The Daily Californian Online

Plans for People's Park Parking Meters May Cut Crime

By J.D. Morris
Contributing Writer
Monday, September 20, 2010
Category: News > Parking and Transportation

Parking meters, such as this one across from People's Park, are few in number in the streets around the park. The city is considering changing this current dearth in metered parking.

Plans to possibly install additional parking meters around People's Park are under discussion by Berkeley community members and city officials, with the intent to reduce crime and spark business interest in the area.

Officials are in preliminary talks of increasing the number of meters around the park to limit the number of vehicles lingering on adjacent streets, which community members have said may encourage criminal activity and make it more difficult to shop in the city and on Telegraph Avenue.

With retail income in the city down $200 million since 2008 - according to Dave Fogarty, the city's economic development coordinator - and crime in the park peaking in the past weeks, Jim Hynes, assistant to the city manager, said community members have been considering a change in parking policy around People's Park for the past couple of months.

"We're trying to do everything we can to move people into the area," Hynes said. "It's really, 'What can we do to help the business community by making it easier for people to come in?'"

Currently, signs around People's Park indicate a two-hour parking zone along its perimeter, but no meters regulate spaces adjacent to the park. Meters regulate Haste Street's north side and Bowditch Street's east, both of which are across the street from the park. There are no meters on either side of Dwight Way near the park.

Hynes said in an interview that it seemed "arbitrary" that meters did not surround the park.

According to Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, people are currently able to park their vehicles free of charge for any amount of time, a situation that has recently come to be regarded as a problem by both city and UC Berkeley staff. New meters that would limit the amount of time people would be able to leave their cars parked in the area would encourage vehicle and patron turnover, he said.

But any concrete action or meter installation is still several months away, city officials said, as the city's public works staff must first prepare a report to be considered by other departments before any plan can be formally sent to the Berkeley City Council.

"The most accurate thing to say is that it's an idea that's being investigated," Peterson said, adding that he supports the consideration of such a plan.

George Beier, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association and a candidate for the District 7 city council seat in the upcoming November election, said he is "fully behind" measures to reduce crime in the park, though he added that a real link between crime in the park and current parking policy would need to be investigated before taking further action.

"I think that crime in People's Park is a big problem," Beier said. "Anything that drives new business to Telegraph Avenue is a great idea."

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