During Friday’s scorching heat, the Grand Lake Theatre marquee displayed its own heated message: NEVER FORGET! BOTH QUAN & KAPLAN VOTED TO INFLICT THEIR PARKING EXTORTION ON OAKLAND. Beneath it, mayoral candidate Joe Tuman joined Allen Michaan, the theatre’s owner, and other local business owners and employees who came out to support Tuman’s proposal for a newfangled parking plan.
As part of his campaign platform, Tuman says he wants to shrink the costs both of parking at Oakland’s meters and of the city’s parking fines—moves he says will benefit local businesses and people who want to park near them.
“We are all better off when we spend less of our hard-earned dollars on parking penalties, and more of it at neighborhood businesses,” Tuman declared in a prepared statement. “Our city’s current broken parking policy penalizes city residents, reduces business revenues and punishes out of town visitors we’d like to have return.”
Tuman’s proposal would increase free parking by three hours a day, by changing the current 8 am to 6 pm parking enforcement hours to 10 am to 5 pm. It would also cut parking ticket penalties for meter violations from the current $58, which Tuman called “draconian,” to $25.
According to Tuman’s plan, “A Pro-Resident, Pro-Business Parking Plan for Oakland,” Oakland residents spend $2.7 million on parking related penalties annually. “It’s fair to penalize someone who abuses the system, but the cheapest ticket you’re going to get is $58,” Tuman said. “For a lot of people, that’s a lot of money–a student, a working class person–that’s a big hit. The city isn’t really interested in the $4 hit to your ATM card. They want the $58.”
Tuman’s position is that the combination of Oakland’s expensive parking meters, ticket penalties and parking enforcement hours has both harmed the day-to-day life of Oaklanders and made life tougher for local businesses. “It’s time to stop balancing the city budget on the backs of people just trying to do some shopping, enjoy a nice meal out or catch a movie,” Tuman said in his statement. “Oakland deserves a comprehensive–resident and business friendly–parking plan.”
Tuman said his “biggest beef” with regard to the city’s parking policies is the size of Oakland’s violations fines. Moderating those fines, he said, would reduce what the city collects in parking tax revenue. But that would be made back in additional sales tax revenues, he said. “Right now, the draconian parking tax is hurting, not helping, local businesses create business opportunities with customers,” Tuman said after the Grand Lake Theatre event. “We don’t have a lot of free parking alternatives, unless you park far away and walk in. In this rush to grab parking revenue, we’re not being very supportive of our businesses.”
Tuman acknowledged that availability of spaces is a key part of the consideration in making Oakland a destination spot. “And if that’s free,” he said, “it’s a bigger incentive.” He said he doesn’t have a specific funding proposal for building free city garages, but that Oakland might have land on a district-by-district basis to explore options. He used examples of free parking in places like Walnut Creek for shopping, or the idea of replicating the reasonably priced Montclair parking lots, which are free on weekends for the farmers’ market. “These are things we could experiment with to encourage activity,” he said.
Tuman recalled that at the busy Sunday Temescal farmers’ market, which seems to draw not only locals but also some out-of-towners, “one of my campaign people grabbed me and spun me around, and gestured to a big massive parking lot behind the DMV,” he said. “’Duh! Of course,’” Tuman said he replied. “There’s free parking there on Sunday mornings. If you build it, they will come.”
Michaan, who has been a vocal opponent of the city’s parking practices in recent years, added his own remarks to Tuman’s press release. “Exorbitantly high hourly meter rates and absurdly high ticket prices for overdue meters are forcing Oakland residents to take their business to neighboring cities rather than shop in their community,” Michaan declared.
Tuman said that while many businesses are losing money because of parking difficulties, they’re also losing money because Oakland continues to have a crime problem. People park far from their destination, he said, because they don’t have access to mass transit, they can’t afford to refill the meter all day long nor pay for the consequential ticket, “and then at nighttime have to walk back to their cars in groups, and they still get held up at gun point,“ he said. “Many are carrying cash tips on them. They’re at risk.”
He spoke of nearby Lakeshore Avenue’s businesses, which appear to be thriving, but whose owners and employees still worry about criminal activity, he said. “The mayor pretends that crime is better,” Tuman said. “Some of the statistics might be better year over year, but they’re not really. They’re still terrible.”
He provided International Boulevard as an example. “You’ve got Palestinian grocers, Afghanis running restaurants and/or small clothing shops, you have Latinas with dress shops,” Tuman said. Every one of these people, he continued, will tell you that after 5 pm no one comes to those stores. “There’s prostitution on the street, open drug dealing at the intersections, and no one wants to navigate that just to go to a dressmaker,” Tuman said. One poignant story he has heard, he said, was that of a Latina woman who told him she sells her custom-made dresses mostly to working women. They can’t get to her store before 7 pm, Tuman said the woman told him, and she can’t stay open that late because she has the same safety problem they do returning to their cars, which they park far away.
“There’s a fix to that,” said Tuman, “which is regular police patrols, but we don’t see them.”
This is the product of a city that’s lost redevelopment and is desperate for resources, said Tuman. “If you don’t have policies that help them do more business with the public,” Tuman argued, “you’re killing your economic engines.”
When asked why Oakland’s parking hours should differ from those in nearby cities such as San Francisco, where the meters run until 11pm in some areas, Tuman replied that San Francisco’s officials, with so many tourists, charge more because they can get away with this mode of raising city revenue. “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it’s morally right or that you should,” Tuman said. “I find their fees and fines also draconian. I don’t think in any way, shape or form that justifies taking a similar approach to Oakland, which is not a tourism destination. It’s a place where we are trying to encourage people to come and spend money, not discourage them.”
Clarification: This article was amended to make clear that Tuman regards the size of the city’s parking fines as his “biggest beef” with regard to all Oakland parking policies–not that he believes these fines are more important than matters like public safety and education.