City gets an earful over MJC student parking

Much of the street parking surrounding Modesto Junior College is used by students at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., on Wednesday, October, 14, 2015. Morris Ave and College Avenue.
Much of the street parking surrounding Modesto Junior College is used by students at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., on Wednesday, October, 14, 2015. Morris Ave and College Avenue.

The city may have to find a big-picture solution to the decades-old problem of students at Modesto Junior College’s east campus parking their cars on nearby residential streets, leaving residents with no place to park. Some students block driveways and leave fast-food containers in gutters and yards.

The City Council’s Safety and Communities Committee on Monday heard from residents on Myrtle Avenue – which is about a block east of the college – about their request for Modesto to restrict parking on their street to residents and their guests by issuing residential parking permits. The ticket for parking without a permit is $38, according to the city.

But committee members also heard from residents who live on another street near the college who said allowing parking restrictions on Myrtle will make parking on their and other residential streets near the college worse. They asked the city to establish parking restrictions on all residential streets near the college.

“I think the city needs to deal with this in a comprehensive manner,” said an Olive Avenue resident. “… It’s a city problem. It should not be a block by block (effort).” The meeting drew close to a dozen residents.

Some speakers asked the committee to put the Myrtle Avenue residents’ request on hold until the city had addressed the problem comprehensively. But the committee could not prevent the Myrtle residents from bringing their request to the full City Council.

Modesto’s Municipal Code states that if at least two-thirds of the homeowners and residents in a residential area sign a petition, then the council shall hold a public hearing on their request to limit parking. The Myrtle Avenue residents exceeded the two-thirds threshold in their petition drive.

The residents are asking for residential permit parking on Myrtle from Stoddard to Coldwell avenues. The short stretch of Myrtle from Coldwell to Harvard Avenue is not part of the request.

Public Works Director Bill Sandhu said after the meeting that he expects the matter will come before the council in late November or early December. He encouraged residents on other streets to start their own petition drives, and the Myrtle Avenue residents said at the committee meeting they would help their neighbors gather signatures.

“This is not a selfish move on our part; this is a beginning move,” said Eleanor Chase, a Myrtle Avenue resident and advocate for permit parking on her street. “We are more than willing to help (the residents on the other streets). This is a problem that has been going on for well over 50 years. The city has basically turned a blind eye and says, ‘It’s JC’s problem,’ and JC turns around and says, ‘It’s the city’s problem,” and we have been stuck in the middle.”

Sandhu said staff can take a comprehensive look if directed by the City Council. He said such an effort will take time and could involve looking at whether student parking also is problem for residents near Modesto Junior College’s west campus. “The positive thing,” he said, “is this is starting a discussion with the residents.”

Monday’s discussion included whether Modesto Junior College has been a good neighbor and whether it provides its students with enough parking. But one audience member said the focus should be on the city because its streets are being overrun by students. An MJC spokeswoman has said students may park in the neighborhoods because it is closer to their classes than a student lot or they may not want to pay $30 for a semester parking pass.

Some audience members were upset the city charges $40 a year for a residential or guest parking permit, saying the city should not charge anything, though city officials said the fee covers the city’s costs.

A city report says Modesto has two residential parking permit zones, one along Yosemite Avenue near Modesto High School and another along the 1100 block of 11th Street. If the council grants the Myrtle Avenue request, the city would establish the days and times for the parking restrictions and post signs. Parking enforcement staff would make periodic checks of the area and respond to complaints, according to the city.