Paso Robles’ paid parking is harming businesses, our downtown

February 12, 2024

OPINION by JOHN ROUSH

An open letter to the Paso Robles City Council:

This Paso Robles parking program is driving out our residents. The tourists will always come but the North County residents, our businesses lifeblood, have a choice.

The downtown businesses have consistently spoken at city council meetings and informed you that the paid parking program is harming our businesses. At the Nov. 21 meeting concerning parking, everyone who spoke at the podium (including businesses, residents and even a few people who were not there for parking) spoke against this system.

In your infinite wisdom, Mayor John Hamon, Councilman Steve Gregory and Councilwoman Sharon Roden ignored us.

A quote from a letter by Mayor Hamon to Bill Saylor:

“Many of the folks speaking last meeting were merchants and not the ones who have appreciated the program. Councils who listen and react to small passionate groups with special or self-interests do not always make the best decisions for all when it comes to public property.”

Yes, we are passionate. We are fighting for our survival.

We run these businesses every day. We pay the bills. We talk to our customers.

On the other hand, Mr. Mayor, the small group that “appreciates” the program is your focus.

This begs the question: Why are you so irrational, listening to this small “appreciative” group rather than the merchants who are directly affected.

Obviously, there is no point in coming to council meetings. You have made that very clear.

After this meeting, we met with Councilwoman Roden. She indicated city staff had given her numbers that showed the program is successful. Since we know what is happening to our businesses, we find that to be impossible.

Putting our businesses survival aside. We turn to the financial impact on the city.

We obtained the statistics from the city for downtown core sales and Travel Paso for tourism. The parking program started in Aug. 2019 so we are using fiscal year 2019 as the base year.

Sales in the downtown core increased 30% from 2019 to 2023, from City Finance Department Sales Tax Revenue from the downtown core (using Bradley Burns 1% only).

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen 20%, from 2019 to 2023, from the California Department of Labor.

Therefore, with the same number of local customers and tourist customers in the comparable years (2019 to 2023), the sales would have been up 20% in 2023 just from CPI price increases. We believe the CPI for our downtown businesses is higher considering the restaurant CPI is up 25%.

To have a valid comparison, we have backed out the additional 1% increase that took effect Feb. 2023 leaving 2023 fiscal year with a TOT of $9,433,855 and $6,145,040 in 2019, an increase of 64% in TOT, from City Of Paso Robles TOT Summary (Tourism).

Average Daily Room Rates have increased 27% between 2019 and 2023. Since TOT is a percentage of room rates, we need to back out this increase from 2023 to reach a valid comparison to 2019. This leaves $7,428,232 TOT for 2023 or an increase in tourism of 20% since 2019. With a CPI increase of 20%, this increase in new tourist traffic would yield a 24% increase in sales, from Travel Paso report on room rates.

In summary, a 20% increase from CPI and a 24% increase from tourism would indicate a 44% increase in downtown core sales, not 38%. Our businesses are losing at least 6% in sales and the city is losing the sales tax from the provable loss in sales. This is a loss in city sales tax revenue of $204,070 at a minimum.

Let’s now look at some less statistically provable realities. It is obvious that tourist participation in the downtown core has increased far more than 20% since 2019.

Councilwoman Roden’s personal research proves this. Interviewing 72 random people in the downtown, she found 68 of these were tourists and only four were local residents. That is damning to your insistence that the parking program has not impacted our local customers.

Assuming an increase in tourist visits of a mere 10% more (30% increase total) we arrive at a 56% increase we should be enjoying in the downtown core, not 38%. This is a loss of 18% from what we are realizing which for many of our businesses is the ”make or break” level. This does not touch on the increases in the North County population. This loss can only be from the loss of business from our residents and the surrounding communities.

This also means the city is losing a very large sum of sales tax revenue. Fiscal year 2023 sales, from the downtown core, were $136,047,000 per city staff. An 18% jump in sales (over the actual increase of 38%) would be an increase of $24,488,460 in sales and an increase of  $612,211 in sales tax. Compare this to the $81,673 NET to the FY23 Parking Fund (Exhibit D).

We know our businesses. We know our customers, who we deal with on a daily basis. You know nothing of running a business dealing with the public. Yet, you ignore us.

In summary, the statistics prove us right.

We would not be fighting this program if it helped us.

We will not ”go quietly into the night.” Our residents throughout the North County are our bread and butter. We will use every tool we have available to end this parking program, whether political or legal.

End this program now. Paso Robles residents own this city, not you. They deserve better.

John Roush is the president of Central Coast Cinemas.

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Don’t confuse with facts, my mind is made up.


Why does downtown parking require monitoring by highly paid administrators?


Nothing is being produced, parking spaces remain the same year after year


with no maintenance.


Mr. Roush’s movie theater single-handedly started the revitalization of downtown Paso. Before Park Cinemas opened, Paso’s downtown was -dead- for many years. Then restaurants and shops came in, the storefronts were no longer empty.

Mr. Roush’s comments re. the current downtown parking issue are spot on and hopefully the mayor and council members will finally listen.


The new norm for the state and country is pay more pay more you citizens as we don’t know how to manage all that free money so keep giving


Paid parking is an un-American government money grab. Think about it, business owners put up huge amounts of capital and risk to open or move a store front to down-town then the city cashes in by charging the people attracted to the business to park on the streets that are paid for by taxing the residents. In addition, the city and state receive sales tax for every transaction. All due to the business owners work and risk.


Keep it up. Got a bunch of Crooks in council, and a Horrible City Manager too. Conservative my A**. Hamon is a pig in a castle. And Touchy Ty Lewis can’t keep his hands to himself. It’s also legal to tell them they’re Fking A**holes at the next meeting, and God forbid they get another lawsuits for hindering speech.