By Kathy Choutea
The Richmond City Council voted unanimously during its Tuesday meeting to give Richmond Annex and Panhandle Annex neighborhoods 90 days to comply with the citywide Street Sweeping Volunteer Program.
The City Council discussed whether or not to approve $30,000 in funding for the installation of 575 street sweeping parking restriction signs in those neighborhoods—as well as enforcement of the restrictions.
Currently, the Richmond Annex and Panhandle Annex are exempted from the citywide Street Sweeping Program in lieu of the Volunteer Program, under the agreement that residents will move their vehicles in a timely manner to allow for street sweeping of their neighborhoods. Per the agreement, parking restriction signs have not been installed and enforcement have not been performed, according to the Public Works Department.
According to Public Works Director Yader Bermudez, the neighborhoods have not been abiding by the agreement, causing street sweepers to have to navigate around cars and not be able to sufficiently clean the streets. The increased amount of debris has not only increased blight in these areas, but also has entered the storm water system.
Concurrently, the department is working to meet the city’s National Pollutant Discharge System (NPDS) permit requirements. The permit calls for cities adopting best practices for keeping pollutants out of the storm drain system and out of the bay, per Mayor Tom Butt.
“In regard to the environment, we are out of compliance in those two neighborhoods because we’re not able to sweep the gutter,” said Bermudez. “It is a compliance issue.”
And so the city proposed using parking restriction signs and enforcement to gain compliance. Residents took issue with that plan. Mayor Tom Butt said a number of people sent him emails in protest.
During the City Council’s discussion, Councilmember Eduardo Martinez, who said he lives in the Richmond Annex, noted that he believes the need for stop signs, particularly on Carlson Blvd., is a more pressing issue.
“People want to know why we’re not getting stop signs and we are getting street sweeping signs instead,” he said. Bermudez indicated that his department is working on it.
The discussion also touched on costs and the issue of equity regarding how these neighborhoods are exempt from the street sweeping program while others aren’t.
“You can’t have a program without moving cars. And if people don’t move their cars voluntarily, then you have enforcement,” said the mayor during the meeting.
“It’s inequitable for all of the neighborhoods in Richmond to be in the program and abiding with it and the Richmond Annex and Richmond Panhandle get a free ride,” he added.
In the end, the City Council moved forward with an idea initially suggested by Mayor Butt as a compromise: giving the residents of the Richmond Annex and Panhandle Annex a timetable for compliance with the aforementioned agreement, set at 90 days.
Councilmember Melvin Willis made the motion for a continuance that encompassed the neighborhood outreach and 90 day timetable, Councilmember Eduardo Martinez seconded it and a roll call vote was made with all councilmembers voting in favor of it.
Watch the video of the City Council’s street sweeping decision here.