TVHS students will no longer be able to park at Reagan Sports Park, but school parking may not cut it

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New city regulations will prohibit parking at Ronald Reagan Sports Park before 8 a.m., preventing Temecula Valley High School students from parking there before class starts at 7:30 a.m. However, it appears there isn’t enough parking on campus to accommodate the students who are soon to be displaced from the park. Will Fritz photo

Effective this month, new Temecula city parking rules will prohibit parking before 8 a.m. on weekdays at Ronald Reagan Sports Park across the street from Temecula Valley High School – a move seemingly directed at high school students who utilize the sports park’s lot as an alternative to on-campus parking.

It’s a decision the city says it came to “after consulting with our partners in the community,” including the Temecula Valley Unified School District. The city council approved the rule changes – which are being implemented along with a plan to prohibit overnight parking at city facilities and parks – at its Oct. 22 meeting.

There’s at least one problem with that plan, though.

Temecula Valley High School does not appear to currently have enough parking to accommodate student drivers who are soon to be displaced from the sports park.

As of Oct. 30, TVHS – which had a student population of a little more than 2,900 last year – had 20 open parking spaces out of 585 student parking stalls, Temecula Valley Unified spokeswoman Laura Boss said.

In the Nov. 4 issue of the Golden Bear Gazette, students were told the open stalls on campus “may accommodate nearly all the number of student vehicles parked at the sports park.”

But that’s likely not true, according to students who park at the sports park every day.

Abdul Bazjmaow, 17, said he sees “50 to 70” cars in the sports park on a normal day. He called the rule change “completely ridiculous.”

“We would have nowhere to park, and we can’t park in that neighborhood because there’s no parking,” he said.

Rianne Tichota, 17, who drives to school with her 14-year-old brother Randy, had the same concern.

“It’s really annoying, because I don’t know where I’m supposed to park now,” she said. “There’s a lot of traffic in (the student parking lots) and like 50 people park here.”

At 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 31, just as first period was beginning for TVHS students, there were exactly 70 cars parked at the sports park. It’s impossible to say how many of those belong to students who use the sports park on a regular basis. But if that’s true for even half of those vehicles, TVHS will find itself rapidly running out of student parking spaces once the new parking restrictions go into effect on Nov. 21, 30 days after the city council’s vote.

And while there may be open spots in Temecula Valley’s junior lot, one senior who parks at the sports park every day said he was turned away when he tried to purchase his senior parking space earlier in the school year.

“When I went to buy my senior spot, they said it sold out,” Spencer Purcell, 17, said. “So I had to park here.”

TVHS administrators do not appear to have a definite plan for where student drivers will park if they run out of on-campus student parking once the restrictions go into effect at the sports park.

In the Golden Bear Gazette, students were told: “If there is a need that merits it, we will also explore other options for student parking on campus.”

Boss said in a statement that TVHS will “review options to maximize parking availability on campus.”

She deferred questions on specifics to TVHS Principal Allen Williams, who did not return repeated requests for an interview.

“Logistically, all TVUSD high school campuses face challenges of available parking spaces to accommodate all student drivers, staff, and visitors,” Boss said in her statement. “We will plan to communicate information with our student body prior to the initial parking restriction effect date of November 21, 2019.”

Boss also said the city had advised district officials they plan to implement enforcement in a “phase-in” process, with full enforcement of the new parking restrictions in place after students return from winter break on Jan. 7, 2020.

Parking is prohibited in the neighborhood directly across Rancho Vista Road from TVHS between 7 and 9 a.m. on weekdays. However, parking is allowed on Margarita Road north of the high school, which some students already take advantage of. There are also no current parking restrictions in the Starlight Ridge neighborhood to the northwest of the school, and the parking lots on the far west side of the sports park near the Temecula Community Recreational Center will remain open for use in the morning.

Kevin Hawkins, director of community services for the city of Temecula, denied that the “sole purpose” of restricting parking at Reagan Sports Park before 8 a.m. was to target TVHS students. He did, however, say the changes were made at least in part to address “growing concerns” that TVHS administrators and the school resource officer were unable to address.

“There would be some fights, there could be drinking – those activities that would occur just from loitering,” Hawkins said. “It’s not all students, so there are those who took advantage of that and created some incidents and challenges for park rangers and for staff and for the general public.”

TVHS is not the only high school in Temecula where students have historically utilized an adjacent city park to fill in for limited on-campus student parking. It is, however, the only school that is being singled out by the city.

Students at Great Oak High School frequently park at neighboring Patricia H. Birdsall Sports Park. But when the city banned overnight parking at all city parks, they only banned parking at Birdsall until 5 a.m., so Great Oak students will still be able to use that lot.

Asked why no restrictions were being put in place at Birdsall Sports Park similar to those being implemented at Reagan Sports Park, Hawkins said the concerns about TVHS students parking off-campus “to my knowledge had not been experienced to that magnitude over at Great Oak.”

One aspect that may contribute to the problems Hawkins described at Reagan results from the area’s topography – Margarita Road slopes uphill from the park entrance, making it impossible for TVHS administrators and campus supervision to see into the park. That issue does not exist at Great Oak.

Hawkins said while allowing parking at Reagan Sports Park has been “a convenience” that has been extended to TVHS students, “city parking lots are meant to support primarily city facilities and activities.”

He did say the city doesn’t plan to immediately begin citing vehicles in the sports park on day one of the new restrictions.

“We’re not gonna sweep in there with ticket books,” he said.

He characterized the parking restrictions as a “tool” to stop fights and illegal activities from happening at Reagan Sports Park.

“We’re gonna continue to monitor and gauge and see what works best and not try to make it punitive,” Hawkins said.

At any rate, the changes may only affect students for a few years – effective in time for the 2022-23 school year, high schools won’t be able to start morning classes any earlier than 8:30 a.m., per new legislation signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month.

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