Last year Santa Ana resident Frances Santiago had her street address on her curb repainted four times by private curb painters. Each time, the work was done without her permission.
And each time, the painters tried to make Santiago pay for the unwanted work.
"Every three months last year they were out there painting my curb," she said.
When she refused to pay, the curb painters tried to intimidate her by falsely claiming that they worked for the city, she said. The painters said their fee would increase from $8 to $15 if Santiago didn't hand over cash on the spot, she said.
In many neighborhoods in Santa Ana and in other Orange County cities, residents have complained about curb painters misleading or intimidating them into paying for a service they say is unnecessary or unwanted.
In response to years of complaints, the Santa Ana City Council passed an ordinance this month banning independent street address painters. The city then contracted with a Pomona-based company to paint home address numbers on curbs at no charge to residents. The company could cover every residential neighborhood within a year, officials said. After Oct. 5, other address-painting businesses will be barred from operating in Santa Ana.
Some residents say it's about time.
Kenneth Meyer said curb painters have pried off or painted over metal address numbers on his curb so many times that he's lost count.
Other residents have reported that their address numbers were whited-out or changed after they refused to pay curb painters, city officials said.
"They're very aggressive," said City Councilman Brett Franklin, who added that he has heard numerous complaints about curb painters using bully tactics.
"The curb-painting horror stories are everywhere," Franklin said.
Curb painters often leave notes on front doors, warning that residents will have to pay for their service unless the notes are stuck over residents' address numbers when the painters return.
Despite the notices, residents have no legal obligation to pay, Santa Ana officials said.
"They leave a little flier that's innocuous enough on your door," Franklin said. "Then when they come back they send these guys in to strong-arm people. They're really scruffy-looking guys who are pretty intimidating."
City officials said many curb painters could be working without business licenses.
"Anybody with a paint can or a paintbrush can go out there and do it," projects manager David Urbin said.
Four curb-painting companies have business licenses allowing them to work in Santa Ana, city officials said. Officials from three of the four companies did not return calls for comment, and one could not be reached.
Independent curb painters are not unique to Santa Ana, but the activity in the city appears to be more intense than in other cities in the county.
Urbin said his own address number was repainted without his permission in an unincorporated area of the county.
"I gave [the painter] some money anyway, because he did a nice job," Urbin said.