Visalia council puts street parking under review

Visalia City Council votes in favor of reviewing municipal code changes barring commercial vehicles from residential streets

VISALIA – Current city code over parking commercial vehicles on residential streets is coming under review after the Visalia City Council gave staff a greenlight. Potential changes may lead to a heavy restriction of commercial vehicles along residential streets. 

On Aug. 15, the city of Visalia Community Development Department went to the city council for guidance on how to best change the city’s code when it comes to parking commercial vehicles in residential zones. This problem stems from the lack of a definition in the current code for commercial vehicles other than a weight limit of 5,000 pounds, according to staff with community development.

While this is an issue for a few reasons, it becomes worse with truck classifications putting vehicles like minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks in a Class 1 tier, which are vehicles that weigh up to 6,000 pounds or less. It also makes it difficult for individuals with work vehicles, like plumbing or electrical trucks, to park their vehicles at their own residence. 

“I think if someone brings home their work truck, we need to look at that differently,” Mayor Steve Nelsen said.

According to community development, the issue of commercial vehicles in residential areas has become more prevalent over the past year due to staff receiving complaints related to commercial vehicles being parked in residential districts. Several complaints were received by the city regarding large commercial vehicles, which although smaller than the average semi-truck, were still violating the code as it is currently written. 

The city also received complaints about tow truck employees parking their vehicles at home, in residential areas, while they are on call. According to the community development report, this situation is common considering several tow companies have contracts with law enforcement agencies that require a 30-minute response time to a call for service from officers. This is a problem with the existing code prohibiting these vehicles from being parked at the owner’s residence, because relocating the vehicles away from the owner’s residence would make it difficult for them to comply with law enforcement service agreements. 

The enforcement of those complaints is what led people in violation of the code to question and voice their concerns about it. The first concern from the community is the weight limit, which is no longer relevant today because most modern day vehicles and trucks already exceed that weight limit. Additionally, some property owners have inquired on some exceptions to the code if the residential parcel is of big enough size to accommodate them parking their commercial vehicle at their residence without disrupting the neighborhood or neighboring properties.

“What I would like to see is your typical plumbing and electrical trucks to be okay in a parcel, and the larger, kind of medium sized trucks would be behind a gate or inside of a garage,” councilmember Brett Taylor said. “And then obviously the larger, noisier vehicles will be unpermitted. I only want to see one per parcel.”

Some possible changes to the code include limiting the number of vehicles allowed to park per parcel and requiring a minimum parcel size; requiring commercial vehicles to be parked either in the front driveway or behind a gate or wall; requiring owners have a conditional use permit; requiring that the vehicle be parked on an improved, non-pervious parking surface; requiring and identifying setback requirements; identifying a maximum commercial vehicle weight that wouldn’t be able to park in residential zones; and prohibiting semi-truck and 18-wheeler vehicles from parking in residential zones.

​​”Working on trucks my whole life, I don’t like seeing 18-wheelers get prohibited, but I understand the purpose,” Vice Mayor Brian Poochigian said. “I think everything said has been good. I would like to set up a group first so we hear the community’s concerns about this moving forward, because maybe there’s something that we missed.”

Although Mayor Nelsen is in favor of residents parking their work trucks at home, with larger trucks ideally being locked behind a gate on the property, he said it is different when residents bring home multiple work trucks that impact the street.

“I look at it as aesthetic value for the neighborhood,” Nelsen said.

Nelsen also said when vehicles like motorhomes are parked in driveways and extend towards sidewalks, it can not only block the sidewalk but create a safety hazard due to residents not being able to view who is approaching their yard.

The motion to consider rewriting the municipal code passed 4-0, with all council members voting in favor of the rewrite except for Greg Collins, who was absent. The updated item will be presented back to the council at a later date.

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