Hesperia Rescinds $1,000 Big Rig Parking Permit Fee

Having waltzed into a buzz-saw of controversy and resistance with its January move to straightjacket truck drivers living within the confines of the City of Progress with a $1,000 parking fee for tractor-trailers on residential property, the Hesperia City Council this week relented, eliminating the charge entirely for drivers/residents with no more than two tractor trailers.
The city early this year imposed the parking fee on local truckers as part of an effort to refurbish damage to local roads caused by big rigs and defray the cost of having code enforcement officers catalog and keep constant track of where the trucks were located.
City officials justified the ploy to raise revenue on multiple grounds. Historically, Hesperia has had tremendous difficulty with its road system. City officials asserted, with some degree of logic and justification, that big rigs – 18-wheelers pulling 53 foot long heavy loads – are far more damaging to the city’s streets than standard passenger vehicles. Hesperia is a largely blue collar bastion, and what were formerly agricultural-residential properties in the 73.21-square mile city, many of a half-acre dimension or more, have served as a magnet to truckers, who park their rigs on their property. The money generated by the permits was intended to help defray the cost of repairing or repaving the city’s damaged roads.
It is not as simple as that, however.
From its outset, Hesperia has suffered from an infrastructure deficit, and the city has never caught up.
In April 1954, the father of modern Hesperia, M. Penn Phillips, purchased a 36-square mile tract, representing roughly 90 percent of what was then the entire township of Hesperia, for $1.25 million from the Appleton Land and Water Company and the Lacey Estate, which had owned the land jointly since 1888. He advertised Hesperia as Southern California’s newest residential community. Phillips, a quick buck artist, thereafter constructed streets for Hesperia that were of a decidedly low standard, consisting of a mixture of desert sand used as aggregate and bitumen to create a road that was no more than one-and-a-half inches thick. When new, the roads looked good, but under the withering sun and use, they began to deteriorate almost at once, and were fragmenting within three to four years. The flash floods the desert is prone to further washed out the roads over the following decades, leaving many of Hesperia’s streets in poor condition, including some that eventually returned to being nothing more than dirt roads.
Roads built subsequently were equally or almost as shoddy. In the more than three decades since the town’s 1988 founding, more than three-fourths of the city’s council members – Percy Bakker, Mike Lampignano, George Beardsley, Bruce Kitchen, M. Val Shearer, Ed Pack, Theron Honeycutt, Dennis Nowicki, Bill Jensen, Jim Lindley, Tad Honecutt, Mike Leonard, Thurston Smith, Russ Blewett, Eric Schmidt, Rebekah Swanson, Jeremiah Brosowske and Paul Russ – proved out as shills for the real estate and development industries, and were unwilling to insist that each succeeding round of developers in the city provide adequate infrastructure to accommodate the projects they were building, which were layered in on top of or next to projects that already featured inadequate infrastructure. In virtually every case, those elected officials drew heavy support from the development community, and in justifying why they allowed homes with poor quality roads to be built in the city they used the rationale that requiring home builders to provide adequate infrastructure would discourage economic development and progress.
While the council’s passage of the big rig parking permit program carried with it the prospect that the city was seeking at long last to get a handle on its infrastructure challenges, the program’s fee structure was widely seen as lacking proportionality, one that scapegoated the trucking industry by punishing them with hefty permit fees for having moved into homes built by developers who had paid off the city’s elected decision-makers with generous political donations in exchange for not being required to provide adequate infrastructure to accompany their projects or adequate development fees to defray the cost of the city providing that infrastructure, including durable roads.
Truck drivers called the truck parking permits, which did not previously exist, an illegal tax, and they said the city’s action in January was an unconstitutional overstepping of the city’s authority that intruded on their rights as homeowners.
On Tuesday night, the City Council voted 5-to-0 to change the fee structure to allow truck drivers/big rig owners to park up to two tractors and two trailers on a single property. Thereafter, homeowners must pay $100 for each additional tractor and $400 per additional trailer. The fee applies to trailers whether they are loaded or empty.
-Mark Gutglueck

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