An ad hoc was created to discuss other outdoor dining options 

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council met virtually on Sept. 7 due to rising COVID cases. Council meetings will move forward with virtual meetings until further notice.

Item 10: Approval of Award of Contract to Prepare Bid Documents for Road Repairs of the Country Club Neighborhood (Zone 4E) was pulled from the consent agenda for separate discussion by Councilman John Hamon. He also abstained from Item 5: Receipt of Warrant Register due to his son’s involvement. 

Council unanimously voted to approve authorization for the Mayor to Sign a Letter of Opposition to Senate Bill 9.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Senate Bill (SB) 9 essentially says, “if the proposed housing development meets certain requirements, primarily designed to prevent the demolition of existing affordable housing or displacement of moderate, low or very-low-income families or historic properties, it can be approved ministerially.”

All members of the Council seemed to strongly oppose the bill saying that it undermines the City’s authority over its lands.

Councilmember Steve Gregory said, “I think this is an absurd law where they take away all our rights as a city and as a community to help us develop our communities.”

Mayor Martin was authorized to sign a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom opposing the bill. In addition, it was said that other cities across the state are also opposing the bill.

City Manager Ty Lewis said the League of California Cities (Cal Cities) is calling for Cities in California to oppose the bill, “There’s been several calls of action for the cities to take up this matter to retain local control.”

Council then approved Item 17: Approve Resolution 21-XXX, appropriating $5,500,413 of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). 

Staff proposed the following allocation of funds:

  • $500,000 of the funds directed to housing and homelessness
  • $833,500 towards pickleball courts and other recreation amenities.
  • $4.2 million towards unfunded major infrastructure projects, including new roadway segments and bridge construction

A public caller was concerned about allocating funds to recreation rather than putting more funds into housing and homelessness.

However, all council members expressed they were very pleased with the allocation of the funds. 

Council approved, with a 5-0 vote, the budget allocation of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Council then went on to discuss the downtown parklet program. 

Mayor Martin and Councilmember Gregory recused themselves from the item due to relationships with downtown businesses.

In June 2020, Council approved the downtown parklet program due to the COVID-19 Health Emergency resulting in severe economic impacts.

Then in March 2021, Council approved to extend the parklet program to Nov. 1, 2021.

After receiving a report from the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission on Aug. 17, downtown business owners requested the parklet program be extended again because of customers’ fear of rising COVID cases.

Other members of the public said they were against the parklets and wanted their parking spaces back.

Council had requested staff to bring the parklet program back for a full discussion.

Again, Council heard from a split public. 

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. 

Councilmember Fred Strong said, “The problem is the restrictions on indoor dining. That’s the source of all of this.”

He mentioned other sources of outdoor dining, such as dining in the park, rooftops, and terraces.

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.”

Councilmember Strong motioned to direct staff to move forward with option three with modifications:

Option 3: Affirm the removal of temporary parklets by Nov. 1, 2021, direct staff to develop a Permanent Parklet Program, and delegate the City Manager discretionary authority to immediately extend the Temporary Parklet Program, should pandemic conditions worsen based on established criteria and an articulated public purpose.

Strong’s motion removes the option of a permanent parklet program and directs staff to engage the chamber and others to look for other outdoor dining options.

Council approved the motion with a 2-1 (Hamon no) vote.

The next City Council Regular Meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m.