Stopping to chat with an old friend or lingering over coffee after lunch soon could mean a stiffer fine for those parked on Berkeley streets.
Next Tuesday City Council will consider raising all parking fines by 40 percent. That means a few extra minutes at the meter could cost drivers $32. Nearly all of the city’s 135 parking penalties will be affected by the increase.
Last Tuesday the council considered a recommendation by the city manager to raise fines by 30 percent. But the council delayed voting on the recommendation after Mayor Tom Bates submitted a last-minute proposal to increase fines by 40 percent, which he said would keep Berkeley’s parking penalties in line with other Bay Area cities such as Oakland and San Francisco.
“The city has so few ways of raising revenue,” Bates said. “If we’re going to fund services, we have to do something.”
The city issues about 240,000 tickets a year, which generates about $3 million in revenue after expenses. The fine increases would raise another $2 million annually, according to the city manager’s report. The additional revenue will go toward offsetting next year’s $4.7 million deficit. The city plans to make up the remaining $2.7 million by continuing its selective hiring freeze and through restrictions on city expenditures.
The council is holding a public hearing on the budget Tuesday and will adopt next year’s budget the following week, on June 24.
Bates’ recommendation appeared to have wide support on the council, although City Councilmember Betty Olds objected to meter fine increases.
“I understand raising fines at red zones, yellow zones and fire hydrants,” she said. “But you have not committed a crime, for heaven’s sake, if you stay an extra 10 minutes at a restaurant.”
She added that higher fines would send some shoppers to Albany where fines are not so steep.
On Wednesday afternoon in downtown Berkeley, reactions were mixed.
“To increase parking penalties by so much seems a little harsh,” said UC Berkeley student Elizabeth Nava.
YMCA Executive Director Fran Gallati said he’s worried about what increased parking fines might do to downtown businesses. “Raising fines does not create a friendly business environment,” he said. “It’s a dilemma.”
Tim Barnard, owner of the restaurant Top Dog on Center Street, wasn’t bothered by the increased fines. He said he would like the city to crack down on business owners and employees who park their cars at metered spaces and avoid fines by wiping off parking enforcement chalk markings.
City Council is expected to vote on the higher parking fines during its June 17 meeting. During the same meeting the council will hold a public hearing on matters related to the budget. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in Old City Hall at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.