Right turn on wrong-way parking?
on October 20, 2009
Just when you thought the Oakland parking wars had come to an end, parking rules are once again on the agenda. The City Council will consider easing enforcement against wrong-way parkers tonight.
The Council will consider a recommendation tonight to designate wrong-way parking enforcement on narrow streets as a “lowest enforcement priority,” rolling back a recent increase in enforcement. Tickets began appearing on windshields after the new parking initiative went into effect in early July.
Before that, residents had parked the wrong way on narrow streets regularly—and had never been ticketed. But when the city needed more revenue to compensate for a budget deficit, parking enforcement officers cracked down on violators.
Newly hired parking personnel allowed for more systematic coverage of neighborhoods, said City Councilmember Patricia Kernighan (District 2). Parking facing the wrong direction was one of the violations, so they were issuing tickets, she said.
But parking in the wrong direction poses no safety threat, according to Kernighan, who met with the Council’s public works committee last week on the issue and added the item to tonight’s agenda.
“There is not an actual safety problem posed by cars that are parked in the ‘wrong’ direction,” Kernighan wrote in an agenda report, “as all drivers are aware that travel is taking place in both directions at all times.”
There are two lanes for parking and one lane in the middle for traffic, said Kernighan.
“Anytime you pull into a travel lane, there’s the possibility of oncoming traffic,” she said. “Prohibition against [parking the wrong way] just doesn’t make much sense.”
“Some of these streets are pretty steep, it’s hard to turn around,” said Kernighan. “For all these decades [wrong-way parkers] had never been ticketed, and they feel like they’re being harassed.”
Kernighan said that no one in the city administration has calculated the revenue generated by this particular violation.
“Any potential revenue lost does not seem to be part of the conversation,” she said.
Before the crackdown, residents parked the wrong way on narrow, winding streets without fearing ticketing, according to Alice Butler, a longtime resident of Upper Rockridge.
“It’s been such a longstanding practice that people can park in any direction — we were surprised,” Butler said.
Many residents in Butler’s neighborhood would have to take circuitous routes or make three-point turns in their neighbors’ driveways just to park in the right direction. For many wrong-way parkers, driveways are inaccessible or else they have more cars than can fit in a garage.
Peter Trueblood has been parking his silver Chevy Suburban the wrong way in front of his Rockridge Place home for as long as he’s lived there—11 years. In September, he got his first ticket.
“I was pissed,” Trueblood said. “Somewhat inappropriately so because it was illegal.”
Trueblood still hasn’t paid the $60 ticket, but said he plans to.
“While I was angry about it, I have to admit there’s a dilemma here for the city,” he said. “The money’s gotta come from somewhere.”
Frank Castro, vice chair of the Rockridge Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council, complained that Rockridge residents weren’t notified properly of the crackdown in enforcement.
“The biggest issue was the lack of notice,” Castro said, pointing out that the change to parking meter hours were widely circulated.
Many Oakland residents interviewed for this story expressed ambivalence on the wrong-way parking issue.
“If they’re out of the street”—i.e., not in the way of moving traffic—“it doesn’t matter to me,” said Eileen Karpfinger, a Montclair resident. “If it helps them park better, I’m all for it as long as it’s safe.”
The Oakland City Council meets tonight at 6 p.m. at City Hall, located at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in downtown.
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