Complaints rise as students park in neighborhoods

Staff Graphic/Bear Witness

Staff Graphic/Bear Witness

Uzor Awuzie, Student Life Editor

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Senior Kirstin Demarquez is one of the many students who uses Portobello Drive across from Branham as an alternative to its cramped parking lot.

As an SVCTE student, parking at Branham is difficult, as the parking lot is most often full by the time she returns from her animation class late in the morning. One day, she returned to her car to find threatening messages on not just her vehicle, but many others along the street.

The notes, suspected to be written by a Portobello resident, claimed high school students “are not to park on this street,” and those continuing to park there will have their cars towed.

However, California law allows drivers to park on any public street as long as it isn’t for more than 72 hours, meaning that any Branham student can park on Portobello as long as they don’t exceed the time limit. When Demarquez retaliated with a note of her own, defending her parking space, the notes on her car stopped, but continued for other cars on the block.

The ongoing conflict with Branham students and nearby residents is the latest example of Branham’s ongoing parking dilemma, where students who cannot find room on campus and risk angering neighbors.

“They’re just trying to scare high schoolers and are being really passive (aggressive) about it,” Demarquez.

Even before construction began two years ago, parking has been a concern. A decrease of at least 50 parking spots due to construction and a ballooning population has limited the number of available parking spots, forcing students to find other options.

To accommodate the construction, one lane was temporarily removed one row of cars from the parking lot, creating a traffic flow bottleneck.

This led to the elimination of one row of parking spots for teacher parking, which then hampered the number of spots for for students.

Add to this the visitor parking and the school handing out 250 parking passes – about 40 more than what’s available — and students with authorization are sometimes out of luck.

The one word principal Cheryl Lawton used to describe the parking situation was “tight.”

“We honestly do not have enough space for everybody to park,” says Lawton. “And that has been a concern since we first started talking about modernizing the school and construction, even before the bond measure went out.”

The most promising solution to the situation would be the completion of the school’s construction, but it isn’t expected to be done until the summer 2020.

As Branham’s population continues to rise, growing to nearly 1,800 from just 1,500 students three years ago, parking will only be more sparse for students and staff.

Once construction is done, Branham is expected to have its visitor parking back, and an extra 50 parking spaces where construction workers usually park behind the bleachers of the football field.

“We just have to get through the next couple years, unfortunately, until all of this is done,” Lawton said. “I’m hoping by summer of 2020 that everything will be done. We’ve got our fingers crossed.”