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Pacific Beach resident Walter McKinney was walking his dog in his neighborhood when he spotted it: the city street sweeper ambling down Turquoise Street, its big revolving brush scouring away at the grimy gutter just a block from where he lives.
He rushed home, he said, and grabbed the traffic cones he keeps in his yard. He set them out along the edge of the street in front of his house, which luckily was free of parked cars Thursday morning. Unlike some city streets, his doesn’t have posted signs that prohibit parking during the street sweeper’s scheduled pass.
With the cones in place to ward off cars, McKinney said he waited, hoping the street sweeper would see the inviting stretch of exposed curb as it rolled down Agate Street and swoop in for a brief scrub. But it never came.
It turned out the one he saw nearby was on a different route Thursday.
McKinney can’t remember the last time he saw the stretch of gutter in front of his house actually cleaned. He lives about three blocks from the beach, on a downward sloping street. “When it rains, all that oil just gets washed into the ocean, right into Tourmaline Surf Park,” he said.
Newly indignant, he went online and looked up the city’s street sweeping schedules. His is supposed to be cleaned on the fourth Thursday of the month, every two months. But because there are no signs prohibiting parking, the city can’t enforce the schedule.
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So he called the city’s street sweeping hotline to request that signs be installed. He said the person on the other end told him not much could be done.
“So I called you,” he told me by phone Thursday afternoon.
I called the city’s Storm Water Department, which oversees street sweeping, and talked with spokesman Bill Harris. “He makes a good point,” Harris said. He said McKinney’s complaint is a common one, but that it wasn’t true that nothing could be done.
“There’s a lot of frustration for the non-posted routes that the sweeper can’t get all the way to the curb,” Harris said. “But even if it’s going down the middle of the street, it’s still collecting pollutants.”
There’s no special priority for routes near the ocean, Harris said, and there are far more non-posted routes than posted routes citywide. The department has to balance the need for street cleaning with parking concerns, he said.
“It’s times when there’s a scarcity of parking — in neighborhoods like Pacific Beach or City Heights — and we have to ask people to get up and move their cars on a regular basis that changing to a posted route is a tough thing to do,” he said.
But he said McKinney could petition the city to install No Parking signs. The department would need 75 percent of property owners’ signatures before it could consider the request, Harris said.
I called McKinney back. He said he didn’t know about that. “I suppose I could do that,” he said, though he was audibly frustrated. “All this junk is washing into the ocean, and I’m a citizen, and I’m asking for help.”
Please contact Adrian Florido directly at email@example.com or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.