We wrote several weeks ago about the little-noticed Berkeley ordinance that restricts street parking to 72 hours. One reader, who prefers anonymity because “my teenager may be mortified”, tells her story:

Just a small reflection on an event yesterday that rankled me and leaves me with a huge question about what is a neighbor and how can we live peacefully in cities. My car was towed from the front of my home, from a dirt turnout, while I napped yesterday. Waking from my nap from the sounds of heavy machinery on the road, I looked out to see activity behind the trees, ran down my steps to see my car being put on a truck from Avenue Tow. When questioned the tow truck driver tells me it was cited by BPD.

I spent the next three hours trying to get my car back and successfully do after spending $235, a bike ride down to the PD and then to 2nd Street I drove my crippled car back home, back to its benign parking space,  its damaged front end displayed for all to see.

My car was totaled last September and slowly, in my spare time, I have been trying to repair it. It still runs, has been moved multiple times to be washed and to three auto body shops for repairs or simply turned away. Just yesterday I purchased a new hood. I have had two prior notices reminding me of the 72-hour parking restriction in Berkeley, have called the PD and was told a neighbor has been reporting my car, but won’t give me a name. The police assured me it would take five days before the car would be towed, the tires were marked to note whether the car had been moved and to move it or remove the marker. “No big deal” they reminded me on those two occasions.

Monday, home sick from work a new orange tag, a pile of pulp after it disintegrated from the rains, was noticed. This time someone meant business. This time my whole tire was chalked but I laboriously removed the chalk and continued this week on my nearing success at obtaining the parts for my car to be whole again.

Since then I have placed a note on the dash explaining my situation, where I lived, and my contact if needed. I have removed rocks on the tires, markings placed by the PD, and again slowly repair my car purchasing (bad) headlamps twice from eBay, work my three jobs, and support my teenager and pet. I have lived here since 1994, have a one-car garage on a steep hill, researched the off street parking at City Hall, and share these frequently vacant six spaces with my neighbors.

I have worked to get sidewalks on my street, bemoan the loss of bus routes and wish I didn’t need a car, but practicality rules. Our city is not built for pedestrians. One car that is disabled belonging to my neighbor has never been tagged or towed, although its been there since before September. I am not reporting my neighbors car, I understand their circumstances and empathize with them. A good example would be to first speak with your neighbor. One of my neighbors calls around when she notices unattended cars parked for lengthy periods of time. These are neighborly behaviors and watchful eyes to keep our streets safe. Tagging my car at 2pm and having it towed at 3pm while I slept in my home tells me one of our police is more interested in raising revenues and playing cat and mouse rather than doing serious public safety police work.

I don’t know if I will recover any of the $235 and in this economy any savings is a challenge. I am trying to repair my car because I cannot afford a new one, this is just another setback for a working class hero.

Guest contributor

Freelance writers with story pitches can email editors@berkeleyside.com.

Join the Conversation

17 Comments

  1. Interesting.

    I have a neighbor who owns 4 cars in various stages of disrepair and parks them all over his lawn, driveway, and in front of his house.

    He seems to move them at least once a week so they’re obviously operable. Can I still report them to the City to force him to get rid of them or find somewhere else to store them?

    To give an indication of the kind of neighbor he is, he also has three pit bulls, huge iron bars on all his windows (even though his house is falling apart), and enormous piles of dead wood in his driveway which he uses to heat his home without paying any attention to “Spare The Air” prohibitions on burning wood.

  2. How’s the car now? That’s the kind of thing why some people try their best to maintain their old cars. You don’t really need to buy a new as long as your old car is in good condition. Keeping it maintained every now and then will ensure its safety.

  3. btw, the car still parks there…and is still not repaired. If the author does not believe it is an eyesore, why not post a picture of it en situe?

    Also, since this is one of main throughways to homes from the base La Loma to Grizzly Peak, for those neighbors who are trying to sell their homes in this bad economy, seeing this damaged car in the neighborhood probably doesn’t make a good impression to potential buyers/new neighbors.

    I’m trying to empathize with this person, but they also need to try and empathize with their neighbors.

  4. I feel sorry for the writer. I also park my car in front of my house for over 72 hours without being towed/cited when it is summer (no school) (residential area). I think it’s just her neighbors being too picky. Near my area, there are many cars parking right in front of the sign “No parking ANY time”, but they never get towed even though they block traffic so badly (obstructing the view to pull into traffic). I don’t know why these cars do not get tickets.

  5. I know this street and the car in question. It is an eyesore.

    Secondly, while not applicable to the people parking on this street (the parking spaces are set back from the street), I am tired of cars being parked in non-legal spots in the hills and partially blocking street traffic as a result.

    This is DANGEROUS. I am tired of either being involved in near collisions or observing them. This is especially a problem further up this street where Glendale -> Campus -> Avenida doubles-back and forth as it rises to meet Grizzly Peak. There are many people selfish or ignorant enough to park just above or below the V-shaped turn. Cars coming around these corners (even at slow speeds) put themselves at risk to oncoming traffic from the other lanes since neither cars in either direction can see each other until the last minute.

