Parking wars back on tonight’s council agenda
on October 6, 2009
Fireworks are expected at tonight’s Oakland City Council meeting, as the explosive debate about rolling back parking meter hours returns to City Hall.
The council will hear at least two proposals at this evening’s 6:00 meeting—one to roll the meter hours back from 8:00 pm to 6:00 pm, and another to roll them back to 7:00 pm. At the request of the council, city staff will also report on how to recoup the revenue lost by shortening the meter hours.
This lost revenue was the sticking point for the three councilmembers—Nancy Nadel, Desley Brooks and Rebecca Kaplan—who abstained from voting for the rollback at the last city council meeting. These abstentions, coupled with the absence of Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, sent the proposal back to the drawing board. De La Fuente, whose vote might have changed the outcome, did not return repeated phone calls requesting comment as to why he did not attend the meeting.
“I am hoping that we can find common ground,” said Carl Chan, of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber Foundation, who organized Chinatown businesses and made a number of suggestions for the rollback proposal. “We will be there tomorrow and we are hoping we will get the vote we need pass the rollback to six pm.”
But some Oakland merchants say reducing meter hours is not enough.
“Rolling back to six pm is just a band-aid solution,” said Grand Lake Theater Manager Allen Michaan, one of the most vocal opponents of the city’s recent parking cost increases. “That is not to going to solve the problems and make this go away.”
The Grand Lake’s marquee last week read, “Shame on the City Council for the Damage their Parking Racket is Inflicting in Oakland. Recall?” Michaan also led a small meeting to explore how to begin recall proceedings against Councilmembers Nadel, Brooks, Kaplan and De La Fuente.
Like Chan, Michaan said the increased parking enforcement is taking a big toll on Oakland businesses. Since the city increased meter hours and fines for certain parking violations in July, along with stepping up enforcement, Michaan says the Grand Lake’s business has dropped by 50 percent.
“The recession is of course part of it,” he said. “A lot of people were on the edge, and then this comes along and pushes them over the edge.”
Council members said they’ve been hearing plenty from constituents in their districts. “We have merchants and small businesses telling us that they need relief, and we are trying to provide that to them,” said Andre Jones, chief of staff to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. “But there are a lot of moving parts and these are complicated numbers.”
In addition to the two proposals on the agenda Tuesday, sources close to the council said some members were working on their own suggestions. It is likely that some may go further than rolling back the meter hours, but this raises new questions about funding. “What I would really like is that we do a comprehensive study of what parking controls would be best for what parts of the city and why,” Councilmember Nadel said via email. “I think my colleagues will have the votes to rescind the restrictions and will make an attempt to ask for a study, but with no idea how to pay for it.”
At the last meeting, the council did request a quick-turnaround report on parking—due to be completed 45 days later. But it is unclear how substantive this report will be. A call to Noel Pinto in the Parking Enforcement Department regarding the report was not returned.
In the meantime, sources close to the council say unofficial conversations are taking place to tell parking enforcement to “tread a little softer.”
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