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Two-hour free parking is here to stay in downtown Paso Robles

Randol White - KCBX News

Parking costs in downtown Paso Robles are a big conversation among locals right now. Many business employees are utilizing the two-hour free parking spaces, reducing space availability for downtown visitors.

But, at a special meeting Saturday, the Paso Robles City Council voted 3-2 not to make any changes to the current downtown parking rates. Spots are free for the first two hours and $1 for each hour after that.

Julia Dickson does parking consulting for Paso Robles. She presented a recommendation at the meeting for a program to modify paid parking rates downtown.

“When this program was first initiated we knew that the primary challenge was employees parking in the downtown core and basically occupying the spaces throughout the day and basically not providing parking availability for our guests and our visitors,” Dickson said.

The suggested changes were to remove the two-hour free parking period, change the hourly rate to $2 per hour and add 30-minute short-term parking spaces at the end of each block. An employee parking program was also suggested to provide spaces in perimeter locations.

The streets that are managed through paid parking include portions of 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and Spring, Park and Pine. Dickson said, even if these paid parking changes were made, there would still be plenty of free parking blocks away from the downtown core.

“I think it’s important to highlight that it’s the surrounding cores where you basically can park unlimited, for free, including in the designated parking lots as well,” Dickson said.

Still, some city council members were not convinced that changes needed to be made.

Councilmember Fred Strong said he thinks the free two-hour parking system is working fine and he believes it’s actually beneficial for business revenue. He said now is not the time to be raising rates.

“Any time we add parking fees, we’re adding cost to the customer. And with the current fuel rates that have gone up, people are getting very conscious of what they’re paying for things,” Strong said.

The city council did direct staff to explore funding for building a parking structure and opted to revisit this issue in six months, at which time rate changes could be made.

Any comments, questions or concerns about parking in Paso Robles can be sent to parking@prcity.com.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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