Around 750 spaces in a “premium” parking zone in Downtown will cost $1.75/hour rather than $1.50/hour. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Berkeley City Council Tuesday voted to raise hourly parking rates by 25 cents to $1.75 an hour within a pre-determined “premium” zone in Downtown in order to raise an estimated $125,000.

The area where the new rates will apply has the highest intensity of use, as calculated by the city, and includes around 750 parking spaces within the bounds of University Avenue to Bancroft Way, and Oxford Avenue to Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

The new rates could be effective as early as July 11 as they are being raised ahead of the Council’s expected approval of the designation of Downtown as a Property-based Business Improvement District. In a property-based BID, all property owners within the affected district are assessed, including public property, and the City’s total assessment will be $104,072 — hence the decision to cover that bill through increases to parking rates.

The recommendation was passed somewhat reluctantly by five votes. Councilmembers Gordon Wozniak, Susan Wengraf and Laurie Capitelli voted against it, arguing that the public would not take kindly to rate hikes and that downtown businesses would suffer as a consequence.

However, the consensus was that the funds had to be found somewhere and, at a time when the city is making serious cuts, including staff lay-offs, this option was seen as a trade off solution.

Any revenues from the increases in excess of what is needed to pay the PBID assessment will be used to support Downtown programs or services.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin (whose District 4 covers Downtown), said that, even with the raise, Berkeley’s parking fees were still lower on average than in cities such as San Francisco and Oakland.

The Downtown Berkeley Association is driving the PBID, which aims to boost the area’s local economy by addressing issues such  loss of retail, increased vacancy rates and uninviting public spaces.

Overall, Berkeley has about 3,700 on-street and off-street metered parking spaces, and citywide the hourly parking rate is $1.50 (except for the Berkeley Way Lot which has value pricing rates).

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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39 Comments

  1. Ok, I get that there isn’t enough money in the COB coffers. Hell, there isnt enough money in my own, and $46 parking tickets are a disincentive to drive downtown PERIOD. This morning i had a choice of coffee shops– go to Cole Coffee on California near Claremont and pay parking (active from 8am!!) or go to Cafe Tribu on San Pablo and 65 St in West Oakland–no meters.

    I’m losing income and closing a business–I will probably close out my cable or minimize it, and we re considering renting out some rooms. Times aren’t easy.

  2. I thought of this thread when I parked on Center Street in downtown Berkeley on Saturday to attend a children’s concert at Freight & Salvage with two under-8 year olds.  ACTransit runs near my house (albeit on a reduced schedule now) but if I am going to an event that has a specific start time, I’m choosing my car over ACTransit.  My only reasons to go downtown are to see concerts/theater productions or for a special meal at a special restaurant (i.e. Gather) every 4-6 months.

  3. Well that’s just a little different than “Pathetic embarrassment of a transit system”. Why didn’t you start with what you wrote above? It is much more rational and persuasive.

  4. AC Transit could be improved the same way pretty much any other transit system could be improved – more routes & more frequent service.

    Right now we’re getting our pants beat off by red-state cities like Phoenix, and even by student-run transit organizations like Unitrans (UC Davis).

    AC Transit would be fine for most other cities. If we were somewhere like Gilroy I’d think it was superb. But for a supposedly progressive, civic-minded city like Berkeley it stinks. We should be leading the pack, not content with just being in the top-10.

  5. Umm, I beg to differ “The Sharkey” (Why don’t you anonymous guys use your real names? Are you worried about retaliation or something?).

    I rode AC Transit every weekday for 10 years, from 2000 through the end of 2009, taking the E bus to San Francisco and back, and it was great. Despite the constant cuts in funding to AC Transit, and the subsequent reductions in service, I found AC Transit to be extremely reliable. In those 10 years there only a handful of times when the bus was really late or didn’t show up, and it was a much nicer, quieter and less hectic commute than BART.

    Furthermore, my daughter rides the 51B to Berkeley High every morning and many afternoons, and other than it being too popular (crowded), it works fine. Likewise, I have taken the 51B home from near 4th street twice in the last week, one time transferring to the 52 to go to a meeting on campus, and again, despite “the pathetic embarrassment of a transit system” you describe, the bus left on time, enabled me to make a pretty quick transfer to the 52 and all in all I got from 4th and University to the corner of Hearst and Gayley pretty quickly. And with the recent advent of Clipper Cards, I don’t have to fish around for my $1.75 + $0.25 for the transfer or whatever, all of that is automated. It works pretty darn well in my opinion.

