Long Beach to waive first street sweeping citation for residents hit by pandemic

If you woke up this week with a street sweeping ticket on your windshield, you could have until June 1 to have it forgiven by the city if you can prove you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic shutdowns.

The move came after Long Beach issued more than 900 street sweeping tickets in just one day after a months-long moratorium on the citations. The restart led to confusion and anger among residents who found the moist $70 fines on their windshields after Monday morning’s rain.

The request to amend the citation process came from Mayor Robert Garcia who said the citation can be a significant burden.

“I think this is a really big issue for working families right now,” Garcia said.

With Tuesday’s vote, residents who can prove they’ve been hurt economically by the coronavirus can have their first citation waived if it was issued before June 1.

A report during the June 2 council meeting will analyze how citations are affecting residents and whether the city needs to take further action regarding street sweeping tickets.

“We know that some folks will pay their citations but we also know that some people will reach out for help, and this is a way that we can assist them as we transition,” Garcia said.

The 925 citations issued Monday were more than double an average Monday, according to Diko Melkonian, the city’s environmental services manager. This was despite a social media push by the city, thousands of warning fliers being placed on cars in the weeks leading up to May 18 and news coverage that enforcement of street sweeping was resuming.

Melkonian added that the city’s sweepers also collected over eight times the amount of debris during their Monday routes, picking up over 2.5 tons of material.

“It’s a reflection of the increased debris that’s collecting along the routes,” Melkonian said.

It was also noted that Monday is a day that has less residential routes for the sweepers. The number of citations issued during other days of the week could be much higher than 925 because many residents are still forced to be at home because of unemployment, stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 related issues.

The city opted to suspend citations in March after the stay-at-home orders were issued. It also implemented a free parking program that allows residents to park in city-owned lots to help reduce the strain on already limited parking.

However, the council voted last month to phase-in the resumption of citations starting May 18 because the city’s streets were starting to build up debris. Revenue lost from street sweeping citation was also contributing to a growing budget deficit that is now projected to top $40 million for the fiscal year.

Public Works Director Craig Beck said that postponing citations through the end of the stay-home order could mean as much as $2 million in losses for the city’s general fund.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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