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UC Berkeley Eliminates Free Parking From Family Housing By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday August 19, 2005

Devin Pope, an economics graduate student at UC Berkeley, says he’s going to have a problem the next time his parents visit to help care for his toddler. 

Since he moved into UC Berkeley’s family-oriented Smyth-Fernwald Housing Complex several years ago, Pope has had his own parking space and available visitor parking near his apartment. 

But this month UC Berkeley stripped residents of their roughly 90 parking spaces. Now, with the university’s Department of Parking and Transportation controlling the spaces, students insist this year they will have less available parking, even though as young parents they said they need cars to get around more than other students. 

“My parents will probably have to park across town and we’ll have to pick them up,” said Pope from his hilltop apartment that boasts a bay view, but few nearby parking spaces. “How are we ever going to get anybody to visit us?” 

Smyth-Fernwald, located on the eastern edge of Dwight Way several blocks northeast of the central campus, is one of two UC Berkeley housing facilities designed for students with young children. Although the 74 apartments are hardly luxurious, students said they were getting a good deal with a two-bedroom apartment going for just over $900, parking included. 

Until this month, Smyth-Fernwald residents managed the nearby parking spaces, and residents were effectively granted free spaces for one car and paid a small fee for a second car.  

But free parking for residents will soon be a thing of the past. Under the new rules, incoming residents will have to pay the standard $79 a month for a student parking pass. Current residents will be allowed to keep their free parking spaces. Also any UC Berkeley student with a parking pass will be able to park at designated spaces beside the housing complex, meaning fewer spaces for visitors.  

“We’re simply trying to treat our students the same across the board,” said UC Berkeley Director of Parking and Transportation Nad Permaul. “Why should [Smyth-Fernwald residents] pay less for parking than other students all over the university?” 

Permaul said the university was moving to take control of all the university owned parking spaces around the central campus, as directed by a chancellor’s oversight committee on parking and transportation. 

“Instead of eclectic pockets of parking, we want a unified system managed in a coherent way,” he said. Permaul said that extra parking permit revenue didn’t factor into the university’s thinking and that city officials had been pressuring the university to centralize control over parking as a tool to help keep students and workers from parking on residential streets. 

“Berkeley is telling the university that this is what it needs to do,” he said 

Angela Davies, a Smyth-Fernwald resident, said the new parking rules were further evidence that, “UC is family unfriendly.” She feared that with other students now allowed to park by the dorm, she might be relegated to one of the lower parking lots. 

“People don’t realize how hard it is to drag your child and groceries up the hill,” she said. 

The parking fight at Smyth-Fernwald comes as student parents charge that UC Berkeley is eliminating most of the affordable housing available for them. The university has embarked on a rebuilding project at its other student family housing complex, University Village, that will improve living conditions, but nearly double rents. 

“This is the last affordable housing that UC Berkeley offers for families,” said Elizabeth Bremner, who lives at Smyth-Fernwald with her 6-year-old daughter.  

The new parking policy has many residents concerned that the university ultimately plans to tear down the World War II-era dormitory complex built just beside the Hayward fault. 

“Frankly it might not even exist as student housing [in a few years],” Permaul said during a telephone interview Thursday. Eddie Bankston, the university’s housing and dining executive director, was unavailable for comment. 

The residents have squabbled with UC officials in recent years. Last year, the university prohibited residents from selling their spaces to Cal football spectators on game days, which Bremner said deprived the community of the roughly $10,000 it annually collected from football parking and used for social events.  

Previously, the university closed off the recreation room because of seismic concerns, Bremner said. The university is scheduled to install two trailers to serve as a new community space, she added. 

Before, when students ran the parking spaces, residents paid a small fee for having a second car. Now they will have to pay roughly $27 a month and within three years they will have to pay for a regular parking permit to keep the second car. 

“This is a modest and incremental proposal to bring residents into the system,” Permaul said. He added that the university was looking to address the residents’ concerns over visitor parking. 

“We certainly will try to come up with a solution to that problem,” he said.