A second reading of repeal will be heard at next City Council meeting to solidify removal of paid parking

PASO ROBLES — Democracy was hard at work in Paso Robles Tuesday night as Paso Robles City Council voted unanimously to repeal the paid parking ordinance for Downtown Paso Robles. The decision came after the public fought tirelessly to remove paid parking from downtown since its implementation a few years ago.

Some background on the parking program: The city first implemented paid parking in downtown Paso Robles in 2019, which received immediate backlash from much of the community. However, on Feb. 2, the city received a cease and desist letter from Templeton resident Gary Lehrer. During it’s Tuesday, Feb. 6, meeting, the Paso Robles City Council announced that it would be pausing the Downtown Paid Parking Program. Then, on March 5, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 1135 N.S. amending Chapter 12.42, Parking Management, to address the issues that had been identified with the existing program. 

The new ordinance, approved with a 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Chris Bausch and Fred Strong dissenting, was set to begin again on April 5, with parking now costing $1 per hour at minute one.

Business owners in Downtown Paso Robles have repeatedly expressed disapproval of the parking program saying it has taken down their sales tremendously. However, council and the Chamber of Commerce have disclosed there is a silent crowd who are in favor of some kind of paid parking ordinance.

Then, a new petition to suspend the Downtown Parking Ordinance was served to Paso Robles City Council at the Tuesday, April 2, meeting. Until further notice, the paid parking program was paused until a determination was made on whether the referendum could move forward. 

The petition received over 2,000 signatures in favor of removing the paid parking program.

During Tuesday nights meeting on April 7, it was determined that the petition “failed to satisfy the requirements of the Elections Code and is anticipated to be formally rejected by the City Clerk on May 8,” according to the city staff report. This meant that the referendum would not make it onto the November ballot.

Residents and business owners came out to the meeting to plead with council to remove the program or let it be voted on by the public in November.

Carla Carey, part-owner of Spare Time Books on 12th Street, said that since the parking has been paused, “We have experienced a tremendous increase in business. We had a record day time and time again this last couple of months.”

She added that many who do business in Paso Robles may not live here and were unable to sign the petition but that their thoughts still matter. 

“I hope you guys will consider listening to the voices of the people,” said Carey. “I want to speak to the people that if they dont listen to you then vote for people who will listen to you.”

Councilmember Steve Gregory opened council discussion by thanking everyone who attended the meeting and who worked on the parking discussions.

“We want to move forward in a democratic process,” said Gregory. “Accept those signatures just like they are real because I believe they are. And move ahead and repeal the ordinance and save the cost and expense of an election … I have no desire to talk about parking again on this dais.”

Gregory’s decision was echoed by councilmembers, including Chris Bausch and Fred Strong, who have repeatedly voted against the paid parking program.

Mayor John Hamon, however, had some concerns with overturning the paid parking, saying that he fears the community will again have issues finding parking which prompted the ordinance in the first place.

“If that’s what you want, that’s fine with me. Just don’t ask for any more parking ever,” Hamon said with some hinted humor.

Councilmember Sharon Roden made a motion for the first reading of an ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 1135, which Gregory seconded. The motion passed unanimously and was met with cheers in the crowd.

A second reading of the repeal will be heard at the next City Council meeting, and from there, it will become effective in 30 days.

The next Paso Robles City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m.