Council balks at rolling back tough parking laws
on September 23, 2009
In a raucous meeting that drew emotional public comments and lasted well past midnight, the Oakland City Council late last night declined to pass a motion to roll back parking meter enforcement hours.
The motion, which was drafted by council members Jane Brunner, Patricia Kernighan and Jean Quan, emerged from talks between the council members and some merchant groups shortly before last night’s meeting. But council members Rebecca Kaplan, Desley Brooks and Nancy Nadel abstained from voting on the motion, and council member and Vice Mayor Ignacio De Le Fuente was absent last night. By the time the meeting finally adjourned at 1:30 AM, only four council members had voted in favor of the motion– Larry Reid, Brunner, Quan and Kernighan.
Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber Foundation, said he had put forward some of the suggestions for the motion. “We are trying to work with you,” a visibly upset Chan told Kaplan outside the council chambers after the vote. “This is a waste of your time, of the city’s time and our business’ time.”
Chan brought dozens of supporters who stood behind a banner in English and Chinese that read, “Roll back meter hours, Save Oakland business.” Each brandished orange signs with the same message. The group encircled the steps outside the chambers, and the buzz of their voices echoed into the room every time the door was opened, until the group poured in to comment on the parking measure. Inside the room, all lower level seats were full for much of the marathon meeting, and a row of people stood in the back of the room. Seats only began to open up late into the night.
The parking meter hours of operation were extended by the council in July—along with an increase in meter rates, increased fines for certain parking violations, and stricter enforcement of parking policy—in a controversial move to increase revenues and balance the city’s budget.
“I think anytime that we take an action that engenders the amount of protest that this action has taken, we have to say we have made a mistake,” said Patricia Kernighan as she introduced the motion.
The unsuccessful motion proposed to roll back the meter hours, at an estimated cost of $900,000 in lost parking revenues. The motion proposed that city staff recoup $560,000 of the lost revenue through strategies such as a crackdown on fraudulent use of disabled parking permits, 250 new metered stalls citywide, and the sale of advertising space on the back of parking meter receipts. By Wednesday evening, council members Brooks, Kaplan and Nadel had not yet responded to requests for comment, and an aide to De La Fuente had indicated the vice mayor would call when he was available. But the council finally voted to raise the issue again on Oct. 6, after more study of the numbers and alternative proposals.
“This proposal is not sound fiscally, and we have an obligation to be fiscally responsible,” Brooks said last night, before abstaining from the vote to support the original motion. “I would be willing to roll back the times if we can find real money to back it.”
The issue prompted requests for public comment time from 50 people, most of whom fell into two camps: the group that arrived with Chan, and a group waving cards that said, “Recant or Recall,” organized by Grand Lake theater owner Allen Michaan.
As the night wore on, a few members of this group began to protest noisily as the council addressed the many action items scheduled before the parking issue. The calls of “Recant or recall!” finally prompted council member Larry Reid to threaten to have an officer remove disorderly people from the meeting.
“This is an absolute disgrace,” said Michaan after the vote. “Businesses all over town are being destroyed.”
In other business, the council overruled the city administrator’s office and granted a cabaret permit to Oasis, a downtown Oakland club, after numerous patrons appealed to the council on the owners’ behalf.
The council also passed an emergency ordinance requiring conditional use permits for new self-service laundromats in Oakland.
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