Paso Robles City Council receives update on permit parking

People are taking part in the employee parking permit plan in Downtown Paso Robles. People are also receiving warnings if they are using parking reserved for the program and do not have a permit. (Photo by Brian Williams)

People are saying they have noticed a difference in Downtown Paso Robles

PASO ROBLES — It’s been only 45 days, but there have been some positive signs from the employee parking permit plan in Downtown Paso Robles.

People via an online survey are saying there is more on-street parking in the Downtown and merchants are saying they have heard positive remarks from patrons, reported Julie Dixon of Dixon Resources Unlimited Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“We are going for you know that silver lining and the fact that we are starting to get positive feedback is something that is really impactful for us considering some of the previous surveys and some of the previous comments we had, especially from the general public,” Dixon said.

The pilot program went online on Dec. 1, 2018, and runs through April 30. Twenty-six people took part in the online survey.

“The numbers we are sharing today are for the first full-fledged month of the program,” Dixon said. “We basically went active with solicitation in November, filled out people to register and then we went live with the program in December.”

Thirty-one percent of the respondents said there was more on-street parking in Downtown Paso Robles during December.

Fifteen percent of merchants said customers have made positive comments about parking in the Downtown.

“The nice thing that we were excited about was 31 percent said yes there is more parking,” Dixon said. “When we get so much negative feedback about the parking, we were really happy to see that positive impact.”

The belief following a months-long parking study process by DRU in 2018 was that the lack of parking in the downtown core was due in part to employees taking up valuable store-front parking and with the help of Dixon the employee parking permit plan was rolled out.

The goal of this voluntary program was to free up close proximity downtown street parking for customers visiting downtown by incenting employees to park in lots outside of the Downtown core.

“The true intent was to try to promote on-street parking availability,” Dixon said. “One of the ways we have tried to do that is by implementing the low-cost parking permit program. And designating the off-street, and in some cases some on-street locations.”

The basics of the program included the city selling virtual employee parking permits for $5 per month.

The permit offers “guaranteed” parking off of the Downtown square in one of six public parking lots — Spring Street lot, 12th Street lot near Marv’s Original Pizza, City Hall/Library lot, Train Station, Pine Street lot, and the Railroad Street lot — and some designated spaces on 10th Street near City Hall and Pine Street between 10th and 9th streets.

Within each lot, there is designated parking reserved only for permit holders Monday through Friday.

In December, 211 parking permits were sold and as of Jan. 15 about 196 had been sold or renewed.

“We had a couple of bumps with some of the renewal process,” Dixon said, adding that she expected the number to go higher throughout January as they address the issues.

Initially, 205 parking spaces were reserved for employee parking, but the number was reduced to 182, setting up an oversell situation.

Typically when selling parking permits the practice is to sell more permits than available permitted parking spaces, Dixon explained, but “one of the commitments we made to the community was that we would not do that initially because we needed to make sure that if purchased a permit there would be a parking space available for you.

“We haven’t had an issue where people haven’t been able to find parking spaces,” she said.

The oversell was a result of some spaces along 14th being eliminated “based on some of the feedback we had from retail in the location. And so far that has worked without a hitch and hasn’t really had any negative implications,” Dixon said.

Dixon said people were using the permitted parking areas as intended, except for the Pine Street and Train Station lots which had “very low or no utilization.”

So far over 287 warning notices were issued to people parked in permit-only areas during the designated hours.

And now going into the month of January, Dixon said there will likely be parking citations issued.

“So you’ll get a warning notice and if you park illegally again you could be subject to a parking citation,” Dixon said.

Paso Robles Mayor Steven Martin said the pilot program was having a positive impact.

“Since the program began, I’ve made a point of cruising Downtown various days, various times of the day and with one exception I’ve always found more parking spaces than I am used to seeing Downtown,” Martin said. “Anecdotally it seems to be working.”

ADDITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

Contract Planning Services — authorized the City Manager to execute a contract with SWCA Environmental Consultants for contract planning services to aid in the processing of the Beechwood Specific Plan, Olsen-South Chandler Specific Plan, and the Gateway Annexation, not to exceed the amount of $200,000. The funding for this contract will not impact the city’s general fund as it will be paid by the applicants.  The City hires and directs the work of the contract planners.

Memorandum of Understanding with Service Employees International Union — authorized the City Manager to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and appropriate $51,100, $19,800, and $22,200 to the General, Water and Sewer Funds, respectively. The MOU is for a 1-year term (from Jan. 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2019) with no change to wages. However, SEIU employees will receive a one-time lump-sum payment of $1,000 per employee, which will not impact the City’s CalPERS liability.

Three-Year Agreement with Microsoft for Software Licenses — authorized the City Manager to execute a contract renewal for a three-year Enterprise License Agreement with SoftwareOne in an amount not-to-exceed $154,506 over the three-year term, for Microsoft software licenses associated with Microsoft Office, Email, Windows desktop, and database and server operating systems; and to authorize the City Manager and City Attorney to make minor changes to the agreement, as needed, fully consistent with overall Council direction. This action will allow the City to move many applications to the cloud and avoid escalating hardware maintenance costs.

625 Riverside Ave. Lease — approved a resolution appropriating $36,000 from reserves and authorizing the City Manager to initiate rent payments through the term of the lease for 625 Riverside Avenue.

Hazardous Fuels and Refuse (weed abatement) Ordinance Amendments — introduced for first reading by title only, an ordinance Amending Chapter 16.10 of the Paso Robles Municipal Code regarding Abatement of Hazardous Fuels and Refuse, in order to reduce the risk of wildland fire in Paso Robles.

District Elections: Charter vs. General Law City & Alternative Election Systems — directed the City Manager and City Attorney to analyze alternative election systems, specifically ranked choice voting for the 2020 election if it is possible to do so without negatively impacting the current legal challenge driving the transition to a by-district election system.  In a separate motion, the Council directed the City Manager and City Attorney to further analyze the process of becoming a charter city and present options to the Council.   

The City Council’s next regular meeting is on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

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