Fire Activity has Increased 18 Percent in the Salinas Riverbed 

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council met on Thursday, Jun. 3, due to the Memorial Holiday. 

Wendy Lewis, President and CEO of El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO), provided an update on the ECHO homeless shelter in Motel 6 in Paso Robles.

Currently, the shelter is operating with 50 beds and will have 60 beds when construction is complete. 

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Emergency night-by-night programs and a 90-day resident program are also available.

The shelter is now in its sixth month of operation. Since its opening, the shelter has served almost 500 unduplicated people in Paso Robles, including 29 children.

Case management has helped employ 23 people and housed 34 people. Each night the shelter feeds an average of 48 people for dinner.

Some supportive services provided by ECHO are the shower program, mental and behavioral health, NA meetings, haircuts, hygiene supplies, children enrichment programs, financial literacy, job training and employment, and CalFresh sign-ups.

Lewis wanted to thank the Paso Robles Rotary for their volunteer work for the shelter. The rotary has helped provide supplies and building a storage shed, among other needs.

Through surveys, ECHO determined 84 percent of people they serve are Paso Robles residents.

Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta provided an update on mitigation efforts in the riverbed.

There are currently 650 goats grazing the riverbed and are 70 percent completed. The goats should be done grazing the riverbed in the next two weeks.

Fire activity has increased 18 percent in the Salinas riverbed. On May 24, Stornetta declared the riverbed a high-risk fire area from the Niblick Bridge North to City limits. Notices were posted and stated all persons and their belongings must vacate from the high fire risk areas prior to May 28 by 5 p.m.

Police Chief Ty Lewis provided the police department’s efforts in clearing the riverbed.

Since Jan. 5, approximately 50,000 pounds of trash and debris have been removed from the riverbed.

The Paso Robles Police Department has made 800 Calls for Service (CFS) to mental health or transients, a two-fold increase from last year. 

Councilmember John Hamon said, “This situation, again, if we allow to continue, we are putting our citizens and lives and property in danger. Bottom line. I just want us to enforce our laws.”

Hamon suggested Council create and enforce a no-tolerance policy to remove persons from the riverbed areas. He discussed his concerns that a wildfire could start and we lose many homes or lives.

Chief Lewis said the police department could enforce any policy put in place. However, they should keep in mind resources focusing on the riverbed would be fewer resources addressing the rest of the emergency calls in the City.

Along with the City Attorney, Kimberly Hood, Lewis warned of potential lawsuits that could arise that nearby communities like Fresno have seen who now require an attorney to be present whenever a cleanup happens at an encampment.

At the end of the meeting, Hamon mentioned several emails from residents concerned with the homeless in the riverbed and filtering into Downtown Paso. One email said someone was sexually assaulted in Downtown Paso.

Councilmember Maria Garcia, who is also a pharmacist technician at the Walmart Pharmacy, agreed with Hamon that something needs to be done. She said more needles and other paraphernalia are being found in the Walmart parking lot. 

Garcia also said if working late at night, she has someone walk her to her car because the area has become so bad with crime.

The rest of the Council agreed to have how to handle the homeless situation in the riverbed and downtown put on a future agenda.

A public hearing was held for the Annual Levy of Landscape & Lighting Maintenance District No. 1 and Drainage Maintenance District 2008-1 for the Fiscal Year 2021-2022.

At the meeting of May 4, City Council adopted Resolutions declaring the City’s intention to levy Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District and Drainage Maintenance District assessments for

the fiscal year 2021/22 and set a public hearing for Jun. 3.

More information on the landscape and lighting maintenance can be found here.

There were no questions or comments from the public.

Council unanimously approved the following motions:

  1. Approve Resolution 21-XXX (A) amending and/or approving the Engineer’s Annual Levy Report for the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District No. 1 for Fiscal Year 2021/22.
  2. Approve Resolution 21-XXX (B) amending and/or approving the Engineer’s Annual Levy Report for the Drainage Maintenance District No. 2008-1 for Fiscal Year 2021/22.
  3. Approve Resolution 21-XXX (C) ordering the levy and collection of assessments within the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District No. 1 for Fiscal Year 2021/22.
  4. Approve Resolution 21-XXX (D) ordering the levy and collection of assessments within the Drainage Maintenance District No. 2008-1 for Fiscal Year 2021/22.

Council then held another public hearing for the planned Woodland Apartments, a 20-unit Multiple-Family Residential Development, and Oak Tree Removal Permit 21-03 for the Removal of One Live Oak Tree at 298 Niblick Road.

City Council previously rezoned the property to be used for housing to accommodate the Housing Element updated in Dec. 2020. At the same time, 20 surplus density units were allocated to the site.

The proposed apartments are a mixture of one to three-bedroom units.

You can find more information on the project in the agenda item report.

Council approved the following motions: 

  1. Approve Resolution 21-XXX (A) certifying the mitigated negative declaration prepared for the project.
    1. Approved with 5-0 votes with no modifications. 
  2. Approve Resolution 21-XXX (B) approving Planned Development 20-13, including a height exception for Building A.
    1. Approved with a 5-0 vote with the modification of no sidewalk or striping required.
  3. Approve Resolution 21-XXX (C) approving Oak Tree Removal Permit 21-03 allowing the removal of one 6-inch diameter live oak tree.
    1. Approved with 5-0 votes with no modifications.

Ryan Cornell, Administrative Services Director, presented a continued report on the budget development for the fiscal year 2021-2022.

On Jun. 15 council will vote to approve the final budget and spending plan.

Council amended staff’s recommendation to allocate an additional $20,000 each to the Chamber of Commerce, Main St. Association, and the Wine County Alliance.

Councilmember Hamon proposed that rather than giving each organization the $20,000 upfront, the organizations must apply for the money through the City.

Councilmember Strong was against the idea of making the organizations apply for the $20,000 as he felt it showed they did not trust the organizations to do their job.

During his vote, Strong said the motion would pass anyways and voted yes to the motion.

The motion to approve the total of $241,296 for the organizations and apply for $20,000 each passed with a 5-0 vote.

You can find the complete budget report here.

The next City Council regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jun. 15, at 6:30 p.m.