Clayton ups parking ban to halt hordes of hikers

Clayton ups parking ban to halt hordes of hikers

Clayton ups parking ban to halt hordes of hikers
City workers were on site early Wednesday morning following a city council decision to restrict parking on Regency Dr. to residents only 24/7. The neighborhood was overrun with those seeking trail access after the state park closed nearby parking lots.

In an effort to keep large groups from accessing Mount Diablo State Park through Regency and Rialto drives, the Clayton City Council imposed a 24/7 ban on non-resident parking starting at 12 a.m. April 23.

A previously approved pilot program authorized resident-only parking through permits 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends and federal holidays. However, due to the shelter in place order, residents say droves of people from other cities are filling their streets to get to the trails. The 24/7 parking ban will be lifted along with any shelter in place rules.

Clayton Police Chief Elise Warren told the Pioneer that citations are “clearly upticking” in the neighborhood – from 24 for the first weekend of the shelter in place in March to 32 tickets this past weekend.

In an email comment to the council, Regency Drive resident Dan Walsh said he has been seeing a thousand people on his street on Saturdays.

“I have personally witnessed groups of up to 20-plus gather outside my house, violating every possible social distancing regulation,” he wrote.

“These hikers are nothing like the hiker issues we brought before the City Council last year. These hikers are way worse. The level of rudeness is something I’ve never witnessed here in the last 20 years,” he said, adding: “I personally witnessed a female hiker squat down in the street, defecating.”

Exercise allowed under county order

Although Mount Diablo State Park remains open, all parking lots are closed – including one at Mitchell Canyon Road. Warren said she has contacted the park superintendent “a couple times” about the problem.

“They are not willing to reopen the parking lot, so the local streets are heavily impacted and there are limited options on how we can help relieve that,” she said at the April 21 virtual meeting.

Police were issuing warnings to permit parking violators in the first days after the ban.

“This issue is very urgent. We’re really upset with the park for their lack of concern for residents,” Regency Drive resident Jeff Weiner told the council. “Many of us are in a high-risk group for COVID-19, and we don’t need all these hikers in our area. This is not a parking problem, but a health problem.”

Weiner said he has talked with hikers from Lafayette, San Jose and as far away as Sacramento. He and some neighbors argue that the hikers are violating the shelter in place order. However, Warren called it “a gray area.”

“Our county has not specified the number of miles you can travel for exercise, which is clearly permitted,” she said. “It just asks that you stay in your neighborhood.”

“If they’re coming from outside Clayton, they ought to be staying home,” noted Mayor Julie Pierce.

Adding additional barricade

At Pierce’s suggestion, the council also voted to put up temporary barricades at the end of Regency Drive to thwart parking there.

“That’s not handicap accessible, and it would not be blocking anybody’s pathway,” she said. “But I think it sends the message that there is no parking up there – at all – unless you live there.”

Some council members talked about expanding the program to adjoining streets, which could be adversely impacted due to the 24/7 parking ban. But city attorney Mala Subramanian cautioned against doing so without notifying residents in advance.

She also advised the council not to immediately change the fine from its current $45. Pierce told the Pioneer that city staff would look into fine levels from other cities that back up to Mount Diablo, and the council might consider an increase at a future meeting.

Councilman Jim Diaz repeatedly called for more towing of non-resident vehicles. Warren noted that they only have the authority to tow under certain circumstances, including non-payment for several violations. Other than two repeat offenders during last fall’s trial run, no vehicle has been cited twice.

In addition to the new signs added to the neighborhood on April 22, Warren is hoping to borrow an electronic message board to warn visitors.

The pilot parking program launched last September, with 33 residents obtaining permits. If the 12 residents who opted out end up getting a ticket under the new rules, Warren said they should contact the police department about getting it dismissed.

Related story: Clayton votes to restrict parking on Regency Drive