The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The Struggle to Park: Congestion Leads to Complaints As Students Return to Campus


The Pleasant Hill campus at Diablo Valley College offers no fewer than nine parking lots. Nonetheless, students reported a range of difficulties in their search for parking spaces as the fall semester began.

Take Cortez Garcia, an 18-year-old freshman majoring in Allied Health, who makes his morning commute to DVC from Oakland four days a week. Due to the lack of space in Lots 1 through 4 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Garcia has turned to the College Park residential area near Viking Drive and Contra Costa Blvd. when he arrives for his 11 o’clock class.

“Everybody’s just driving around for spots, and I’m not going to waste time looking,” Garcia said, “so I just go park down in the streets and it’s quicker.”

In the past, residents of Pleasant Hill have complained about students parking in the surrounding neighborhoods and commercial lots due to the high permit costs and the scarcity of campus parking spots. Given that the student population has grown from 19,000 in 2015 to nearly 24,000 in 2023, some residents have argued that the school has failed to provide adequate parking space for students. 

On Aug. 29, during the second week of the semester, the school’s administration sent out a text message that acknowledged the parking difficulties many students have experienced, and advised them to use the overflow lot located across the street from Lots 6 and 7 on Golf Club Road.

“Historically, after the first two or three weeks of the semester, the parking congestion slow[s] down a bit,” said Lieutenant Kathryn McDonald, head of District Police Services at the Pleasant Hill campus. “At that point, we will close the overflow lot.”

But for now, congestion remains a regular feature of campus life. 

“From what I have seen so far,” McDonald said, “this semester’s parking lots are close to [the fill rates] from 2019 and prior.”

Competition for parking spaces is not the only thing that has returned to pre-pandemic levels. This semester also marked the reinstatement of permit fees at full price. To help relieve students of an additional financial burden during the pandemic, McDonald said, “the College District decided to waive the parking permit fee for a few semesters between 2020 [and] 2023.” 

Parking permits for cars and trucks are once again $48 per semester, amounting to $96 for the academic year. For students driving motorcycles or mopeds, parking costs $30 per semester. Daily parking permits cost $3 regardless of vehicle type.

Students who qualify for the California College Promise Grant receive an automatic discount that reduces their parking cost to $25 per semester for cars and trucks, and $15 for motorcycles or mopeds. Those who try to evade the cost of a parking permit risk $40 citations from the police personnel who patrol the lots throughout the day.

Against the backdrop of increasing textbook costs and a national student loan crisis, the reinstatement of full parking permit fees generated an ambivalent reaction from the student body.

“I understand that you do have to pay for a parking permit, but honestly, $20 sounds better,” said Garcia, who purchased a parking permit and currently awaits the arrival of his physical copy in the mail.

While students who attend in-person classes less frequently may feel largely unaffected by the parking situation, they don’t get to make full use of their parking permits. For example, Erin Larson, a 23-year-old freshman who intends to major in deaf studies, attends classes at the Pleasant Hill campus only on Mondays and Wednesdays.

“If you’re coming to class every day, I think the overall parking permit price is pretty fair,” said Larson, “but if you’re only coming, like I am, for two days a week, it does feel a little bit much.” 

To take full advantage of their parking permits, students might consider visiting campus facilities such as the library or tutoring labs on days when they don’t have classes. However, for students like Larson, who commutes from Fairfield about 26 miles away, this option would not be worth the time or the gas.

“I understand that [the cost of the semester permit] is still less than doing the daily permit for the whole semester,” Larson added. In fact, using the three-dollar daily permit only once a week throughout the entire term would add up to the same cost as the semester permit.

Many students agreed that finding parking this semester has been more difficult than in previous years. Catherine Bridgedale, a 21-year-old sophomore studying nutrition, reflected that during her first year at DVC, “parking wasn’t as bad as this semester.”

But Bridgedale, who attends classes Monday through Thursday, also noted that the earlier start time of her previous classes may have improved her parking experience last semester. 

The trend of high student activity in the late morning and afternoon has become apparent to staff and students alike. Carmina Quirarte, professor and co-chair of the History Department, reported that students in her 11:10 a.m. classes said they had experienced greater difficulty finding parking than those in her 9:30 a.m. classes.

“When I talk to my students [from my 11:10 a.m. class], I ask them, ‘How’s the parking situation today?’ [They respond,] ‘We couldn’t find parking.’”

According to McDonald, “The busiest time in the lots seems to be between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., give or take.”

The costs and constraints of parking on-campus may push students to consider alternative methods of transportation, such as carpool, buses, and dropoffs. But in the meantime, the scarcity of space teaches a lesson of punctuality and time management. 

“If you come early, you get spots,” Garcia said, “and if you come in the early afternoon – good luck.” 

Larson has found it helpful to arrive 30 minutes before her classes start to avoid running late.

Although the school has acted to expand parking space for students, some of the school’s own infrastructure projects have hindered those efforts. For example, in Lot 8, construction equipment and vehicles regularly take up 15 parking spots for the purpose of the ongoing demolition of the old art building.

Yet despite the challenges experienced in the parking lot, the growth of the DVC student body and the increased campus activity are regarded by some as a sign of a healthy college environment.

“For [instructors], that’s a good thing,” Professor Quirarte said, “because it means you guys are coming back.”

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About the Contributor
Alyssa DuFresne, Editor in chief

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  • L

    Lisa BragerSep 14, 2023 at 8:13 am

    Neighbors complain about parking in their neighborhoods, but how about the apartment dwellers parking in our lots? There are several cars on the edge of lot 5 that clearly belong to those living in the apartments including an RV, and some look abandoned, as they have cobwebs and leaves collected underneath and have clearly not moved in a long time. I have watched people (not students) walk across from the apartments into our lots to get into their cars. I know it’s not a lot of spots, but it is more than a couple. Police Services should look at ticketing or towing these, if not for the space, for the appearance of not having junked, abandoned cars on our campus.