  6. David – it wouldn’t have hurt to ask.

    I never thought a thing about keeping my car parked for days on end. It’s a 12 year old car, runs great, looks less than great. One of my neighbors asked, pointedly, if I EVER drive it. When I said – well, yes, every weekend, he realized he only noticed its junkiness when it was there – not when it wasn’t. And, I never realized he and the others thought it looked bad. I really didn’t. Now, I try to keep it semi-washed and not entirely filled with crap…all because my neighbor said something.

  7. Why, why, why couldn’t the neighbor say “hey pal, your car makes our street look junky. Could you please park it in the garage?”

    What good would that do? The owner already knows the neighbors don’t want it there, she insists on leaving it there. I see no indication in her blog posting that she would suddenly start complying with the law if only the neighbors asked her in person.

    I think it’s a typical false economy to “save” money by leaving a barely operable car on the street for months (is she paying insurance and registration too?) and incur $235 towing fees.

  8. Law, schmaw! The truth is that some cars get towed and many, many others do not. The law is generally only enforced when someone – a neighbor – complains.

    That’s the part that I just don’t get. Why, why, why couldn’t the neighbor say “hey pal, your car makes our street look junky. Could you please park it in the garage?” Or, “You take up the only parking spot on the street. Give us a chance to use the space too, please.” Or whatever! Instead, the neighbor anonymously keeps reporting the writer without making an effort to at least work it out.

    Me, I live in a home with a one-car garage. We have two cars (after being a one-car household for 15 years). The mister parks his car in the garage since he comes and goes frequently and our busy neighborhood means he couldn’t park near our home during the day. I keep my car parked right in front of the house pretty much all the time during the week while I take public transportation to work. I use the car only on the weekends – so, yes, it sits in one spot on the street for 72 hours or more quite frequently.

    I’ve never had a problem – and not because my neighbors don’t care. They are a persnickety bunch, too persnickety for my taste usually. Still, I do my best to keep my car clean, move it for street cleaning, and generally be a good neighbor. They do the same. You know why? Cuz we are a NEIGHBORHOOD, and that means putting up with each other and our foibles.

    Look, maybe the writer isn’t telling us something. Maybe there’s some other thing he/she is doing that isn’t cool. But from what I read – it just seems sad that the neighbors couldn’t just work it out.

  9. Josh, it’s even worse than it appears to be under the surface:

    Strictly speaking, you are *also* not permitted to store an abandoned or inoperable vehicle on private property. The crime only kicks in if the City tells you to remove and you don’t. So it’s not an automatic cite’; it’s a “fix it” situation. I imagine that other legal considerations limit when the City can order you to remove the vehicle. Strictly speaking, though, the stereotypical dead Volvo in the driveway or the shade-tree mechanic dead hot-rod in the yard: those can get you in trouble, too.

  10. Let’s not make it personal, please.

    I talk with my neighbors if there are issues and have never called the police on them. Well, at least not since the summer after my freshman year, 15 years ago, and those people deserved it.

    And I agree 100% that the authors neighbors should have talked to her before calling the police.

    Perhaps junker was too harsh a word. Haven’t seen it, don’t know.

    But, a note for the future, anytime you describe your car as “totaled” and “crippled” but “it still runs” someone might get the wrong idea.

    And if she has a garage, why doesn’t she park there?

    But, in the end, the law is the law and cars can only be parked on the street for 3 days at a time.

  11. Josh and Jen….I know of this car and it is not a “JUNKER” not even an eye sore.so before you make remarks get your facts straight. Maybe you are the ones creating problems for others. Nothing is wrong with communication and be adult enough to discuss your opposition if you have one. Also this turn out is used by many.

  12. I park my car (that I use daily)in front of my house because I do not have a garage but when I go away for vacation? What am I to do? This is a really crazy rule especially when most Berkeley homes do not provide driveways or useful garages. I feel for the poor person who has to deal
    w/a neighbor who obviously has nothing better to do than call the police and cause distress to
    honest folks just trying to live in this city. The neighbor should be ashamed of themselves.!!

  13. While I empathize with the hardship you are enduring, working class hero, I have to agree with Josh. The law is on the books to prevent people, many with stories much like yours, from leaving a damaged, potentially dangerous eyesore on the streets. Should all single parents working three jobs get a “pass,” and be allowed to just wipe off the signs that tell one a ticket is on the horizon? It sucks but rules are rules.
    I would further argue that this is not a case of an overzealous police officer trying to make quota, but rather a neighbor who is fed up with his/her complaints going unheeded both by you and the BPD, who has finally gotten loud enough that it is not possible for the BPD to continue to overlook the complaints. I agree that being more neighborly would have been a better option all around, but seriously, the writing was on your tires.

  14. Public street parking is for short term parking only. If you want to store a non-working car for seven months (only moving it several times) the street is not the best place.

    The law says that you have to move your car in 72 hours, and wiping off the white chalk mark does not substitute for moving it.

    Life’s hard, but parking a junker car on the street is not the answer.