    So I don’t know what other Bay Area cities you’re talking about that may have a better transit system (perhaps San Francisco?) but I’d say that compared to the other cities around here where I’ve lived (San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose, & Los Gatos), it’s pretty good.

    Now, I’ve also lived in Paris, London, New York and Boston, and yes, all of those places have way better, no, astronomically better transit than we do here in Berkeley, but that’s a broader problem we face in this country.

    But to call AC Transit a pathetic embarrassment of a transit system is dead wrong. Of course any system could be improved (e.g. web site comment features that allow anonymous comments) whether they are transit systems, manufacturing processes, or anything else. But that’s no reason to throw around ridiculous and silly accusations.

    How would you suggest AC Transit could improve given the financial constraints they face?

  6. I still do most of my grocery shopping in Berkeley, but only because of Berkeley Bowl West. Berkeley Bowl West is an incredible asset to our community. It’s still unbelieveable to me that the anti-development crowd here in Berkeley fought tooth and nail to keep that store from getting built for years.

    I do 95% of my non-grocery shopping outside of Berkeley. Any time I want to buy something large, or something in sufficient quantity that I can’t easily carry it for a mile or two I usually end up needing to leave Berkeley because of parking issues. My taxable dollars for big purchases are going to Oakland, Emeryville, El Cerrito, etc.

    It’s sad that the folks in local politics who have pushed the policies that got us here simply refuse to stop and take stock of what’s happening in the city. Instead of looking around and realizing that the
    policies of the past aren’t working any more, they’d rather just ignore the problem and protest against the building of new libraries, complain about chain stores that are already here wanting to remodel to make their stores nicer (Safeway), and try to stop much-needed and highly popular stores from moving into town (Trader Joe’s).

  7. OK, more to my point.

    Fortunately, right now I have a transit subsidy through my employer (and using Clipper, I don’t really see the amount of the fare). 

    The Transportation Commission and the Office of Transportation, some years back, were pushing to get realtime parking for downtown, but the money (from Berkeley City College mitigation) eventually was devoted to expansion and refit of the parking garage.

    The subject of downtown parking is sooooooooo complex. Honestly, I think for some people it is the most major issue in the city.

    UC did a study, also some years back, that showed a lot of downtown parking used by employees who were meter feeding. So that is one issue. One result of that study was there was ample parking in the garage except at noon hours. I think there was a general sense that visitors to downtown do not want to use the garage.

    Still another issue: I feel that the DBA, at least in past years, has somewhat hurt its efforts to market downtown o potential commercial businesses Downtown has one of the highest pedestrian rates in the Bay Area. Why isn’t that marketed aa a plus? Also, I think the city would have no problem in marking loading zones in front of stores.

  8. Utopian policies that sought to encourage mass transit instead have encouraged Berkeley residents to drive to stores in surrounding stores. Ninety percent of my non-grocery shopping is done outside of Berkeley. It should’nt be that way.

  9. I grew up in Berkeley, now live in SF.  These days, I only visit the place maybe once every year or so. I used to love it, and the bones of a fine little city are still there. The parking fee itself is not that out of line (although in a University town, one might think an economist could devise a more creative, demand-driven system). But the legacy of the reactionary Stalinist “progressives” will take a long time to remediate. The entitled, leeching class of renters deserve the squalor they have created.

  10. Those of you who note that you live close to downtown and now won’t drive there because of increased parking rates…..try walking, biking, skipping, or hopping there (if you are able, of course). You’ll find that you arrive refreshed, lose a few unwanted pounds over time, and are generally less apt to complain about everything on posts like these.

  11. Those meters are expensive, and it would take a long time for them to pay for themselves.

    Maybe we just need more parking, or better public transportation.

    If you want people to visit the stores, they have to come from somewhere. AC Transit is awful, and there isn’t enough parking downtown to handle any real increase in consumers.

  12. How about improving public transit so that it isn’t a royal pain in the ass that anyone in their right mind would try to avoid?

    How about incentivizing behavior we want to see increased instead of attacking people for making life decisions we don’t agree with?

  13. Downtown used to be a destination because it used to have stores worth visiting. But now that “progressive” policies (or whatever you want to call them) have driven out the businesses, embraced the chronic homeless, and driven away drivers downtown is becoming a wasteland.

    Personally speaking I like a thriving downtown that’s clean, easy to get to, and full of businesses that shoppers want to patronize but I guess that’s just crazy talk.

