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This page outlines standard policies and frequently asked questions (FAQs). Please read through the descriptions to find the item that best describes the nature of your request and question. Please note: Some of the items listed here are not the responsibility of Department of Public Works, but are listed because they are often assumed to be our responsibility. If you still have additional questions, please contact our department at (831) 454-2160.

 

Composting

Backyard Composting

Q: Four-legged creatures have been visiting my compost pile. What should I do?

A: First, make sure you are not adding meat, dairy products or greasy foods to your compost bin. Second, be sure to cover any other food scraps with a layer of leaves, soil or other brown material. Third, consider a rodent-resistant compost bin like the Earth Machine. (available locally from Green Waste Recovery, (800) 665- 2209).

For a low-cost solution, consider modifying a garbage can for use as an animal-resistant bin for composting food scraps. For information on how to make and manage a garbage can composter, order a copy of the "Homemade Food Scrap Composter" flyer from the Rotline. (831) 423-4327.

Q: I've got bugs in my compost pile. What should I do?

A: Absolutely nothing! Bugs, big and little, are what make the decomposition happen. Here are some of the beneficial critters you may find. Tiny flies and ants can be pesky (see following questions).

Q: I’ve got millions of tiny flies. What do I do?

A: The tiny flies are vinegar flies, which look just like fruit flies. To control them, or common black flies, cover your food scraps with a light layer of soil, then a layer (2-4 inches) of brown material (leaves, straw or stripped up newspaper).

Q: There are ants in my compost pile. What should I do?

A: Large numbers of ants are usually an indication that the pile is too dry. To encourage them to leave the pile, moisten and turn it or stir it with a pitchfork to disrupt their colonies. Put a sticky barrier (household glue, sticky tape) on the handle of the pitchfork or shovel you are using to make it more difficult for the ants to crawl up the handle. After stirring the pile, leave it alone for a time to give the ants a chance to leave.

If there are many ants in your yard, they may return to the compost pile. But take heart! Ants may actually benefit the composting process by bringing fungi and other organisms into their nests. The work of ants can make compost richer in phosphorus and potassium by moving minerals from one place to another.

Q: What do I do if my compost pile is too dry?

A: Materials in your compost bin should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. When you squeeze a handful, no more than one or two drops of moisture drip out, but there should be sufficient moisture to hold the material together in a ball. Piles that are exposed to the air or the sun tend to dry out fairly rapidly. Try covering the pile with a plastic tarp to retain moisture.

If your compost pile is too dry, add water, but be sure to check if water is absorbed into the pile or just shed as it hits the pile. Frequently, watering a pile from above is ineffective because dry materials shed water. In this case, turn the pile by pulling it apart and restocking it, watering each layer.

If your pile is mainly composed of woody prunings, it may need more fresh green materials to moisten it and help it to retain moisture.

If you have a good balance of green materials and brown materials in your bin, but you did not add enough water originally, make a mental note for next time. Remember that the pile should be about 40 – 50% moisture — that’s a lot of water.

Q: What do I do if my backyard compost pile smells bad?

A: If the pile is compressed and lacks air space, turn it or mix it with a pitchfork and add some twigs and other materials that provide air space

If the material is so wet that water drips out when you squeeze a handful, add more dry brown materials, like leaves, dried out weeds or soil, and mix thoroughly. If it is realty wet, restock it completely and layer it with dry brown materials that provide air space to introduce air back into the pile. Loosen any clumps that have matted together.

If the pile has an ammonia odor, you have too much green material (grass clippings, food scraps, green plant material) and not enough brown (dry leaves, woody prunings, pine needles, dried out plants). Add more brown material or soil.

If your compost includes succulent green materials like grass clippings and food scraps, be sure to cover them with a layer of leaves, dried out plants or weeds or a layer of soil.

Q: My compost isn't getting hot. Why?

A: Many compost piles hove too much brown material (dry leaves, woody prunings) and not enough green material (lawn clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, manure). For a hot compost pile, brown materials must be shredded with a mower or chipped. Piles made on an add-as-you-go basis heat up very little, even if they are high in green materials, as break down occurs incrementally. You can help a cool pile to heat up by mixing in blood meal, alfalfa hay, or horse or chicken manure. The main advantage of a hot pile is it composts faster and kills weed seeds if temperatures are maintained at 140 degrees F for three days. Remember, maintaining a hot pile takes ongoing attention to aeration (turning), moisture, and the balance of green and brown materials.

If you don't have the time or inclination to maintain a hot pile, don't worry. Cold compost piles break down too! They just take a bit longer.

Q: I had a worm bin but my worms died. What did I do wrong?

A: First of all, don't be discouraged. A worm bin is a biological system and it may take more than one try to get it right. The most common mistake is improper bedding or letting the bedding material dry out. It is very important to start with a four-inch layer of good bedding. For best results, mix rotted leaves with shredded paper. You can also add old compost and/or hay. If you don't have any of these materials handy, buy a block of compressed coconut fiber (sometimes called coco-pith) at the nursery.

