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Street Sweeping - What's the Point?

Original post made by Palo Alto Bill, Midtown, on Oct 16, 2007

Yesterday morning I watched the Street Sweeper make its way down my block. What a total waste of Palo Alto taxpayer money. Given the dozens of cars parked along my block, the Street Sweeper did nothing more than weave in and out between the parked cars. When there was actually a stretch of empty sidewalk, the Street Sweeper (who, I might add, was driving at fairly high speed especially given the parked car obstacle course he was manuevering through) barely had enough time to reach the curb before having to swerve back into the middle of the road to avoid the next parked vehicle. This obviously led to little or no actual "sweeping" of the leaves, dirt and other debris that collects along the curb. I will say that the center of my street is quite clean. Given the incredibly large number vehicles parked along streets city-wide, this totally inefficient and wastleful process must be repeated day-in and day-out throughout Palo Alto.

My questions are:
1. Does Palo Alto post the days and times streets are scheduled to be swept? and if so, where is this posted and how is this communicated to residents?
2. I assume that there's no law against leaving your car in the street during Street Sweeping - has the city council ever considered implementing and enforcing parking bans during Street Sweeping times?

Help me understand what is going on here. Thx

Comments (20)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 7:54 pm

I tend to agree with you. In my area, street sweeping is Thursdays, but sometimes the sweeper comes before 8.00 a.m. when there are still loads of cars parked around, or mid or late morning when there are often construction vehicles due to the large numbers of houses being remodled round here. Either way, the sweeper misses large parts of the curb. At least if he came at approximately the same time each week, it would help.

But the real test of the system is yet to come. Within the next few weeks the leaves will really fall, and without the services of the sweeper, we would be in a real mess. I personally think they do a great job when they remove the leaves.

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Posted by Clean sweep street
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:42 pm

Palo Alto Bill, the alternative to street sweeping is to let all the junk on the streets go down the storm drains and into the Bay. It's called pollution!!!

Personally, I make sure there is no one parked in front of my house when they come by to sweep on Thursday. If there is a vehicle there I track down the owner of the car and ask them to move. In fact, I believe you are asked to do this voluntarily by the City, so get out there and move the vehicles in front of your house.

As a neighborhood leader with an e-mail tree I occasionally remind my neighbors to move their cars on Thursdays, and they do. I guess we have the cleanest streets in PA!!

The City Council did consider limiting parking on some streets on street sweeping days. However, the Police Department do not have the man/woman power to ticket all the cars, and the tow truck operators do not have enough tow trucks to tow away all the offending vehicles.

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Posted by been ticketed
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:54 pm

In Downtown North they have signs posted, and the meter maid tickets when cars are parked when the street sweepers come through.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 7:10 am

The City should ban cars from parking on streets beyond Downtown North on street sweeping days, and extend the program throughout the City.

Instead of hiring an environmental czar with an exorbitant six figure salary, they should have hired two additional meter maids to ticket those who continue to park on streets on street sweeping days. Lets clean up our City and end pollution.

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Posted by Adam
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 17, 2007 at 7:19 am

Great idea, instead of wasting $180,000 on the Environmental Czar, we could have spent $100,000 on meter maids and generated some revenue.

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Posted by clean streets
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 17, 2007 at 10:03 am

Or, we could save the $100,000 and move our cars like Clean Sweep Street suggests. Our neighborhood group also sent a friendly reminder to move the cars on sweep day. For us it's Monday morning, usually within a 1-2 hour window. A little common sense and consideration is cheaper than the alternatives. Of course, it doesn't help generate revenue like a meter maid.....

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 17, 2007 at 10:31 am

I think we should just sweep the cars away, with the rest of the trash. This is the way to go. Just think, we wouldn't need any roads; our Co2 load would approach zero; commuters would have to bus in, because they would be afraid of having their cars swept away; and, BIG BONUS, eventually we could replace our street sweepers with tardy students, who would be required to sweep up tree debris and walk it over to the dump. Just think! Our kids would get more exercise, and we would create more compost.

Once we had enough compost, we could tear up the streets and plant gardens in them, along with building some chicken coops. We could become food self-sufficient. Imagine, no more supermarkets. And, who needs car dealerships? We could all take these really cool donkey carts to church and the library. We could pave stone paths for bicycles. Our city would be so much quieter, and greener. Wow!

But wait! If we did all that, what would naysayers have to complain about? Maybe they would complain about the stone paths not being smooth enough, or that the grass streets weren't green enough. They would pillory the City Council about this and that.


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Posted by Parker
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2007 at 11:14 am

To answer Palo Alto Bill's original questions:

1. Yes, it's posted at Web Link and no, it's not well communicated to residents.

2. Yes, there is a law applying to parts of the city, but it's been officially communicated that the law will not be enforced.

