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Alameda City Council Approves an Aggressive Clunker Removal Program

By Erica Madison

“Over the past seven months the public has complained about our streets becoming board walks, said City Manager Ann Marie Gallant.

Gallant was referring to a new plan to improve parking on residential streets, so the streets won’t become boardwalks for recreational vehicles.

“We have a difficult time with boats unattached to trailers,” Said Gallant.

To rectify the problem, the City Manager has worked in conjunction with the Alameda Police Department in reviewing and updating existing municipal codes.

“We’re only looking at people who leave junker vehicles on the streets”, said the Alameda traffic commander.

Four sections in the municipal code have been changed.

Currently Municipal Code Section 8 – 8 says that unattended or abandoned vehicles parked on city streets must be moved at least a tenth of a mile every 72 hours.

According to the Alameda Traffic Commander, Lt. Sean Lynch, people move the car a tenth of a mile, then move it back. Although they are technically following the law, these people are considered chronic abusers.

The new code will mandate that cars must be moved one mile every 72 hours. Lynch said that they hope this will reduce the number of clunkers that sit on residential streets.

Municipal Code Section 8 – 9 allows for large commercial vehicles to park on the street as long as they are “garaged.” The police department is getting rid of this exemption, because “People get liberal with what the law means.”

The term “garaged” simply means something opaque covering all four sides of the vehicle. This vague term has allowed people to use plastic covers to garage their commercial vehicles.

Under the new code, commercial vehicles are allowed to park on residential streets only for three hours.

Other chronic parking abusers include RV owners. Municipal Code Section 8 – 10 will no longer allow overnight RV parking.

According to the traffic commander, overnight RV parking is a problem, because people like to rent their RV’s out to families, which means the RV is parked for more than overnight.

As it stands RVs and boat trailers are allowed to park on residential streets. Municipal Code Section 8 – 11, was added to prohibit any RV or boat trailer parking on residential streets.

Violators who break these new municipal codes will either be cited or towed.

Although every City Council member was excited about the new plan to get rid of chronic parking abuser, Vice Mayor deHaan doesn’t believe this new plan will work.

“Towing is not going to make people do what they should be doing,” said Vice Mayor deHaan.

Councilmember Gilmore also had reservations about the new plan.

“What about people who go on vacation and have to park their car on the streets?” asked Councilmember Gilmore.

Lynch assured her that the police officers know the difference between a chronic abuser and a harmless residential parking.

“Only chronic abusers will be towed. Most people know to notify their neighbors when they go on vacation”, he said.

According to the Traffic Commander in 2008, 3200 vehicles were reported as abandoned. However of the 3200 reports only 362 vehicles were towed. This is because the police officers know that some of these reports come from neighbor disputes.

“Are you saying people can just leave a note on their car saying they’re on vacation?”, said Councilmember Tam.

Unfortunately, no. Whether people are on vacation or not, their car will still get cited if it isn’t moved.

“We’re pretty reasonable. We don’t have a placard for this type of situation. Most of the time people will call the station to let us know they going on vacation. We generally advise them to tell their neighbors or have someone they know, move their car,” said Lynch.

“When this goes into effect, we need to be aggressive in getting old clunkers off the street”, said Mayor Beverly Johnson.

All of the new codes were unanimously approved.

Major Johnson suggested that a two week period of notices should be published in a newspaper as well as on the City of Alameda’s website. Afterwards, a two week period of warnings will go out before the codes are put into effect.

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