Bedding material must be as moist as a wrung out sponge. Worm population’s increase or decrease in direct proportion to the amount of food they receive.

Q: What is the absolute least amount of work I can get away with for a compost pile?

A: If you want to compost food scraps, there are two very easy methods.

  1. Modify a garbage can with a tight-fitting lid for use as an animal-resistant bin for composting food scraps. All you need to do is drill some holes in the bottom of the can for drainage, set it in a shallow hole so animals can’t tip it over, and cover layers of fruit and vegetable scraps with a 2-4 inch layer of brown leaves or soil to control fruit flies and odors. Left alone, it will decompose in about six months to a year.
  2. Alternatively, you can bury food waste in empty spots in vegetable and flower gardens, where it will decompose and nourish your plants.
If you just want to compost yard trimmings, choose a spot at least 2 feet away from wooden structures such as a fence or building. As you accumulate yard wastes (not food), throw them on this pile- Turn your compost pile only when you have time (or not at all!). Try to keep the compost as wet as a wrung out sponge (or just squirt it with water occasionally) The materials will shrink in volume, and after six months to a year the bottom part of your pile will be rich, crumbly compost.

 

Worm Composting

Q: I’ve got bugs in my worm bin. What should I do?

A: Absolutely nothing! Bugs, big and little, are what makes the decomposition happen. Here are some of the beneficial critters you may find. Tiny flies and ants can be pesky, see following questions.

Q: I’ve got millions of tiny flies. What do I do?

A: The tiny flies are vinegar flies, which look just like fruit flies. The first line of defense is to bury food scraps completely. Also, make sure you are not feeding too heavily (more than a quart per week per square foot). If you still have problems, try feeding less fruit, which is the main attractant. Some ideas for putting any extra food scraps to good use are found in these PDF downloads:

Remember that flies don’t bother the worms, and they will be less bothersome to you if your worm bin is outside, away from people. As a last resort, cover your food scraps with a light (one-quarter inch) layer of soil, then a layer (2 - 4 inches) of brown material (leaves or shredded newspaper).

 

Q: There are ants in my worm bin. What should I do?

A: Ants are usually an indication that the material in the bin is too dry. To encourage them to leave the bin, moisten and turn it or stir it with a trowel to disrupt their colonies.

If there are many ants in the vicinity, they may return to the worm bin. You can exclude the worms by putting the worm bin on blocks of wood and setting the blocks in dishes of water. Nurseries sell various products that create a sticky barrier the ants will not be able to cross.

If you don’t want to go to that much trouble, take heart! The ants don’t bother the worms and they actually benefit the composting process by bringing fungi and other organisms into their nests. The work of ants can make worm compost richer in phosphorus and potassium by moving minerals from one place to another.

Q: I had a worm bin but my worms died. What did I do wrong?

A: First of all, don’t be discouraged. A worm bin is a biological system and it may take more than one try to get it right. Make sure you have the right kind of bedding material and it is as moist as a wrung out sponge.

Remember that worms need oxygen too! Worms can easily be drowned if the worm bin is left outside during a rain, or from feeding too many food scraps without adding bedding to offset the moisture.

Another cause of worm death is overfeeding, which can result in the food heating up in the bin (hot composting), killing the worms as temperatures climb above 90 degrees F.

Flood Control & Water Quality

Q: What is a catch basin?

A: A catch basin is a curbside, box-like receptacle that drains water from the street gutter to the underground storm drain pipe. There are approximately 300 of these structures within the County and are the entry points to the storm drain system. This system was designed to prevent flooding on city streets.

Q: Are sewers and storm drains the same thing?

A: No. They are two separate drainage systems. Wastewater from homes, industry, etc. travels through the sewer system where it is treated at sewage treatment plants before reuse or discharge into the ocean. Runoff from streets, parking lots, yards, etc. enters the storm drain system, receives no treatment, and flows directly to the ocean.

Q: What is the frequency in which catch basins and storm drains get cleaned out?

A: County Public Works Division of Operations cleans approximately 300 catch basins. All catch basins are cleaned annually; those in areas receiving high loads of generated trash from illegal dumping are cleaned more frequently. Clogged catch basins are cleaned immediately when reported by the public prior to the rainy season.

Q: What kind of pollutants are found in the storm drain system?

A: Paint thinner and paint products, motor oil, pesticides, Styrofoam cups, paper, human and animal feces, antifreeze, cigarette butts, plastic bags, golf balls, dirty diapers and sometimes even dead animals are but a few of the pollutants found in the system on a daily basis.

Q: What is the County doing about illegal dumping into storm drains?

