Monday, October 22 , 2018, 4:17 am | Fog/Mist 61º


Santa Barbara Businesses Worry About Impending Oversized Vehicle Restrictions

Business owners say a new ordinance regulating the parking of large vehicles will prevent them from carrying out their work

Construction company owner Jason Tapia said an ordinance regulating oversized vehicle will make it impossible for many businesses like his to perform any work. “What is going to be done so that we can remain in business?” he asked. Click to view larger
Construction company owner Jason Tapia said an ordinance regulating oversized vehicle will make it impossible for many businesses like his to perform any work. “What is going to be done so that we can remain in business?” he asked. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

While concerns and criticism for Santa Barbara’s recent oversized vehicle ordinance focus on the effects it will have on recreational vehicle dwellers, local businesses have become more vocal about the negative impacts they say the parking rules will have on their operations.

In November, the City Council enacted a ban on oversized vehicle parking on all city streets, subject to a number of exceptions.

While the development of the ordinance grew out of RV regulations, the adopted ban affects all vehicles that are longer than 25 feet, wider than 80 inches or taller than 82 inches.

In an attempt to balance the needs of oversized vehicle owners with mitigating the safety hazards such vehicles pose on Santa Barbara’s often-narrow streets, city staff have put together a laundry list of specific exemptions, and are working on a permitting program for those exemptions.

“This is a difficult ordinance because it covers a lot of ground and it’s easy to make mistakes,” City Attorney Ariel Calonne said at a public-input hearing he held Wednesday evening at City Hall.

The city is considering tweaks to draft regulations associated with the ordinance before enforcement begins.

Various permits can be acquired for residents, visitors and businesses, but they come with stipulations.

For businesses, permits’ duration can be extended to 10 days during a 90-day period for a single address.

Parking cannot “create or exacerbate a dangerous traffic safety condition,” like blocking a traffic lane, impairing the visibility of drivers in driveways or side streets, or blocking visibility of traffic-control devices like stop lights.

City traffic and engineering officials and many residents say that tall, long or wide vehicles pose serious safety hazards when drivers can’t see other traffic or signals that the vehicles block.

But some businesses are arguing that the regulations narrow down the number of parking spaces so much that they effectively prevent them from carrying out their services.

Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne held a hearing at City Hall on Wednesday for public input on the city’s oversized vehicle ordinance. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne held a hearing at City Hall on Wednesday for public input on the city’s oversized vehicle ordinance. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Jason Tapia, a construction contractor, said that a 12-week kitchen remodel could not be done under a 10-day permit.

“I hope the people who are strongly supporting a complete ban on oversized vehicles — I hope none of them ever need a plumber, electrician, carpenter, a gardener or anyone else because it will cripple the construction industry,” he said.

Tapia added that it’s impossible to ensure a perfectly safe community, and that vital industries like his feature dangerous elements no matter how many safety precautions are taken. The ordinance would only stifle tradespeople's operations, he said.

Mark Danielson, general manager of News-Press & Gazette Co., which operates KEYT and its affiliates, said the rules would impede the work of news-gathering vans trying to cover a disaster in real time.

Business leaders have floated changes such as not having one of the three size dimension limits, or eliminating the time restraints for commercial permits.

The new rules “may actually create unnecessary safety risks,” said Kirsten McLaughlin, market vice president for Cox Communications.

The draft regulations define utility companies as providing gas, water, trash, electricity or other services between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., or providing emergency services during other hours.

The operating hours of cable-television corporations like Cox were defined as being between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

McLaughlin said those restrictions impair “our ability to promptly respond to critical infrastructure outages, put our operations at risk, and jeopardize vital communications services supported by our network throughout the region.”

Calonne emphasized to business owners that the ordinance-writing process and his own expertise were not infallible.

“We will make sure that the City Council is keenly aware of the impacts that everyone describes tonight, and where there are areas that we collectively think are kind of unintended consequences,” he said.

As part of the ordinance roll-out, an ad-hoc stakeholder committee is rounding up parking spaces in private lots throughout the city for RV dwellers, who critics say will be effectively evicted from the city if they have nowhere to park their homes.

Those efforts, however, may not save the city from a trip to court.

Peter Marin, an advocate for homeless and RV dwellers who has been involved in previous RV litigation with the city, said the City Council had adopted an “overkill solution.”

“We intend to sue as soon as this ordinance is enforced,” he said, saying the basis of a lawsuit will be gray areas of the law the council decided to wade into.

The oversized vehicle parking ordinance and its draft regulations can be read here.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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