  14. In addition to possibly lowering driving, they’ll probably also lower traffic in business districts.

    The folks I see parking at the paid spots on Shattuck are doing so in order to visit the businesses in the area, not to go to the campus. There are much more convenient places to park if you’re going to UCB.

  15. I can’t speak for L S, but usually when I drive to buy it’s because of distance or because I plan on buying more than I can easily carry while walking.

  16. The City of Berkeley did previous propose 24-hour parking metering downtown a few years ago – I’m not sure who came up w/ this ridiculous idea, but it was absolutely stupid.  Even Union Square/Fisherman’s Wharf/etc. and Manhattan don’t have 24 hour parking fees!!!  Just use some common sense/economic sense for the parking issue.  I don’t like downtown at all – pretty much zero attraction for me there – mediocre retail, crime, lots of aggressive street people (prefer other shopping areas in Berkeley and Solano Ave in Albany).

    Berkeley has this annoying elite-ist attitude sometimes that works to its detriment.  Many years ago (well before the recent real estate bubble), Berkeley proposed limits on the amount one’s private house could go up in value – errr….Berkeley is a part of the United States, right?That being said, sometimes Berkeley does have ground breaking ideas that are eventually adopted by others!  

  17. Can we really say that people are discouraged from driving downtown when the problem isn’t that parking is too expensive, but it’s too hard to find a spot? If you are circling looking for a spot, then parking is too cheap. What we need is meters like in SF that have variable pricing. In SF, the prices adjust so that there is always a free spot, if you’re willing to pay for it.

  18. Let me suggest that the higher meter prices will actually help downtown Berkeley economically. 

    The problem downtown is not the price of parking, and very few people will change their shopping decisions to save 25 cents per hour. 

    The problem downtown is the lack of convenient on-street parking.  25 cents per hour may convince some employees who now feed the meters all day to use off-street parking or take transit instead.  The result will be more on-street parking for customers, which will help business downtown.

    I am always amazed by people who complain about higher meter prices. 

    In reality, drivers pay far less than the actual cost of their driving.  Consider all the “free parking” you get at stores, where “free parking” means that everyone who shops pays higher prices to subsidize the people who drive.  Or consider all the free on-street parking in neighborhoods, where free parking means that everyone pays property taxes and sales taxes to maintain the street space used as parking by people who drive.  Or consider the cost of waging wars in the middle east to secure your supply of petroleum.   Or consider the costs of global warming – with cars as  the number one source of ghg emissions in California.

    In addition, as NY Times columnist Tom Friedman often says, we really have only two options.  We can increase taxes on gasoline (and other charges for driving) to discourage driving in a way that lets us keep the money in the US and use it for ourselves.  Or we can try to keep driving as much as we do and keep pushing up oil prices – which will discourage driving in a way that ships our money to Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers.  There is a limited amount of oil in the ground, and gas prices will keep going up unless we do something about it.

  19. Suit yourself.  From where I live I choose to drive.  If the public policy priority in Berkeley is to discourage people like me from spending money in downtown, then everybody needs to accept the result.

  20. No, it’s not worth the hassle.  I used to try to hit Amanda’s for lunch but three or four times around the block and it’s not worth it.  I like PIQ but same problem.  Folks can talk about taking the bus, etc. and if that’s the biggest priority then fine — let’s get used to the idea of a dead downtown.  Ditto the bums and street urchins on telegraph .. Berkeley has to choose it’s priorities.  Right now empty store fronts and the smell of piss is winning – in spades.

  21. Frann, I ampretty sure an adult bus fare on AC Transit is $2.00!! Depending on how often you head downtown on the bus, a monthly bus pass is a good deal, esp. for seniors. It’s only $20/month for a senior.

  22. If it is really close to where you live, why not walk downtown? Save four dollars a gallon on gas, save parking costs AND get more exercise.

  23. Except for UC and, I guess, movies, I don’t think downtown Berkeley is all that much of a destination. Would someone drive downtown to go to a chain drugstore?  I wouldn’t. What’s down here that attracts customers?  I understand people come here to eat in restaurants and it’s not all in the Gourmey Ghetto but, no kidding, do folks drive downtown to go to Peets or Starbucks or pizza? There’s not that much retail business down hereexcept businesses catering to the UC crowd. I gues city employees are customers.  I msut be missing something.

