A year ago I had an experience in Paso Robles, California that left me with a very bad opinion of this pretentious little town.
My friend was visiting from Maine in November 2018, and we had gone downtown to eat lunch at a restaurant I had wanted to try, on the corner of 13th and Park St. The parking spots were all filled, and when one car pulled out across from the restaurant, I pulled in. We walked across the street to the restaurant, spent about 90 minutes there (ordered only appetizers because the entrees were so expensive), and spent a few hours exploring the shops. We walked all the way down to the park on 9th St., chatting and exploring the stores, then returned to the car with our wares.
Except the car wasn't there. The entire street was blocked off for some sort of Elegant Evening event. I was told to go to the Police Station, several blocks away, and it was filled with other upset people whose cars had also been towed.
Ten vehicles had been towed that afternoon, and every person said they did not see the signs that said the street would be closed by 4 p.m. Why did we not see the signs?
Because they were NOT PLACED WHERE THEY COULD BE SEEN on a busy street full of parked cars. They thought it adequate to post the signs on random trees or posts, and not in front of every parking space so the signs could be seen. Indeed, the two signs on either side of my vehicle were NOT WITHIN VIEW due to their placement and the vehicles blocking the view on both sides of the street. Neither my friend nor I saw the signs. However, the ticketing officer Tod Rehner sent me the photo of my car sitting on an empty street with the signs out of normal view of my car, just before he had it towed. Even without cars blocking the view, they are not prominent enough to catch the attention of people not parked directly across from them. There was no glaring indication to people parked in spaces that did NOT have these signs that they would need to move their cars by 4 p.m.
When a town has to tow ten vehicles of unsuspecting tourists or residents, who were only doing the exact same thing the Downtown Association says it wants people to do - patronizing their businesses - that is saying something about the effort they put into making sure they didn't create a ton of ill will.
It cost me $140 to the police department (they harvested $1400 that night for town coffers) and $460 to the towing company. Some folks paid even more to the towing company -- for towing their cars a few miles and impounding them for two hours until their cars could be retrieved. Makes me wonder if the town receives kickbacks from the towing companies for this little arrangement.
Even more egregious was that we were all left to our own devices to get to the towing company to get our cars back. Some had friends who could take them. Some were tourists who had to arrange a cab ride. My car was only a half mile away. Even though I had hip and knee issues and was already tired from the afternoon's outing, my friend and I had to walk down unlit or poorly lit streets to get to the towing office. The temperature had also dropped to 52 degrees and our jackets were in the car. Three hours later, we were back home and I fired off an angry letter to the town newspaper.
$600 to park in Paso? And right before Christmas, too. I didn't buy Christmas gifts that year.
It was an extremely nasty experience, one which none of us deserved. Proper signage and warnings from the restaurant and merchants on the street could have prevented this whole affair.
The second reason for my opinion that Paso Robles is a very unfriendly town was that the cop Tod Rehner called me a liar for saying I didn't see the signs. He felt the photo of my car flanked on both sides by signs that WERE NOT VISIBLE WHEN THE STREET WAS FULL OF CARS was adequate reason to call me a liar.
The clincher to my belief that Paso Robles is an unfriendly town was that when I spoke to the City Council about this, Mayor Steve Martin arrogantly claimed that towing ten people to close the streets for an event didn't indicate that maybe the city had failed its duty to adequately warn people their cars would be towed. He refused to refund my $140 to the town or reimburse me for the $460 tow fee. He also claimed my questions about the appropriateness of this kind of action were "rhetorical" and therefore he did not need to answer.
This kind of attitude treats us like criminals and lowlifes. If the Downtown Association doesn't want to lose goodwill when these kinds of actions occur, they should create a fund to reimburse unsuspecting tourists and residents whose cars are towed, and to provide them transportation to the towing companies to retrieve their cars. They should also publicly apologize.
Paso has recently instituted confusing downtown parking fees as well, and redesigned 13th Street to make it even harder to navigate. Yet they allow high traffic areas such as Creston Road and Niblick to remain with faded road paint, which makes it very difficult to stay in your lane on curves in the dark. And they change the speed limit on Niblick from 40 mph to 35 mph without signs warning of the change. More great opportunities to ticket folks.
It seems that Paso only cares about its downtown merchants and the rest of the town can go to hell. Yes the wineries are nice, but I'd avoid downtown Paso. The aggravation simply isn't worth it. Definitely not worth $600.