In March, city leaders said if you get a parking ticket for not moving your car from a street sweeping zone on a day the street isn’t swept, you won’t have to pay the fine.
Now they are reversing course on that statement.
“They can confirm whether a street sweeper went down the street that day with the GPS; we’ll be able to confirm it,” said Andrew Kleise, the deputy director of storm water and transportation. “Obviously, if there’s a mistake, we’ll correct that and refund the ticket,” he said in March.
San Diego officials now say no refunds will be issued after an NBC 7 Investigates and San Diego Regional Data Library analysis found thousands of tickets a year are issued to violators of street-sweeping parking restrictions on the same dates and in the same locations GPS data shows a sweeper didn’t go down the block.
The city says GPS data is incomplete because sometimes the GPS trackers don’t work.
NBC 7 Investigates, along with Eric Busboom at the San Diego Regional Data Library, analyzed data obtained from the city through a public records act request.
The data included dates, times and locations where parking citations were issued to street-sweeping parking scofflaws as well as GPS locations where street sweeping trucks drove between January 2014 and May 2015.
NBC 7 Investigates mapped out the top spots where street-sweeping tickets are issued and found most of the top blocks are along Mission Boulevard. See that map by clicking here.
The area where most of the tickets are issued, Mission Beach, is a high-traffic, tourist location.
Mission Beach Resident Shingo Hosoma lives here and says he makes a point to warn his neighbors.
“Most of them are tourists, so they don’t really know. So, I’ll tip them off,” Hosoma said. “I’ll say ‘Hey make sure you don’t park right in front. Early in the morning, that’ll be the first thing they do is issue tickets.”
Other Mission Beach residents agreed.
“In my opinion, it’s pretty much a racket,” said Mission Beach resident Mark Burris. He said he’s gotten about 60 street-sweeping parking tickets during the past five years and he views it as a Mission Beach tax.
“I just add that $50 bucks onto my rent. I mean I think it’s ridiculous, obviously,” Burris said. “If they are going to issue tickets, at least give us the service of street sweeping.”
Street sweeping isn’t just aimed at making neighborhoods look nicer. Because San Diego doesn’t treat its storm water before it runs into waterways and bays, the city has environmental obligations to the Environmental Protection Agency to help offset that impact.
Parking violators must pay a $52.50 fine if they get a ticket.
City Spokesman Bill Harris sent this statement to NBC7 Investigates:
“…as stated on multiple occasions before when addressing this issue…if the street is posted for “No Parking,” be it for street sweeping, overnight restrictions or any other purpose, there is “no parking” during the hours of restriction….whether the anticipated sweeping occurs or does not, for whatever reason…emergencies elsewhere, limited fleet availability, traffic conditions nearby…or any other cause that might preclude a normal sweeping schedule. The City posts streets with parking restrictions in anticipation of activities planned or limited in a given area. It maintains those restrictions to provide the greatest opportunity for meeting those planned or limited activities.”
At a March meeting, Councilman David Alvarez and Councilman Todd Gloria tried to understand what issues are keeping the streets from being swept.
“We’re trying to get to the bottom of this to make sure, first of all, that if we claim that we’re doing something at the city that we actually go out and do it,” Alvarez said. “You never want to be in the position where you ask people to move their vehicles or ticket them when they’re parked there, if we don’t actually go and sweep the street.”
Alvarez and Gloria both said they’ve been hearing from residents who are angry about the program.
“If the sign says they’re going to sweep the street on Tuesday morning, ‘Move your car,’ then you better (sweep the street) and you absolutely need to do it if you give them a ticket,” Gloria said.
The city issues on average 113,000 citations a year for violating street sweeping parking signs. It collects about $6.6 million from those tickets, which is 23.5 percent of the total annual revenue from the parking program, according to Jonathan Carey in the City Treasurer’s office.
In a March city memo from the Storm Water division that oversees the street sweeping program, Deputy Director Kleis said on days when the mechanical sweepers are down for maintenance, workers manually remove debris from roadways and center islands.
Although some routes have been missed, Kleis wrote, the minimum requirements for environmental concerns are being met, even if residents' expectations aren’t satisfied.