Council: Brakes put on SPHS parking
district but engine running on solution

June 20, 2014
Santa Paula News

The City Council decided to put the brakes on creating a parking district for residents in neighborhoods adjacent to Santa Paula High School but kept the engine running on the idea while the city and school district try to find a solution.

The discussion was held at the June 16 meeting; Vice Mayor Jim Tovias, who lives within the proposed parking district, recused himself from the discussion.

Several residents of the area where students and staff have been parking since campus opportunities have been closed due to new construction told the council the situation is affecting their quality of life.

One speaker said aside from traffic and parking impacts, students use his lawn “as a trash can,” while another resident said on trash pickup days filled bins are moved off the street to create parking space which often blocks her own driveway. 

Jimmy Fogata, a SPPD Officer whose family has owned a home across the street from the high school for 57 years said the parking situation has become such “a nightmare” he is thinking of moving.

He noted that Santa Paula is one of the only cities in the county that does not have a school parking district.

Even with school out Fogata said traffic problems persist with construction workers, school staff and fencing jumping students taking up available space.

As far as creating a parking district, “I’m for it,” although Fogata said he has doubts it would work.

“If the school’s master plan is to buy houses and tear them down,” it should not be supported said Palm Court resident Guy Mansfield, referring to the district’s purchase of court properties with the intention of turning the parcels into parking.

SPUSD Superintendent Alfonso Gamino told the council the master plan should be completed in about a month and asked that they hold off on any decision regarding a parking district.

SPUHS Trustee Michelle Kolbeck noted parking problems “did not happen all at once,” and would require time to be corrected, although the district would move fast on the issue.

“We all need to be good neighbors... it’s a small town,” with limited facilities at schools and parks that Kolbeck said requires working together.

Councilman Ralph Fernandez said although he appreciates efforts on the part of the school district on creating a master plan, “Showing it to us when it’s done is too late...  “

Gamino said the district would welcome input and suggested a joint meeting with SPUHS and city officials as soon as possible.

Fire Chief Rick Araiza and Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez presented the results of a survey taken of residents in the high school area; 70 percent of those surveyed - 77 of the 119 units - supported a parking district.

Araiza said a parking district would involve paid permits for residents and guests as well as one-day passes for large groups of up to 25 vehicles.

Yanez said installing about 165 signs related to a parking district would cost the city about $30,000 including staff time for installation.

But, Yanez added, most of the residents surveyed, although supportive of a disrtrict, said they would prefer the problem be solved without creating a district.

The cost of police enforcement had not yet been calculated.

With the first day of school being August 13 and the council’s next meeting following their summer hiatus being August 18 it appears likely there will be a special meeting said City Manager Jaime Fontes.

Said Councilman Bob Gonzales, “I don’t like the idea of the district buying the homes and tearing them down for parking,” due to the aesthetic impacts but it’s not the city’s decision.

He suggested a meeting with the school district be held to try to craft an alternative while Councilman Martin Hernandez asked about transportation issues including bus service. 

Yanez said the city has had discussions about subsidizing student fares once the city’s transit system is implemented.

Mayor Rick Cook said he had problems with several aspects of the issue, including the past attitude of former school officials whose attitudes were “It’s our school, don’t bother us, we don’t have to answer to you... “

Enforcement has not worked because issued tickets are dismissed when those cited complain to the Santa Paula Police Department: such enforcement efforts “Worked for a while,” but then said Cook, “just died... I understand,” the SPPD trying to “build a rapport with the students but nobody is holding them accountable for anything and it really bothers me.”

Cook said parking and traffic issues also could lead to serious accidents.

“No one cares about a kid being run over... and it’s going to happen.”

If solving the SPUHS parking and traffic problems requires a “special meeting every night” Cook said it must be done.

Fontes said the study should continue and meetings implemented to find “middle ground... “

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