Byline: Ambrosia Brody
SANTA BARBARA — The Santa Barbara Harbor Commission approved proposed changes that would enforce 72-hour time limits on all waterfront parking lots.
On May 16, commissioners unanimously voted for staff to bring proposed language changes in the municipal code to the Santa Barbara City Council’s Ordinance Committee. The updated rules are meant to prevent vehicles from overstaying their welcome in the Harbor Main Lot and waterfront lots.
The city’s established two-tier annual parking permit policy system, originally intended to provide affordable year-round public access to the waterfront, has caused a problem, with several vehicles effectively using the Harbor Main Lot as a long-term storage area.
These updated rules pertain to red permit holders. Slip permittees don’t have to move their vehicles: They just have to prove vehicle operability, said Mick Kronman, Santa Barbara Harbor operations manager.
Mechanisms have been put in place for accommodating slip holders, if they are headed to sea and need to keep their vehicles in the lot longer than 72 hours.
“We believe these amendments will help clarify the code,” Kronman said. “We believe they are keeping with the direction we received from the committee and the public.”
If approved by the city council, the city parking ordinances will implement a 72-hour parking limit on all waterfront lots, despite posted daily closures between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The new regulation will allow the city to tow abandoned vehicles much sooner than it currently can, according to waterfront staff members.
Additionally, a person cannot leave his or her vehicle in any waterfront parking lot in excess of 72 consecutive hours. Language that currently allows an individual to stay in the Main Harbor Lot as long as he or she wishes, as long as they pay, will be struck from the municipal code.
In the early 1980s, the city established a two-tier policy for annual parking permits in waterfront lots — not including Stearns Wharf — that offer general or red permits to the public for $95 and a blue or slip-holder permit for boat slip tenants at $70. General permittees are restricted to a 72-hour time limit in the Harbor Main Lot, but blue permit holders are not held to the time limit.
The blue permit was designed to accommodate ?shermen and boaters cruising offshore for more than 72 hours, allowing them to leave their vehicles in the Harbor Main Lot without penalty. However, over the past few years, blue permits have been used improperly.
Waterfront staff members reported they have, in the past, been lax in enforcement of the 72-hour limit. Their lack of action has fueled a perception that even red permit holders can store cars for several days — even weeks — before receiving a ticket from Harbor Patrol, Kronman said.
To curb the problem, a Harbor Commission Parking Subcommittee — consisting of Betsy Cramer, Bill Spicer and Helene Webb — was formed on Jan. 24 to review issues involving long-term storage of vehicles in the Harbor Main Lot. They sought to establish policies that discourage misuse of the parking lot as private storage without negatively impacting legitimate parking needs of harbor workers, boaters and commercial ?shermen.
After Feb. 13 and March 12 forums, the three-member subcommittee voted to delay modifying the current rules, after taking public comments into consideration.
Since that time, Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol officers stepped up their enforcement of the 72-hour rule for red permit holders, issuing citations for those in violation of the time limitation. Tickets are $48.
According to staff reports, a total of 36 citations were issued between March 18 and May 5. The increased presence has also caused those previously exploiting the time limitations to leave the lot, according to Kronman.
“I think we have caught everyone’s attention,” Kronman said. “The lot is visually different. I think we are making progress.”