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City employee parking at issue again

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Correspondent
Tuesday October 24, 2000

The City Council tonight will again broach the touchy topic of city employee parking near Civic Center.  

At last week’s council meeting about 20 off-duty Berkeley police officers got into a loud verbal exchange with a police station neighbor who records their parking violations and chanted “What do we want? Parking!” outside council chambers in protest over what they described as a parking nightmare.  

The mayor agrees with the officers as well as fire department employees and public school teachers who said they will be competing for sparse parking spaces when City Hall is re-occupied in January. She wants the city manager to make parking a top priority and to explore possible solutions including shuttles and the commandeering of existing spaces in city-owned garages near the Civic Center. 

The council faction that often opposes the mayor is presenting an opposing recommendation tonight. Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Dona Spring and Linda Maio said in their recommendation that it’s too early to put such a high priority on parking. They ask that the council wait until the Southside-Downtown Transportation Demand Study is completed. The study will include analysis of existing parking conditions and make recommendations about possible solutions. The study is due in three to seven weeks. 

According to the councilmembers’ recommendation, some of the other options the council might consider include  

• Offering “Commuter Checks,” which would allow employees to use pretax dollars to purchase transit passes.  

• Creating programs to reduce automobile use by city employees. 

• Educating employees about the importance of using public transportation. 

On another parking topic, the council will consider the adoption of extended residential parking on Emerson Street between Tremont Street and Shattuck Avenue and all of Keoncrest and Catherine drives. The permit parking program allows Berkeley residents to decide for themselves whether or not they want permit enforcement on their blocks. The process requires signatures from at least 51 percent of residents on any given block.  

The Council will consider repealing private indoor entertainment ordinances, which focused on regulating participant behavior, and replacing them with new ordinances designed to enhance safety. The new ordinances would apply to indoor music events, live or recorded, that are open to the public and are expected to draw over 150 people. Sponsors would have to ensure that the building in which the event is to take place is up to code. This would include emergency access, the presence of fire extinguishers, functional sprinkler systems and fire alarms. 

Under the old system the sponsor would apply for a permit from the chief of police which regulated the nature of the event – whether alcohol was going to be served, whether there was lighting in dance areas and whether a prohibition on obscene dancing would be enforced. 

A sign that Berkeley is growing in popularity is the increased use of portable toilets. The city currently maintains a total of 14 portables in seven parks as well as supplying additional units for 13 special events each year such as Earth Day, How Berkeley Can You Be? and the Bay to Barkers. The increased popularity of the city’s parks and events has meant increased use of the units which has also caused maintenance cost to rise. Lisa Caronna, the director of Parks and Waterfront has recommended the City Council contract with the Portosan Company of Benicia, which submitted the lowest bid at $72,000 for 12 months, to maintain the portable toilets. Redwood Sanitary Service had the maintenance contract, which will expire at the end of the month. 

The session starts tonight at 6:30 p.m., with a Housing Authority meeting, followed by a Redevelopment Agency meeting scheduled for 7:20 p.m. and the regular meeting which is slated for 7:30 p.m. The meeting is at the Council Chambers at Old City Hall at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way and is broadcast on KPFB 89.3 and televised on Ch-25, then rebroadcast at 8 a.m. on Wednesday and 9 a.m. on Sunday.