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La Cañada Council delays regulating e-scooters, eases concerns about sewer surcharge

La Cañada Flintridge City Hall
The La Cañada Flintridge City Council decided Tuesday to take a wait-and-see approach to possibly regulating electric pay-per-mile scooters, after learning about a new software service that allows cities to integrate company data and enforce compliant use of the devices.
(James Carbone / La Cañada Valley Sun)

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council decided Tuesday to take a wait-and-see approach to possibly regulating electric pay-per-mile scooters, after learning about a new software service that allows cities to integrate company data and enforce compliant use of the devices.

Scott Frankel, founder of Santa Monica-based Digital Unity, told the council a subscription to his company’s software would allow city officials to establish rules and set controls on personal mobility devices operated by several companies all at once.

Once an ordinance was written, he said, a licensing agreement could be drawn up with companies outlining penalties for improper use. If a rider, for example, left a scooter on a sidewalk in violation of the state’s vehicle code or dropped it in an improper location, a citation could be issued.

The city could also restrict hours of use and cap speeds to keep mobility device companies and users in check.

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“Cities need to be able to be on an equal playing field,” Frankel said. “That’s why we’ve built our company to partner with cities to bring technology to you … and to make sure it’s on your terms, so you have a level of oversight and so you can be appropriately compensated for your new digital infrastructure.”

Council members had asked city staff to examine their options in February, after several scooters were spotted in town on residential streets and businesses on Verdugo Boulevard.

The matter was brought to the city’s Public Safety Commission, who opted to defer to the California vehicle code rather than draft a city-specific ordinance. City Manager Mark Alexander told the council Tuesday if they were interested in employing Digital Unity, an ordinance would need to be in place first.

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Brown said he wasn’t sure dockless mobility devices were prevalent enough to warrant paying for a service and using staff time to create an ordinance.

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“There are cities where this would be a great tool,” Brown said. “But to me, right now, this is a solution in search of a problem for La Cañada. It’s just not a problem.”

The city recently approved a consultant contract calling for an economic development review of the downtown area, and Brown wondered whether the use and feasibility of shared mobility devices might be included in the study. Alexander said staff could expand the contract’s scope of work to include such a provision.

Councilwoman Terry Walker said she’d prefer to wait until demand was greater.

“I haven’t really heard a real outcry from people wanting them in their community,” she said.

Sewer surcharge letter may be disregarded

Also Tuesday, officials assured residents who recently received letters from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health requiring them to prove their homes were connected to a sewer system or risk a fee to disregard the letter, as the city was handling notification on residents’ behalf.

Property owners with septic systems would be charged an annual $5 on their property taxes for having conventional systems, while non-conventional system owners would be charged $43 per year. Those already connected to a sewer line would need to submit a sewer bill or building permit to the county to have their names removed from the county’s list.

Brown, who received a letter Friday, said residents could disregard its instructions. Those unsure of their connection status are advised to call the LCF Public Works Department at (818) 790-8882.

New city website could go live by next month

In a study session held before Tuesday’s regular meeting, staffer Arabo Parseghian previewed the design and function of a new city website that aims to be comprehensive and user friendly.

“The whole message is to get the information to the user as quickly as possible,” Parseghian said, adding studies show website visitors want to spend no more than 45 seconds to one minute on a single page.

The new site could be ready by August. It will feature “hot keys” directing visitors to frequently requested functions, including meeting agendas and building permits, and will be less text heavy and more flexible than the current site.

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Once it’s ready, residents and other community representatives will test it and provide feedback to enhance usability, Parseghian said.

The council also heard an update from public affairs consultant Tripepi Smith on the social media management and response practices it employs according to its contract with the city. Consultants explained their role in communicating policy and response in the wake of June 15 social media complaints about an illegal for-profit pool party held at a Gould Avenue home.

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