Also, purchase of Motel 6 to address homelessness was discussed at Oct. 20 meeting

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council approved cannabis tax rates during Tuesday’s, Oct. 20, meeting.

Council approved the ordinance, 5-0, with the following local cannabis business tax rates, in addition to any state-imposed taxes:

• $20 per square foot of space utilized in connection with the cultivation of cannabis.

• 6 cents for each dollar of gross receipts for cannabis delivery businesses.

• 15 cents for each dollar of gross receipts for cannabis manufacturing, testing, and distribution businesses.

• 10 cents for each dollar of gross receipts for cannabis retailers.

There is only one medical cannabis delivery business in Paso Robles, and only delivery, no storefront, businesses are allowed to operate in Paso Robles. Only the tax on delivery businesses would go into effect after the second reading of this ordinance.

The other three tax rates may be adjusted if those business types are approved for operation in the City.

Many called into the meeting and said they were in favor of opening dispensaries in Paso Robles.

The Council voted 5-0 to approve further discussion of expanding what cannabis businesses can operate in Paso Robles. Council members John Hamon and Maria Elena Garcia were volunteered to lead an Ad Hoc Committee to discuss the future of cannabis in Paso Robles.

After news of San Luis Obispo being awarded $15 million through Project Homekey, Council discussed and received information on what was being planned to address homelessness.

By Nov. 1, the Borkey Flats temporary homeless center will be closed. In response to a shelter crisis, the City Council authorized staff to work with the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) of Atascadero to apply for a HEAP grant in March of 2019. ECHO was granted $588,797 to hire additional case managers to enhance operations. Then Paso Robles was granted $920,126 to construct an emergency warming center at Sulphur Springs Road.

Due to falling revenue due to COVID-19, the Sulphur Springs project was stopped. The City can reallocate the $920,126 in HEAP funding to another homeless service project in Paso Robles.

The Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO) has partnered with People’s Self-Help Housing (PSHH) and ECHO in submitting a proposal to the State to purchase and renovate the 122-room Motel 6 at 1134 Black Oak Dr. in Paso Robles.

The group plans to convert 63 rooms to permanent, low-income housing, and 50 additional rooms will be leased to ECHO to provide emergency housing for homeless people in Paso Robles. The State currently has approximately $12 million on reserve for this project, and escrow is expected to close as of Nov. 10.

Funding for this is available through Project Homekey, the second phase in the State of California’s efforts to address homeless populations’ needs that have been further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of $600 million has been made available to public entities to purchase and renovate existing hotels, motels, and apartment buildings to be utilized as emergency and or low-income permanent housing.

Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin added two stipulations for project partners.

• Add tracking of police, fire, and medical calls and evaluate the utilization of those services.

• A formal memorandum of understanding between the City and ECHO, PSHH, and HASLO.

There will be a public meeting at 6 p.m. on Oct. 22 via Zoom to discuss the project. A postcard was sent to those within 1,000 feet of the motel with information on how they can join the Zoom meeting.

Council also motioned to have a special meeting on Oct. 29 for final consideration. While the Council cannot approve or deny the project, the Council can decide whether to redirect the City’s HEAP funds to the project.

Paso Robles Fire Department Chief Jonathan Stornetta provided a COVID-19 update during the meeting. Paso Robles remains the highest in total cases for the county. San Luis Obispo County remains in the red Tier 2.

“Based on the county’s current matrix, the county should expect to remain in the red tier through Nov. 3,” said Stornetta.

The county and the State have issued COVID-19 guidelines for a safe Halloween. Locally, the Nextdoor App has a map where over 40 businesses and houses have marked themselves as a safe place where trick-or-treaters can visit for a drive-by trick or treat.