Public Comment

Evening and Sunday parking charges? (At City Council June 11)

By Michael Katz
Friday May 31, 2013 - 12:54:00 PM

On June 11, Berkeley's City Council will hold a 5:30 PM "worksession" on staff's "GoBerkeley" proposal to expand commercial-district parking enforcement:

Staff proposals in this document include:

* Evening: Extend hours of [metered-parking] enforcement from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in certain areas by implementing standard metered rates or a flat rate.

* Sunday Meters: Enforce parking fees in on-street meters and lots on Sundays by implementing standard metered rates or a flat rate. 

There are also proposals to raise hourly rates, at times and locations of "peak" demand.

In Oakland, metered parking until 8:00 p.m. was such a hit that Oakland's city council had to backtrack and cut enforcement back to 6:00 pm. In San Francisco, Sunday metered parking has recently been a big hit, too.

If Berkeley residents are equally fond of proposals for expanded enforcement hours, they should be sure to let our City Council know on or before June 11.

At a May 29 Southside "open house" about this package, one city staffer told me that Oakland had bungled 8:00 p.m. enforcement by telling the public it was about increasing revenue. Another staffer acknowledged that in the Elmwood, enforcement until 8:00 p.m. would mean charging neighborhood residents to park near their houses after work.

Berkeley staffers aren't making Oakland's mistake, even though this is indeed about revenue. They're shrewdly calling this a proposal to increase the health of Berkeley's commercial districts, by increasing parking turnover.

Some merchants, patrons, and residents might conclude that it seems more like destroying commercial areas to save them.

Since 2008, Berkeley residents have accepted sharply increased street parking rates, parking-permit costs, and fines. We knew the state budget was broken, posing a trickle-down threat of big deficits in Berkeley's budget. Mayor Bates presented higher charges and fees as an equitable alternative to deeper service cutbacks and layoffs.

Today, the state budget is actually approaching a surplus. One wonders why Berkeley officials are even considering further hikes in overall parking charges, rather than reductions. Is city government simply hooked on punishing people for driving cars?