Park perpendicularly in cul de sacs? You’re risking a citation

Perpendicular parking is commonplace in cul de sacs and on some curves, but it violates state and local vehicle codes.

Some Turlock residents are learning that in a costly way, being hit with $43 tickets for not having both right wheels of their vehicles within 18 inches of the curb.

In a post on the Facebook page of Turlock Neighborhood Watch, Ferreira Ranch Drive resident Diana Pinto-Blankenship said she and neighbors who live on semicircular pockets along the street have parked nose-in or tail-in for decades, never knowing it was the wrong thing to do.

After being ticketed Wednesday morning, she wrote, “I did what the (Turlock Police Department) obviously couldn’t or wouldn’t do and drove through my neighborhood and knocked on doors warning my fellow Turlock cul de sac homeowners of this law they have decided they want to enforce now that we’ve parked like this for the last 20 years. Would be nice to see them patrolling when cars and residences are being robbed.”

The post drew hundreds of comments within the closed group. Some agreed with her that police should be spending their time on more important things, while others pointed out that it’s unlikely sworn officers were the ones handing out the citations.

Marie Gwin lives on a court in Turlock. She said most residents park in their garages, and no one parks perpendicularly. “I seem to remember nothing in my driver’s manual that ever said parking like this was okay,” she commented. “Unfortunately, just because you’ve done it for 20 years and got away with it, that does not make it a legal way to park. ... If I see one parked wrong, because of this post, I will be sure to go over and let them know that Turlock is ticketing.”

That was the point of her post, Pinto-Blankenship said: to get residents who know the law to help educate their neighbors.

Police Department spokesman Sgt. Russell Holeman said there’s no special enforcement going on for this particular type of parking violation, and anyone who’s parked perpendicularly for decades is simply lucky to have avoided a citation.

“As a 20-year employee, I have personally given this type of parking ticket numerous times,” he told The Bee on Thursday. “There were about 19 parking citations issued yesterday throughout the city for various types of parking violations. Most of them were issued by our traffic officers and cadet assigned to the traffic unit whose job is to enforce laws pertaining to traffic, parking, and quality-of-life issues within Turlock.”

The cadet assignment to the traffic unit is new, Holeman said, and the cadet’s patrolling and extra set of eyes on the streets hopefully will deter crimes.

The sergeant said he’s observed that many, but not most, people park incorrectly in courts. He resides on one, “and no one parks like that in my neighborhood. Maybe it’s because they know what I do! That would infer they know the law, even without me having to tell them.”

The Turlock Municipal Code chapter requiring the right-side wheels to be within 18 inches of the curb when a vehicle is stopped or parked on a roadway was enacted more than a quarter-century ago, Holeman said, and it’s been part of the California Vehicle Code since 1959.

There’s a real safety issue, he said. “When people park nose-in on cul de sacs, it takes up space at the end of the court, making it difficult for vehicles — particularly large vehicles like firetrucks, ambulances and garbage trucks — to get into and out of the area.

“The city of Turlock is almost 17 square miles with numerous cul de sacs throughout. When time permits, TPD employees (sworn/community service officers/cadets/volunteers) are encouraged to patrol the neighborhood streets and take enforcement as they see necessary.”

In Modesto, residents of courts who park perpendicularly said it’s a matter of fitting in more vehicles where curbside space is a premium. Barbara Schiller has lived on Regent Court for eight years, and while she’s noticed that firetrucks have made three-point turns to get out, no emergency personnel ever complained or told residents such parking is illegal.

Felisha Barkley has lived on Dartmouth Court less than five months. As a newcomer, she parked parallel until neighbors quickly asked her to park nose-first so they could fit more of their vehicles in front of their home. It never occurred to her that doing so is a vehicle code violation, she said.

Unlike Turlockers, Modesto residents parking perpendicularly in cul de sacs don’t have to worry about being cited — at least for now. Police Department spokesman Sgt. Kalani Souza said the city has on its books a $33 fine it levies when vehicles are cited on one-way streets for not having the wheels within 18 inches of the curb. But for nose-in parking in courts, “as of this writing, we do not have a fine amount for that specific code on our parking citations, so we currently do not charge it,” he told The Bee in an email Thursday.

When people do get tickets in that situation, they’re warnings, to educate the public. “Because Turlock PD is correct in the issues this creates,” Souza said. “We have seen many times where larger vehicles, specifically fire apparatus and ambulances, have to carefully maneuver out of a court or cul de sac because of the nose-in parking. This could create issues with potential response times, parking locations for the rescue personnel, etc.”

Modesto Fire Department Battalion Chief Darin Jesberg agreed. Having worked on a fire engine in the past, he said, he knows that in a narrow cul de sac, the drivers can’t effectively turn when vehicles are parked perpendicularly. In those cases, they have to back out, which is less safe.

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.