Campus Plaza Parking Irritates Some Students

PAULINE GUIUAN
El Vaquero News Editor

The recent shortage of parking spaces on campus has led many students to find alternative parking spots off campus. Some with hour-long classes even opt to park at the campus plaza’s one-hour, customers-only parking lot across the street, only to come back and find that their cars have been towed.

Signs have been erected all around the lot which read “Private Property: Parking for College Plaza Customers Only.” In smaller print, these signs explain that customers cannot leave the area with their vehicle still on the lot. The signs warn that “violators will be cited and vehicles will be towed at owner’s expense.”

However, some students complain that even though they don’t leave the premises and purchase food from the stores in the plaza, their cars still get towed.

“I was at the Coffee Bean with my friends for a little over half an hour,” said child development major Johanna Silva. “I never left the place. When I went outside around 35 minutes later, my car had been towed.”

An irate Silva called the towing company, Erickson Towing Company, and went to its office to claim her vehicle. She was forced to miss a class and was charged $255 to get her car back.

“I even showed them my receipts to prove that I bought food,” Silva said. She went to the Glendale Police Department, who directed her to a small claims court; the case will be held on Tuesday.

Silva said she wants to be compensated for the expense and inconvenience that the towing company caused her, and said that there are others who had the same experience. She also complained that the person she spoke to at the towing company was “very rude” and, when she tried to explain that she had not left the college plaza, was told that he “hears this excuse all the time.”

Erickson Towing Company owner and president Erick Strata said that some students park in the plaza lot, leave, and cross the street to campus; when they come back and find that their cars have been towed, they claim that they never left the premises.

“There are cameras on the lot that monitor customers’ parking,” Strata said. “Once we saw this lady come and park for almost three hours and leave. The manager saw this and had her car towed. She came and said she was there the whole time.”

Carrie Kopp, General Manager of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, said that Erickson tows up to 14 cars a day. “Someone is assigned to monitor the lot,” Kopp said. “The signs say ‘Customers Only’ so if he [the parking lot monitor] sees you cross the street, even if you did buy a drink, [your car] still gets towed. The main thing is to stay on the premises.”

The parking lot monitor takes note of the license plate, make and color of every car in the lot, and records the time it came in. After about an hour, the monitor checks the stores and the stores’ employees to see whether or not the owner is on the premises.
“We do give them enough leeway,” said Strata. “Even if they stay two to four hours, as long as they are patronizing the businesses there, it’s all right. But what some people do is come, buy food and leave, and their cars are on the lot.”

Once the car is towed, Erick’son charges the owner $208 if the car is retrieved immediately. An additional $33 is charged for every day the car remains with the towing company. Owners can retrieve their vehicles from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday.

In Silva’s case, Kopp said that the monitor might have thought she had left the promises. “Can she prove that she didn’t leave at all?” said the manager. “If she can, then she should get her money back.”

Kopp added that there was some confusion when the plaza stores first opened because there was no specific signage yet. Now that there are signs everywhere, she and Strata both believe that customers no longer have an excuse to say that they were unaware of the area’s parking policy.

“The problem is that no one reads the signs,” said Kopp. “They’ve been up for at least a month.” She said that they do empathize with the students, who come in “yelling” and “annoyed” over having to pay a few hundred dollars to get their cars back.

“That’s why we’re trying to get the word out [about the parking policy],” Kopp said. “We’re trying to find a happy medium. The bulk of our customers are students, and we want to keep them happy, but we want to make sure that there’s parking for customers who aren’t students too.”

According to Strata, the store managers and employees have reported that some customers who are not students complain that there is not enough parking in the lot. He said that the property owners are upset because this keeps them from making more money.

For the store owners, the main thing is to keep all their customers happy, students or not.

“We’re still getting it so that it’s fair to everybody,” Kopp said. “We want to create an atmosphere where students can hang out and not worry [about parking], and we want our customers to be happy.”