Two residents unsuccessfully argued before a city parking committee to rescind ticketing in North Laguna during street-sweeping, saying the 34-year-old policy unfairly penalizes residents of 27 streets while no other area in town is subject to similar enforcement.
The selective ticketing is “hidden in plain sight,” said Joe Andras, who with Lowell Frazee, both longtime residents of Poplar Street, petitioned the city’s Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee to halt the practice.
Andras said after talking to a police officer he discovered North Laguna is the only entire neighborhood subject to street-sweeping enforcement. He was unaware of the practice because he previously lived on La Brea, also a North Laguna street, but one exempt from street-sweeping ticketing because its residents in 1990 petitioned the committee to drop “no parking” restrictions, according to a summary of committee actions.
At present, posted signs require vehicles to be moved between 9 a.m. and noon from the left side of streets on Tuesday and from the right on Wednesday on about half the streets in North Laguna. “I don’t mind the moving; it’s the unfairness,” Frazee said.
Traffic control officers follow behind the street sweepers, only issuing tickets if the sweeper has to go around parked cars, said Jim Beres, the city’s civilian traffic enforcement supervisor. Only two other streets in town have similar restrictions, Ramona Avenue and Canyon Acres, he said.
In 2015, the city issued 2,458 street sweeping tickets that generated $120,000, said Andras, who obtained the figures through city records.
While cities such as Huntington Beach, Stanton, Garden Grove and Santa Ana post street-sweeping restrictions citywide, Beres said he’s unaware of any other town where enforcement is only in selected areas.
That point and others bothered committee member Jennifer Welsh Zeiter, a lawyer, who cast the lone dissenting vote at the hearing Thursday, June 16. “It should either be all or none. Inconsistent regulations within a city without any valid substantiation creates divisiveness,” said Zeiter, who suggested that discriminatory enforcement may also violate the equal protection clause.
The committee voted 7-1 to turn aside the ticket-ban proposal, which drew a crowd second only in size to a hearing over skateboarding some years ago.
While opinion seemed equally divided among the 100 people present, calls and letters to committee members in response to a public mailing on the matter favored maintaining the status quo, said committee member Ernest Hackmon.
“Fairness for me wasn’t an issue,” said Hackmon, who cited 10 previous public hearings over the issue dating back to the policy’s origin with community activists in 1982. “It wasn’t cooked up in a back room and imposed,” he said.
The committee rarely recommends overturning decisions by City Council, Hackmon said. To do so would require “overwhelming numbers. They didn’t have that,” he said.
Beres and David Shissler, the city’s director of water quality, both cited the policy’s origin in residents who wanted to improve the effectiveness of street-sweeping as a water-quality protection measure.
Andras disputes that. “I see nothing in the record; there’s no evidence of a survey on water quality.”
Instead, he cites 110 letters, 68 of them favoring overturning the enforcement policy, that he and Frazee collected when informally polling their neighbors. “To my mind they ignored the signatures and survey responses,” Andras said.
The hearing also gave voice to frustrations among residents impacted by the crush of customers dining at Urth Caffe, whose owners restored a historic cottage. Patrons park in neighboring streets as the restaurant has few parking spaces of its own, exempted from supplying them under historical restoration rules.
For his part, Andras thinks he may pursue the La Brea option and see if he can convince his immediate neighbors to support their own petition for a ticketing exemption.