A: A County-wide stormwater ordinance is in the process. This ordinance will make it illegal to dump or discharge trash, debris, chemicals, contaminated water, or any other liquid or solid material into the storm drain system. Violators will subject to stiff fines and criminal prosecution. The Stormwater Program's Enforcement Section receives many calls to its hotline number from the public reporting illegal dumping violations and these calls are investigated.

Q: I see people dumping used oil into storm drains all the time. What can I do?

A: Dumping used oil is not only illegal but also severely impacts the environment. One gallon of motor oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water. To report violations, call the Stormwater Hotline. Residents are strongly encouraged take their used motor oil to a recycling center, visit www.santacruzcountyrecycles.org to locate the nearest collection center.

Parking

Q: How can I request a No Parking Zone?

A: A request for a No Parking Zone can be initiated by contacting our traffic engineering division at (831) 454-2160. The process normally involves a field inspection by our staff in order to determine the feasibility of such parking restriction. The most important factor considered when evaluating a parking restriction is the effect on traffic safety. Examples of situations where a parking restriction may be implemented are but not limited to:

Locations where a roadway is determined to be too narrow to allow two way traffic flow and side parking which results in parked vehicles obstructing the travel lane and forces vehicles to use the opposite travel lane.

At streets intersections where vehicles parked near corners obstruct the line of sight for motorists entering the main street from the side street.

No Parking signs and red curb markings are used to inform motorists of a No Parking Zone. Fees are collected for No Parking Zone requests when the parking restriction will benefit an individual property, rather than the general public, in order to offset the cost of material and staff time.

Recycling & Solid Waste

Q: What is Universal Service, and does it apply to me?

A: http://www.dpw.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/www.santacruzcountyrecycles/UniversalService/PDF/151209-CBDMBS10796_SMTP_via_LDAP_12-09-2015_18-02-52.pdf

Q: What do I do with my old medicine and/or sharps?

A: http://sharpmedsolutions.org/collection_sites/index.html

Q: What can I recycle curbside?

A: http://www.greenwaste.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/RecycleGuide_SantaCruzCounty_Residential_July2011.pdf

Q: How much does it cost to dispose of items at the landfill?

A: http://www.dpw.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/www.santacruzcountyrecycles/PDF/FeeSchedule.pdf

Q: Where can I drop off batteries?

A: http://www.dpw.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/www.santacruzcountyrecycles/PDF/BatteryTakeBack.pdf

Q: How do I dispose of fluorescent light bulbs?

A: http://www.dpw.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/www.santacruzcountyrecycles/PDF/FluorescentLampTakeBack.pdf

Q: I have a problem with my garbage or recycling service.

A: Contact GreenWaste Recovery at (831) 426-2711 or customerservice@greenwaste.com  

Q: I have a recycling question and I live in the City of Santa Cruz.

A: Call (831) 420-5220.

Q: I need to dispose of some hazardous waste.

A: http://www.dpw.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/www.santacruzcountyrecycles/Household_Hazardous_Waste/index.html

Roads and Drainage

Q: How can I request a No Parking Zone?

A: A request for a No Parking Zone can be initiated by contacting our traffic engineering division at (831) 454-2160. The process normally involves a field inspection by our staff in order to determine the feasibility of such parking restriction. The most important factor considered when evaluating a parking restriction is the effect on traffic safety. Examples of situations where a parking restriction may be implemented are but not limited to:

Locations where a roadway is determined to be too narrow to allow two way traffic flow and side parking which results in parked vehicles obstructing the travel lane and forces vehicles to use the opposite travel lane.

At streets intersections where vehicles parked near corners obstruct the line of sight for motorists entering the main street from the side street.

No Parking signs and red curb markings are used to inform motorists of a No Parking Zone. Fees are collected for No Parking Zone requests when the parking restriction will benefit an individual property, rather than the general public, in order to offset the cost of material and staff time.

Q: How do I report an abandoned vehicle?

A: Public Works does not remove abandoned vehicles, this issue is handled by the County Sheriff’s Office - Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Division and applies to vehicles that have been parked in the same location for a minimum of 72 hours. You may report an abandoned vehicle to the Sheriff’s Office by phone at (831) 454-3139, reporting this through the County application Citizen Connect, or by filling out the request found at the following web page abandoned vehicle

Q: How do we get our street or arterial scheduled for paving work?

A: Requests may be made by writing to the Director of Public Works.  Based on the funding available and whether the work can be handled through our Road Maintenance crews, pavement overlays and resurfacing are programmed through the County's Pavement Management Program.  The various projects are then included in the annual Public Works Road Budget, presented to the Board of Supervisors each June for their consideration.

Q: Where does funding come from for the Road Budget?

 

A: Subject to the approval of the Board of Supervisors, the County Administrative Office (CAO) submits a budget in June of each year which Public Works has prepared according to the County's Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and which includes State and Federal grant funds, State Gas Tax, and local transportation improvement fee monies, as well as County Service Area revenue.

Q: Where can I find information on Federal Funding (including Stimulus Funding)?

A: Typically, Federal highway funding, including stimulus funds, can only be spent on roads classified as Federal Aide Routes. Federal Aide Routes are those designated by the state as major collectors and arterials. The State’s CRS (California Road System) maps show which routes are eligible for this funding when it is made available, the CRS maps are available on the State’s Website at: http://dot.ca.gov/hq/tsip/hseb/crs_maps/index.php

Q: I have already filed a request with the Road Service System. Why has this not been completed yet?

A: We apologize for any delays you have experienced. Please understand that we have limited personnel and resources available to us, but we are committed to making every effort possible to maintain our road system. Our crews typically combine tasks in similar areas to make the greatest impact possible; it may be that your matter has not been taken care of yet because it is scheduled as part of a larger maintenance effort in your area. You may file a subsequent request with our system, please use the “Incomplete Request” description and if possible include the previous request number in your description. Also, please double check the Standard Policies and FAQ’s to verify that the nature of your request is within the scope of our responsibility.

Q: Is there a regularly Scheduled Maintenance plan for our roads?

A: Unfortunately our resources do not allow us to set up regular service schedules for road maintenance. County Maintenance staff regularly patrol roads prior to and during the winter rain events to spot drainage related maintenance hazards, we also investigate roads based on requests from the public. Our planning and scheduling is determined by seasonal maintenance requirements, service requests, and a backlog of storm damage repair projects. Typical issues that would be given priority are safety related service requests, vegetation related roadway obstructions, culvert and drainage obstructions, roadway repairs, and potholes.

Q: How do I request a pothole be repaired?

A: You can submit your request through your mobile device using the County application Citizen Connect. The standard policy with potholes is that all reported potholes in the County-Maintained public roadway shall be filled by County forces based on the order the service request is received. Typically, personal from Road Operations staff would review a service request shortly after it has been received, and urgent items would be given a higher prior or scheduled for immediate repairs. Note that repaving and resurfacing are separate items, (please see policies for these items for more information). Also note that potholes adjacent to railroad crossings are the responsibility of the railroad to repair, see item “The Public Roadway is in need of repair near a railroad crossing” for further details.

Q: When will my roadway be resurfaced (seals/overlays)?

A: Ideally, roads would be overlaid or have seals applied at regular intervals as dictated by the surface condition of the pavement. During the past few years, the Public Works budget for maintaining roads has continued to diminish. Public Works has been focusing the small amount of road maintenance funding received to resurface major arterial and collector roads; these roads carry the bulk of our local traffic, commuters, and movement of goods/commodities throughout the County. At this time, the County does not have available funding in the foreseeable future for resurfacing of residential roads; however such roads will be prioritized and treated in the future when funding becomes available.

Q: I would like my road to be widened. Is that possible?

A: Roadway funding is severely limited; as such we must focus our efforts on pavement maintenance, and cannot devote resources to roadway widening. When landslides or erosion cause a section of road to be narrowed to under 10’ we typically evaluate it to determine if passing this section would be unsafe, and if so we would close that section of the road until funds become available to affect repairs. Many rural residential roads were constructed and dedicated to the County long before current width standards were in place; for these types or roads with existing sections less than 10’ wide, we attempt to maintain the existing width as best as possible.

Q: Who provides the maintenance of culverts or roadside swales?

A: Any culverts or roadside swales serving the public roadway are typically the responsibility of County forces to maintain, with the exception of privately planted vegetation intrusion which is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner to keep trimmed from the swale. Private property owners are responsible for maintenance of driveway and private road cross culverts (driveway or private road culvert crossings parallel to County road) where a private road intersects a public road. Such culverts are considered part of the driveway or private road event though they may be in the public right-of-way.

Q: I have concerns about drainage that are not related culverts or roadside swales, what is the policy on this?

A: The standard policy with drainage is to maintain existing systems and historical drainage patterns (as funds and labor are available to do so) unless the existing situation causes an urgent health or safety issue or significant damage or danger to public facilities. Alterations to historical drainage patterns require justification, careful analysis, coordination with downstream owners, and are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Who is responsible for bush trimming along roadways?

A: In June 2005, the County Board of Supervisors enacted a policy to suspend the use of herbicide spraying as a means of brush control on County roadways. County crews must now use mechanical cutting methods which take significantly more time and personnel at a time when staffing levels on road crews have been reduced by one third; due to these factors Public Works’ current policy is that brush in the right of way should only be trimmed if it is intruding upon the roadway and causing interference with the public’s use of the roadway, particularly if it interferes with line of sight. If the brush is native and naturally occurring and meets the criteria noted above, it is the responsibility of Public Works to address as resources permit. If the brush is decorative planting placed by the adjacent property owner, it is the responsibility of that property owner to maintain; the County would send a letter notifying the property owner of their responsibility to trim the brush if a complaint is made. If County crews are required to do work that is the responsibility of a private property owner, Public Works would bill that property owner for our crews’ expenses.

