Council wants report in February on high school parking solutions

January 24, 2014
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

The City Council asked at Tuesday’s meeting that the city’s Traffic Safety Committee meet as soon as possible with district officials and come back with possible solutions to parking impacts that have been plaguing those living near the high school. 

Fire Chief Rick Araiza told the council at the January 21 meeting that he and Police Chief Steve McLean have met with Santa Paula Unified District officials and noted there are some options that the council could consider.

The council was told in December that parking - long a problem for the surrounding residential areas - has worsened with construction and the loss - now and in the future - of existing spaces for the growing student body and staff.

Several of those living near the campus on Palm Court told the council that students park illegally, often blocking driveways and fire hydrants.

One woman told the council she is selling her home due to traffic impacts she described as a “nightmare” as well as roaming students who invade front lawns for picnics.

She said school guards are not attentive even when cars are double-parked.

Santa Paula Police enforcement does bring results but the resident said they do not last; in addition, the baseball field was constructed with “No thought of parking,” and should not have been placed where it is.

Councilman Ralph Fernandez asked if the resident would be in favor of a parking district; she would but said she doubted it could be enforced.

Another resident said she has lived on Palm Court for 50 years and the situation has worsened.

Although no parking signs are installed in the area, students she noted, “Park right under them,” and she fears emergency response on the narrow street during school hours would be hampered by the number of vehicles.

SPUSD Superintendent Alfonso Gamino said meetings have been held with the city’s chiefs and the district wants to “reduce whatever problems are out there...”

Construction is expected to end in July and the district planning committee is examining parking alternatives, “A collaborative issue,” for a problem that has developed over time that Gamino said can be solved by working together.

Councilman Martin Hernandez said any dialogue on regulating street parking would also have to include enforcement measures as well as funding sources for same.

Mayor Rick Cook said the city has been rebuffed by the school districts in the past: “When this all started the city tried to contact the school and was told it was none of our business,” and now, “We have the parents yelling at us.”   

He also questioned security at the high school as well as several campus locations that possibly could be used for parking.

Cook suggested the tennis courts be relocated off-campus and he questioned why Palm Court is no longer closed off to all but residents during games; he also questioned the lack of a police presence at the school.

The idea of having a committee to address the issue said Cook, “scares me” as years can go by without resolution.

“We need our officers there during peak hours,” during the day and evening said Councilman Bob Gonzales.

Several councilmen noted the issue is complicated by the fact that the campus itself is state-governed and not under the jurisdiction of city policies and guidelines.

Fernandez said he would like the district to propose a long-term solution but to also safeguard the “beauty” of the campus and its history.

Council members asked to see recommendations at the February 18 meeting.

Creating a parking district and issuing parking permits are a few of the ideas being considered as well as limiting off-campus parking during school hours and special events at the campus.

Vice Mayor Jim Tovias recused himself from the discussion as his residence is within 500 feet of the high school.

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