Mayor Martin wants citizens coronavirus coalition formed

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles City Council discussed short-term rentals and the increase of COVID-19 cases in Paso Robles during their Tuesday, Aug. 18, meeting.

The Council received a status report on short-term rentals in the City. The City implemented its short-term rental ordinance in 2019 and part of that included a yearly review. 

The City began receiving rental applications again on Dec. 9, 2019, and as of Aug. 1, 2020, the City received 398 applications.

As for non-compliant rentals, 45 rentals are operating without a permit in city limits, according to the staff report. Short-term rentals need a permit to operate in the City. This accumulates to an 85% compliance rate for short-term rentals in the City.

Noise and parking were the majority of complaints received on the Host Compliance Hotline. There is an average of two complaint calls received per month. Council received and filed the status report but gave staff direction to distribute compliance notification letters and establish a web-based monitoring dashboard for the rentals.

Paso Robles continues to have the highest total number of COVID-19 cases in San Luis Obispo County at 669 as of Tuesday afternoon, more than double the next highest total.

From Aug. 4 through Aug. 18, SLO County has seen 636 new confirmed cases. This is an increase of 103 from the 533 new cases seen from July 21 through Aug. 4. Until the County’s new cases are below 285 over a 14-day period, it will remain on the state’s watchlist.

City Manager Tom Frutchey addressed complaints regarding the Downtown area being a contributor to the significant number of cases.

“It’s just not true,” Frutchey said. “The meals Downtown, the outdoor dining Downtown started after the significant increase in July that the Chief referred to.

“However, we need to ensure that the Downtown doesn’t become a significant source of infections, and that’s why we’re working very hard with restaurants,” said Frutchey.

Other areas of concern were gatherings and agricultural employees and families.

Mayor Steven Martin said his desired approach for Paso Robles and COVID-19 was to form a citizens COVID-19 coalition. It would consist of citizen volunteers with liaisons from media, public health, safety, and government sectors.

“Not just the government, not just factions fighting this but everybody together,” Martin said. “The mission would be to create a community-driven effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the City of Paso Robles, and those programs would include things like a multimedia campaign to inform the community about infection control, a campaign on bilingual radio, television and print advertising, bilingual mailers and information sheets, bilingual internet social media campaigns. Information booths at local farmer’s markets, library parking lots, etc.”

Martin said that businesses and individuals doing their best to keep things safe and keep things open would be recognized.

The entire Council agreed with Martin and expressed wanting to focus on education and having the community make their own decisions instead of becoming a “big brother” government.

In other matters, the emergency homeless housing at Borkey Flats will have after-hour security. The City approved an agreement with Miller Security to provide surveillance of the encampment during after-hours for up to six months. 

Paso Robles Police Department CAT officers provide security during the day but are unable to afterward without accruing overtime. The City’s liability insurance also requires security to be provided. Security will cost the City $560 per day or $3,915 per week. 

The City also approved a lower general obligation tax rate for the Fiscal Year 2020-21. This tax receives funds from the levy of an ad valorem property tax. Fiscal year 2019-20 had a tax rate of $0.0424 per $100, which values at $42.40 per $100,000.

The lowered general obligation tax for 2020-21 has been approved at $0.0363 per $100, which values at $36.30 per $100,000.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles