Police gain upper hand in chalk war

Belmont police are claiming victory in an ongoing “chalk war” they say has been brewing between law enforcement and drivers.

Police said they have been catching numerous city drivers wiping off chalk marks that parking enforcement officers smear on car tires to determine parking violators. If a chalk mark is still on the car two hours later in a two-hour parking zone, officers ticket the vehicle.

Some savvy parkers have figured out this strategy and battled back. Police said drivers periodically wipe the chalk marks off cars to avoid $25 fines. That act has technically been legal, however, so police say they have been unable to fight back even when they catch the chalk mark removers red-handed.

“People are going down there and wiping the marks away and there’s nothing we can do about it,” police Lt. Patrick Halleran said. “It’s frustrating.”

That all changed Tuesday when police, hoping to end the chalk war once and for all, pushed a new ordinance through the City Council making it illegal, punishable by a $100 fine, to wipe off the chalk marks. Under the law, if the chalk remover is acting under the discretion of an employer then that person may be held liable, as well.

Capt. Dan DeSmidt, in proposing the ordinance, called the problem growing and said it occurs throughout the city but is most prevalent in the Old County Road and Villa Avenue areas near auto shops. Parking limits allow residents and businesses to share on-street parking, and prevent motorists from using the spaces for vehicle storage or repair, he said.

The law is sure to cause some confusion for drivers who find clever ways to avoid parking fines. Council-
member Coralin Feierbach, for one, said she was not sure whether it was legal to wipe off the chalk marks until the issue arose recently and that most residents probably do not fully understand the issue, either.

“I’m sure we’ve all done that in one way or the other, or moved the car,” Feierbach said. “When you go to do that, you say [to yourself], ‘Is it legal or isn’t it?’”

Other cities, such as San Carlos and Burlingame, already have such anti-chalk wiping ordinances. Burlingame police Capt. Mike Matteucci said it allows his department to do their jobs more easily because they know if they catch someone wiping off the chalk, they can actually do something about it.

“It seems as though it’s working,” Matteucci said.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Belmont ‘chalk war’ by the numbers

$25: Fine for violating parking time limit
$100: New fine for wiping off chalk marks
3: Community service officers enforcing parking rules
1: Three-wheeled parking vehicle used to chalk tires
30: Days after likely Sept. 9 ordinance adoption that police can begin enforcement
Source: Belmont Police Department

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsLocalParking

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police seized ghost guns and other firearm manufacturing items while executing a warrant in February (Courtesy SFPD)
Ghost guns linked to rise in SF shootings as numbers jump

San Francisco police are seizing an increasingly alarming number of untraceable firearms,… Continue reading

Students walk around campus near the Cesar Chavez Student Center at San Francisco State University. (Steven Ho/Special to S.F. Examiner)
California’s massive UC and Cal State systems plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations this fall

Nina Agrawal, Teresa Watanabe, Colleen Shalby Los Angeles Times The University of… Continue reading

From left, Esther Gulick, Sylvia McLaughlin and Kay Kerr started launched one of the country’s first environmental movements. (Courtesy Save The Bay)
Sixty years of Saving San Francisco Bay

Pioneering environmental group was started by three ladies on a mission

Former California Assemblyman Rob Bonta, left, shown here in 2015, has been chosen by California Gov. Gavin Newsom as the state’s new attorney general. Bonta was confirmed Thursday. State Sen. Ed Hernandez is at right. (Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Rob Bonta is confirmed as California attorney general

Patrick McGreevy Los Angeles Times The state Legislature confirmed Democratic Assemblyman Rob… Continue reading

Temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be added to sections of state Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101, including Park Presidio Boulevard, to keep traffic flowing as The City reopens. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes coming to some of The City’s busiest streets

Changes intended to improve transit reliability as traffic increases with reopening

Most Read