San Diego police using new system for detecting parking violations after city is sued over chalking tires

A San Diego parking enforcement officer goes on patrol.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

As shoppers visit The Village for their holiday gift needs, some may rely on the old habit of checking their tires for chalk to make sure they can continue to park in La Jolla’s limited-time spaces.

They might not see any chalk but still end up with a ticket.

Following a lawsuit filed against the city of San Diego claiming that the practice of marking tires with chalk as part of parking enforcement is illegal, San Diego Police Department parking enforcement officers have taken up a new process to determine whether a car has exceeded the allowed time for a parking space.

“Due to a lawsuit brought forth against the city of San Diego alleging chalking of tires was illegal, PEOs ceased chalking tires in March of this year,” said Police Department spokesman Shawn Takeuchi. “Until the lawsuit is settled, PEOs have been using an alternate method ... [that] includes documenting the exact location of vehicles and tire positioning. Although this method does take more time and resources, the department will continue conducting enforcement for the community so that businesses are not negatively impacted.”

He said PEOs write down exactly where each vehicle is parked and look at one of the tires and write down where the valve stem is positioned. The PEOs then return after the time limit, and if the same vehicle is parked in the same location and the valve stem does not appear to have moved, the vehicle may be cited.

Areas like La Jolla — where time limits vary throughout The Village from 15 minutes to four hours — pose an extra challenge for PEOs.

For example, one side of Wall Street has one-hour parking while the other side is two hours. At its eastern end near the post office, the parking limit is 30 minutes.

Along the coastline, parking limits vary between two and three hours. On the west side of the retirement community Casa de Mañana, parking is allowed for three hours, but on the east side, parking is two hours. One block east, on Prospect Street near the La Jolla Recreation Center, one side is two hours and the other side is four.

“This new method is definitely slower, and it takes more people to cover an area like La Jolla,” Takeuchi said.

The class-action lawsuit — filed in May 2019 by Andre Verdun and Ian Anoush Golkar “on behalf of themselves and a class of all others similarly situated” —argues that drivers who park within the allowable time limits have not done anything wrong and that having their tires marked violates their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

“Parking enforcement officers working on behalf of these cities, counties and municipalities have in the past, and continue to do so, use tools to ‘mark’ or ‘tag’ vehicles of unconsenting citizens, and without their knowledge, to ultimately determine whether a vehicle has been parked beyond the authorized permitted time and to issue government sanctions or fines on the owner of the vehicle,” the suit states. “In fact, the marking or tagging of vehicles occur when the citizen is parked legally, meaning they have purchased a parking permit or paid a meter within the time limits allowed, and the parking permit or parking meter has yet to expire. Once the unconstitutional act is done, a ticket is issued demanding a penalty or fine to be paid.”

The suit seeks an injunction preventing chalking of cars, along with unspecified damages and costs related to the suit. It is still considered “ongoing litigation.”

Natalie Aguirre, a store manager on Girard Avenue and a member of the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation advisory board, said she noticed that with the new system, fewer PEOs are coming around.

“It’s a much longer process; they have to take their time getting the information down,” she said. “People are getting fewer tickets.”

With that, she said, some employees of Village businesses are parking on the street longer than what is allowed, taking up spaces that would otherwise be used by locals or tourists.

“There was no parking enforcement this summer due to COVID, and it only picked up since October, and with fewer people getting tickets [with this system], people that work in The Village figured that out,” Aguirre said. “So they are parking on the street, so when locals and tourists would come ... [they] struggled to find parking. In my opinion, it was too long for the city to not do enforcement. If the people can’t find parking, it’s a problem.”

She advocates for businesses taking advantage of a La Jolla Village Merchants Association program that provides a monthly parking pass for employees for $75.

LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick said at the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board’s Nov. 19 meeting that “what’s happening [because of the change] is those merchants who were kind of playing musical cars, running out to see if their tires had been chalked ... no longer have that visual indication. I think that’s causing some new interest in our discount parking program. … But so far I haven’t heard from merchants that this is changing their [employees’] behavior.”

Through the end of the year, LJVMA has partnered with Ace Parking to provide all-day parking for $4 in the garage at 875 Prospect St. Spaces can be reserved at