Council declares opposition to proposed ‘Local Roads First’ tax measure

PASO ROBLES — A new petition to suspend the Downtown Parking Ordinance was served to Paso Robles City Council at the Tuesday, April 2, meeting. Until a determination is made on if the referendum moves forward, the paid parking ordinance will remain suspended.

Over 2,300 signatures were collected and presented to council on Tuesday night during public comment. Resident and part owner of Park Cinemas John Roush presented the referendum petition to council in hopes that the parking ordinance would be placed on the November ballot to be voted on by the public.

“Thanks to all the amazing volunteers that worked on this effort,” said Roush. “Thanks to the thousands that exercised their right to sign this petition. And the many thousands of enthusiastic supporters who could not sign because they are not residents of the city.”


On Feb. 2, the city received a cease-and-desist letter from community member Gary Lehrer. During its Tuesday, Feb. 6, meeting, the council announced that it would be pausing the Downtown Paid Parking Program. At the time, the city’s legal staff announced that the city had received a cease-and-desist letter from Lehrer, who raised concerns regarding modifications to the Paid Parking Program, alleging violations of the Brown Act and other state laws. 

In early March, following adjustments made to the ordinance for clarity, the council then approved reinstating paid parking with a 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Chris Bausch and Fred Strong dissenting. The ordinance was set to begin again on April 5, with parking now costing $1 per hour at minute one.

However, during Tuesday’s meeting, Roush noted that since the pause of the paid parking, locals have returned to downtown, and business sales have gone up. 

“Paid parking is a failed experiement,” said Roush. “But together we can find other solutions that benefit all.”

According to City Manager Ty Lewis, the city now has 30 days to determine the validity of the petition of referendum and verify signatures. Until a decision is made by the city clerk, paid parking will remain suspended.

Later in the meeting, council discussed its position concerning a potential new tax through San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG). The proposed tax measure labeled “Local Roads First Transportation Tax Measure” is a half-cent, countywide transportation sales tax measure on the November 2024 ballot. If placed on the ballot, the measure will require the approval of two-thirds of countywide voters to pass.

The proposed tax measure is estimated to generate $35 million annually and include a 20-year sunset clause.

Councilman Steve Gregory immediately declared his position on the tax measure: “I am against this.”

Councilmember Sharon Roden issued concerns with the city not having enough control over how the funds are spent and how much they would be able to benefit from it. Her concerns were echoed by the rest of council and the pubic who spoke on the measure.

Gregory made a motion for council to issue its opposition to the tax measure at this time. It was seconded by Strong and passed unanimously. 

The next Paso Robles City Council meeting is scheduled for April 16 at 6:30 p.m.