Paso Robles rejects paid parking referendum, claims deficiencies

April 18, 2024


The Paso Robles city clerk has rejected the petition to put a referendum on the November ballot to repeal an ordinance permitting paid parking in the downtown area.

Several signature gatherers met on Wednesday with City Manager Ty Lewis, attorney Elizabeth Hull and City Clerk Melissa Boyer. Hull explained that the petition includes several fatal errors, including the wrong size type on one line, an issue with the title of the petition and a failure to disclose they did not pay signature gatherers, said Park Cinema owner John Roush.

During the meeting, Lewis said he expects the city council to make an offer to stop paid parking if the signature gatherers can come up with a revenue neutral program for parking, Roush said.

And while the proponents of the referendum are willing to sit down and discuss solutions other than paid parking, the residents want the referendum on the ballot, Roush said.

“Even if the council tries to make a deal, it is not up to us,” Roush said. “We are not giving up. The citizens have spoken, and they want it on the ballot.”

During the April 16 city council meeting, Councilman Steve Gregory requested they put paid parking back on the agenda. The council plans to discuss paid parking on May 7.

Councilman Chris Bausch, who has repeatedly voted against paid parking, said he does not agree that a solution needs to be revenue neutral.

“I don’t care if it is revenue neutral,” Bausch said. “It is the city’s responsibility to provide adequate parking for city events, commerce, tourism and the good of the public. It is not the city’s job to create ill will.”

Last month, in just 19 days, a small group of signature gatherers collected more than 2,400 signatures with a goal of stopping paid parking. The gatherers said that more than 90% of local residents they approached were opposed the program.

Since paid parking was halted on Feb. 6 because of deficiencies in the city’s 2019 ordinance, many local business owners have reported increased revenue.

On the other side, City Manager Lewis has fought for paid parking for years. In 2019, as a police commander, Lewis promoted paid parking to provide ticketing revenue for the city’s police department.

In February, the Paso Robles City Council voted 3-2 to pass an ordinance allowing a paid parking program downtown. Even though the ordinance will allow the city to charge from $1 to $5 an hour, the council plans to initially charge $1 an hour, with no free parking, which was to begin on April 5.

Dozens of public speakers and councilmen Bausch and Fred Strong argued against passing the new parking ordinance, primarily over concerns the program drives away customers. Mayor John Hamon and council members Gregory and Sharon Roden voted in favor of paid parking, saying it is needed to keep employees from taking up prime parking spaces.

This is not the first time business owners have battled against city officials’ attempts to garner revenue through ticketing. In 1936, Paso Robles enacted a “safety drive” that included the hiring of a safety officer, according to a Nov. 17, 1936 article in the Paso Robles Times.

“Whether Paso Robles should discontinue its present ‘safety drive’ was discussed pro and con, during what was probably the liveliest meeting of the city council in years,” according to the article. “A delegation of some 20 or more local businessmen attended the council session to argue that the employment of a special traffic officer was ruining their business, driving tourist trade away from Paso Robles, and generally giving the town a bad name.”


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Just want to say that since paid parking was stopped in February we have eaten at 3 great restaurants is downtown Paso that we have been avoiding due to the paid parking and it’s ridiculous kiosk system.We live outside city limits so can’t vote or sign petitions but please city citizens keep up the good fight. And thank you Yanagi, Basil and Dub’s for being awesome restaurants. We’ll be back soon if paid parking does not resume.

Is it recall time?


I live just a couple blocks from downtown, between cheap people that don’t wanna pay or inebriated people late at night even people with children at a local a brewery. Its hell for locals, cant park within blocks of your own home, handicapped and elderly having to find parking for there own residence. Since the brown acts violation and the petition, my neighbors and I have actually gotten some relief. I emailed many city staff included my counsel repetitive John Hamon and never got a reply, when I finally talked to a live voice I was told “you should have thought of that before you moved there.” In a middle of a damn housing crisis full of AIRBNB’s. Thanks for sticking up for the citizens El Paso de ‘Hamon’..

You think it will get better without paid parking?. The employees now take all the parking spots and people will park in front of your house. What changed ? Either way people will park in front of your house. You live downtown it’s going to happen. ‍♀️

The employees do not take all of the parking spaces. I have made it a point to return to Paso Robles as much as possible since this started. I have never had a problem finding a place to park. Not once. Last night when I was leaving there four empty spaces right by Basil Thai and the whole downtown was busy. We know business owners are reporting that locals are back in a big way. Anyway paid parking is not about parking management. It’s a tax. It’s a tax. It’s a tax and hurts businesses in the perimeter where parking is free because there customers complain about not finding a space. Did I tell you it is a tax and has nothing to do with parking management?

Sounds like the bureaucrats are more interested in pushing their agendas than what 2400 voters want. All city parking should be FREE!


Is there a bad smell from the City here. I just have to hold my nose….. yuck

“the petition includes several fatal errors, including the wrong size type on one line”, come on Paso Robles administration, fatal error having the wrong size type on one line? People wonder why the general public has such a low opinion of government sector, but I’m guessing City Manager Ty Lewis, attorney Elizabeth Hull and City Clerk Melissa Boyer could care less as long as their outrageous compensation continues.

What most of the elected public servants seem to forget is that they work for the taxpayer, not themselves, wanting paid parking so that they get ticket revenue, Lewis should be fired.

The City Clerk had nothing to do with this. I’m sure this was taken out of her hands. All I can say is let’s see how this plays out. The next city council meeting is May 7 and I am optimistic that one more City Council member will see what a charade this is. They have opinions from The League of Cal Cities that talk about the substantial compliance doctrine and have not see where the exact type disqualifies. Nor does the the absence of the top funders sheet disqualify signatures. a) Across the top of each page of the referendum petition there shall be printed the following:“Referendum Against an Ordinance Passed by the City Council”

(b) Each section of the referendum petition shall contain all of the following:

(1) The identifying number or title of the ordinance.

(2) Either of the following:

(A) The text of the ordinance or the portion of the ordinance that is the subject of the referendum. the petition is here: see if that does not meet the criteria.

The City Clerk has everything to do with it. When appointed by the City Manager, whom the City Council appoints, the City Clerk may feel compelled to support the Council majority to keep his or her job. That is a violation of the Clerk’s responsibility to support – not thwart – the democratic process. Might be time to elect your city clerk rather than allowing the City Manager and City Council to control.

I have studied this, mostly going by what the California League of Cities says about the subject. She did what her job required her to do, legal counsel was called and gave an opinion that it was not substantially compliant. The next step is to take them to court. It is the fault of the attorney who gave bad legal advice. The clerk pretty much was forced to respect that decision and then let the legal system remedy the situation. Do not blame the City Clerk. She is a fine person and highly respected among the group that supported the referendum.

This seems to be a new normal in SLO County. The Grover Beach city clerk Wendi Sims and the city attorney and city manager are playing the same game with their citizens – thwarting the democratic process to further their agenda. This would not stand up in the courts, but of course how to get to court when the city can rely on their “bottomless” coffers to defend and deny due process.