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Lakeshore businesses protest parking hikes and talk of a general strike

on August 1, 2009

Cyprus Pishdad was excited two months ago when his new T-shirt business, Pure510 on busy Lakeshore appeared to be doing well despite the economy.

Then in July, his business started to decline.

“The sales were worse than the first week I opened the business. I realized that it coincide with the raise in parking meter,” said the 46-year old business owner, who said his business has dropped 30 percent.

Now Pishdad and other angry business owners are talking about the possibility of calling for a general strike for August 6th. It would be the first organized general strike since the 1946 Oakland General Strike.  However, they stopped short of announcing a  strike because too many feared a shutdown would hurt their business even more.

“This is a crisis,” said Allen Michaan, the owner of the Grand Lake Theater at an emergency meeting he hosted at the theater Thursday and attended by more than 80 people.

The July 1 meter increase came after the city of Oakland, facing an $83 million shortfall, voted June 30th to find revenues in parking-related fees. The new fees increased parking meter rates to $2, extended metering two hours to 8 p.m., and raised the cost of a parking ticket to $55 from $45.

Oakland is now one of the most expensive places to park in the Bay Area, and business owners said the changes have chased away customers.

One of the hardest-hit streets is Lakeshore, where business revenues have dropped by 30 percent, according to owners. “Shop in Oakland, and get a parking ticket, this is the city’s strategy,” Michaan said.

Louise Godfriey agreed. “I want to shop local, and this is not New York or San Francisco, where people can shop without a car,” said the 65-year-old resident of Lakeshore. She said she might stop coming to her favorite Grand Lake Theater, because “it is not smart to pay $2 for the parking.”

Some residents said they were unhappy about the way the council members handled the increase. “The elected officials are extremely arrogant,” said 74-year old Jim Forsyth. He said they fail to understand the reality of Oakland shoppers and refused to listen.  Forsyth’s organization, Lakeshore Citizen for the Better Government, has collected more than 1,700 petition signatures against the fee increases.

With parking-related fee increases, the city expects to raise $4.5 million a year. However, some people point out that city sales tax revenues might more.

“I get lots of calls from the merchants who say that they cannot pay the rent and go out of business,” said Barbara Kami, vice president at Ellwood Commercial Real Estate. “Now I have to tell potential tenants that parking could be an issue especially in Lakeshore,” said Kami with 12-year experience in commercial real estate.

Merchants expressed mixed feelings towards Michaan’s idea of a general strike on Thursday, August 6th.  Bob Jaffe, the 49-year old owner of Grand Bakery said that he appreciates Michaan’s effort, but a general strike is not a good countermeasure.

“Thursday is the second busiest day for me,” said Jaffe, who opened Grand Bakery 11 years ago. “If people pay parking and find out my bakery is closed, they are not going to blame the city but me.”

Michaan said he will continue to organize. “This meeting is one of the first actions to protest. I will continue to protest until the city  stops this outrage.” However, he has no specific plans as yet.

Lead image: Allen Michaan calls for a general strike to protest against the parking fare hike.


  1. Dave C. on August 1, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    The meter rates were not doubled. The meters used to cost $1.50 per hour, and they now cost $2.00 per hour. A 33% increase is very different from a 100% increase.

    I can’t help but wonder if that inaccurate information is the result of only interviewing people who are furious about the new meter rates and hours. Lest anyone get the impression from this article that everyone in Oakland objects to the new meter rules, I’ll point out that many residents of Oakland and the Grand Lake area are not furious about the changes. See, for instance, most of the comments on this post at the HarriOak News, or most of the comments on my own post on the issue.

  2. Art on August 2, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Honestly? We live near Grand Lake. Business there has been down for months, and a number of businesses on both Grand and Lakeshore shuttered well before the increase kicked in—it’s the economy, not the parking fees. (Cyprus Pishdad’s observation is especially puzzling given that he hasn’t been open long—it seems entirely logical that a new business would have a great first month or two on the energy of being new and then see things dip.) While I feel for our local merchants, they are searching for a culprit here, and the parking fees are convenient. I don’t know of any of my neighbors who’ve stopped going to Oakland shops or restaurants because of the parking changes (and in the case of Grand Lake, many of us bike or walk there anyway—there are lots and lots of people who live within easy walking distance of the district). More notably, the few times I’ve driven to Grand Lake since the fees increased, finding a meter spot was just as tedious as always. (Honestly, the tough part about Grand Lake parking isn’t the cost—it’s having to loop endlessly until you’re lucky enough to pass a spot as it’s opening up. I imagine quite a number of people would be happy to pay more to park in exchange for finding a spot right away, if the new fees really do decrease demand!)

