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Storefront Safety Vehicle Impact Protection Ordinance Approved by Artesia City Council

Storefront bollards were approved by Artesia City Council.

Storefront bollards were approved by Artesia City Council.

By Rico Dizon

After a number of public hearings, modifications, and two months short of one year since the idea of a vehicle impact protection ordinance was first brought up, the Artesia City Council at its April 13 meeting finally approved, on a 5-0 vote, the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance will be titled the “Outdoor Dining and Seating Safety Standards for Certain Parking Areas.”

Under the new ordinance, which will take effect 30 days after its passage and adoption, vehicle impact protection devices such as bollards or guard posts shall be required on front-end parking spaces that are angled between 30 to 90 degrees and immediately adjacent to outdoor seating areas.

Construction of these devices shall be between the parking space and seating area of the building.

The bollards will be made of steel not less than four inches in diameter and appropriately spaced out so that one bollard is provided for each parking space

No one design, device, or requirement is appropriate for all locations and conditions and therefore property and business owners will be given flexibility to utilize a variety of design elements and devices to protect pedestrians and shopping customers near vehicle parking areas.

The goal of this ordinance is to establish standards of design of vehicle impact protection devices that achieve the appropriate level of safety but not so onerous as to require unnecessary expensive structures in parking areas.

Certain exemptions will apply to parking spaces that are reconfigured or re-striped to eliminate front-end parking angled between 30 to 90 degrees relative to immediately adjacent pedestrian or seating area.

Also exempted by the ordinance are parking areas where outdoor seating adjacent to parking spaces are permanently removed. For ADA compliant parking spaces, bollards can be substituted for wheel stops with the ADA sign on top of the pole fronting the vehicle.

“This is a great ordinance that will save many lives,” exclaimed Mayor Miguel Canales immediately after the City Council unanimously approved the proposed ordinance. “Parking spaces will now be much safer,” said Mayor Pro Tem Victor Manalo.

The new ordinance is a brainchild of Manalo. The crucial presence of safety devices in parking lots just dawned on him after his mother-in-law was killed and his two daughters injured by a SUV that hit them while eating in the outdoor patio of an ice cream parlor in Buena Park in 2014. The investigation concluded that the senior driver of the parked vehicle wrongly stepped on the gas with the SUV in drive.

Manalo researched extensively on vehicle-into-building crashes until he met Rob Reiter of the Storefront Safety Council who helped suggest solutions and provide statistics that revealed 60 incidents per day of vehicle crashing into buildings or houses that result into 500 deaths annually. At least two similar accidents took place in Artesia over the past two years.

Experts in vehicle into building crashes indicate that standard parking lot wheel stops and raised sidewalks are not sufficient by themselves to stop the force of vehicle in such pedal error accidents and that other design standards and devices are needed to protect pedestrians, shoppers and customers.

The proposed ordinance met rough sailing in early December last year when some studies showed that one business establishment alone will incur about $150,000 to put up the safety barriers in the parking lot. “I just find this update onerous,” said City Council Member Sally Flowers, while City Council Member Tony Lima, a large property owner in Artesia said, “this is very expensive and not even one city in the whole country have this ordinance except one in Florida which is under study.”

The proposal then was sent back to the Planning Commission for more reviews and modifications.

Prior to the ordinance approval last Tuesday, Manalo recalled that when his family’s tragedy happened last year, he was in Washington D.C. with wife Monica and it took them 24 hours to come back. “It was the worst 24 hours of my life,” he said. His daughter Isabel who underwent surgery as a result of the accident, also spoke during the recent meeting who, after briefly narrating her scary and painful experience, said, “I just wish we have the ordinance so that it will help stop similar tragedies from taking place in the future and many lives will be saved.”