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Posted by I hate cars
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 17, 2007 at 1:53 pm

In my neck of town the cars are consistently so far up on the sidewalk the sweeper has no problem getting to the curb. Ever notice those who walk for excercise use the streets? They're not sideWALKS they are now PARKING spaces! The true purpose of the street sweeper is to make sure the debris your "gardener-blower dude" blew into the street is blown back in your yard so you can continue the need for the "gardener-blower" for perpetuity. and for those with the older 90 degree curb, yeah we're just wasting resources, and the curbs are yucky-slimey pools of muck

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Posted by Parker
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Agreed, the midtown sidewalks are terrible. I walk my child to school and back every day, in the middle of the street, since the sidewalks are blocked. I approached a police officer at the school about it once, and was told that the California parking code "is a guideline at best" and that Palo Alto does allow parking on the sidewalks. In my mind, the mayor's walking initiative and the school district's "safe routes to school" initiative are bot nothing but jokes, paid for with our tax money.

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Posted by LV Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2007 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for the link ! We are relatively new to the neighborhood and we had not realized the streets were being swept :) We are out of the house at 8am and return at 5pm .. so the street sweepers have been doing their job sometime in between. Yes, we have been guilty of leaving our car parked on the street once in a while - now will make sure its off the street on the sweeping day.

The web link says a particular day of the week - is this every week ?

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Posted by Pedestrian
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2007 at 8:31 pm

I wholeheartedly agree about the issue of sidewalks being blocked. I am forever asking contractors, real estate agents, etc, etc, to please not park on the sidewalk. I ask politely and many do comply but it's ridiculous that this is such an constant problem. It does make a joke of the walking initiative.

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Posted by Murphy's law
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2007 at 9:23 am

I agree with Pedestrian and others who mention about the cars being parked on sidewalks. Funnily enough, it seems to be coupled with those who leave their trash cans outside all week, blocking sidewalks and let their bushes block half the sidewalk too. I find that the cars on one side of the sidewalk and the obstacles on the other side always seem to happen at the same spot. Mindless.

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 18, 2007 at 6:58 pm

In my view it is too bad that the Palo Alto ordinance against parking cars overnight on residential streets is no longer in effect. This would solve most of the problems mentioned above, as well as clean up the appearance of neighborhoods that have been trashed by excess cars.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2007 at 7:02 pm

There are several homes in my neighborhood where the residents routinely do not use their driveways for their cars. Their excuses range from the "if the kids want to play on the basketball hoop, the cars are in the way" to "I am always in a hurry in the morning and having the car on the road gets me away quicker".

Has anybody got any more?

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 18, 2007 at 7:23 pm

There are several homes in my neighborhood where the garage is used for storage and the driveway is used for junk and cars that are not driven/drivable. There are also driveways that would appear to be able to accommodate cars, but the cars in question are still left on the street. I assume that some kind of "inconvenience" is involved here.

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Posted by Ladera Resident
a resident of Portola Valley
on Nov 27, 2007 at 4:31 pm

I grew up in Menlo Park and lived there until recently when I bought a house in Ladera. I don't understand why more communities don't support an overnight parking ban. Maybe I got too used to Menlo Park, but all the cars on the street (some of them covered and not moved for months) make my new neighborhood look trashy. Plus, we don't have sidewalks, so kids and adults are forced to intermingle with the cars on curvey roads.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2009 at 10:18 am

I just got one of these tickets. I'm from out of town and didn't know about this. (yes there is a sign about 100 yards down the street) (!)


There are a ton of cars on the street and every one has a ticket. This is just a money making scheme for Palo Alto. Do you REALLY think all of these cars are parked here because they want to defy Palo Alto???


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2009 at 10:26 am

I am glad that there are signs in your neighborhood. I am sorry you got a ticket, but at the same time I am glad that your neighborhood is taken seriously when it comes to street cleaning.

In my neighborhood there are no signs. I have never heard of anyone getting a ticket. The sweeper usually comes just after 8.00 am every Thursday and each week the same cars are on the same spots on the road and where these cars are parked never get swept. I suppose I could be the annoying neighbor and let these residents who I do not
know that they should move their cars before 8.00 am on Thursdays, but why should I? They must be aware themselves that they park on leaves and debris that never get cleared when the rest of the street is clean. I would rather the City themselves put notes on the cars and if they continue to ignore the notes, then they should get tickets.

The debris is not just annoying, it leads to blocked drains and any debris that can get through the drains ends up in the Bay.

Perhaps a note in the utilities bill would help. That plus posting the days certain neighborhoods get swept on signs. I am sure the fines would pay for the signs.

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Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 6, 2009 at 10:29 am

This time of year, the streets are full of leaves that will clog the gutters if they are not swept. In the past, street flooding because of clogged gutters has been a problem in some parts of the city. Yes, the city should try hard to inform the residents about the sweeping, but I think formal warnings and even tickets also make sense.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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