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.
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