Last May, the Paso Robles City Council approved the use of parking payment kiosks in the downtown area to address the City’s “parking crisis.” After a series of public forums, a study and a failed volunteer parking program, the City started requiring payment for parking in the downtown area.

 At the Oct. 1 council meeting, Paso Robles Police Department Commander Caleb Davis requested funding from the City for the Parking Action Plan. Davis said funds spent on signage, meters and enforcement equipment exhausted a large portion of the parking fund. 

The PRPD loaned a Community Service Officer (CSO) to fulfill the role of Parking Ambassador who patrols the area lending assistance to those unfamiliar with the new parking restrictions and doles out warnings and parking tickets to violators. Davis said that the current CSO would permanently assume the position of Parking Ambassador thus the PRPD needs to hire a replacement community officer.

 “This [request] is to move the Parking Ambassador’s salary into the parking budget program and allow the police department to refill the Community Service Officer,” Davis told the Council.

Councilmember Fred Strong voiced concerns he had received from the public concerning the payment kiosks. Strong said that many citizens were reluctant to use the payment stations for fear of their credit card information being stolen.

To pay for parking, patrons enter their license plate number and swipe their credit cards. No charge is incurred until the second hour of parking. Davis said that there are only three kiosks that accept cash which was done intentionally to avoid the increased likelihood of theft and vandalism.

City Manager Tom Frutchey chimed in and told the Council that City staff will explore alternatives and present them to the Council at a later date.

PRPD Chief Ty Lewis told the Council that the Parking Action Plan is still in its infancy stage and that data is being gathered on how best to make the plan sustainable. He also said that currently the PRPD is “robbing Peter to pay Paul” to provide the man-hours needed for the program.

“We have taken people from patrol functions that are out there helping us with crime reports, customer service and those types of functions,” said Lewis, “to help invest in the parking program to get a little bit further along.”

Davis told the Council that the City’s parking program is gaining recognition and attention from other cities and parking associations. Parking Ambassador Donna King received an award from the Southwest Parking and Transportation Assoc. earlier this year. Davis told The Paso Robles Press that Lewis is set to speak at the annual California Public Parking Association conference in Monterey at the end of this month.

The Council voted 5-0 to fund the parking program and added personnel from the City’s general fund and requested quarterly reports from the police department on the program’s progress and its sustainability.