Life is repetitious. Swallows annually return to Capistrano. Flu shots annually pierce us. Seismologists frequently predict catastrophic earthquakes. And we Paso Roblans recurrently discuss downtown parking.
Evidence of two of those repetitions appeared last Saturday on The Tribune’s front page. One headline said “California is overdue for ‘The Big One.’ ” Another said, “Paso merchant pushes for 30-minute parking.” The Paso Robles parking debate goes back at least to Oct. 30, 1950, when the Paso Robles Press reported city councilmen voted 4-1 for a six-month trial of parking meters in the “business section.”
When I returned permanently to Paso Robles in 1961, Bert Casteel had the city’s two most thankless jobs: dogcatcher and meter man. He was an older man who wore a police uniform complete with holster and revolver. He collected the pennies and nickels from the meters and ticketed overtime-parked cars.
Many downtown businesses were then hanging on by their fingernails. Many parking spaces went vacant all day. Merchants complained the meters drove off customers. The council listened and decapitated the meters.
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Now Paso Robles is more than three times as large. Its downtown has more attractions. Also, many downtown merchants and employees still park on downtown streets. So parking spaces are scarce. Bobbi Conner, of Natural Alternative Nutrition, says she loses customers because they can’t find parking places.
She put up an unauthorized 30-minute-parking sign. She said business improved, but the police told her to remove it. Now she’s proposing to paint the curb green along one parking space in each downtown block. Each would also say, “30-minute parking.”
These days the city can’t afford to pay anyone to enforce such a limit, even at half of Bert Casteel’s old salary. The only enforcement would be printed reminders from merchants. The City Council may act on this proposal in September. I think I’d obey the green curb restriction. I’d also like to see some blue-curbed spaces for the disabled.
Downtown will get a few more parking spaces from another source before Christmas. Work should be finished by then to cover the hot sulfur spring that’s bubbling at the bottom of the gaping pit in the library parking lot. The hot sulfur water will be diverted to the Salinas River through a pipe under 10th Street.
That once-dormant spring was reawakened in December 2003 by an unpredicted earthquake that also killed two women. I’m sorry we’re covering that hole. It and its sulfur smell remind us of nature’s untamable power and the importance of heeding seismologists’ warnings.
Contact Phil Dirkx at email@example.com or 238-2372.