Residential neighborhoods may soon begin to feel some relief from the influx of illegal parkers.
After a series of complaints, the Finance Department changed the restrictions on obtaining parking passes to make it more difficult for people to obtain the passes illegally, and the City Council approved the hiring of five new enforcement officers to ticket abusers.
“We had tried to become customer friendly and make it as easy as possible and people were misusing them,” said Fran David, city finance director.
Pamela Speichs, member of the new Residential Permit Parking citizen’s group to advise on the program, said the problem became so egregious one day she realized that action needed to be taken. “On Parker Street one side of the street was (without parking) for street sweeping, the other side of the street was completely filled with people parking with temporary permits,” she said. The residents are left without parking.
Residential permit parking programs limit parking in certain neighborhoods. Anyone parking over two hours must have a residential sticker or they will face a fine.
Neighborhoods opt into the Residential Permit Program after the community requests to join by petition and the city traffic engineer examines the viability of the program. Once a neighborhood joins the residential parking program, residents must register their cars at their addresses in the Berkeley neighborhood in order to purchase an annual permit.
But residents can obtain special daylong or 14-day permits for friends or visitors to park in the neighborhood. A one-day permit costs 50 cents, a substantially reduced rate from downtown parking costs.
In order for the program to work, enforcement officers must ticket people parked in residential neighborhoods without passes, and battle the fraudulent use of short-term permits.
“The enforcement job is a considerable one,” Speichs said.
She lives in the Le Conte neighborhood and keeps track of the use of permits and passes on her street. Speichs said that people mastermind ways to circumvent the system: they reproduce passes at copy centers and bleach out old passes by leaving them on their dashboards – then they fill in new dates.
Some of the abuse had to do with the laxity of the previous system, David said.
People were “stockpiling” permits, she said, by picking up “the maximum allotted each year.” The abuse included people around the university reselling permits on Cal football days for up to $30, or passing them on to people living temporarily in the area.
David hopes that the changes implemented on March 1 will change all that.
In the new system people must go in person to pick up their permits, they can only pick up a limited number of permits at a time, and they must be used on a specific date. The resident must also list the license plate number of the vehicle using the permit.
Speich said those changes are working. “It’s already had a positive effect. On Parker we keep statistics on a daily basis, people are switching to one-day passes,” she said.
Despite some of the inconveniences of the new system, said Speichs, “The neighbors are ecstatic.” “Everybody’s in agreement that we want to have a neighborhood feeling,” she said. “Reinvigorating the residential parking program is the way we can do it.”