Santa Paula High School parking impacts addressed by Council

December 20, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

Playing by the same rules when it comes to parking issues was cited by a City Councilman following a long discussion on parking impacts from Santa Paula High School.

At the December 16 meeting Santa Paula Fire Chief Rick Araiza, a member of the city’s Traffic Safety Committee told the council that officials have received numerous complaints from neighbors of the city’s high school about a lack of parking in the area, a situation expected to only get worse.

Construction of new buildings will expand classroom space but whittle away at already sparse parking that causes students and staff to park off campus on adjacent residential streets.

In addition, new development will eventually swell enrollment at the campus, which now has about 1,550 students.

Araiza told the council the city has received complaints “That people were parking in front of their houses,” driveways were being blocked or even utilized, “and one individual about a year ago approached the city about parking permits,” for designated resident parking.

City staff has discussed the issue and Araiza said the council can give the school district the “opportunity to work with the city and neighbors,” to explore solutions.

The city has no authority over the campus, which is a state entity and Araiza said although businesses have strict guidelines for providing adequate parking there are no such requirements for schools.

Councilman Bob Gonzales, a former school district trustee, said such issues should start at the lower level with city and school representatives and then “work our way up...”

Araiza noted that there are traffic issues at almost all Santa Paula schools and he suggested a meeting between the council subcommittee and the school district to address such same.

Councilman Ralph Fernandez said he was concerned when his daughter, a SPHS student, was told there was no on campus parking and had to park on the street in the dark in the very early morning.

Fernandez said with new campus construction and loss of parking spaces the situation will only worsen. 

Fernandez, with Gonzales a member of the council/school subcommittee said the committee has been lax: “We should have met several years ago,” to address issues.

“I don’t think it’s proper for the school to tell the city you have jurisdiction and do what we would not let business do,” by not providing adequate parking.

Fernandez said he would like to explore how many parking spaces the school would be required to have if a private entity.

SPUSD Superintendent Alfonso Gamino said the district has already been working with the city on parking issues and he appreciated Gonzales’ “statement saying we do need to work together on this.”

He urged that the city “resurrect” the (previously twice annual) subcommittee joint meetings to address the issues and voiced his surprise that such meetings had halted.

Councilman Martin Hernandez suggested joint council and school board meetings to share information about upcoming projects and plans to help avoid future disagreements.

Vice Mayor Jim Tovias asked about school parking needs and Gamino said although he did not know if school officials have addressed the issue in the past, there is parking available on surface streets.

Fernandez disputed the statement noting when he attended a high school open house he had to park on 8th Street. 

“Parking is not only day-to-day,” but also includes sporting events. 

“There is a parking issue that’s why this is coming before us,” and Fernandez said although the city and school subcommittee has been in existence for years meetings have not been called although he has urged they be so the issue can be addressed on a community level.

Tovias asked some questions about the bond funded constructed project and complimented the district “for using local labor...”

Later in the discussion Araiza again noted a private developer would have to adhere to city parking space guidelines and Gonzales repeated schools are exempt.

“They have to play by the rules,” said Fernandez and streets should not be included when calculating parking spaces.

The report from the city’s traffic committee noted solutions that have been discussed include limiting parking to two hours, creating a parking district and permit system for residents as well as creating diagonal parking spaces along Fifth Street across the campus itself between Santa Paula Street and Virginia Terrace.

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