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Santa Rosa imposes parking restrictions aimed at homeless people

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Santa Rosa will designate a few blocks near downtown as two-hour parking zones as it attempts to address complaints of homeless people parking their vehicles near a major homeless services center.

A short-handed City Council voted to impose hourly parking restrictions on the 700 block of Morgan Street and the 500 block of A Street while offering exemptions to residents in the form of permits that cost $20 per year. After 60% or more of the residents in each block petitioned for the rule change, affected blocks will now be subject to on-street parking restrictions of two hours Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., with residents there able to seek exemptions for their own vehicles.

“It would serve as a deterrent to the spill over effect,” said city parking manager Kim Nadeau of the parking permit program. “It’s walking distance to downtown, it’s walking distance to the Santa Rosa Plaza (mall), so this would help alleviate that situation.”

Besides being near the downtown core, both blocks are near Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa’s homeless services center at 600 Morgan St. and the Sixth Street underpass beneath Highway 101 where homeless people often camp.

Gregory Fearon, a member of the Homeless Action advocacy group, said the city shouldn’t act to push out homeless people who may be living in cars near a known service provider, even if it meant going against the wishes of neighboring residents.

“I believe this is inconsistent with what you want to do,” he told the council.

A Morgan Street resident, Matthew Reid, noted that the street parking directly in front of Catholic Charities’ site wouldn’t be part of the permit program. He also alluded to criticism earlier in the meeting — several citizens had urged the council to act regarding drug use and human waste associated with homeless people camping on a stretch of the Joe Rodota Trail running through west Santa Rosa.

“That stuff was going on in our neighborhood as well,” he said, adding, “It’s really, truly a problem. We can’t park on our own street in front of our own houses sometimes.”

Nadeau acknowledged after the vote that homeless people parking in the neighborhood also was among the issues raised by residents, though she said she didn’t recall it being a predominant concern.

Council members voted 4-0 to add the blocks to the parking program. Councilmembers Julie Combs, Ernesto Olivares and John Sawyer were absent from Tuesday’s meeting, leading to the unusual four-vote tally.

A subsequent vote by the same margin extended similar privileges to residents in a handful of West End blocks near Railroad Square and the downtown train station: the 500 and 600 blocks of Jefferson, the 00 and 100 blocks of West Seventh Street, and the 600 block of Madison Street.

Residents can obtain up to three permits per household and can expect to see the program up and running by February, Nadeau said.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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