Bryant Johnson has cleaned thousands of miles of San Diego’s roadways during his two decades behind the wheel of a street sweeper. The pandemic was the first time he couldn’t get very close to all the curbs for months at a time.
“I know that people have to be at home for whatever reason. Times have changed,” he smiled while preparing for a Tuesday shift in North Park.
Johnson’s job is mostly back to normal. The City of San Diego Storm Water Department has 20 street sweepers cleaning the roads every week. That also means it once again has parking enforcement officers ticketing cars and trucks that ignore the posted street sweeping signs. The city stopped issuing tickets for much of the pandemic because so many people were forced to stay home. Enforcement officers like Beverly Debord said they had to start reminding people they need to move their cars again.
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“That took a lot of work on our part,” said the 13-year veteran. “In a perfect world, 100% compliance where all the cars are moved, that would be a good day for the city of San Diego because the sweeper could have what we call a 'clean sweep.'”
Johnson said they obviously like to keep litter from getting into and clogging storm drains. However, it’s incredibly important to the city to pick up the stuff people can’t really see.
“Microscopic metals, brake dust, things of that nature that’s really hazardous to our beaches and our bays,” Johnson explained.
The only things allowed to stand in a street sweeper’s way are permitted outdoor dining areas set up along streets. Johnson said restaurant owners are responsible for keeping those gutters clean.
“We say that San Diego is a beautiful city,” said Johnson. “Well, we can assist in that.”
The city’s Storm Water Department said it clears roughly 220,000 tons of debris off 2,700 miles of city streets every year.