For a while now, a car left in a posted one-hour parking spot in downtown Bakersfield was safe for an extra 15 minutes after time expired, or even longer. Sometimes a lot longer.
Two parking enforcement technicians, hired July 9 to patrol the downtown area, have issued a total of 310 citations the past three weeks, according to Bakersfield police spokesman Sgt. Brian Holcombe.
A third technician will be soon be hired to patrol areas around Bakersfield College and the Auto Mall.
Holcombe said there was parking enforcement in past months, but it was mostly educational, with a lot of people given a pass instead of being issued a citation. The move for increased enforcement was prompted by complaints from business owners and the general lack of parking in certain areas of the city, among other concerns.
Those not used to seeing their tires marked — a yellow chalk slash is the telltale sign to move before being ticketed — aren't pleased with the change.
Tattoo artist Tommy Jeffries, who works downtown, noticed an uptick in enforcement a couple weeks ago.
"It's just back to back (tickets) every day," he said Monday.
Jeffries, 26, hasn't received one, but three people he works with have been issued a combined five tickets during that period. He said the technicians have been rude and insensitive to the fact that people downtown need places to park during their shifts.
One of the technicians, Elizabeth Letran, said when she was hired she was told parking enforcement had been lax — and that needed to end.
Since starting the job, she's come across people downtown who told her they weren't accustomed to getting tickets for parking violations, and that previously they only received warnings.
"I have a lot of people come out and tell me, 'I've been parking here so many years.'"
She said she advises people who have been marked to drive around the block and possibly return to the same parking spot. The important thing, she said, is that they move their car after time expires and give someone else an opportunity to use the spot.
Letran said she was told to focus on areas in the vicinities of City Hall and Adventist Health Bakersfield (formerly San Joaquin Community Hospital).
She was also told to promote the city-owned parking structure at 18th and Eye streets, where the first two hours are free then it's $1 each additional hour. Monthly parking costs $30.
To sign up, people should call the city's finance department at 326-3787.