“I have directed staff already to roll back to 6pm,” declared City Administrator Dan Lindheim at last night’s Oakland City Council meeting. We’re not exactly sure when the city parking meters will get adjusted, but believe it will only take a week or two.
The City Council just voted six-to-one to rescind their summer decision that extended hours through 8pm, as well as to study parking at retail district levels. Their projected $1.3 million revenue gap would primarily close from new billboard revenues. If these revenues don’t materialize, then the Council would revisit the matter next January.
What’s interesting is that every single Council member admitted they were too hasty, and offered mea culpas. Rep Ignacio De La Fuentes claimed, “We made a mistake not checking, not checking in. Our common goal is to restore the confidence.” Rep Jean Quan added, “I know there are a lot of bad feelings.” And Rep Pat Kernighan, who sponsored the roll-back measure, explained that “people don’t want to feel like we’re balancing the city budget on their back.”
Kernighan pointed to coverage by Parking Today about Oakland’s challenges: “Oakland is attempting to raise parking rates. They have done some good things in the face of the recession, but can’t seem to get any respect.” The industry pub also acknowledged that parking is always super-sensitive: “Screw with a person’s taxes and you have a heated discussion; screw with their parking, and you have a revolution.”
Last night, there was a long parade of speakers who demonstrated that sensitivity:
- The Driver: Montclarion Janette MacKinlay declared, “I wanted this measure to have as much support as possible. For every one person here, there are thousands who are really irritated. It’s just one thing after another. I’m just asking you to have heart.”
- The Rabble-Rouser: Alan Michaan, who’s gotten attention from his Grand Lake Theater marquee, apologized a little for his behavior at the last Council meeting. At his movie house, Michaan said that “business is off by 50%. I know what my numbers are.” He was clear that parking has been impacting his neighbors, too.
- The Merchant: Scott Peterson, from Oakland’s Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said it was time to roll back both the hours and the rate increase. He noted that even UCLA’s Donald Shoup, best known for penning The High Cost of Free Parking, ultimately sought to attract customers and promote businesses.
- The Urbanist: Several speakers argued to keep the longer meter hours. Jonathon Bair explained that we need “to resolve conflicts between users…workers, residents and shoppers. Shoppers are less sensitive to meter rates. Most cities do implement parking meters to 9pm or later.”
- The Old Guard: Former Oakland City Manager Henry Gardner felt that parking changes were bad but the all the budgeting challenges were terrible too. He said that “what we have attempted with the parking enforcements is the worst [alternative]…but it’s better than the others.”
Clearly Oakland’s parking policies aren’t fait accompli. At-Large Council Rep Rebecca Kaplan said, “I’m grateful that we’re now going to do parking studies [as there are] differences by parts of the city. I don’t believe that early is always better or later is always better.”
So what about the idiosyncratic needs of each retail district? From all of the speakers tonight, it does seem like Grand Avenue was hit, while College Avenue wasn’t suffering nearly as much. Over in Chinatown, the merchants registered high concerns with parking changes. Here in Montclair, the merchants have been clear about their challenges. And so we’ll stay tuned for studies – and further parking policy adjustments.
October 8th update: The meter hours were rolled back yesterday. Montclair Village Association’s Roger Vickery said, “we are delighted our concerns about the adverse affect the night time rates were having on business have been heard.”