    I also am really irked by Grand Lake Theater’s “strike.” First, closing for the day seems far more likely to damage local businesses than to help them. (Kind of like when a shop in Temescal stopped collecting sales tax to protest City inaction on crime. Nice thought, except that sales tax dollars don’t go to the City—what doesn’t go to the state goes to the County to pay for BART, transportation improvements, and health care. Please, please do your research first, people!) And—to add insult to injury—the theater already *has* free parking, and has for years! So if they’re seeing a drop in business, it seems unlikely that it’s attributable to the parking fee increases.

    I’m not psyched about higher parking fees and longer hours. But you know what I’m even less psyched about? Shutting Lakeview Library (and the other branches at risk) another day a week, cutting our arts programs and park maintenance, and chopping even more from our police budget. In time, cuts like these will take their toll on Oakland’s businesses, too, as residents leave the city altogether. Count me in as one Grand Lake resident who’s more than happy to pay my share in parking fees and any other fees we need to assess in order to keep those essential services intact.

  3. A on August 3, 2009 at 12:24 am

    It’s not smart to pay $2 for parking, but it was fine paying $1.50 to park so you can spend $10 or $15 at a movie theater??


  4. Ray on August 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I do not know how the new parking rates and hours were broadcasted. It would have been courtious of the city at minimum to have posted the new regulations on the meters. I am a business owner across from the park on Grand Ave. and found out the hard way. I also found out that the meters not longer credit you time for nickels or dimes you drop into the meters! Only quarters are accepted.

  5. Art on August 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Ray, the meters and signs should both have the new information on them—if they don’t (and I’ve heard that this is a problem in many parts of the city), you should definitely snap a photo and let the city know. They should update it (and may well rescind your ticket too). I thought most of Grand Lake was on meter machines now, too—so possibly the meters where you are (Lake Park?) are off their radar for some reason? Good to let them know either way. Also let them know about the nickel/dime problem—that may be a problem with the meter itself not registering the coins (which would also not be a first) since I know the meters near us still take these.

  6. Dave on August 6, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    The parking hikes ARE ridiculous. Specially when you have to pay after 6PM! Also raised are the parking penalties. They are now over $55 for a simple over the meter time violation. Also, they are sending out even more meter enforcement officers. Meanwhile the police are doing little for the high amount of moving violations that occur in Oakland and actually endanger people. As usual the hardworking taxpayer that shops at local businesses gets hurt the most. The city has to stop being so arrogant and dipping into our pockets every time they can’t balance the budget. What did they do the last several years when there was record property tax income and development fees? They wasted it! Dellums signed this measure and is ultimately responsible – where in the hell is he?

  7. JK on August 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Allen Michaan is a self-destructive fool. Ever stop to think that, if you are concerned about the rise in parking rates driving away customers, it might not be such a good idea to make a big public brouhaha issue, lest potential customers catch wind of the story and heed your implied warning to stay away? Even worse, he keeps accusing the city of “mugging” Oakland shoppers. Dredging up the common misconception that Oakland is a scary and dangerous place, and directly associating that violence with the shopping districts, isn’t going to do a damn thing to improve their performance. Grand Lake business owners would be wise not to follow this guy’s lead.

  8. […] upset merchants themselves date their decline in business to before the meter fees were increased. Several say that business has declined since the beginning of July, when the Master Fee Schedule was passed. But the fees didn’t come into effect until July 11; it […]

  9. Allen Michaan on August 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    So JK, you think that it is better to be silent and let my customers be caught with a $55.00 ticket than to warn them? Once they get the ticket then they will NEVER return to our neighborhood! This issue is not just a 50 cent rise in parking rates but rather a quasi secret change in hours of meter enforcement accompanied by a tidal wave of ticketing everyone possible even though in many instances there was no way for folks to know about the new hours.Parking citations have become a racket.
    The city has certainly “mugged” thousands of victims since this began and our council members should be ashamed of themselves!
    Hey Art, good news for you, you will no longer have to look for a parking space on Grand Avenue as this policy has driven away so many former customers that you will now find less than 50% of the spaces open most of the time. Even better for you the lot behind the theater on Walker Ave. is now 75% empty.Of course this may not be of much help if your favorite stores and restaurants go out of business.
    The city will lose much more than it gains if it persists in this policy of decreasing retail activity.There are so many municipalities in close proximity that are happy to see former Oakland shoppers support their sales tax base. Once again Oakland loses because it’s leaders don’t think before creating a disaster.
    Allen Michaan
    Grand Lake Theater

  10. […] of this are far more than just angry Chicago citizens and higher rates. The results will be a loss of revenue for both businesses and Chicago. On June 30th 2009, the city of Oakland, California, decided to […]

  11. […] residents may take some small measure of comfort in knowing their City Council is aware of the discontent regarding the parking measures that went into effect on July […]

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