High school parking spreads to Gardner Street
Lack of student parking at South Tahoe High School has nearby residents demanding something be done to keep young drivers out of their neighborhoods during school hours.
Residents on Gardner Street are frustrated with what they say is a cause for community concern. On any given weekday 50 to 75 cars are parked along the road, in front of residences and often times in private driveways.
“They park there because they can sit and smoke, party and get away with it,” said Eric Guth, a resident on Gardner Street. “I think that if the school can’t give them a place to park, they shouldn’t be allowed to drive.”
The students who park on Gardner Street say they can’t get parking permits because there aren’t enough to go around. And they’re right.
South Tahoe High School this year has sold 224 student parking permits for its 209 student parking spaces. School Assistant Principal Jack Stafford said the oversell was intentional and accounts for absences. But based on the number of cars lined along streets surrounding the school, many more are needed.
According to Stafford, new construction of Mount Tallac Continuation School facilities on the campus has taken up 42 spaces of what was considered overflow parking and used to accommodate most student drivers.
Plans for the facility were submitted to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency with a request for facility parking as well as requests for additional general parking near the stadium to make up for what was lost to the new facility. According to TRPA’s associate planner Jeanne McNamara, the facility parking lot was approved, but parking at the stadium was not.
“Fifteen more spaces were requested by the stadium where people are parking in the dirt now. We didn’t grant those 15 because the area of dirt is slated to be revegetated and put back to its natural condition,” McNamara said. Additionally, the continuation school facility was approved based on a parking analysis provided by the school district in 1993, which stated no additional parking space was needed, McNamara said.
According to Lyn Barnett, TRPA’s acting chief of project review division, expansion of parking facilities is a possibility, but the school district would need to bring the issue to the agency’s attention in the form of a proposal complete with a new parking analysis.
“Before blanket approval for new parking we’d need to evaluate the need,” Barnett said, adding that he had only recently become aware that parking was a problem at the high school.
South Tahoe High School has been fielding calls from unhappy neighbors since the beginning of the school year. And it’s not just the neighbors who are unhappy with lack of available parking.
“Just because (continuation school) kids can’t get their (behinds) to school doesn’t mean I should get my parking taken away,” said South Tahoe High senior Damon Houle, who says it’s not fair that the facility for students who don’t attend regular classes at the high school should interfere with his ability to park.
Houle wasn’t offered a parking permit because he didn’t fall into the 3.0 or higher grade point average, a requirement for parking at the high school. On Monday, Houle and a friend were parked in the driveway of a vacant vacation rental. Houle said he was aware that the property was private and would move the vehicle if the owner of the property requested. “Then I’ll be out in the street,” he said.
The street is the last place nearby neighbors want high school students. On Monday, the lunchtime bell signaled the start of what has become a daily occurrence on Gardener Street. By 11:15 a.m., dozens of students were filing out into the street, starting their vehicles, backing into private driveways, blocking through traffic and speeding. According to residents, it’s a scene that’s played out three times a day, before school, during lunch, and after school.
One neighbor said she won’t let her children play in the front yard during school hours. “It’s too dangerous,” she said.
Others cited problems with noise, garbage, threats of fire from students smoking cigarettes and land erosion due to the tire marks left when students “peel out” as they drive away.
“They don’t let them park at Raley’s, and they can’t park at the casinos, but they let them loiter around our neighborhoods? I don’t understand,” Guth said.
While everyone agrees parking is sorely lacking at the high school, there’s little agreement on who should take responsibility.
“The problem is, whose jurisdiction is it?” said City Councilman Bill Crawford. “The school district has a responsibility of preventing students from encroaching into the neighborhoods. That’s why we run the big yellow buses to school. But there’s no obligation on the part of the school district to provide parking.”
And, the city has no obligation to provide parking, Crawford said.
“We should never be in the business, in my point of view, of accommodating student drivers,” Crawford said.
Stafford agreed there is no responsibility on the district’s part to provide parking but said school officials are doing what they can to come up with solutions. He said considerations have included removing trees to expand existing parking and taking out a basketball court to create new parking. Stafford has inquired about student parking at Hope Lutheran Church in exchange for snow removal services. So far he’s gotten no response.
The school has looked into the idea of encouraging student car pooling, but a new California law forbids young drivers to transport others for the first six months of licensing, Stafford said.
“We know there’s a problem,” he said.
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