By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Spiderwebs in wheel wells and weeds growing around the tires were dead giveaways.
The red Honda Accord had been parked on a Petaluma street for well past the three-day legal limit. It had expired registration tags, and storm water was backing up behind the tires when Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons arrived.
“It’s been sitting there for, like, ever,” said Chelsea Falcone, a neighbor who came out as Lyons ticketed the car. “It hasn’t moved in at least a couple months.”
Lyons stuck bright yellow and orange notices on the car’s windows.
The Honda is one of hundreds of vehicles throughout the city that have been abandoned or otherwise left on the street longer than the law allows. On Wednesday, Petaluma police fanned out in an effort to scour every city street to find them and either warn owners or tow violators.
“We continue to get a lot of complaints. We’re trying to keep on top of it,” Lyons said.
Residents unhappy with unlicensed, unregistered, stolen, abandoned or inoperable vehicles sitting dormant on their streets — or RVs, trailers or boats simply being stored in shared spaces — are increasingly urging police to step up enforcement. Last month, police received 105 calls about abandoned vehicles on city streets, Lyons said, bringing this year’s total so far to 1,140 complaints.
The department conducts such sweeps twice a year. In July, 263 vehicles were tagged with courtesy notices alerting owners that the vehicles would be towed if not moved within three days.
On Wednesday, officers had no trouble finding violations throughout town. By afternoon, 123 courtesy notices had been issued. Another 84 vehicles were ticketed for violations including expired tags, blocking a sidewalk or not displaying proper licensing. Four more vehicles with long-expired registration tags were towed.
In three days, community service officers and parking enforcement officers will return to check on all citations and warnings and will begin towing vehicles that remain.
Another car Lyons encountered was parked in a cul-de-sac under a cloth car cover, cobwebs spreading beneath it. Bruce Barkdoll said the car belongs to his brother, who usually drives a company vehicle.
“Oh, I’ll be sure to tell him,” he told Lyons after being alerted to the three-day street-parking limit.
“The leaves back up and the storm water can’t drain,” Lyons pointed out. “The street sweepers have to get through.”
“I can totally appreciate that,” Barkdoll said, moving a neighbor’s tether-ball stand that was also blocking leaves and water.
In 2003, the city looked at banning motor homes, RVs and boats from being parked on city streets after complaints of growing neighborhood clutter. The City Council backed off in the face of heated opposition from RV owners, and instead tightened enforcement and increased fines.
Police note that residents with inoperable vehicles can donate them to nonprofit groups such as the Polly Klaas Foundation. Police will also tow inoperable vehicles at no expense. Call 778-4496 for more information.
You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.