Most days, Olga Valenzuela can’t find a place to park her car on her own street.
She’s owned her home south of University Avenue near Bakersfield College for 15 years, but has never seen as many students parking in her neighborhood as she has this year, she said.
“Me and my husband, we don’t know what to do anymore,” Valenzuela said, lamenting over broken pop-up sprinklers reckless students have busted when opening car doors, others who traipse over her lawn, riling up her two little dogs, and the increase in traffic in the neighborhood.
Her daughter, Sabrina Medina, says there’s so many cars parked along the street that it’s turned the two-way stop on Occidental Street and Duke Drive into a blind corner.
“It’s like playing Russian Roulette,” Medina said.
So Valenzuela is doing the only thing she can think to put a stop to it all: petitioning the city to create a parking district in her neighborhood.
To qualify, she must secure signatures from 80 percent of the homeowners on her block, according to Christopher Gerry, an administrative analyst in the Bakersfield city manager’s office.
“The onus is really on the neighbors to gather the signatures,” Gerry said.
The designation means only homeowners can park in the area between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. They receive a sticker to place in their window.
The situation has worsened since last spring when the city expanded an existing permitted parking only zone in residential areas near Panorama Drive and Haley Street, Valenzuela said. But that hasn’t seemed to spur students to purchase $45 per semester parking passes, even though there’s ample parking in the district’s lot on campus south of the baseball diamonds.
Instead, they’re just parking in other neighborhoods that don’t have restricted parking.
“I don’t want to buy the pass,” said BC student Gamaliel Guzman, who parks his car across the street in Valenzuela’s neighborhood most days.
Guzman can do a lot with $45, like pay bills, buy school books, supplies and food, he said. And on a McDonald’s salary, he’s scrimping where he can.
But others, like Marco Avila, who parks his silver Saturn decked out with suicide doors in the campus lot, says that $45 is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that your car is in a secure lot.
And it keeps homeowners like Valenzuela happy. She’s had issues with college students moving her trash cans so they can park. When that happens, refuse workers won’t pick up the garbage, Valenzuela said. Other times, students block her driveway and litter her yard with trash.
She’s begun posting up signs on her lawn ordering passersby to “keep off the lawn.”
But even as she was griping about the lack of respect among college kids Wednesday, a student wearing a backwards ball cap, a pair of headphones and talking on his iPhone went bopping along across her yard.
Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce