Drivers of some oversized SUVs — while technically violating a vehicle weight restriction on nearly all residential streets in Santa Monica — don’t really need to fear getting a fine, according to Santa Monica city officials.
The City of Santa Monica and other cities around the state have a weight limit restriction on many residential streets that prohibits all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 6,000 pounds.
According to the city municipal code section for “regulation of operation of vehicles over a certain size,” it is unlawful for any vehicle with a gross weight in excess of three tons, including load, to operate on any city street except on a primary or secondary truck route.
Some primary truck routes in the city include the Santa Monica Freeway, Olympic Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway. Some secondary truck routes include Santa Monica Boulevard, Colorado Avenue and Exposition Boulevard.
Another exception for vehicles weighing over 6,000 pounds to operate on residential streets is if they are for business purposes, such as deliveries or construction, according to the regulation.
The weight regulation was put in place to protect the city infrastructure from significantly heavy vehicles like commercial trucks, said Lucy Dyck, Santa Monica transportation planning manager.
The weight limit was enacted before heavy passenger vehicles such as SUVs became popular in the 1990s.
Even though times have changed, SUV drivers are not the target of the restriction, she said.
“The intent was really to keep the roads safe and easier to maintain,” Dyck said. “Clearly the law was not intended to prohibit the kind of vehicles that did not exist when it was written.”
Although new models of the heavier SUVs — including the Chevrolet Suburban, Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser and Hummer H2 — have gross vehicle weight ratings of more than 6,000 pounds, the vehicles will most likely not be fined, even though they are technically in violation, she said.
“The intent was not to restrict passenger vehicles,” she said.
Santa Monica Police Department Lt. Frank Fabrega also said that even if there are some SUVs that exceed the weight limit on the roads, Santa Monica police will not look to enforce restrictions for those drivers.
“That would not be a reasonable or prudent thing to do,” he said. “The intent of the law was for gross violators.”
The weight limit on vehicles in the city is enforced by the Santa Monica Police Department just like all other laws, Fabrega said.
If vehicles are in violation they will be fined, but the focus will primarily be on the large, heavy trucks that do the most damage to the streets, he said.
Fines for weight limit violations are $50 for the first offense and $100 for the second offense.
The vehicle weight regulation in the city will be more routinely enforced in areas where there is more risk of damage to the streets, Dyck said.
“In this case, the purpose of the law is to protect the pavement,” she said. “The focus of enforcement is on the areas that make the biggest difference to the pavement.”
The city’s 6,000-pound weight limit for vehicles will continue to be a tool to help keep big trucks off the local streets, but it will not have an effect on preventing some SUVs from using the same roads, Dyck said.