Q: How do a remove a tree?

A: Per County tree removal policy, naturally growing trees located in the Right of Way are public domain, and may only be trimmed or removed by County forces if they pose a danger to users of the public road (danger to private property is considered the responsibility of the property owner, which they may elect to perform at their own expense with an encroachment permit). For more information, see tree removal policy.

Q: How is the determination of public right of way handled?

A: The public right-of-way is the publicly owned land or easement in which publicly maintained facilities such as roadway (which is maintained by Public Works) may be placed. Public Right of Way in urban areas is often marked by survey markers placed by developers of subdivisions or commercial projects. In rural areas, public right-of-way is often not been formally surveyed and can be more difficult to determine. Typically a public right-of-way or easement would be created such that it centers on the roadway, so the limits of a right-of-way could be approximated by measuring half the right-of-way distance on either side of the center of the roadway, the width of right-of-way varies and may be determined by reviewing assessor’s maps or survey records. A private property owner may hire a Licensed Land Surveyor if they wish to determine the exact limits of the right-of-way as it affects their property. The County does not provide or finance these types of private survey requests.

Q: The Public Roadway is in need of repair near a railroad crossing, who is responsible for this?

A: The railroad owns a Right of Way for its rail lines (varies in width based on location). Where a public roadway crosses a rail line it enters into the property of the railroad. Any damage to the roadway that is within the railroad Right of Way is the responsibility of the railroad to repair. Railroad right-of-way is shown on the County GIS and Assessors Maps. If you believe roadway damage is within the railroad right-of-way you may report it to the railroad, or you may make a service request to our system and we will notify the railroad. If you do make a request through our system for this issue, please note that the damage to the roadway is within the railroad right-of-way.

Q: I would like to make a request regarding a County-owned facility, how does this work?

A: The County owns and operates several buildings and other facilities throughout the County. The roads maintenance division only takes requests for matters affecting the public roadway. For any requests involving County-Owned Facilities, contact the main Public Works phone number at (831) 454-2160 and ask to speak with the Real Property Division.

Q: What do I do if there is a Private Structure Intruding into the Public Right of Way?

A: This would apply to buildings, fences, driveway culverts, or other structures serving a private purpose but located in the public right-of-way. Often such structures are constructed legally, for example such structures may be constructed with an encroachment permit, which is used most often for the construction of driveways. Another example is if a structure was in place when the road was dedicated to the County, it may have a special exception to remain as-is. Public Works generally does not take action on such structures unless they cause interference with the public’s use of the roadway by causing a traffic hazard or a sight distance obstruction.

Q: There is debris that has been left in the Public Right of Way, will Public Works remove this?

A: Per County policy, any debris left in the public right-of way intruding upon the roadway and causing interference with the public’s use of the roadway should be removed by road maintenance crews. This applies only to County Maintained Roads; the County does not remove debris from private roads. Note that abandoned vehicles are subject to a different policy.

Q: There is a temporary dumpster or moving container in the public right of way, who do I contact regarding this?

A: Ideally, Dumpsters or storage containers would be placed on private property out of the right-of-way. Per County Policy, temporary storage of a dumpster or moving container is considered a form of parking, and is acceptable within the public right-of-way so long as it is completely out of the traffic lane and does not interfere with the public’s use of the roadway, also it may only be in place for 72 hours before it is considered abandoned. We sometimes receive complaints about a dumpster or moving container protruding into the travel lave – this would require an encroachment permit and traffic control in order to be legal. If you believe a dumpster or moving container was improperly placed, please submit a service request and we will forward it to our Encroachments Division for investigation. We have received calls regarding “PODS” moving containers within City limits; our jurisdiction only includes unincorporated areas of the County. If you are in City limits and your “PODS” paperwork references County personnel, please call (831) 454-2160 and ask for the encroachments division.

Q: The sidewalk is damaged and requires repair. Will Public Works fix this?

A: Per the California Street and Highway Code, maintenance for sidewalks in the Public Right of Way is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. If we receive a request for sidewalk repair, we would typically send a letter to the adjacent property owner notifying them of their responsibility. Per agreements the various utility agencies have with the County, a utility company is responsible for repairing any damage to the sidewalk if it has been caused by their utility, see the “The Public Roadway is being damaged by a Utility” statement for more information.

Q: The public roadway is being damaged by a utility, what should I do?

A: Per agreements the various utility agencies have with the County, the utility company is responsible for repairing any damage to the public roadway or sidewalk which has been caused by their utility. You may report the matter to us and we will forward to the utility whose line has caused the damage, please make sure to include any known information about the utility. If there is an immediate danger to life and safety, please notify the main Public Works number at (831) 454-2160 and if possible contact the company who owns the utility. Note that damaged utilities can be dangerous, so keep a safe distance from the damaged area.

