City to take another look at proposed policy opposed by residents, two councilmembers
PASO ROBLES — After a lengthy discussion at the Tuesday, Jan. 31, City Council meeting, the City of Paso Robles paid parking program is currently on hold.
At the Dec. 20, 2022, meeting, the council approved the elimination of the two free hours parking within the existing paid parking zones and increased the hourly rate to $2 per hour, starting March 1. Staff brought back the paid parking to renew a contract with Flowbird, the city’s current paid parking vendor. The Way To Park app used with Flowbird has been discontinued, and they are now offering a new app with an optional pay-by-text feature.
However, after the continued disapproval of residents and Councilmembers Chris Bausch and Fred Strong, the paid parking program is getting another look. Without approving the contract renewal, the city’s agreement with Flowbird has expired.
Staff also introduced a local parking program. Local residents would be able to complete an application to participate in the downtown parking local pilot program. The program would have offered verified residents five hours per month of free parking per household, to be used as five one-hour free parking sessions. Once approved, residents would receive a unique code that can be added to their Flowbird app or used at the parking pay station.
The proposed program still left staff with many questions for staff including how many codes are available per household and promotional specials for events like the Christmas Light Parade.
Also included in staff’s report was an option for merchant validations. Downtown merchants would have the option to purchase merchant validations in bulk at a 50 percent discount. Their validations would be provided in one-hour increments and will be provided for one-time use. A separate validation by Park Cinemas could be supplied by the city.
Residents spoke against the parking program during public comment, many saying it did not benefit residents who wanted to shop downtown.
Strong felt fast-moving technology makes it financially unrealistic to keep the parking program.
“I don’t see it serving a good purpose for this city at this point,” he said.
Councilman John Hamon argued that he believes the parking program would benefit residents as there is more parking space available in downtown.
Mayor Steve Martin was absent during the Tuesday night meeting, leaving no one to break the ties between the four councilmembers — Strong and Bausch against the current program and Hamon and Steve Gregory ready to move forward.
Bausch felt council was not ready to make a vote, saying he felt parts of the program did not support local residents the best they could. Bausch, like many of the residents who spoke during public comment, wanted to increase the five hours for local residents as described in the local parking program, which Gregory agreed with.
In the end, council approved with a 4-0 vote to move the parking program to the next City Council meeting for final review and discussion.
So what does this mean for parking in downtown Paso Robles right now?
Paso Robles Press reached out to City Manager Ty Lewis who clarified that the city will continue to operate as normal until the vendors discontinue access to their management systems.
If customers lose access to the kiosks or the mobile app, Way to Park, the city will discontinue enforcement.
The next Paso Robles City Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m.