spent a couple of days doing “knock and talks,” when they met with 51 employees and 41 different businesses in the downtown area. All of this went into forming the parking action plan and the recommendation of the near-term steps.
During the meetings, DRU learned nearly everyone drove to work and 80 percent walked one block or less after parking and many admitted to parking right outside of their business.
Forty-one percent said they parked on the street, 24 percent used a public parking lot and 35 percent used a private parking lot.
When asked if they thought there was enough parking for customers, 73 percent said no.
“This is interesting because even though the majority said they parked on the street and right in front of their business 73 percent admitted there is not enough parking for customers,” Kwatinetz said. “That led into a lot of conversation between them and the issue that the city is facing with employees parking in customers’ spaces.”
They also asked if they felt customers would be willing to pay for parking if it meant they could more easily find a parking space.
“Surprisingly, 51 percent said yes, 35 said no and 14 were not sure,” Kwatinetz said.
The majority of people, 42 percent said if the city were to implement time limits on parking instead of paid parking meters it should be for two hours, while 24 percent said three hours and 34 percent said four hours.
“It seemed like most businesses were selecting the time limit that would be optimal for their own business and not necessarily considering the others,” Kwatinetz said. “A lot of employees were concerned with the impacts on the movie theater so they selected four hours.”
This is the city’s third parking management study since 2002. Both studies concluded that there was sufficient available parking to meet the demand and found that employees comprised a majority of the parking and that only during peak hours on weekdays did some areas exceed capacity. The study in 2008, concluded that almost 600 additional spaces would be required in the downtown area as a result of “demand management strategies, combined with new and planned development.”
The issue of parking was brought up by the public again this year, according to Mayor Steve Martin, which is why the council approved bringing in DRU.
“It was cited by people throughout the city in our citywide survey as being a real problem,” Martin said. “And then in our goal-setting session it was raised again as something that needed to be dealt with.”
A majority of the public agreed with the conclusions of the study, including the aspect of timed parking areas, but they did not want to see paid parking meters or meter maids chalking tires.
“I love the charm of what we have...I don’t see this any place else and part of this is no parking meters,” said Tony Gaspar of Paso Robles. “I think if we were to implement parking meters and paid parking areas downtown, this downtown would start to lose its charm and people come here for that. I think there are solutions. But I really think we need to stay away from meters. It would break my heart to see meters downtown.”
In other matters, the city’s new website went live Wednesday, Aug. 8.; council approved its service agreement with the Downtown Paso Robles Main Street Association; council approved service contracts for Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce services; and council approved removal of an oak tree in the 500 block of 30th Street.