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Local News

Street Cleaners Ready to Sweep Through San Roque

Addition of neighborhood's routes means Santa Barbara will be cleaning 80% of its roadways.

Santa Barbara’s street-sweeper fleet removed 1.8 million pounds of gunk from residential streets in 2007. (City of Santa Barbara Public Works Department photo)

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.”

In addition to leaves, twigs and dirt, street-sweeping rigs pick up fast-food wrappers, oil residue, aluminum cans and newspapers. (City of Santa Barbara Public Works Department photo)

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 [email protected]

Reader Comments

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» on 06.04.08 @ 08:12 AM

It is a shame that our property taxes cannot be used to clean the streets.  Seems to me that parking ticket fine revenue should go back to traffic code enforcement. Regardless and I am thankful that the city is sweeping the streets again.

» on 06.04.08 @ 08:30 AM

Here is the message I sent to the City Council late yesterday morning, prior to the Council meeting.

Agenda Item 26: Street Sweeping Status Report

102 weeks ago the Council discussed the street sweeping program and had a most lively discussion about why and where enforcement signs are installed and who pays the car parking citations.  (That Council meeting is the first video archive on the website list).

What has occurred since that discussion and the direction made then to staff??

Some brief questions that seem worthy of open discussion now:

1. If the staff-stated goal is that only 80% of the curb space must be open for sweeping, then why is enforcement and citations for cars done if less than 20% of the curb length is occupied by a vehicle??

2. In the new(er) areas of the City with few if any enforcement signs installed, will the same standard apply, where no citations are issued if less than 20% of the curb length is occupied by a vehicle??

3. How many enforcement signs, and at what frequency installed, are enough for adequate enforcement??  The recent disputed citation in Samarkand area (where the law won) seems to set a precedent that few if any signs are required for enforcement to succeed.

4. AND MOST IMPORTANT, as nearly all the funding for the sweeping program is derived from car parking citations where the signs are installed that enable enforcement, then is something unfair and unequal if some areas of the City enjoy a sign-free neighborhood with no enforcement but get their streets sweeping done at the financial cost of the people in other areas of the City where the enforcement is quite thorough??

5. Why not simply be most objective and unbiased and set the same signage installation frequency (“density”) to be the same for all areas of the City that undergo street sweeping??

Thanks for considering and addressing these questions.

—David Pritchett, Middle Westside resident

» on 06.04.08 @ 09:44 AM

I can not believe that the residents of this town put up with such stupidity.  It is NOT about cleaning the streets.. It is only about Parking Fines.. Thats it!  The parking department is the only part of the city that is in the black..  It is actually harmful to the environment to sweep up all of the leaves and not let them wash into the ocean. 
The entire thing is just one big bad joke.

» on 06.05.08 @ 10:39 AM

We are looking forward to a cleaning Santa Barbara.  This is very exciting news!

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