TVHS re-allocates parking to accommodate students affected by parking restrictions at nearby park

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Temecula will soon restrict parking at a portion of Ronald Reagan Sports Park, which many Temecula Valley High School students use as an alternative to paying for school parking permits, to after 8 a.m. – effectively banning students from using it. Will Fritz photo

Temecula Valley High School administrators have identified additional on-campus parking to accommodate students who will no longer be allowed to park in a section of Ronald Reagan Sports Park before morning classes begin, school district officials said Monday in a joint statement with the city of Temecula.

In October, the city voted to restrict parking in the section of the park closest to TVHS – a section that is commonly used by students as an alternative to on-campus parking – to after 8 a.m. Morning classes at TVHS begin at 7:30 a.m.

“TVHS has re-allocated adequate parking spots to accommodate students who wish to park on the TVHS closed campus,” the district said in the statement Monday. “TVHS currently has 70 open student parking spaces on campus and can create additional spaces, based on demand.”

While as many as 84 cars have been noted at the sports park during school hours, school officials had initially said after the ordinance was passed that there were only 20 open student parking spaces on TVHS’ campus.

“…to be prepared should the need materialize, the site performed an audit and reviewed all permits, including staff spots for any duplicates, as well as moved some dedicated parking around,” Temecula Valley Unified School District spokeswoman Laura Boss said in an email Monday.

The new restrictions at the sports park will be fully enforced beginning Jan. 7, 2020, when students return from winter break. Unrestricted public parking at the sports park will still be available in an area about 700 feet away from the newly-restricted lot, but students who wish to park on campus beginning on that date will be allowed to purchase a student parking permit for a pro-rated cost of $27.50, according to the joint statement.

Permits are ordinarily $55, a price set by the high school’s Associated Student Body, which collects the funds and “allocates the funding towards costs associated with school priorities,” the statement said.

Boss told Valley News that no students had yet returned paperwork for on-campus parking.

“As of the break, the school only had 6 applications pulled and no paperwork submitted for the new spots,” she said.

Students who wish to purchase an on-campus parking space were urged to contact Canli Mertz in the school’s bookkeeping office to obtain a parking application form.

“We cannot mandate students to park on the TVHS campus,” the district and city’s joint statement said. “There will be students that choose to park off-campus for their reasons. While it is our preference for TVHS students to park on campus, if they choose not to, we want to encourage them to be good neighbors and not impact residential homes in the area.”

The Temecula City Council approved the new restrictions at the sports park as part of an ordinance it passed Oct. 22 that also banned overnight parking at city parks and facilities.

The council pulled the ordinance for discussion at its Nov. 12 meeting after Valley News reported on the new rules, and heard complaints from a handful of students and parents about the changes.

“Parking spots rented by the school are often too expensive and are very limited, so Ronald Reagan’s parking lot is the only alternative,” one TVHS student, Savannah Larimore, said at the meeting.

The stated reason for the parking restrictions at the sports park was safety — city staff told the council that incidents like fights and drug and alcohol use had significantly increased at the park over the last two years.

Staff chose to restrict parking in the section of the park closest to the high school is because of its visibility; it’s below grade of Margarita Road, blocking view for campus supervision from the school and for law enforcement. The parking areas that will remain unrestricted, located about 700 feet from the restricted area, do not have that problem, as they are closer to the elevation of nearby Rancho Vista Road.

Councilmembers ultimately decided to move forward with the restrictions; though they made clear that lots on the western side of the sports park near the Temecula Community Recreation Center, would still be open for public parking at 5 a.m., the ban on parking before 8 a.m. at the eastern side of the park was originally stated as being aimed at preventing TVHS students from parking off-campus. When the new restrictions were initially presented to the city council in October, Mike Wooten, senior management analyst for the city of Temecula, told councilmembers that the new rules were intended to “condition the students not to park at the sports park” before a new state law pushes high school start times back to 8 a.m. in 2022.

At the Nov. 12 meeting, councilmembers Zak Schwank and Matt Rahn both leveled criticism at the school district, which at the time had not yet identified additional on-campus parking spaces for students.

“The school district is just kind of passing the buck,” Rahn said at the time. “They know they have a parking situation, they know they have a problem. What other business in town do we let do this?”

In Monday’s joint statement, the city and district said they “appreciate the outreach from members of the community in response to concerns regarding newly approved parking restrictions to some areas of Reagan Park. The City and TVUSD support the planned restrictions to maintain our mutual safety goals for our residents and students.”

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.