Letter to the editor: City Council made some important decisions at special meeting
To the editor,
Very important results of the Paso Robles City Council special meeting of July 15, 2020
I was happy with the decisions they made on the first two items;
Even though I am a huge advocate for the homeless, aggressive action was long overdue. My concern for my neighbors and their property far outweighs my sympathy for the plight of the homeless. It’s only because of that last property-destructive fire, that something will now be done.
Even though the cause of that one was not the homeless, it brought to the forefront the seriousness and threat of that Salinas Riverbed what we’re living with every day. We all knew it was just a matter of time before this happened, and thank God for the quick and competent response of our Fire Department.
The city council was unusually fervent in their comments and commitment to getting this problem solved now, not next year. They appropriated $278k from the General Fund Reserves for Emergency Clean-up efforts. I think the best way to summarize the plan is this:
1. Give the people living in the riverbed, 72 hours to leave with their belongings.
2. When the area is clear of persons, city crews will go in with equipment to clear the area of brush, debris and any personal belongings not previously removed.
3. The displaced homeless will be offered services from Echo in Atascadero.
4. After the clean-up, the Riverbed will be patrolled daily to be sure the encampments do not return.
This will be a massive undertaking on the part of the fire department and city police. Kudos to all for making this happen.
Now on to item number 3:
COVID-19 Economic Recovery Measures – Revisiting Temporary Street Closures
I anticipate receiving some serious personal blow-back on this one, but I would be less than honest if I said I approve of all of the decisions the city has made on behalf of the restaurants.
The city council et al, believes that if it were not for the restaurants, Paso Robles would have nothing to offer and the tourists would not come.
I’m perplexed by the how and why of the mindset that says our economic recovery depends solely on the success of our restaurants, and that we must pull out all of the stops and spend whatever resources we have, to do whatever is necessary, ensuring they get what they need.
They just passed a budget with some serious deficiencies. Several programs and services that we all enjoy, were cut. Yet we can find the resources to fund the needs of the dining establishments.
Their argument for the financial support of the restaurants is that, if we help them expand and get back to profitability, they will attract the tourists and be a greater contributor to the city coffers. But, isn’t that true for all businesses?
City Engineer David Athey reported that one restaurant who had encroached onto the sidewalk without the city’s permission was serving alcohol without the license or permission of the city or the ABC, and somehow, due to the “crisis” situation, it was all overlooked. Does anyone at the city know how to spell L.I.A.B.I.L.I.T.Y?
If you drive around the downtown, there are no less than 20 cordoned-off sidewalk café areas. There are city-allowed sidewalk billboards everywhere blocking the walkways. Again…liability! And in my opinion, it’s not charming, it’s cluttered and junky looking.
Previously the council approved city park dining and the construction of parklets. OK, fine. Wednesday night, council directed staff to pursue half-street or one-way street closures with safety barriers and to defer cost-recovery permit fees (collecting only after the local emergency has ended), and to make a sidewalk dining permit program available as soon as possible so that all businesses with sidewalk dining can come into compliance. The cost to the city (you and me) will be substantial, very expensive barriers, staff, emergency services, etc.
What if, on these street-closure nights, the retail stores decided to set up tables outside their stores, selling their goods? Would that be acceptable? Because if it’s not, the city better learn how to spell discrimination! And if not, what’s the difference?
Make no mistake; wining and dining in this town is an undeniable draw to tourists. When you think about it, what else is there for them to do after 5 p.m.? I’m not discounting that at all.
But what I would like, is to see the same time, energy, consideration and financial resources spent on other business sectors that contribute equally to the success of our town.
And if you think this is all ok because it’s just temporary to get us through this crisis, “temporary” could be a long way off or permanent, and costly to us all. So I’ll say it again….if you think that food and alcohol is the only thing that makes up the character and charm of this town, you’re not paying attention.
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