Q: What should I do about the slope that is eroding above or below the public roadway?

A: When the slope above the roadway fails and falls onto the roadway, it is the responsibility of the uphill property owner to remove this debris from the roadway. If the debris poses a major impediment to the roadway, road maintenance crews would intervene and clean up the slide material. If the debris is not a significant impediment to the roadway, Public Works would send the property owner a letter notifying them of their responsibility, and that if the work is not completed in a certain interval of time that road maintenance crews would perform the work and bill the uphill property owner for their time. When the slope below the roadway fails and causes the road edge to be undermined, Public Works must investigate to determine the cause and situation. Often this type of slope failure is the result of a nearby naturally occurring creek or stream eroding the bank below, in this event the responsibility for repair is that of Public Works. Sometimes the slope failure below the road is the result of the actions of the adjacent property owner (for instance owner has excavated hillside for construction, a private retaining wall has failed, private drainage has eroded hillside, etc) in this case the property owner may be liable for the resulting damage to the roadway. In any case it is the goal of Public Works to restore the roadway to normal operations as soon as time and resources permit. We appreciate the reporting of and damage or potential damage to slopes adjacent to the roadway.

Q: A County-maintained retaining wall is damaged or failing, should I contact DPW?

A: The County has many retaining walls in place to maintain the public roadway. The majority of these walls are found below the roadway; although the County does have some walls supporting hillsides above the roadway (the majority of walls above the roadway are privately built to retain private property). We appreciate the reporting of any damage to County-Maintained retaining walls so that we may affect repairs before damage worsens and affects the roadway.

Q: How do I learn about when a Public Works project is going to in the Right of Way?

A: Public Works often has many projects occurring at different locations throughout the County, the work may be done by County forces, or by a private contractor hired by the County in the case of large scale projects. For information about construction road closures and delays, please visit the following web page: http://www.sccroadclosure.org/

Q: Can I go anything about work that is being done by a private property owner in the Right of Way?

A: It is possible that this work is being done legally; construction in the right-of-way may be done with an encroachment permit, and is usually part of a larger project adjacent to the road (such as a driveway, retaining wall, or underground utility connection). If you believe that illegal construction within the public right-of-way is occurring, please file a service request and the Public Works Encroachment Division will be sent to investigate.

Q: How do I get a damaged roadway sign repaired?

A: Any reported damage to County-Maintained signage in the public roadway shall be repaired by County forces. The County is not responsible for mailboxes, private signage, or signage placed by other jurisdictions.

Q: What can I do about unofficial signage or striping in the Right of Way?

A: Street name signs or striping located in the Public Right of Way must be first reviewed and approved by the Road Planning Division of Public Works; it is unlawful to install any striping or signage which has not been approved through this process. If you believe any striping or signage to be illegally installed, please file a service request and we will forward this information to the Road Planning Division for investigation.

Q: What do I do about vehicles that are parking within the Public Right of Way?

A: The right-of-way is owned by the public, and as such is available for parking equally to all members of the public on a first come-first serve basis (with some restrictions); no member of the public may place signage or other markings to reserve parking within the public right-of-way. To legally park in the public right-of-way, the vehicle must be: parked completely out of any traffic lane (inside the white edge line), parked in the direction of travel, may not block driveway entrances, fire hydrants, crosswalks, ramps, or bike lanes, may not park in intersections, and parking must be in overall accordance with the vehicle code. Some road segments have parking restrictions and have been labeled with signage and/or red curb striping to indicate parking is not allowed there. The Live Oak parking program requires a permit in certain areas of Live Oak; signage is present to indicate where this applies. In addition, any signage or other official markings used to indicate special event parking, construction zones, or areas closed for safety should be followed. The vehicle owner assumes all risk & liability for parking in the public right-of-way, the County is held harmless in case of injuries or property damage. Any vehicles left unattended for more than 72 hours are considered “abandoned” and are subject to removal by the Sheriff’s office, see the abandoned vehicles FAQ for more information.

Q: Mud is being tracked onto the County Roadway, should I report this?

A: Mud is sometimes tracked onto the roadway due to a construction site that does not have a proper mud wash-off entrance, or from unpaved side roads connecting to the County road. Per County policy, mud tracking onto County roads is not allowed. If you see mud tracking occurring, you may make a service request and we will investigate as time and resources permit.

Q: What are my options regarding forming a County Service Area (CSA)?

A: In the current climate of budget shortfalls and delayed maintenance, we have received many requests from rural residents for a method of assuring maintenance on the rural roads in their neighborhood. An option available to rural residents is to form their own County Service Area (CSA). CSA’s can enable residents to manage their own road repair and resurfacing program with the assistance of the County. Information on how to form a CSA is available at: CSA Managment Formation

Sanitation / Environmental Compliance

Q. Can I pour paint down the sink?

A. No.  Excess paint can be taken to a household hazardous waste facility at the Buena Vista landfill.  You can wash paint brushes that were used on latex or water-based paints.  See our fact sheet on paint waste disposal Facts about Paint.

