Car sales curbed along El Camino

Under new law, local police have power to tow for-sale vehicles parked along state routes

The blocks in front of Stanford Stadium, normally lined with 30 to 50 cars, were nearly empty Tuesday, thanks to a new state law giving local police the authority to ticket or tow vehicles parked for sale along a California state route.

Enterprising would-be car sellers — who for decades have used the stretch of El Camino Real from Stanford Avenue to Embarcadero Road as their personal car lot — now have to take their business elsewhere.

John Roberts had parked his 2003 Honda Element on El Camino since mid-December but had not yet heard of the restriction as of last week.

He took the news in stride.

"The law's the law, so I guess I'll have to move it. I own a business in Palo Alto, so I'll just have to park it there," Roberts said.

Pio Vartdi, who was trying to sell his 1994 Isuzu Sport last week, was disappointed to hear about the news but said he, too, would comply.

"I didn't know about the law. I saw a flier on my windshield, but I figured it was just another advertisement. I'm going to move it tomorrow," he said.

The flier that Vartdi and many others saw was placed by Palo Alto police Sgt. Steve Herrera, as a warning and an explanation of the ordinance.

"We started with the fliers on the first of December in order to give people fair warning," Herrera said last week, adding that the department planned to start towing cars "straight away" on Jan. 1.

Herrera also posted a press release on the Police Department's Web site last month, as well as a warning on Craigslist, advising all those with cars for sale in Palo Alto that El Camino would be off limits.

Not everyone was reacting calmly to the news of a possible citation or tow, however. Some expressed concern that parking elsewhere will make it difficult for them to sell their cars, as they will lose the visibility that a busy road such as El Camino provides.

The owner of a 1995 Toyota Corolla, who declined to give his name, said he was angry about having to move his car off of El Camino.

"They're public roads paid for by tax dollars. People park their cars up and down El Camino every day. I can't see what a big difference there is if you have a 'for sale' sign in the window," he said.

According to Herrera, it is not so much the vehicles themselves but the people who stop to look them over who create the hazard.

"People walk around the cars, read the price tags, examine the tires. Often they're distracted, and they're not paying attention to where they are. El Camino Real during rush hour is not the place to be distracted and wandering around," Herrera said.

The idea of banning car sales along El Camino is not new. Section 713 of the California Streets and Highways Code already made it a misdemeanor to park a vehicle or any other structure for sale along a California state route and has been in effect since 1992.

But enforcement of section 713 had previously fallen under the jurisdiction of the California Highway Patrol alone, even though state police do not patrol all stretches of El Camino and other state routes. The new law — Senate Bill 279 (SB 279), authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) — simply extends that authority to local police.

California's state routes are part of the state highway system operated and maintained by the Department of Transportation, or CALTRANS. State routes can be identified by the green State Highway Route shield, which is in the shape of a spade in honor of the California Gold Rush, and bears the route's number.


Posted by Sam, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 4, 2008 at 9:01 pm

As a resident in the nearby Southgate neighborhood, there are other advantages not mentioned in this story. For the Corolla owner who declined to give his name, he or she must realize that many of the prospective car buyers would frequently double-park on El Camino Real causing obvious traffic hazards. As far as overall quality of life issues, that stretch of El Camino Real is now open to commuters and students every day. The spaces are no longer being taken for long periods of time while people try to sell their cars. Yes it's a public roadway, but their should be restrictions if it's being occupied as a used car lot. That is indeed the greater good. Also, in the evenings, residents and passersby now have a beautiful view of the Stanford athletic fields, without having to look past a line of cars being stored on the street. Sounds like PAPD took many steps to notify the public on this matter. Our thanks to all of the officials who made this happen.

Posted by Putnam, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2008 at 10:29 pm


Posted by Barbara, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 4, 2008 at 11:25 pm

So when will Senator Leland Yee get the kick back cash bag from Meg at eBay?

Learn it all right here and now, Pay for Play is the Fines-tine way!

Posted by Mark, a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 5, 2008 at 12:57 am

Hmm..."Also, in the evenings, residents and passersby now have a beautiful view of the Stanford athletic fields, without having to look past a line of cars being stored on the street." Shouldn't these people be paying attention to the road? I would think this is an obvious traffic hazard.

Posted by Sal, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2008 at 1:18 am

I think everyone enjoys a clear view of the street, and we certainly do from our home across the way. Funny, I would think one wouldn't have to explain that. There you are just the same Portola Valley Mark. Feel free to enjoy while visiting.

Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 5, 2008 at 2:01 am

Awesome news, now if we can just get rid of all the RV's parked on the residential streets filled with the working homeless in Palo Alto we will be all set!


Posted by Lou, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2008 at 11:44 pm

To qq:

You're kidding. This is really happening? Where? I know of several church parking lots.
Can't you tell us more about this - or have I been really out of touch.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2008 at 10:00 am


What has church parking lots got to do with this?

Posted by About time!, a resident of Stanford
on Jan 6, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Yeah! About time.

Posted by Ventura gal, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 6, 2008 at 7:08 pm

Not a residential street, but Park Blvd. near Page Mill has lots of RV campers.

Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 9, 2008 at 1:09 am

"Sounds like PAPD took many steps to notify the public on this matter." Hummm. Finally they get some credit.
My son only received a ticket ( no prior warning) with a hefty fine a few years ago for parking on El Camino with his car for sale...
One reason he was fined was because there was (and still is) a LAW on the Palo Alto books that states that there are not to be any FOR SALE signs on automobiles in Palo Alto..............................Not only did he get the ticket there on El Camino, but when he brought his car back over to park in our neighborhood (same day), the same officer tagged him again for parking it on Arastradero.
He managed to finally put up $ for an add in the newspaper (ahummmm) ... sounds like a plot to me....................! POLITICS!!!!!

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2008 at 3:48 pm

I highly doubt that this involves a plot, politics, or a conspiracy, and I'm sure the laws and how they're applied have changed since whenever your son was ticketed years ago. Please, spare us the dramatic possibilities. Besides, you and your son would be better served to accept some responsibility in a simple matter and not rationalize things with a conspiracy theory.

Posted by Ventura guy, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 9, 2008 at 3:52 pm

"Not a residential street, but Park Blvd. near Page Mill has lots of RV campers."

Yup, that's the area that local anti-housing interventionists have temporarily stopped a development. They want to keep Park Blvd. a rat's nest, unless they get the chance to sit at the architect's desk. Ain't gonna happen...

Posted by Lived in Palo Alto, a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 1, 2008 at 10:23 am

At least the city should post a sign stating NO FOR SALE Parking. Not stating so is a harsh punishment. When asking why did the City of Palo Alto did not do so, the officer say "we decided not to post any sign". In a civilized and democratic City or society, information is vital. The City failed to inform. How civilized or democratic is that???

Posted by me too, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2008 at 12:50 pm

qq is correct! This is GREAT NEWS! AND YES, if we could only get rid of all the RV's parked on Park Blvd & Page Mill (I'm sure they are in other locations too) we could all be happy.

Now go after all the RV's with expired tags and drunken occupants!

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