The parklets were first approved by City Council in June 2020
PASO ROBLES—Tuesday, Feb. 1, was the deadline for all parklets to be removed in Downtown Paso Robles. The first parklets went up in June 2020.
The City approved the parklet program as a way for restaurants to remain open and comply with tight COVID pandemic restrictions on indoor dining. During its peak, more than 20 parklets were installed in place of roughly 60 parking spots.
Council originally approved the temporary parklet program to end on Nov. 1, 2021. However, City Manager Ty Lewis extended the program for 90 days for businesses to continue using them if they wanted, making the new removal date Jan. 31. His reason for extending the program was due to public demand and rising COVID case status.
Then, during the City Manager update on the Nov. 3, 2021, Lewis informed Council that seven parklets had been removed from downtown, freeing up approximately 15 parking spaces. There were then 19 parklets remaining in the Downtown area.
In previous City meetings, Council heard mixed opinions from the public on the parklet program.
In Aug. 2021, Downtown Paso restaurant owners said they wanted to keep the parklet program because tourist customers feel more comfortable eating outside. Other locals requested the parklet program to end to relieve more parking spaces. Some also mentioned the parklets only benefit some of the downtown restaurants.
During that same City meeting, Councilmember John Hamon said, “I am personally not going to support any permanent parklet until the City designs or plans or approves some additional parking structure or parking areas. I cannot see taking away downtown parking, which was so critical.”
Odyssey World Cafe on Pine Street removed their parklet last week, and owner Anna Rodriguez says they have already seen a decline in sales. She notes that while January is a slow time for restaurants, they have seen a 20-25 percent decrease in orders and a 15 percent increase in to-go ordering. This, she thinks, has to do with her customers feeling more comfortable eating outdoors in the open space.
After talking with her neighboring businesses, Rodriguez says, “The [removal of] parklets felt like a blow to what we are trying to do.”
As a result of the decrease in business, servers hours are being cut, and restaurants are ordering less. She also plans to get more involved with the City, learning how they made their decision on parklet removal and how a new parklet plan can be developed.
“I think everyone is going to take a step in, push in, and make sure we can use our voice and our input in addition to what our community wants,” says Rodriguez. “It feels like there is a diverse opinion on two sides mostly, and we do need to step up and let the City Council, let planning know what we need and how they can support us.”
This is an ongoing story. Read the full story in the Paso Robles Press on Thurs. Feb. 10.