Parking in Downtown Turlock anytime soon? Be on the lookout for stepped-up parking enforcement.
The Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association recently advised downtown businesses that the Turlock Police Department has renewed intermittent parking enforcement on Main Street.
“The parking issue hadn’t been enforced by the police department for a couple years, however recently it has been,” said TDPOA Director Dana McGarry. “We just want our customers to be informed.”
The TDPOA also asked business owners to ensure that employees are not parking on Main Street, but rather use public parking lots.
According to the Turlock Police Department, the laws have long been in effect. While parking codes were stringently enforced in the early days, tickets have rarely been given out in recent years due to reduced patrols.
“The parking laws in the downtown area have been in effect for decades,” said Sgt. Neil Cervenka, Traffic Safety Unit Supervisor. “After flyers were passed out to every business owner informing them that a full-time parking enforcement employee would be enforcing parking ordinances in the downtown area (years ago), we began enforcement. After a couple years of this, complaints decreased dramatically.”
Cervenka said that after the flyers were sent out, the parking officer was writing a fraction of the tickets she originally did.
“This indicated that the problem was solved,” said Cervenka. “As such, many of the Traffic Community Service Officers duties were re-organized, leaving less time for parking enforcement. While she would include the downtown areas on her normal patrol route, she would only write gross violations as there were no complaints from that area.”
Due to recent complaints from downtown business owners and patrons which indicated that the time limits were being abused more frequently, Cervenka said he reassigned the Traffic CSO to spend more time enforcing the parking ordinances downtown to address the concerns.
“To be clear, the Traffic unit never stopped enforcement. There was simply less time to spend in that area as there was only one person to cover the entire city,” said Cervenka.
“The first day I directed her to spend more time there (Feb. 26), there were over 30 vehicles in violation,” said Cervenka. “The CSO, using good judgment, waited an additional hour before citing. She then cited only 8 that were still there when she came back. This meant that those eight violators had been parked nearly double the allotted 2 hour limit.”
Over the course of four days, the Turlock Traffic Safety Unit estimated that 1,000 cars were parked in the downtown area. Over a 9 hour period each day, approximately 250 cars were parked in the downtown area. Of those, only 22 citations were issued total, according to Cervenka.
“The amount of citations per day dropped dramatically, meaning the cited individuals were probably the cause of the complaints by others,” said Cervenka. “Our main goal is compliance. We want all the business downtown to have a fair chance to let customers park in front to get to their establishment.”
The lack of parking has long been an issue, McGarry said, coming up as a topic of discussion at the annual meeting.
“We thought it would be nice if we didn’t have employees parking on the street, and we saw a difference,” McGarry said. “It was effective by just reminding each other that’s what we should have been doing.”
By ensuring that employees are not parking on the street in downtown Turlock, customers will have more parking spaces available for use. As more spaces become available, more customers will likely shop downtown instead of turning away due to lack of parking spaces.
“We have been told several times that customers gave up trying to find a spot downtown and left,” said Sgt. Cervenka. “This is the reason for timed parking downtown. We base the vast majority of parking enforcement on complaints.”
The TDPOA said that they are giving people 3 to 4 hours of parking time before ticketing will occur. Those parking downtown for longer than the allotted time are encouraged to park in the public parking lots to avoid receiving a citation.
According to Turlock Police Department spokesperson Officer Mayra Lewis, the Turlock Municipal Code applies equally to all who park in the downtown area for longer than the amount of time allowed.
“The parking enforcement officer is not able to distinguish between consumers or business owners,” said Lewis. “… Business owners have always known that they are not exempt from the posted parking restrictions.”