In hopes of attracting more shoppers, a Paso Robles business owner is lobbying the city to allow short-term parking in select spots downtown.
She suggests that curbs on 15 spaces — one spot per block — in the downtown core be painted green and stenciled for 30-minute parking to help circulate traffic.
When a customer has a destination, said Bobbi Conner, owner of Natural Alternative Nutrition on Pine Street who drafted the proposal, “they’ll circle a couple of times, but when they can’t find a spot, they give up and go to the big-box stores outside of the downtown core.”
The problem is not that downtown is jam-packed with shoppers, Conner said, but that employees and business owners park all day in spots shoppers need.
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The idea recently gained support from the Paso Robles Main Street Association, many downtown businesses and the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce.
City staff is now reviewing how the plan could work. It’s expected to go before the City Council in September.
Downtown parking has been a much-discussed issue in Paso Robles for a number of years.
Employees can use the public parking lot on Spring Street between 12th and 13th streets, but Conner says it’s often half empty because it requires walking a few blocks.
Earlier this summer, Conner said, she became fed up. She tried putting up her own 30-minute parking sign — which she said worked wonders — but police told her to remove it.
Conner then organized a support survey, and roughly 80 downtown merchants signed it.
City staff already has some concerns. For starters, the green zones would be on the honor system.
“What we’re saying is the city is not going to be enforcing this because, as of right now, we don’t have the funding for it,” said Ron Whisenand, the city’s community development director.
Timed parking violations require repeated returns to the downtown area to check for violations, Whisenand said. The police department can’t afford to dedicate officer time to that, he said.
Conner plans to have volunteers paint the curbs, she said, and has faith that people will stick to the rules. If they don’t, she says, the merchants will create fliers to remind repeat offenders.
In 2003, businesses rallied to pass a similar plan to paint “customer parking only” on selected downtown curbs, which the City Council approved. It was later determined that the project wasn’t feasible.
In March 2008, the City Council adopted an official downtown parking management plan that puts pay-for-parking at the forefront.
The parking kiosks will pay for the plan and its enforcement, city officials said.
It’s set to be implemented in a much larger proposal to reshape the city, which is currently moving through the approval process.
But Conner said merchants can’t wait any longer.
“In these economic times, we need to do all we can,” she said.
If accepted by the council, Conner’s plan would be an interim program until the 2008 plan is implemented, according to the city.