City urges residents to continue to shop downtown and support local establishments
ATASCADERO — Local business owners on and around Entrada Avenue recently reached out to Atascadero News with parking concerns that were sparked by the current construction on the main water line running through the street. The construction is being conducted through the Atascadero Mutual Water Company (AMWC) to replace an original water main installed in the 1920s. But the parking concerns started before the construction even started.
One business owner on Entrada, who wished to remain anonymous, said that parking has been an issue on the street the entire three-ish years they’ve been open. They added that the two-hour parking limit on the street has never been enforced and that some spots are taken up by employees working long shifts at surrounding businesses.
“I just feel like the parking enforcement needs to be done,” the owner said. “I feel like these businesses, the owners of these businesses, whose employees are parking down here. They need to manage those guys. They need to manage their employees. They need to tell them that is two-hour parking.”
Due to the parking issues, some businesses have to find other ways to make ends meet to pay their employees. The fact that construction on the water main is taking place at their busiest time of year when the weather is nice and people are out and about, is not helping.
“[The city’s] answer is, if we see a car parked for more than two hours, then we have to call the police department. Now none of us have time to do that, although we started doing it, but I hate bugging the cops about it, I don’t want to call them, and none of us have the time to do this,” said Farren Walker, owner of Farren Elizabeth. “We’ve contacted other businesses, and all it does is cause friction between the business owners. It’s not our job to do this. It’s [the city’s] job.”
Walker added that she doesn’t feel like the businesses on Entrada were given enough notice about the AMWC’s project and that even though it’s the water company’s project, the city’s upcoming repaving project meant that the water company had no other options.
“Our downtown is so rare and special because it’s made up of small, eclectic mom-and-pop shops, and a lot of downtowns aren’t anymore. That’s what makes us truly different, truly special, and if we don’t have the support of the city, we’re not going to exist any longer, and we’re not going to have this downtown,” stated Walker.
Many businesses, including Walker’s, have parking behind their stores, and most of the owners and employees have decided to park further away from where they work, so those spots are open to people who want to shop in their stores.
Atascadero News reached out to the city to ask about the parking issues both during and prior to the construction on Entrada Avenue.
“Time-limited parking typically requires some type of parking enforcement to be effective. Enforcement of parking limits has some challenges, including the capacity of the Police Department to enforce and the inherent problem of ticketing customers, business owners, and employees. While Measure D-20 has afforded us the ability to raise our minimum staffing to four officers on duty at any given time, that still does not provide us enough staffing to aggressively enforce time-limited parking,” stated Deputy City Manager Terrie Banish. “Conversely, many years ago, when our Police Department had been fully staffed, and we were able to do some parking enforcement action, it resulted in dissatisfaction from business owners when their customers, employees, and they themselves received tickets. Many business owners reported feeling that the parking enforcement was a barrier for their business and requested that the time limits be removed. Where staffing and resources allow, members of our Police Department will respond to complaints regarding excessive parking in time-limited areas and conduct enforcement activities.”
Banish also pointed out that there is plenty of parking around City Hall for customers or employees to use during the day.
“We have to have a strong downtown to have a successful city. I mean, it is very key,” added Banish.
During construction, the city and the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce have worked together to promote shopping downtown, especially on Entrada.
“Downtown Entrada is always at the top of our mind, not only to help our chamber members and our small business community, but it also drives traffic, and it also supports tourism. We have a great relationship with the majority of our downtown businesses,” stated the Chamber’s Director of Membership and Special Projects Julie Matthews.
She added that this is a pivotal time to support the businesses on Entrada and the rest of Atascadero’s downtown.
“This is their busy time of the year, and so it is going to put a dent in a lot of the small downtown businesses,” she said. “The construction is needed, but like I said, it is their busiest time of the year, so we are really pleading with the community to shop local. Walk down the streets and support local businesses.”
The AMWC’s water main project began on Wednesday, July 5, and as of Tuesday, July 18, it looks like they’re scheduled to be done with construction the second week of August. According to AMWC General Manager John Neil, the company is replacing an existing four-inch cast iron line constructed in the 1920s.
“This has been on our schedule for a while,” Neil said. “What prompted us to do it now was the city has an overlay project scheduled for Entrada. We wanted to get ahead of that so we don’t have to cut up the new road.”
According to AMWC, they went door to door and sent notices to all property owners at least two weeks before beginning construction. Neil’s name and direct number were on the notices, and so far, he says he has not received any direct complaints or input from businesses on the street during construction. He also added that an AMWC representative, Calvin Thompson, is on-site while construction is underway.
“If the people have questions, approach us. Let us know if they have concerns. We’ll address them to the extent that we can,” added Neil.
Atascadero News is following this story and will provide updates as more information becomes available.