    I understand

    Ige

  24. Early Wednesday evening, I picked up a pizza at Zachary’s on Solano.  I don’t own a car and took the bus. On the short ride home, two guys got on. One guy grumbled lightly that they were going to the movies and he had forgotten his bus pass. He cheerfully groaned as he put his two bucks in the machine. They looked about sixty. If they lived near where they got on the bus, it was near Shattuck & Rose.  It’s really not much of a walk from that part of town to the Shattuck Cinema. I rarely wait for buses when I am going such a short distance but I notice, more and more, that I walk more than car owners because Berkeley is fairly compact and with bus cutbacks it is often about the same amount of time to walk as to wait for the bus.

    But my real point is:  everyone could hop on a bus when heading downtown. I hope raising the parking fees encourages such behavior.

  25. I would love to see serious attempts to go after all the people abusing disabled parking placards. That would add to parking fees.

    I’m glad to see parking fees raised. I don’t think it will change retail customers. I don’t think all that much downtown parking is for people heading to businesses to spend money. I think the majority of downtown parking is headed to the university and that traffic will come no matter what the parking fees are.

    If higher fees lower driving, that’s great.

  26. Although I voted against in the survey, I will point out that the per-hour parking rate, $1.75, is the same as the bus fare without transfer. Using transit should be less than driving. 

  27. Seriously, I quit my membership at the YMCA downtown because I just couldn’t take the hassle of parking.  Now I NEVER shop, eat, or go anywhere in downtown Berkeley even though it is really close to where I live.  What kind of sea change will have to happen to wake our elected officials up.  Berkeley has no shopping, no decent municipal swimming pool, crappy schools, and high property taxes. But oh, we have that ridiculous monument greeting us both sides of the University Ave exit off 580. And a sex-change operation fund for municipal employees.  Honestly, if I didn’t have to live here….

  28. For 125,000 bucks they are going to invoke more ridicule and anger. The Berkeley City Council politburo once again, with their city worker underlings in tow, have to raise taxes in the worst economy since the 1930’s. Desperately trying to kill any semblance of an economy or lifestyle in downtown Berkeley.
    If we fired City Manager Kamlartz, who gets 200+ k a year, we cou.d make savings there too! Proof that education does not make people see reality. Too many people reading too much Paul” money printer” Krugman.

  29. City Employees get thirteen bank holidays a year. How about trimming that down to ten which is still four on top of what I and most regular people get and using the extra money and resources to some use. Berkeley downtown a bargain compared to San Francisco. Hahahahahahaha! 

  30. City Employees get thirteen bank holidays a year. How about trimming that down to ten which is still four on top of what I and most regular people get and using the extra money and resources to some use. Berkeley downtown a bargain compared to San Francisco. Hahahahahahaha! 

  31. As if Bay Area folks really needed *another* reason to not come to Berkeley to do their shopping. What a dumb decision.

    I doubt 25¢ an hour will make that big of a difference to customers in the long run, but doing something that will make shopping districts that are already having problems look even less appealing seems pretty short sighted.

  32. Berkeley’s parking fees may not be above average but their parking tickets are far beyond reasonable. $46 is crazy. And they won’t give employees passes at all. There is a waitress here near where I work who i saw get two in a week. She was the only person on staff and couldn’t leave her post. $92 is devastating to a single mother who waitresses for a living. Anyone who accuses Berkeley of being Communist doesn’t see how poorly it treats its working people. This is beyond nickle and diming and is well into quartering and dollaring.

  33. Berkeley’s fascist City Council is quickly taking the City of Berkeley down the tubes, Raise the already exorbitant parking fees and further decrease the small number of people shopping in downtown Berkeley. Now that’s a real smart move. The City Council recently allowed parking meters on San Pablo Avenue. Now no one parks on San Pablo Avenue, the few that shop on San Pablo Avenue park on the side streets.

    Here’s a suggestion City Council members: Decrease your high salaries and fire all non-performing deadwood city employees. After living in Berkeley for more than 30 years, I am sure that my suggestion will be viewed a union busting… and they are right. The public employees unions have a choke hold on our fair city, and we are just observers as we watch Berkeley wither and die.

  34. Well raising parking costs in Downtown should certainly be more of an incentive for people not to go there to shop. As parking is already an issue of great significance, I can’t see that this is going to help. Next they’ll go to 24 hours meters and then no one will go there ever! Nice move, COB!

  35. Another reverse Robin Hood, regressive taxation scheme which nickles and dimes the citizenry

  36. I hope this means that the owners of VACANT commercial properties will be paying their fair share. After all, without tenants, they’ve no one to pass the expense on to 🙂