Parking Problems

By J'Amy Brown   |   August 1, 2019
Private sign violation – county has been after this homeowner for over a year!

Q. What’s the on-street parking game-plan in Montecito? I’ve been shooed away by property owners, blocked by rocks, scarred by hedges, and nearly run off the road when I was walking. What’s private, what’s public, and what’s for pedestrians? 

A. Montecito makes jockeying for pavement and parking rights one of our prime sports. With uniform precision and plenty of jeering, we formidably challenge each other for bragging rights in the categories of most steals, most walks, and most strike outs! 

To make matters even more muddled, we have our own local rules and a slew of referees with different opinions – meaning there’s plenty of confusion to go around! To help sort out Montecito’s peculiar parking puzzle, here are some tips: 

CURB APPEAL: First of all, you may have wondered why most of Montecito’s streets have no curbs. In 1995, The Montecito Community Plan was adopted with the goal of retaining as much of Montecito’s semi-rural character as possible. To that end, it was determined Montecito’s roadways should reflect the village’s ties to our agrarian history – a time when horse trails and footpaths connected neighbors. 

With that bucolic past in mind, Montecito’s current transportation network was designed with winding, tree-arched lanes flanked by meandering, interconnected trails and pedestrian footpaths on curbless roads. These visually appealing streets have become a touchstone of our community character and one of our most admired assets. However, for the uninitiated, these narrow lanes without curbs can cause tummy-flipping anxiety about the legality and sensibility of leaving one’s car barely off the road or mashed up against a private hedge.

TRICKY BUT PERMISSIBLE: Even though many Montecito roads are narrow, Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said, unless otherwise officially regulated, parallel parking on most of Montecito’s public roadsides is legal. 

“It depends on where you are, but if there is no red curb and no sign saying ‘No Parking’ and you can safely park, then vehicle parking is permitted.” He recommended parking as far off pavement as possible, and, of course, you must adhere to all legal distance regulations, steering clear of fire hydrants, driveways, cross walks and bus lanes. 

Gutierrez cautioned to leave enough room so that vehicles can still navigate unobstructed passage on the road. “If you block a road so emergency vehicles cannot get through, you will be towed!” Gutierrez warned. “When you park in Montecito you have to use your mind.” 

NO RESERVED PARKING: Parking spaces in front of private residences cannot be reserved or designated “No Parking” by private owners. Unless officially posted, parking spaces on Montecito’s public roads are available for any member of the public to use anytime. Private “No Parking” signs are prohibited and may be disregarded. Out-of-compliance private parking signs can be reported to County Public Works, 805-568-3000.

ROCK ‘N ROLL: Using roadside rocks or boulders adjacent to the public road pavement is generally not permitted – even if you believe you own the land to the middle of the street. A “road right of way” gives local jurisdictions public access over private property to allow for a community’s transportation needs. 

To place anything structural in the road right of way, such as landscaping, walls, fences, driveways or gates, you’ll need the county’s permission via an “encroachment permit.” Santa Barbara County Public Works Road Encroachment polices require an edge-of-road clear zone, meaning there must be an unobstructed flat area beyond the edge of pavement. That means, before installation, fixed objects like rocks, walls, trees, landscaping or fences generally require an encroachment permit. 

The encroachment policies state any fixed objects must be set back at least seven feet (25 MPH roads) to 10 feet (25 to 35MPH roads). In Montecito specifically, the Public Works policies say landscaping of any kind is not allowed in the clear zone unless pedestrian facilities are provided – which is how we get our footpaths! The full policies are available at Eric Pearson is Public Works Roads Construction & Permits Manager. He can be reached at 805-568-3000. It is a good idea to read and understand these policies before you “rock and roll” or you may find yourself, yep, between a rock and a hard place!

CONSTRUCTION PARKING: Construction projects draw a lot of parking complaints. Most projects that go through the county’s permit process require all construction parking be on site. Some smaller “over-the-counter” projects do not have this stipulation, but if you see abundant construction parking on the street near a building project, you can call the county permit hotline at 805-568-3558 and request an investigation. 

Truck on San Ysidro Road offramp

Under any circumstances, if construction parking is blocking a street to less than one lane, meaning emergency vehicles cannot pass through, then Montecito Fire Protection District said they will take appropriate action to make sure the road is passable – pronto! Their non-emergency number is 805-969-7762.

TIME LIMITS: Be aware a vehicle parked for over 72 hours in the same spot might be subject to towing. If you see a vehicle parked for a long period of time on the side of the road, alert the Highway Patrol. They will chalk a tire and attempt to reach the owner. If the vehicle, and this goes for boats, trailers and campers, does not reposition for 72 hours, it will be designated “abandoned” and subject to towing. However, if the tire moves even an inch, the vehicle will not be deemed abandoned and it will be allowed to remain on the roadside. Highway Patrol non-emergency number: 805-967-1234.

MIRAMAR ALTERNATIVE: Speaking of public parking, neighbors are reporting that big-rigs have taken to using the San Ysidro 101 Northbound off ramp for an overnight snooze and rest stop. While it’s cheaper than booking into the closest hotel – the new Miramar – nearby residents are complaining about the all-night-long noise of the ever-running diesel engines and the commercial look of 18-wheelers ungracefully gracing Montecito’s “gateway entry.” The Highway Patrol is aware of the situation and is monitoring it. They may eventually post no parking signs on the freeway if the practice proliferates.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: As you can see, there are plenty of rules and regulations to address parking and its infractions. But, it can’t be only about regulations. Parking on Montecito’s semi-rural streets really only works if we work together as a community in a semi-rural civil manner, meaning we need to talk to each other to find solutions. As residents we need to make sure there is unencumbered public parking near our properties and we need to avoid barriers that try to privatize public spaces or inhibit parking or pedestrian flow. As Officer Gutierrez noted, when you park in Montecito you have to use your head. For community betterment, we also need to park our good neighbor hats on our well-used heads as well!


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