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Policing parking

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 8:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 8:47 a.m.

Petaluma Police Department may soon start ticketing parking violators who exceed the two-hour parking limit at the River Plaza Shopping Center, formerly know as Golden Eagle, located on East Washington Street.

Adjacent to the Balshaw Bridge and within walking distance of the downtown area, many people use the parking lot during events or for downtown stopovers. But according to Basin Street Properties, which owns and manages the center, people are often occupying parking spaces for longer than the allotted two-hour increment, making it difficult for business patrons to find parking at the shopping center.

“They're getting a lot of residents from 35 E. Washington St. (Eden Housing's Downtown River Apartments) parking there for extended periods of time and they haven't had any success curbing that activity,” said Petaluma Police Chief Patrick Williams at Monday's City Council meeting.

Currently, under Petaluma's municipal code, the police department can enforce state vehicle codes and ticket violators at several public parking lots throughout the city, including The Plaza North Shopping Center on North McDowell Boulevard, the Sonoma-Marin Park & Ride facility on East Washington Street and Fairgrounds Drive, and the River Plaza center itself. In a couple instances, the department also enforces non-governmental parking rules established by the owner of the lot. For instance, it enforces two hour parking limits at the lot in front of High Tech Burrito on B Street and Petaluma Boulevard South, which is what Basin Street is now seeking at the River Plaza parking lot.

In a city ordinance proposed by the police department and to be voted on by the City Council, the police are suggesting taking over parking enforcement at the parking lot from Basin Street Properties Management. Williams said that all signage and public warnings would come at the expense of Basin Street, and pointed out that the city could bring in revenue from the proposed $48 citation police officers would be giving those who violate the two-hour limit.

The proposal at Monday's City Council meeting was tabled before a vote could be taken because of an error in the proposed ordinance language.

While Mayor David Glass seemed in favor of the ordinance, he said he hopes the police department will not begin towing cars that exceed the two-hour parking limit. “I would hope that we would enforce this in the form of tickets, and not having people's cars towed,” he said.

Glass added that he hoped Basin Street Properties would offer to reimburse the city for any legal costs incurred in drafting the proposal — an idea that Councilmember Teresa Barrett seconded. Currently, the city does not have cost-recovery methods to ensure that private companies or citizens requesting municipal code changes like these reimburse the city for staff and attorney fees. City Manager John Brown said that staff time spent on the issue was minimal.

City staff will rework the proposal so that it meets all legal requirements and expects to present a newly drafted ordinance to the City Council within the next few months.

(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at janelle.wetzstein@arguscourier.com)

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