Public Comment

PARKING: Does Berkeley Need $2.75/hour Metered Parking until 8 PM? Please Comment.

By Michael Katz
Thursday March 20, 2014 - 02:56:00 PM

For the second year in a row, Berkeley city staff is pushing to raise parking meter rates (to as high as $2.75/hour), and to extend metered hours until 8 PM, Monday through Saturday. 

You can comment on these proposals through March 26, via this (long) online survey: 

This is also a good time to contact Berkeley's City Council and Mayor. The Council will receive staff's final proposals in June, and will vote in July -- when much of the city is out of town -- whether to accept or change them. 

Last summer, the Council gave staff clear direction to back off evening parking charges. (Those were an embarrassing, despised failure in Oakland.) Several Councilmembers urged pricing restraint. Yet staff keeps returning with aggressive, punitive proposals. 

Some background: These changes would affect all or parts of Downtown, the Elmwood, and Southside. Staff is also proposing to expand its "value" parking zones in some of these areas -- but to raise their rate from $1 to $1.50/hour. (Which would end the "value" zones, since that was the rate before they were declared.) This whole "goBerkeley pilot program" is subsidized by a regional grant. 

Here are some points you might make, in your survey or Council submission: 

* Instead of expanding Downtown meter charges and hours, the City could use the grant funds to create real-time electronic displays of parking availability at the underused Berkeley Way lot, and at other public lots. (These displays have been discussed for years, but staff keeps prioritizing expanded meter fees and hours.) 

* In Southside, staff claims the "value" zones have "succeeded too well" in freeing up "premium" metered spaces near the UC campus. If so, then rather than raising "premium" rates from $2.25 to $2.75/hour, it would be at least as viable to reduce them -- to the prior $1.50, or maybe $1.75. While keeping the "value" rate at $1. 

* Drop staff's target of maintaining exactly 1-2 free spaces per block. The public never voted to adopt this quirky engineering target. Recognize that it's more important for Berkeley's commercial districts to appear hospitable to visitors, than to optimize a geeky numeric criterion imported from some other city. 

* Especially given staff's resistance to Council direction and to public input, the Council could simply vote to discontinue this whole "goBerkeley pilot program." We could restore parking rates that functioned passably before 2013. 

* Add your own best ideas for making Berkeley's commercial districts welcoming to those who choose to (or must) drive to them.