City works to bring seniors back to downtown

PASO ROBLES — In an attempt to entice senior citizens back to the downtown area, on Mar. 3, the Paso Robles City Council approved a six-month Senior Downtown Parking Permit Pilot Program with a 5-1 vote, Councilmember Fred Strong dissenting. 

The temporary parking program will be for people 65-years and older. Senior Citizens can purchase a six-month downtown parking permit for $30 and bypass the need to buy a pass each time they visit downtown. The program will launch next month on Wednesday, April 1, and last until Sept. 30. Strong opposed the initiative saying that it was too expensive for seniors.

In past meetings, Councilmembers reported hearing complaints that some in the senior citizen community had difficulty using the pay booths or the WayToPrk mobile app to purchase parking permits. In response to City Council direction, City Staff performed two steering committees and community outreach programs with the senior citizen community to work out a solution to the technological barrier. 

According to City Officials, permits will be issued per registered vehicle. Initially, the program planned to issue permits per person and their vehicle. However, the Council decided that it could not feasibly be enforced. Eligible seniors need to bring a completed paper application with a copy of a valid driver’s license and payment to the police department. Permit applications will be made available at City Hall, the police department, the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce, and at the Senior Center. 

Two parking studies completed by Kimley-Horn and Associates in 2002 and 2008 concluded that there was sufficient available parking to meet the demand in Paso Robles. Reports stated that employees working in the downtown area comprised a majority of the parking and that only during peak hours between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays did some locations in downtown see the demand that exceeded capacity, according to City Staff. 

“I am hearing from a lot of people,” Norma Moye said about the current parking program. “Do you hear that Council? People do not like this system, and that’s the people I’m hearing.”

After exhausting several strategies, the City instituted paid parking for the downtown area. On August 14, 2019, the City implemented a new Downtown parking management solution, including on-street parking regulations and an employee parking permit program. On-street parking regulations include two hours of free parking followed by $1 per hour paid parking in operation Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Since the implementation of the parking program, more than 144,000 people have used downtown parking, with only 12,000 people purchasing parking tickets. Paso Robles Police Department Commander Caleb Davis said the numbers show that the two-hour free parking is being utilized by the public and producing a high turnover rate for parking spots.  

“We know that there have been growing pains all along, but we can attest that this is definitely positive data from what we were trying to accomplished,” said Commander Caleb Davis.