Everyone receives two free hours of parking; $2 an hour following 

PASO ROBLES — Residents and merchants filled the City Council chambers to express their opinions and concerns over the impending Downtown Parking Program at the Paso Robles City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Mayor Steve Martin was again absent from the meeting. The parking program appeared on the Tuesday night agenda after being tabled from the Tuesday, Jan. 24, meeting, where Martin was also absent.

With the WayToPark app being discontinued on Friday, Feb. 10, council was asked to approve a new parking program with a new app to be used, Flowbird. However, concerns from the public and councilmembers over various details of the parking program led to it being continued to the Feb. 22 meeting.

After two meetings of thorough discussion, a 90-day parking program was approved by a 3-1 vote — with Councilmember Fred Strong voting no. The new Flowbird app will be activated with two free hours for everyone and will cost $2 per hour after that. The program will come back to council for review in 90 days.

The originally proposed parking program included two controversial changes: 

  1. Eliminating free parking hours
  2. Increase from $1 to $2 per hour

Again, residents and downtown business owners issued concerns over the removal of free parking. Many businesses echoed each other in that they rely on local residents to sustain their businesses year-long. Removal of the free parking made many residents say they would detour from coming downtown.  

Donovan Schmidt, the CEO of the Park and Pine Group, which owns popular restaurants like Fish Gaucho and Pappy McGregor’s, said, “By taking away the two hours free, we are going to struggle on those early weekdays — you guys spend a lot of money making downtown Paso a destination. What’s it going to look like a few years from now if some of these businesses start going out of business.”

Schmidt added that he and his business partners may need to start having the conversation of moving their businesses to a new location farther from downtown.

Councilmembers again were split — John Hamon and Steve Gregory in favor of approving the parking program as is, and Strong and Chris Bausch not in favor, pushing for free hours for residents. 

After discussion and disagreements, the councilmembers came to an agreement for approving the Flowbird app and the downtown parking program to now be $2 an hour after two free hours.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 7, at 6:30 p.m.