Q. How do I report illegal dumping or a sewer overflow? 

A. Call our 24-hour dispatch at (831) 477-3907.

Q. What’s the difference between a sewer drain and a storm drain? 

A. A sewer drain is covered and protected from rainwater.  Your sinks, baths, and other household appliances are connected to the sewer system.  All water entering the sewer is pumped to a treatment plant that will remove pollutants before discharging the treated water to the ocean.  Storm drains are generally open grates in the street that collect rainwater and any other runoff.  This water goes directly to the ocean without treatment.  Only rain should go down these drains!

Q. When my pipes are backed up, whom should I call? 

A. Call your local plumber.  Sewer lines on your property are your responsibility to maintain.  However, if the problem is a backup in the public sewer line in the street, call our 24-hour dispatch at (831) 477-3907.

Q. The plumber says the lines are clogged at the street, who do I call?

A. Please call our hotline at 831-477-3907 for assistance with clogs at the street.

Q. What should I do with my waste cooking grease? 

A. Place the grease in a coffee tin or other container with a lid, freeze it, and then throw the whole container in the trash. 

Q. Can I push food into my sink garbage disposal? 

A. It is better to compost food waste.  If that isn’t possible, throw food waste in the trash.  Sending large amounts of solids down your sink could clog up your pipes or sewer lines in the street and cause sanitary sewer overflows.

Storm Damage

Q: Storm damage has impacted our home, street or business; when can we expect repairs to be made to the County roadway adjacent to our facility?

A: Storm damaged roads are repaired in two ways:  Emergency repairs, where there is loss of access for health and safety, or permanent repairs, where the general public health and safety are not in jeopardy and alternate routes are available.   Emergency repairs are usually performed by County road crews within days or a week of the event, depending on the extent of the storm or disaster.  Permanent repairs are normally accomplished as soon as authorized funding is allowed by the State of California Office of Emergency Services or the Federal Emergency Management Agency and can sometimes take up to several months or longer, depending upon the severity of the damage and funding availability.

Q: In the event of storm damage, which roads get fixed first?

A: Individual road repair locations are approved by the Board of Supervisors based on recommendations by Public Works.  Typically, the highest priority are those roads where damage is preventing access by emergency vehicles or has placed an undue amount of hardship upon the local community (sole access local roads or prime arterial corridors).  For example, we will normally focus on the repair of a major arterial first, such as Soquel-San Jose Road, before we would consider one of the minor roads adjacent to the arterial.  It is based to a great degree upon the number of citizens who are impacted by the damage.

Survey

Q: What are the Survey Counter Hours?

A: Open Wednesday’s 1:30 – 4:30 pm
Alternate times by appointment only: 831-454-2160

Q. How can I tell where my property lines are?

A: Refer to the current deed, available from the County Recorder, for a description of the property.  If you're lucky, the description will refer to a recorded map.  The existence of such a map of or even near your property increases the likelihood that survey markers (or "monuments") were set and may still be in place to help you locate your property corners.  In any event, a visit to our office (in Public Works) can establish what, if any, maps exist.  An index of recorded maps is now also available on the internet at http://gis.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/PublicGISweb/.  It may also be useful to ask your neighbors if they have located their own corners recently for a building permit or other reason.   When all is said and done, if it becomes necessary for you to hire a private surveyor to locate your property lines, any research you do yourself will generally save time and money.

Q. Will the County survey my property?

A. No.  County employees cannot undertake private survey work within their jurisdiction.  The conducting of private surveys by the County’s survey crew would constitute unfair and illegal competition with private surveyors doing work in the county.  Refer to the yellow pages under "Surveyors - Land" should you need private survey work performed.

Q. My neighbor's property was surveyed.  Why isn't there a recorded map?

A. State law requires that a map be recorded when a surveyor sets a permanent marker with the surveyor's registration number attached.  There are several instances where a survey might be performed without the setting of permanent markers (without "monumentation," as it were), including the following.

  1. Sufficient existing monumentation was found, eliminating the need to set new permanent markers.
  2. The surveyor’s client commissioned the survey for informational purposes only, so only temporary markers, such as lath and ribbon, were set.
  3. The survey was of a type other than a boundary survey, such as a topographic or a planimetric survey, often done to detail existing ground, landscape, and structures for a proposed development.
  4. The survey was not completed (and, presumably, no monuments were set), because the project was abandoned or the surveyor was not paid.

Q. Do all properties in the county have a recorded map?

A. No.  A great many of the parcels of land existing in the county were created before legislation was enacted in 1972 requiring a subdivision final map or a parcel map to create new parcels.  A deed, therefore, may be the only recorded document describing the boundaries of a longstanding parcel.  Please note that a formal survey of an existing parcel is not normally a County prerequisite to the issuance of a building permit.

