Police start enforcing timed parking limits in downtown Winters

The Winters Police Department kicked off its scheduled enforcement of downtown parking time limits on Wednesday.
Community Services Officer Roberto Cuevas with the Winters Police Department issues a warning citation to a motorist in front of a downtown business on May 1, 2019. Photo courtesy John Miller/Winters Police Department
Community Services Officer Roberto Cuevas with the Winters Police Department issues a warning citation to a motorist in front of a downtown business on May 1, 2019. Photo courtesy John Miller/Winters Police Department

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For months, city officials have warned there would be a period in which drivers would be notified about exceeding time limits before actual monetary fines were imposed. After several weeks of warnings, the police department expects to start writing tickets in which most parking violations would come with a $30 fine. To enforce the time limits, city officials said the police department would use a method known as “chalking” in which a small mark is placed on the tire of a vehicle. The practice recently drew national attention after a federal appellate court ruled the action to be in violation of a driver’s Fourth Amendment right, but the court’s opinion does not extend to law enforcement agencies in California. Last week, Winters Police Chief John Miller said the agency will keep an eye on legal trends involving parking enforcement but still intended to use the chalking method as currently allowed by law. That method was seen as a better alternative to other solutions, including the use of parking meters or the acquisition of controversial automated license plate readers. That enforcement began as promised on Wednesday, Miller said. He and Community Services Officer Roberto Cuevas offered some leniency to motorists last week, allowing them to stay parked in spots about a half-hour longer than the posted time limits allowed. Ten citations were issued, most of them for time limit violations, Miller said. One driver received a citation for parking too far away from the curb and another received a ticket for blocking a driveway. Those citations were warnings issued with no monetary penalty. Miller said employees of downtown businesses, customers and other visitors are encouraged to park at the community center parking lot or the lot next to Steady Eddy’s coffee shop on Main Street if they intend to stay longer than two hours. Those lots do not currently have parking time limitations. It was not immediately clear how long warnings would be issued to drivers before the police department starts handing out fines; city officials had previously said the warning campaign would last for an indefinite length of time. The warnings are intended to help drivers understand the new parking rules that were passed by city officials last year following the release of the Downtown Parking Master Plan. “Here in town, kind of wading into the pool is the best way to do it,” City Manager John Donlevy said in March. The biggest piece of the downtown parking plan involved approving timed parking limitations in front of many area businesses. Most spots come with a two-hour time limitation, though some key parking spots in front of businesses like Eagle Drug have 30-minute time limits. Signs warning motorists of the time limits were installed earlier this year. Fines were eventually approved that city officials said gave them the ability to enforce those timed spots. The citation comes with a $30 fine for most offenses (removing a tire chalk mark will cost a driver $60; illegally parking in a handicapped spot costs considerably more), but city leaders have repeatedly stressed the fines are not intended to be a revenue generator. From each $30 fine, $11 is sent either to Yolo County or the Superior Court of California, according to a memo reviewed by the Express, and the flat fine for most offenses is less than what is charged in other cities in Yolo County for similar offenses, according to data released by the city last year. The timed limitations have drawn mixed reviews from residents and business leaders who have offered public comments at council and planning commission meetings since last year, with most saying the timed limits have been a benefit. At one meeting, a resident complained that the new limits created a headache for him when people started parking at his home for long periods of time. Though some signs warn of residential parking in Winters, the city currently has no mechanism for enforcing those spots. On Wednesday, Miller said he received just one complaint from an unidentified business owner that day who felt the police department wasn’t being strict enough about parking enforcement.]]>

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