Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Yes, Virginia, 'tis the season to celebrate with parades and glitter throughout cities and small towns in America. And with it comes the downside of no parking signs suddenly springing up like weeds and residential traffic blockaded from the parade routes.
North Park, one of the oldest communities within the City of San Diego, is no different than any other small town although it's quirkier than many. Its annual North Park Toyland Parade is an attraction luring visitors from far and wide since 1936.
Hours before and during this year's parade on Dec. 5 police towed 31 vehicles for disregarding the signs posted three days earlier, an unofficial record for the event.
North Park resident Heather Detering was especially irate. She paid $350 to get her minivan back. She claimed she paid $300 for the vehicle. Her defense: She didn't see the signs. She claimed she saw 'em last year and obliged.
Not all the cops were Scrooges, says Mónica Muñoz, SDPD spokesperson. Four holiday-spirited officers went beyond the call of duty, knocked on doors and found 15 residents who moved their cars off the neighborhood streets.
The towed-away gang called an emergency town meeting Monday night with a representative of the city councilman representing North Park and an assistant police chief. Ron Lanthier, the ringleader, wanted his money back after paying a $500 fine to retrieve his vehicle. His defense: No no-parking signs were posted.
Elizabeth Studebaker, executive director of North Park Main Street, the parade promoters, was dumbstruck. She told reporters for The San Diego Union-Tribune everything was done by the book. As custom, she hired volunteers from the Urban Corps to post the signs 72 hours in advance. She said police confirmed the signs were properly posted 24 hours before the parade.
“My heart goes out to them," she said. "I feel so horrible. I don’t know what else could have been done.” Uh, Elizabeth, maybe next year you might consider handing out seeing eye glasses.
Historically, North Park residents and business owners march to their own drummers. In the 1960s, North Park businessman Alan Hitch was elected to the city council on the pledge he would remove all the parking meters from the business district.
He kept his pledge and remained in office for 12 years.