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Letter: Unpopular downtown parking program needs to be eliminated 

letter to the editor

To the editor, 

– The downtown parking program is extremely unpopular and needs to be eliminated entirely. The reason for the program in the first place was that employees were taking up premium spaces and making it hard for customers to come downtown and shop. However, the current system with Kiosks and the Flowbird app is extremely unpopular. I have spoken to many people who say they will never shop downtown at all. This has threatened the overall profitability of businesses in the area. I have been informed some businesses may close unless there is an immediate change.

I let the city know they are out of compliance with the DMV and the whole program is a violation of civil law. The city is at risk of being sued and losing all the parking revenue collected and probably will have to reimburse legal fees if they lose. People who have paid fees and tickets ought to ask to be refunded. Here is the exact code “(a) A local authority shall not establish parking meter zones or fix the rate of fees for those zones except by ordinance. The rate of fees may be variable, based upon criteria identified by the local authority in the ordinance. An ordinance establishing a parking meter zone shall describe the area that would be included within the zone.” California Code, Vehicle Code – VEH § 22508

Here is the municipal code that is in violation:

12.42.020 – Parking zones. Parking zones shall be established by the city council by ordinance or resolution, which may include the establishment of time limits and/or parking rates for such zones.

The City Council has implemented the parking program by resolution and not ordinance. You can see that for yourself by checking the Municipal Code. It’s not there last time I checked. Instead the city has all the information on its web site but that does not make it a legal document. So all of you can challenge tickets and fees based on the fact that the whole parking program is not allowed according to California State Civil Law contained in the DMV Code.

My opinion is that if you hired a lawyer or even represented yourself in a court of law you should be able to win. You can bring a judge a copy of the codes and show that the city is writing tickets and charging fees for something that cannot be found in the Municipal Code. Honestly I have not found a court case yet to back that up but it makes sense that many cases have been thrown out for irregular procedures or improperly collected evidence. So there is some legal precedence for arguing that since Civil Law has been violated the city has no right to administer a parking program.

Another problem with the parking program moving to $1 an hour from the very first hour is that the City Council enacted it in violation of the Brown Act. Council voted to direct staff to implement a $1 an hour rate beginning with the first hour. No two hours free. The motion was not even on the agenda for the evening. There was public input prior to the vote but that proposal was supposed to be placed on the agenda for the next council meeting. Then it could be voted on. Anyone can go look at the agenda for the Nov. 21, 2023 meeting, listen to it on YouTube, read the notes taken by the city clerk and see that it was done improperly.

When Councilman Bausch made his motion it was clearly understood by all familiar with the Brown Act that his motion would need to be properly agendized. Then you would have public input on a specific proposal and a decision at the next council meeting. Bausch’s motion failed, Sharon Roden’s passed with $1.00/hr parking fees. We are now waiting for the City to update signage, the Flowbird app and the kiosks. Then the new fees are supposed to go into place. Since the Brown Act requires motions to be properly agendized it should have been thrown out. Unfortunately I did not realize that there is a 30 day limit to appeal, which is not much given that the appeal has to be signed off by a lawyer to satisfy the requirements of the city attorney.

My hope is that at the next City Council meeting we can get formal recognition from the City Council that the program as it stands is not properly structured, is harmful to downtown businesses and we just need to put in place something like the first two hours free. We need to break the contract with Flowbird because of their failure to perform, their lousy ratings on the internet and their lack of conformance to the law. When I was doing IT Consulting I had to know the law. I had to make sure all my clients were in compliance with laws regarding fire hazards, data privacy, changes to infrastructure of rented or leased property, wireless signals etc. If this was required of me then Flowbird needs to be held accountable for not advising the city that the program needed to be in compliance with DMV. That is their business and ignorance of the law is no excuse. Signage and kiosks need to be improved and the existence of free parking zones needs to be made extremely clear. The City Council members should know the law too regarding the Brown Act and the DMV since they are responsible for writing Municipal Code that conforms to the laws of the State of California.

In conclusion, I have not talked to one single person who is in favor of the current parking program downtown. I have had people tell me they will never return, that businesses are threatened, that the solution was worse than the initial problem. People have told me they are confused by the whole system, that the kiosks are difficult for senior citizens like myself with visual issues to use and that they feel the City Council is just using this as a revenue raising program and not in the best interests of the community. Some people have multiple cars registered to the Flowbird and have paid for parking but accidentally used the wrong license plate number. That is just unacceptable. Right now I am hoping that the City of Paso Robles will make acceptable changes but if they don’t I owe it to the people who have asked me for help to explore all other options. Frankly I have never seen people so angry, polarized and irritated by an issue. There are a lot of people who would love to see this resolved.

Sincerely,

Gary Lehrer
Templeton


 

Editor’s note: Opinion pieces and letters to the editor are the personal opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paso Robles Daily News or its staff. We welcome letters from local residents regarding relevant local topics. To submit one, click here.

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