Tuesday, November 13 , 2018, 3:07 pm | Fair 72º


Santa Barbara Backs Plan to Require Parking Permits for Some Oversized Commercial Vehicles

Businesses upset over changes to city's oversized vehicle parking rules; Commercial businesses will have to pay per-vehicle parking fees

The Santa Barbara City Council has adopted rules limiting oversized vehicle parking on city streets, which includes RVs. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara City Council has adopted rules limiting oversized vehicle parking on city streets, which includes RVs.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Despite objections from a united front of businesses and RV parking advocates, the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday approved tight rules and limitations for oversized vehicles parking on city streets.

The city voted 5-2 to establish an annual commercial contractors vehicle parking permit for certain-sized vehicles. Contractors would have to pay $100 annually and $50 per vehicle.

The proposal going into the meeting was for contractors to pay $650 annually. 

In addition, the city will not allow private employees to take their oversized work vehicles home overnight unless they are parked on their own driveway, and not on the street. News vehicles would be exempt from the ordinance when actively engaged in newsgathering.

There will be no charge for disability parking permits. 

The rules are the latest in a series of oversized vehicle regulations the city has adopted, dating back to this past November. The city then voted to restrict the parking of vehicles that exceed 25 feet long, or 6 feet, 8 inches wide (80 inches), or 6 feet, 10 inches tall (82 inches).

The new rules, however, go beyond just cracking down on RV dwellers, who have long been a thorn in the side of some Santa Barbara residents who live in older, well-established neighborhoods.

Oversized vehicle ordinance regulations create an extra layer of tape for delivery trucks, contractors, and even Cox Communications, which protested the ordinance, because several of their employees take their work vehicles home at night so they can respond quickly if there’s a cable or telephone breakdown.

Business representatives said the city dropped the ball by punishing hard-working businesses and treating them the same as people who live in recreational vehicles and park on city streets. 

“These are commercial vehicles,” said Ken Oplinger, president of the Chamber of Commerce Santa Barbara Region. “These are folks who are trying to apply their trade in this community.”

Oplinger said the ordinance was originally intended to reduce the number of RV dwellers who park on city streets, but it has since stretched to impact small businesses, including contractors who drive large vehicles. “We want you to get rid of this. We want you to start over again. There has to be a middle ground.”

Peter Marin, a longtime advocate for RV dwellers, also blasted the council.

“I never thought I would say this, but I agree 100 percent with the Chamber of Commerce,” Marin said. “You are taking away the only housing available to this population in Santa Barbara. It is not what the Chamber of Commerce wants and it is certainly not what the poor and the indigent in Santa Barbara want.”

The ordinance created some unlikely allies and unusual opponents. Neighborhood activists were generally in favor of the ordinance because it kicks RV dwellers off streets for extended periods of time, an issue that they said was a matter of public safety.

Some commercial vehicles and so-called sprinters are included in the oversized vehicle parking limitations. Click to view larger
Some commercial vehicles and so-called sprinters are included in the oversized vehicle parking limitations.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Such vehicles, they said, blocked people’s views and made it difficult to make turns and navigate the streets.

In addition, large service and construction trucks and so-called sprinter vehicles (often large vans) can also impact streets if parked for lengthy periods of time.

Some employees take their large vehicles home and park them on their streets. Santa Barbara, using data from the DMV, estimated that there are about 1,063 registered sprinter vehicles in the city.

“The public street is meant to be the public right of way,” Councilman Randy Rowse said. “It is not meant for vehicle storage. I have a plumbing contractor who lives about three blocks away who parks six trucks on his lawn. I just don’t think that is very neighborly. The neighborhoods need to have some sanctity.”

Rowse, a Mesa resident, said his neighborhood is “the home of vehicle storage” because of all the “renters and City College folks.”

“Whether it is the SWAT team and the guy who drives the Bear Cat, I don’t think it’s fair for them to park on the street overnight,” Rowse said.

But general contractor Jason Tapia said the law is not what’s best for business.

Tapia said he employs tradesman and some of their compensation is in vehicles and tools. 

“We can’t expect employees to go out and get their own business licenses,” Tapia said.

He also argued that paying an annual fee makes little sense, because most companies don’t do business in the city every day of the year — they also work in Montecito, Goleta, the Santa Ynez Valley and other communities.

The new ordinance offers some exceptions: commercial vehicles are allowed to park for up to 30 minutes; emergency repairs trucks can be parked for up to four hours; buses can park for two hours. Residents can also apply for short-term permits.

City Attorney Ariel Calonne said the city tried to find a way to accommodate businesses, without applying a double standard.

“We couldn’t find a rationale that distinguished Cox's (Communications) well-marked sprinters from a homeless guy in an RV,” Calonne said.

Fred Sweeney, president of the Upper East Association, said it was time for the city to put a serious law on the books.

“We are done,” Sweeney said. “We are finished. We want action. We want it dealt with now.”

Sweeney said contractors could be more efficient in how they park their vehicles.

“It seems like every single worker has to have his own pickup or sprinter,” Sweeney said.

City council members Cathy Murillo and Gregg Hart voted against the commercial parking permits Tuesday.

Murillo, who voted in support of the oversized vehicle ordinance changes in November, took a different stance on Tuesday.

“I cannot vote for this today,” said Murillo said, who is running for mayor in November. “It is very anti-business.”

She said she was concerned about the impact on the RV dwellers as well.

“They are disabled. They are elderly. They have problems, that’s why they have trouble finding a place to live in Santa Barbara,” she said. 

Hart said there’s no silver bullet for this problem. He said people who park their large vehicles on public streets should think about the impact they are having on the surrounding area. He said the proposed changes went too far, with too much regulatory impact.

“I just don’t think this the right way to regulate,” Hart said. “I am not sure we have a good solution at this point in time.”

Mayor Helene Schneider and councilmen Jason Dominguez, Frank Hotchkiss, Rowse and Harwood “Bendy” White voted in favor of the tighter regulations on businesses.

“This is one of those no-win situations that we get to have,” White said. “There is not an easy way to handle this problem and there’s not an answer that is going to make us happy. With great reluctance I will be supporting this ordinance.”

The city passed oversized vehicle parking regulations in November but doesn't plan to start enforcing the rules until signs go up and the public is notified. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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