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October 3, 2009

Downtown Walnut Creek salon patrons shocked! Nice parking enforcement officer tries to give motorist a break

Was in one of those Locust Street nail salons, getting a pedicure, a necessary ritual, these days, of feminine maintenance.

I parked in the garage next to the Lesher Center, having learned hard lessons in the past about parking on the street when I'm not sure how long I'll be in a certain business.

But another motorist didn't know better, or forgot to feed his meter enough coins. Anyway, one of those usually dreaded city parking enforcement officers popped in to the salon and asked if any of the customers, enjoying foot soaks in massage chairs, had an Acura SUV. The officer was wearing a smile and cocked his head in the direction of the offending vehicle parked right outside the salon window. Basically, he was letting us know that if any of us were the owner, he'd be happy to let us run outside and feed some more coins in the meter.

Alas, none of the four or five customers was the Acura owner. The officer backed out of the door and popped his head into the business across the way, to ask if the Acura owner was in there.

There was a stunned moment of silence, and then the woman in the massage chair next to me said: "That was nice of him."

"Yeah," said a gentleman on the other side of me, getting his manly no-polish pedicure. "You don't see that very often."

We all shook our heads some more at what felt like an amazing event in downtown Walnut Creek: a parking enforcement officer giving motorists a break. By the way, the officer pictured above is not, I don't believe, the officer who came into the salon today. Not to say that the guy pictured above isn't equally as friendly...

However, I think the officer we encountered today is the same one who, yes, gave me a ticket a while back, but in an apolegetic way. Yes, it was one of those situations where I just made it back to my car, a minute or two late. He said he had already begun writing up the ticket; if he hadn't, he said he would have let it slide.
The big questions facing us are: Was the officer acting on his own initiative--and will he get in big trouble, now that I've possibly outed him as being nice? Or has a message come from up in the parking department hierarchy that Walnut Creek needs to be a little less stringent in its parking policies?
As some of you know, I've had my own gripes in the past about the city's seemingly mercenary parking policies. And, of course, a city task force is currently studying the vexing issue of downtown parking.
Oh, and by the way, I don't know if the parking officer found the Acura owner or ended up having to issue the ticket. After recovering from my shock, I returned to reading People's article about the latest Jon Gosselin escapade.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

That nice Meter Guy has done the same thing for me while I was shopping at Walnut Creek Vacuum on Mt Diablo Blvd!

Anonymous said...

Didn't anyone there think to "commit a random act of kindness" and put a quarter into the expired parking meter?

Anonymous said...

Cmon Soccer Mom, your whining about that silly ticket is getting old. Deep breathing, meditation or both....just let it goooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Soccer Mom, I appreciate you acknowledging the kind acts of police employees. I know the person you're speaking of and also know that his behavior is NOT a result of any type of department direction. It would be in his best interest, if you could return the favor and take down this posting. Otherwise, we may have a case of "no good deed goes unpunished" and this person definitely doesn't deserve any kind of reprimand he may receive for extending a helpful notice to the public.

Anonymous said...

Soccer mom, I really think you are an excellent writer. Let me give you some persepective from the other side of this issue. I have first hand experience. Parking enforcement personnel who work at WCPD work in a very negative environment all day, every day. Every staff member can share multiple instances of being assualted either verbally or physically. I have first hand knowlege inlcuding being spat on, slapped and having an ice cream thrown at me. Parking folks are not cops, they dont have guns or handcuffs or anything else. They are told to give people a break whenever they can. If the citation is not completed and the vehicle owner returns the expectation is that the citation will not be written. There is no need to be CS, there are dozens of other violations that exist each day, no need to write the CS ones. No one likes getting a ticket, but if you are illegally parked then you get what you get. If its any consolation they also write parking cites on the Police officers who stay in city hall lot too long, the chief and other top city staff has also been cited. Give these folks a break, they dont have a personal stake in enforcment and if you dont think this is a negative job (just read the blog) ask to ride along some time. just food for thought

Soccer Mom said...

Anon 3:22 and 6:37 p.m.
Thanks for giving me and anyone else the other side of the parking situation. I'm sorry, 3:22, but I can't take down a post. What happened--it happened. I really don't want to get an individual employee in trouble. In fact, I hope his supervisors give him props for good "customer service." As in being an employee of Walnut Creek trying to serve the the city's residents and consumers. He really went above and beyond, in my opinion. The other patrons in the nail salon seemed to think so, too.

Our reaction was based on the perception--yes it is a perception--that the city, at least until recently, was out to get people for parking violations. And, I think it's fair to say that Walnut Creek enforcement officials had gained a reputation for being ready to pounce on motorists. Sure, maybe they have a right to pounce ... but in the long run, does that reputation serve the city? Its image as a place you want to come and visit? Its image as being welcoming and friendly?

I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm coming down on the individual officers. They are, as we often say, just doing their job. Their supervisors dictate policy. And I'm sorry that these individual officers meet with hostility and anger.

Maybe underlying all this, and the officers get snagged into it, is the impression of arrogance or entitlement on the part of the city. This impression? Fair or not: it's what it is. People from surrounding communities often think of Walnut Creek as being a bit full of itself. I grew up here and live here, and I have often felt it myself, that we're a bit full of ourselves.

Anonymous said...

"but I can't take down a post."

This is incorrect. It should be, "I don't want to take down this post", or "I will not take down this post".

Soccer Mom said...

Anon 11:34 p.m.
You're correct. I won't take down the post. I choose not to.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's any coincidence that this perceived "new attitude" of parking enforcement officers is connected to the new police chief. Chief Bryden is a fair man who treats his employees well and has been a welcome relief for PD employees who endured 7 years of Chief Soberanes, a micro-managing, vindictive person who was hellbent on punishing anyone who disagreed with him. When PD employees are happy, they tend to "spread the love" to the public at large.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would anyone think an employee of a service organization (i.e. the City of Walnut Creek) would "get in trouble" for providing excellent customer service? I work for the city, and I know that the city hires excellent employees and trusts them to use their best judgement in providing service to the community of Walnut Creek. This employee's actions were clear evidence of that well placed trust.

Anonymous said...

I have had a parking enforcement officer apologize to me when he was writing a ticket as I walked up lete from a meeting for a non-profit.

It made me feel better about paying the fine becuse he was so polite.