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Santa Maria Ordinance Would Set Ground Rules for City Parking Structures

The City Council approves a first reading of the new regulations and is expected to adopt them at its meeting March 20

The city of Santa Maria is moving to adopt rules for its parking structures, including requiring drivers to park head-in. Click to view larger
The city of Santa Maria is moving to adopt rules for its parking structures, including requiring drivers to park head-in. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Maria is set to crack down on misbehavior in the city’s parking structures.

The Santa Maria City Council this week approved the first reading of an ordinance to implement laws for the city-owned parking structures.

“What this ordinance does essentially is set up some ground rules for access in the garage,” Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada said. 

The city owns three parking structures — all of which are free to use — with two near the Santa Maria Town Center and the other near the Santa Maria Public Library

In short, he said, the rules require someone to have a reason, such as working, dining, shopping or other related activities, to be in the parking garage.

In addition to serving the mall shoppers and workers, the parking structures are used by employees of nearby office buildings and assorted people at the Santa Maria Court Complex.

“It’s really some common sense approach to a situation that we’ve had for a number of years,” he said.

The city currently lacks enforceable rules for activities in the parking structures, including loitering and undesirable activity such as urinating in public, skateboarding, driving recklessly and camping.

City staff looked at Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo parking structure rules and took a similar approach in crafting the new ordinance, according to Posada.

“It gives us another tool in our tool chest to do enforcement actions in the garages,” he said. 

Additionally, the ordinance will deal with people parking large trucks in compact parking spaces not made for those vehicles or otherwise taking two spaces. The law spells out compact spaces as those about 9 feet in width and 18 feet in depth.

Tire marks left by drivers is among activity in parking lots that Santa Maria officials hope to end through a new ordinance.
Tire marks left by drivers is among activity in parking lots that Santa Maria officials hope to end through a new ordinance. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Overnight parking also will be prohibited since it poses a problem for maintenance workers. 

However, exceptions will be granted with special permits issued to those with offices or residences nearby. 

In addition to issuing citations, the law would allow staff to issue warnings or advise people of the rules, Posada said.

A proposed restriction on people backing into parking spaces also sparked debate. One reason to require head-in parking is to allow police officers and park rangers looking for expired vehicle registration to quickly spot tags on the rear license plate, Posada said.

Councilman Michael Moats said drivers of large trucks typically back into spaces.

“They’ll tell you the reason they do that is when they pull out they can pull out safely, whereas trying to back a large pickup truck out when you’ve got two other pickup trucks on either side puts pedestrians at risk,” Moats said. “I really wonder if that’s such a good idea.”

But Councilman Michael Cordero, a retired police lieutenant, disagreed, saying a driver backed into a space enters the travel area in the wrong direction. 

“I think we’re adding to the danger of driving in the mall (parking structure) if we allow that,” he said. 

The council members ended up banning parking where drivers back into the spaces. 

“I think that you just need to do it the proper way. There is a logic to going in with your headlights first because you are going to be more cautious pulling out,” Councilwoman Etta Waterfield said, adding that most modern vehicles come equipped with back-up cameras allowing a better view.

The council is expected to adopt the new rules at the March 20 meeting with the ordinance taking effect 30 days later. Posada said city staff plans to educate parking structure users about the rules before beginning enforcement efforts. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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