Q. Is a recorded survey map the absolutely correct and final word on my property line, sanctioned by the County?

A. No.  All recorded maps (subdivision final maps, parcel maps, records of survey, etc.) are based upon an historical record which over years has collected many discrepancies, conflicts, and uncertainties.  The surveyor can only identify pertinent inconsistencies and apply informed judgment in assembling maps based on research and fieldwork.  The County Surveyor reviews maps submitted for recording according to standards of practice and technical requirements, but does not adjudicate inconsistencies in the historical record.  Disputes over property lines may have to be resolved as civil matters before judicial courts.

Q. Is it illegal to pull out survey markers?

A. Yes.  Under Section 605 of the California Penal Code it is a misdemeanor to intentionally remove or destroy a permanent survey marker.  Removal or destruction of survey markers should be reported to the County Sheriff's office or to the appropriate police department if it was done within one of the four incorporated cities.  If the monument is removed by a professional land surveyor or civil engineer, you may also file a complaint with the State of California Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors at (916) 263-2251, or at the Board's website, http://www.dca.ca.gov/pels/l_enforce.htm.

Survey markers are sometimes destroyed during major construction projects if it is impossible to protect them in place because of the nature of the work.  If this occurs, the obliterated markers should be replaced or memorialized in another way that will maintain continuity of the historical record.

Q. What is a permanent survey marker?

A. Typically, a surveyor will hammer a 1/2-inch diameter or larger iron pipe to ground level (or even below ground level to protect the pipe, necessitating a metal detector to locate it).   The pipe will generally be 2-1/2 feet long with a brass or plastic tag containing the surveyor or engineer's registration number on top.  In concrete there may be a lead plug with a tag instead of a pipe.  Significant locations in roadways, bridges, etc., may have more elaborate and stable monuments.  Wooden stakes or lath with ribbon, or nails in asphalt with paint marks are not considered permanent markers.

Q. My land division project was approved and I just got my development permit. What do I do now?

A. The process of dividing and developing land calls for a significant investment of time and money.  Congratulations are in order for anyone who sticks it out to get a tentative land division map approved by the Planning Commission and becomes the holder of a land division and development permit.  The next stages of the process, where one fulfills the requirements of the permit, can be just as rigorous.  In order to record a final map or parcel map, the conditions in the permit, so-called "tentative map conditions," must be fulfilled.  Look at the permit under the heading “Prior to or concurrent with recordation of the final/parcel map, the following conditions shall be met."

The following is typical of what it takes to get a final or parcel map recorded once the Planning Department issues a development permit which includes a land division.   The permit typically allows you two years to do this.

  1. Submit final engineered improvement plans to the Surveyor and Development Review section of Public Works, together with any pertinent supporting information, such as drainage calculations, structural calculations and soils reports for retaining walls, and a preliminary engineer’s estimate of the cost of construction.
  2. Submit a final or parcel map to the Surveyor and Development Review section of Public Works, together with any pertinent supporting information, such as closure calculations, preliminary title report, and pertinent deeds.
  3. Submit the soils report and an erosion control plan to the Environmental Planning section of the Planning Department.
  4. Submit copies of the improvement plans to the appropriate water purveyor for review and comment.  In addition to Public Works approval, the plans will have to be approved by the water purveyor.  Furthermore, if the improvements include a water main extension, you’ll probably have to enter into a main extension agreement with the water purveyor and submit whatever securities and fees the water purveyor requires.
  5. Submit a landscape plan and a biotic restoration plan, if required, to the Environmental Planning section of the Planning Department.
  6. Submit any landscape, biotic, drainage, roadway, sanitation, or other maintenance agreements, homeowners’ agreements, and conditions, covenants and restrictions (CC&R’s) to Public Works and Planning.
  7. Acquire any easements and rights-of-way necessary to construct required improvements or gain access or secondary access to the project. 
  8. In the case of full tract subdivisions (five or more lots created), enter into an agreement countersigned by the Planning Director to meet the County's affordable housing requirements.
  9. Execute a subdivision agreement with Public Works, agreeing to make the improvements shown on the plans and required by the tentative map.
  10. Submit construction securities in the form of a letter of credit from a financial institution or a cash instrument to insure construction of the required improvements.  The securities will be based on the estimate of the cost of construction, the cost of deferred monumentation in the case of tracts, and the amount required to secure the coming year’s taxes on the property underlying the subdivision.  In addition, all property taxes currently due must be paid in full.  Typically, the overall amount of securities is a bit more than 150% of the estimated cost of construction.
  11. Pay all fees due prior to recording.  Typically, these include drainage fees, road and roadside improvement fees, park dedication fees, child care fees, additional review fees, pavement striping deposit, and construction inspection deposit.
  12. In the case of tracts, the project must be placed on the Board of Supervisors' agenda to get the final map approved.  It takes about three weeks lead time to do so.