Risks rise as San Diego's painted curbs fade

$4.8 million from color-zoned parking tickets

While San Diego streets and sidewalks appear like deathtraps to critics of the unregulated e-scooter industry, the city faces yet another risky urban challenge: mangled curb painting.

"Painted curbs are important because they help convey a specific message to drivers where special parking rules must be followed," observes a February 11 performance review by interim city auditor Kyle Elser.

The report notes that "five colors of paint are used throughout the City to restrict curb parking: white – passenger loading parking, yellow – commercial loading parking, green – short term parking zones, blue – disabled parking, and red – no parking. The white, yellow, and green zones can have time limitations and specific enforcement hours that limit parking. "

"Red zones prohibit parking which can be in response to public safety issues and/or property owner’s requests," the document adds. "Additionally, gray paint is used to cover previously painted curbs that should not be painted."

But managers of the city's Transportation and Storm Water Department and its other curb painting agencies have stumbled badly, allowing colors to fade and wasting time on misplaced neighborhood demands for new zones, the auditors found.

"The current process is primarily to paint curbs based upon requests and complaints rather than a uniform City plan, and the City does not have a maintenance plan to repaint faded curbs," says the report.

Exacerbating matters, "the City does not have a mechanism to readily identify authorized painted curbs and has not developed procedures ensuring appropriate coordination with other City departments and agencies related to painting curbs within the City."

As a result, the report adds, "the City is not providing the most efficient curb painting services to residents due to increased time spent researching the legality of painted curbs and redundancies in curb painting operations."

Poorly managed curb painting brings other heightened risks. "The inability to maintain painted curbs related to safety for pedestrians and motorists could result in legal liability for the City."

Color maintenance may be costly, but the result in the form of a mounting parking ticket count brings in a sizable pile of cash, the report notes. "During FY 2017, the City of San Diego issued 61,055 citations related to painted curb parking violations and subsequently collected $4,766,184, including a CA state surcharge of $12.50 that is mandated to be collected by the City per citation for the State."

A much smaller revenue source is represented by fees paid by those who successfully petition city hall to have their curbs custom painted, a process faulted by the audit. "Safety-related curb painting requests have no fee. In contrast, non-safety related curb painting requests include a $277 application fee," according to the report. "Once the request is entered, the Traffic Engineering Division staff reviews the request and makes a determination."

But less than half of the "complaints, requests, and applications for new painted curbs that are received from the public" ultimately get a green light. "Since the fees are not collected until the requests are approved, the staff are spending similar amounts of time reviewing requests that are not approved without collecting a fee as on approved requests with the fee." Revenue from new curb painting fees totaled $46,808 in fiscal year 2016 and $62,721 in fiscal year 2017, according to the audit.

In a February 8 letter to Elser, Transportation and Storm Water department director Kris McFadden agreed with the audit's four recommendations, including creating new "performance metrics to evaluate whether...curb painting goals and objectives are being met," and “written summaries of the City policy for curb painting for the public to better understand and utilize the City curb painting services."

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Comments

Once again we should thank the Auditor’s Office for shedding light on the ongoing mismanagement of the City of San Diego. Without leadership the “willy-nilly” policies of the past administrations as well as our current one just keep on letting the City deteriorate further and further.
The Auditor’s office has been in place for several years now, it time to go back and make sure past recommendations to clean up mismanagement and waste are being implemented.

How about the City focus on actual performance instead of tweaking its "performance metrics?" Many curbs are themselves crumbling -- poor surfaces on which to paint anything. But I have personally witnessed a San Diegan on his hands and knees painting an ordinary curb red adjacent to his beach-area driveway. Another homeowner, less a scofflaw, had her housepainter touch up the faded blue handicapped curb on her block. That blue curb originally cost her about $400 and took many calls over two years to get installed.

How can they maintain it if they don’t even know they have it to begin with?It is beyond fathomable, in the so called Information Age, a city the size of San Diego has no up-to-date geo-database detailing it street use. Has no maintenance database or plan to maintain its assets. UNBELIEVABLE!

You have been commenting here for over a decade. If one were to assume that you actually live in San Diego, how in the world can you call this unbelievable? Surely a decade or more of living there would indeed make it believable, if not actually expected. I have not lived in San Diego for over 25 years and I find it completely believable.

You missed the point. The City does have such a database. It knows where every pipe is laid. Every street light is mounted and probably every type of bulb used. It certainly knows where its parking meters are. Water meters too. The problem is the wasting of limited financial resources on inane projects and so called consultant. How many times have we read stories about spending $100k to study some widget. Or spending millions to rent / buy this or that only to learn hundreds of thousands more are needed.

It all too easy to waste other people’s money and it happens every day in Enron by the Sea.

And yet, in your comment, the one I replied to you said: "It is beyond fathomable, in the so called Information Age, a city the size of San Diego has no up-to-date geo-database detailing it street use. Has no maintenance database or plan to maintain its assets." So why did you say it if you know otherwise?? And again to my reply, even if they have the "database", I would find it totally believable if it is not being utilized. I moved to San Diego in 1976. In terms of government, not a lot, if anything, has improved since then.

I'm in agreement. I haven't lived in San Diego in almost 35 years, and yet little about that city's operational shortfalls surprises me. In fact, if it had some particular part of the operation that was standout good, or at least claimed to be, I'd doubt that. I don't know just when it went wrong, or how it went wrong, or who was in charge, but it hasn't been truly functional for decades. The city was never flush, but it seemed to find funding for all sorts of boondoggles and city council pet projects. (The biggest boondoggle was the stadium and the Chargers lease.) All the while the infrastructure and its upkeep languished. Massive water main breaks, sewer leaks, and crumbled streets are everyday features of life in the slobberin' city.

Both Bruce Herring and Jack McGrory, assistant city manager at the time were present and responsible. Then McGrory became the City Manager but they were both involved during the Golding and Murphy mayoral years. I believe McGrory came up with infamous Manger’s Proposal #1 which began the underfunding scheme for the pension system. Today, McGrory is aligned with SDSU’s stadium redevelopment project. That’s gotta be bad for taxpayers !!!!!

I reported this bus stop curb in North Park today, using Get It Done. That curb looks like it hasn't been painted in years!

None

by dwbat

Let us know when/if it gets painted. Inquiring minds want to know.

I'm not holding my breath, that's for sure.

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