Mayor discusses water, downtown parking, immigration laws
–The variety of issues developing in our community is considerable, as reflected in the many spirited discussions during our April 17th Council meeting. Before I get into that, however, I want to again express my gratitude to our city volunteers and, specifically, our 2017 Volunteers of the Year. We honored seven residents who volunteer to remove graffiti from public areas. I hope everyone has noticed that the appearance of graffiti has diminished to the lowest levels ever. This the result, in great part of the efforts of our volunteers. The city has a “Zero Tolerance” for graffiti because it is unsightly and fosters gang activity. It’s a testament to their commitment that these citizens help us put the “zero” in “Zero Tolerance.” Thank you so much.
We also honored two women who have earned inclusion on the SLO County Status of Women’s Wall of Fame. Congratulations to Liz Lee and Nancy Fiske!
We welcomed our new Assistant City Manager, James Cogan. Mr. Cogan comes to us from Menlo Park where he worked as that community’s Housing and Economic Development Manager.
On to the issues:
Many folks continue to worry about the city’s water supply. With the lifting of water restrictions, usage has edged up a bit. It’s always wise to conserve water, but it’s important to understand that we enjoy a major water advantage over those outside of the city who rely solely on pumping water out of the ground. The city currently has three water sources: groundwater, river water and Nacimiento Lake. Soon, a fourth source will be added: recycled water. When that happens, the city will have the treatment capacity to return more water to the ground than it pumps out. Overall, we have sufficient water resources to accommodate existing and future needs through the General Plan’s build-out targets. Be water-wise, but don’t be misinformed about the status of our water supply.
Street repairs continue. We have approved using SB1 funds for pedestrian enhances and re-surfacing on 13th Street from Pine to Park, as well as improvements to the Paso Robles Street off-ramp (Highway 101) and a section of Niblick Road west of Nicklaus. We have also approved re-surfacing Vine Street from 32nd Street to Caballo Road.
Following a previous public workshop at Virginia Peterson School re: the proposed construction of new homes in that area, we discussed the hiring of a firm to do the Environmental Impact Report for that project. The report will take several months to complete and will be available for public review and comment. Initial concerns raised by citizens include density, traffic, water, drainage and school impacts, among others. When the EIR is complete we should have a focused picture of these issues so citizens can weigh in and we can make an informed decision. The project applicant pays for the report and associated studies.
The matter of downtown parking emerged recently as a major issue in the recent citizen survey and the Council’s goal-setting session. The Council commissioned a new study with the intention of taking concrete (pardon the pun) action. Following discussion at our last meeting, we are looking forward to moving ahead with the mitigation of downtown employee parking, protecting parking in residential areas, re-configuring existing parking and planning for parking expansion in the future.
Art is beginning to blossom in public places. This prompted the Council to revisit discussions regarding rules governing such displays. It breaks down in two parts: art on private property and art on public property. The Council supported a simple application process with neighborhood meetings to address art displays on private property. The First Amendment protects citizens from government direction as to content. Rules to govern artwork on public property were not discussed. We’re saving that one for later.
We received strong concerns from people who are worried that the California Values Act (SB54) will create legal problems for Council and impact public safety. The Act deals with the use of state and local resources to enforce immigration laws. After hearing public input, the Council continued the hearing until the May 1st meeting. I anticipate many more will attend that meeting. If you plan to be there, please come with a spirit of kindness and respect for all citizens who wish to speak.
Don’t forget! May is Bicycle Month! Don’t miss the Cycle de Mayo event in the City Park on May 6th and plan to bike to and from work and school a couple of times. It’s healthy and it’s fun!
Until we blog again, here’s to you Paso Robles!