PASO ROBLES — Here we go again is what many were thinking and saying as the city’s recent attempt to do something about parking in the Paso Robles downtown area was unexpectedly put on hold for 45 days.
The move that included forming an ad hoc committee came at the Paso Robles City Council meeting on Sept. 6 when city staff recommended cleaning up its city-wide parking ordinance — the next step in a months-long process to address parking issues in the downtown.
Putting the plan on hold did not sit well city staff and councilmembers.
“What I am concerned about is keeping the process moving,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Gregory. “By making this motion we are going to shut it down.”
Members of the council vowed something will be done in 45 days.
“We are doing something. We will do something,” said councilmember John Hamon.
Following some recommended changes from councilmembers, specifically wording related to the City Manager, everything appeared to be coming into place until a couple of members of the Paso Robles Downtown Main Street Association and its board of directors expressed during public comment their displeasure with several parts of the ordinance. Four people spoke during public comment, three with ties to the Main Street Association.
“I believe there are a lot of provisions in this parking ordinance that are beyond what we agreed to,” said Main Street Board of Directors member Dale Gustin. “I think we need to revise it substantially.”
Gustin, seemingly speaking on behalf of the Main Street Board of Directors, asked the council to table the parking ordinance agenda item “until after the Main Street board has a chance to examine it, not just our chair or our president, but our entire board.”
John Roush, who is a lifetime Main Street Board member and owner of Park Cinemas, said, “I love this town. I love it just the way it is and I’m concerned it is going to change. I’m concerned with all of this timed-parking talk and meters that we lose that friendly, rural atmosphere.”
Following public comment, Mayor Steve Martin broached the idea of a motion that would give all interested parties more time to take a closer look at the ordinance.
“I don’t think we are anywhere close to doing a first reading on this ordinance,” Martin said, “and I would like to suggest, based on the comments from the public tonight and the detailed comments from Mr. (Fred) Strong, that we table this for right now and we put an ad hoc committee together … meet with Main Street and get these things ironed out and bring them back.”
Councilmembers Fred Strong and Jim Reed were appointed to the ad hoc committee.
City Manager Tom Frutchey, during his presentation, said the purpose of the updates and revisions to the parking ordinance would allow the city to move forward with its near-term parking strategies and to “take out clearly outdated sections.”
The majority of the parking regulations have not been updated since 1956. As one example of the need, the parking ordinance does not provide for or enable such recent innovations as electric vehicle charging stations, as well as transportation network services such as Uber and Lyft.
The city has been working for the past several months, at the request of the public, to alleviate parking issues in the dontown area.
The city hired an outside firm to conduct a traffic study and public forums were held, including one by the Main Street Association, to get feedback for the parking plan.
Frutchey read the 11 proposed primary changes to the ordinance:
— Vehicles parked on the street are not subject to removal unless left standing in excess of 72 hours. The current standard is 48 hours.
— The City may enable taxicabs and transportation network companies (such as Uber and Lyft) to use commercial loading zones for dropping off and picking up riders, outside of the designated commercial loading zone hours.
— Establishes 85 percent as the parking occupancy target, meaning that, at any one point in time, no more than 85 percent of the available parking spaces should be occupied. If the occupancy rate is more than this, potential parkers will spend too much time looking for a space, adding to traffic congestion and leading to frustration. When frustrated, many will choose to leave, rather than park and undertake the experience that they had hoped for. If, at peak hours, less than 85 percent of the spaces are occupied, it means too many spaces are available. Given the costs of acquiring, building, and maintaining parking lots and on-street parking, this is a waste of valuable public resources.
— The City may authorize valet parking programs that take advantage of available on-street parking outside of the downtown.
— In areas with timed parking, a vehicle may not move from one space to another (repark), within an established parking zone, sooner than two hours following the expiration of the initial time period.
— Zones for parking meters, and the rates to be paid to use those meters, are removed.
— If timed parking is determined to be needed in any area, the maximum time limits can be set anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.
— The police chief is authorized to designate a number of Parking Ambassadors, who can assist in the enforcement of the Code.
— Electric vehicle parking regulations are established, for the first time, requiring active charging and obedience to posted time limits.
— The parameters for an employee parking permit program, residential parking permit program, and visitor parking permit program are established.
— Parking in a parking benefit district (such as the downtown) becomes an enterprise activity. Thus, revenues gained from parking permits, paid parking, and enforcement, are to be invested back into benefiting the district.
Additional highlights from the Sept. 6 meeting:
— Airport Water Pipeline-approved authorization for the City Manager to execute construction contracts with Raminha Construction for $2,877,520, including a 10 percent contingency for a total of $3,165,272; a construction engineering contract with Cannon for $635,986, including a 10 percent contingency for a total of $699,585; and a consulting contract with Water Systems Consulting, Inc. for $107,552, including a 10% contingency for a total of $118,307. These contracts will construct water and sewer pipelines on Airport, Drycreek and Beacon Roads as well as Cloud Way.
— 115 Trust Annual Performance Report-received and filed a report on the Section 115 Trust’s annual performance. As part of the City’s strategy for addressing the unfunded CalPERS pension liability, the 115 Trust out-performed CalPERS earning 9.32% compared to CalPERS 8.60 percent. The trust can be used to pay down the unfunded liability or as a reserve fund to cover PERS payments during a downturn. Along with the 115 Trust, the City has negotiated additional cost-sharing with employee groups.
— Fire Department Squad Vehicle and Equipment Purchase-approved the recommendation to purchase a paramedic squad vehicle and required equipment inventory. This action will increase the Fire Department’s capacity to respond to medical emergencies and takes advantage of a rare opportunity to save the City $85,000 by purchasing a demo vehicle with only 1,200 miles. This vehicle is available now, while a similar vehicle ordered at full cost would also take 6-12 months to be delivered to the City.
— Travel Paso First Annual Report-received and filed first annual report of the Paso Robles Tourism Improvement District.
The next Paso Robles City Council meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 18.