New changes are on the horizon if you're parking in Downtown Paso Robles.
The days and hours that you'll need a parking permit are expanding. Parking is free for the first two hours and one dollar each hour after that. The police department says that in 18 months, roughly 275,000 activations have been made through the parking app or kiosk and out of that, 25,000 people needed to pay.
The Paso Robles Parking Program kicked off in the summer of 2019. Some have been against it from the get-go.
"I will shop in other areas that do not have metered parking. Hate it. Confusing. Makes us want to stay away. App rarely works. User-unfriendly. It stinks."
Pam Greenwood, vendor at Reminisce Antiques, read off the responses to a survey they put together about the parking program.
"This is a business-killing idea. Too far to walk for older people. Unnecessary and a nuisance," Greenwood read.
During Tuesday's city council meeting, it was decided that the program will expand to the weekend versus five days a week and go until 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.
"We were getting free parking on weekends, which that was a very busy time for us and that was a plus, so it's going to be nothing but more headaches," Greenwood explained.
"It's definitely limited that I come to the downtown just because I know that I have to pay for parking if I don't remember or if I don't leave within the two hours," explained Reina Buerster of Paso Robles.
There are currently 474 paid on-street parking spots and 156 parking lot spaces in the downtown area.
The city said the target occupancy is 85% but it's usually above that number with Saturday being 100%.
The staff report says the changes will help create turnover and availability for weekend visitors.
"We had a problem with employees parking on the street all day so we needed to find a solution to that," said John Roush, owner of Park Cinemas.
Roush is also on the parking committee. He says he voted for the parking expansion with a caveat.
"It's irrational to be making any changes during the pandemic," Roush said.
The city says the program is not about generating revenue but rather supporting local businesses by ensuring parking.
From the program's start in mid-2019 to January 1, 2021, it's generated more than $83,000. This includes more than $45,000 in paid parking and nearly $11,000 in fines.
Meantime, the general fund loan balance for the program is more than $595,000.
During Tuesday's meeting, it was approved that three part-time staff will be added for enforcement. They will make $22/hour and work no more than 18 hours a week. The city's current full-time parking ambassador will be promoted to supervisor. According to the staff report, this salary will go from a maximum of roughly $70,000 to just under $81,000. The consultant company's contract will also be renewed with a cap of $40,000 for one year, only on an hourly basis. This is a savings of $29,000 compared to the year before but it could be more if that cap is not reached.
"Let's start creating parking spaces that our customers can use and down the road someday maybe we will be big enough, maybe we will be financially healthy enough that we can do a parking garage," Roush said.
The police department says it'll be doing community outreach before the new days and hours begin. They're working to develop a timeline for implementation.
It was also decided on Tuesday evening that the senior permit pilot program will be extended to an annual program for those 65 years and older at the cost of $5 per year.