The Daily Californian Online

Increased Parking Enforcement May Deter Potential Customers

By Denise Poon
Contributing Writer
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Category: News > City > Business

Berkeley has raised parking fines, increased hourly parking meter rates and expanded the number of meters throughout the city since October. Business owners worry that the increased parking enforcement is driving customers away.

To put a brake on falling revenues during the economic downturn, the city of Berkeley has ramped up its parking enforcement over the last year, which some business owners say is driving away customers.

Since October, the city has raised parking fines, increased hourly parking meter rates and expanded the number of meters throughout the city. Some business owners have said the changes are putting off customers who complain that enforcement is too strict.

Despite efforts to increase revenues, the subsequent decrease in these would-be drivers has taken a bite out of city funds as fewer tickets are being written.

"The biggest issue is the enforcement is so intense, and if you're a minute late and get a (ticket), you don't want to come back and shop," said Ann Leyhe, co-owner of Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore on College Avenue near Ashby Avenue. "Just overall it makes us feel like an unfriendly city."

Leyhe added that she has seen customers run out of the store before completing a purchase in order to feed the parking meter before it expires.

Allen Cain, executive director of the Solano Avenue Association, said customers' negative parking experiences is "just another blow" to small, independently owned businesses.

The once store-laden street is already dealing with a high vacancy rate, and along with other problems such as panhandling and crime, parking enforcement is only further driving away customers, he added.

"I hazard to guess that one out of every five tickets they write sends people running to the mall forever," he said. "The main thing is the lack of concern on the enforcement division's part that what they do has a rippling effect on the district."

As part of the city's overall strategy to curb falling revenues, the Berkeley City Council passed a $5 increase to parking violation fines-which vary across the city-in June, effective Oct. 1.

"In order for us to provide essential city services, we need to generate revenue," said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. "In the short term ... the city feels this is one of the best ways to (do so)."

However, despite expectations from city officials, there has been a 9.3 percent decrease in the number of parking tickets compared to the same months of the previous year, according to a revised budget review released Feb. 17 by the city manager's office.

If the current trend continues, the review projects that revenues will drop by about $1.3 million in the 2010 fiscal year.

In addition, the city council voted unanimously in September to increase hourly rates for parking meter fees from $1.25 to $1.50 and add 420 new single-space parking meters.

The changes are projected to generate more than $1.5 million by 2011, according to the review.

Berkeley is not alone in its attempt to generate revenue through

parking regulations. Oakland extended its parking meter enforcement hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., raised meter rates and increased ticketing levels.

But public complaint caused the Oakland City Council to reverse the extended meter hours in October after only a three-month stint.

"I have never seen such strong reaction," said Jane Brunner, the council's president.

Though customers generally do not want to pay more for parking, the meters help prevent people from parking all day on the street and inhibiting others from patronizing businesses, according to Deborah Badhia,

operations director of the Downtown Berkeley Association.

"Many people have grown up with a suburban concept of free parking," Badhia said.

According to Arreguin, the city is currently in the process of conducting a parking study as part of the new Downtown Area Plan. The study will look at addressing issues such as finding a way to increase on-street meter rates and decreasing parking garage rates to generate more revenue.

"Of course we want customers to be happy," Badhia said. "Free parking doesn't solve any problems."


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