Justice may be blind at the county courthouse, but finding parking? Now that’s a feat that requires both eyes open.
Call me a conspiracy theorist but since about the time the county’s court functions consolidated, primarily into Redwood City a few months back, the likelihood of finding parking in its garage after 9 a.m. is about as strong as most shady alibis. Even with 800-odd slots in the five-story garage, the extra workers heading to the county’s government seat — the courthouse shares a building with several county functions and is surrounded by other county office buildings — apparently has put parking availability at a premium between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Certainly parking isn’t the worst problem in the world. Starving children, global unrest, the Obamas not choosing a shelter dog for their second pet — I get it. But as somebody who will admittedly park blocks away from a destination to avoid parallel parking or a meter, the new crimp in my mornings brings a little crankiness.
And for all of those who’ve turned a blind eye to the seemingly never-ending court budget cuts that forced the consolidation, pay attention. Maybe you don’t care about speedy justice; maybe truncated clerk hours and the location of family law doesn’t personally matter. But, someday you’ll need to visit 400 or 455 Government Center and assumedly having a place to park would be a benefit. If workers fill up the nearby public spots, you’d better be lacing up some walking shoes.
Perhaps I was spoiled by those years of layoffs and furloughs that kept the garage population lean, when a girl could breeze into the garage at just about any time to find room in the upper employee levels and not just on the penthouse floor. Back in those days one didn’t need to be exactly on time for a Board of Supervisors meeting or court hearing unless the matter at hand was expected to start promptly. But now? Now punctuality is dictated not by the agenda but the desire to avoid a parking hassle.
Apparently, I’m not alone. Workers accosted by yours truly shared stories of circling repeatedly, creeping up on cars that might possibly be pulling out from a spot or throwing the stink eye at drivers who edge beyond them into the last available space. One said dropping his daughter off at the county preschool by the jury parking area offers a bird’s-eye view of endless circling before motorists risk tickets by clogging up the 20-minute metered spots right in front. At least traffic court is right across the street.
One proffered suggestion? Sleep in my car to save my space. Let’s hope if it comes to that Redwood City doesn’t outlaw the practice. Another idea? Finding a local Redwood City business willing to set aside a space.
But businesses queried around the government center say they don’t see much of a difference, maybe because most are located a bit away from the government seat. Plus, us motorists hell-bent on a garage spot would rather circle like buzzards before exiting and trying our luck on metered street spaces or business lots.
Redwood City officials say there is some impact to key streets like Winslow but that the sheriff’s vans have always taken up a lot of space there. Considering the city’s own parking challenges due to a construction glut, it’s surprising it isn’t feeling a ripple effect.
Court officials and even county management folks also report a lack of audible complaint although some of those admitted they might not personally see the problem because they have assigned spaces. Note to self: need to get one of those gigs.
The prevailing battle cry during these times of statewide court budget cuts is that justice delayed is justice denied. I selfishly think the same could be said for parking.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.