Starting next month, the big street cleaners that steam their way down so many of Santa Barbara’s roadways will add the San Roque neighborhood to their routes.
And unlike elsewhere in Santa Barbara, the vast majority of San Roque residents will be exempt from the flip side of cleaner streets: the potential for more parking tickets.
That’s because not enough people park on the street there to justify imposing the dreaded restrictions.
The July addition will mean that the city street-sweeping program, which officially began in 2003, will finally reach its initial goal of covering 80 percent of Santa Barbara’s streets, up from its current 68 percent. (The other roads are too steep or narrow for the Zamboni-like machines to navigate.)
In 2007, the sweepers removed 1.8 million pounds of gunk from residential streets. In doing so, the program was more than a mere effort to beautify: Much of the scraped-up refuse would have been otherwise washed into the storm drains, funneled into the creeks and deposited in the ocean. Instead, the mounds of not only leaves, twigs and dirt, but also fast-food wrappers, oil residue, aluminum cans, newspapers and other bits of trash were taken to the dump.
On Tuesday, when the City Council heard a status report on the street-sweeping program, the members generally praised the progress. But Council members Grant House and Helene Schneider touched on some issues of equity.
One is how the program, bankrolled mostly by parking tickets, seems to be subsidized by the poor. Parking tickets generate almost a cool $1 million every year — that’s three-quarters of the street-sweeping program’s annual budget of $1.3 million. (The rest comes from ballot measures B and D, for creeks and transportation, respectively.) Meanwhile, Santa Barbara’s most heavily ticketed area is the Westside, one of its poorest neighborhoods.
“That means you’re really applying two kinds of standards,” House said. “There should be an equal treatment of the different neighborhoods.”
To be sure, the rules are not arbitrary. By city law, in order for a block to be exempt from sweeping-related parking restrictions, 80 percent of it needs to be free of parked cars on a regular basis, said city transportation manager Browning Allen.
In San Roque, 94 percent of the 60 curb miles to be added to the program next month qualify for the exemption.
Allen also said that many of the people who get ticketed on the Westside don’t live there, but rather park in the neighborhood for their downtown jobs.
Meanwhile, Schneider expressed similar equity concerns about signage. Although she credited the transportation department for recently ridding the city of 150 parking signs, she said some areas — like the Westside — still have more signs than others, like the Samarkand neighborhood off De la Vina Street.
“We’re hearing two different philosophies on how to enforce parking restrictions on two different sides of town,” she said.
Allen explained that the difference owes partly to how Samarkand residents actively requested a reduction in signage.
But “if we start getting tickets thrown out because signage isn’t up, we will put the signs back on the streets,” he said.
Allen added that he would be happy to look into the matter further if necessary. But neither House nor Schneider seemed overly bothered.
“Does anybody ever thank us for cleaning the streets?” House asked. “I think it’s a great service.”
Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.