Hundreds of Santa Barbara residents east of Milpas Street and in the Samarkand area had a bummer start to their Labor Day when they found tickets on their cars for parking on city blocks scheduled for Monday street sweeping. They assumed sweepers and parking enforcement officers wouldn’t be working during the national holiday because they never had before.
Unknown to them, the Streets Division of the Public Works Department recently decided to allow cleaning and the associated ticketing to go ahead on “minor holidays,” counting Labor Day and upcoming Memorial Day among them. City staff received such an outcry from those hit with the $48 fines, however, that they decided to cancel all 326 citations. One person had already paid, but he will be reimbursed. Everyone else will simply not be charged. If processed normally, the tickets would have netted the city $15,648. Around $4.5 million is generated each year by all parking citations.
Streets Division Manager Rick Fulmer admitted his department “dropped the ball” by not issuing a press release on the change of policy and not updating the street sweeping hotline soon enough. Staff had talked about the adjustment for about a year, he said, explaining the added days are a result of some neighborhoods being swept only once or twice a month if there’s a holiday. “We do apologize,” continued a contrite Fulmer. “Our intent was not to annoy people.” He promised the next time sweepers are sent out on a holiday the press will be notified and the Street Sweeping Cancellation Policy website will be updated to provide clearer information.
East Gutierrez Street resident Allison Jaqua rallied the troops in her neighborhood to complain when she heard a street sweeper – lead by two parking enforcement officers – coming down her street Monday morning. While she was allowed to move her car before she was ticketed, most of her neighbors – many of whom, she said, don’t speak English and can’t really afford a $48 fine – weren’t home and weren’t given the chance. She worries they won’t find out they don’t have to pay because of the language barrier. Fulmer said that won’t be an issue.
When Jaqua protested to one of the parking enforcement officers – dispatched by the police department, which takes its cue in these situations from the Public Works Department – she handed her an issued statement with a number for street sweeping supervisor Nick Cabugos. He was unavailable all day Monday, Jaqua explained, and his voicemail message box soon filled up and stopped accepting calls.
The street sweepers’ rounds were canceled at around 10:30 a.m., said police department spokesperson Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte, because the “significant number of citations that could have been written was an indication that many residents were unaware that street sweeping was scheduled and expected.” Jaqua said she’s since written a number of emails to council members and city officials, but has not heard back from anyone.