Berkeley says it plans to roll back the enforcement of certain parking rules through April 7. Photo: Kevin Bringuel
Berkeley says it plans to roll back the enforcement of certain parking rules through April 7. Photo: Kevin Bringuel

Drivers in Berkeley are set to get some relief from a slew of parking rules following this week’s regional shelter-in-place order from health officials designed to address the spread of COVID-19.

Oakland and San Francisco announced earlier this week that they would call off ticketing related to street sweeping. Many readers have asked Berkeleyside to find out if the city of Berkeley plans to make a similar move.

“I just saw a meter maid drive by on Bateman Street in Elmwood,” one reader asked. “Should we really be issuing parking tickets right now? Shouldn’t we encourage people to shelter-in-place, not go outside to move their cars to the opposite side of the street? Seems short-sighted.”

Another reader, who said she had lived in Berkeley since 1993, said she saw numerous parking enforcement officers issuing tickets Tuesday in her neighborhood, which is a two-hour residential parking zone.

“So even though we are being ordered to stay inside we still need to move our cars every two hours if we are home all day?? Seems crazy, but I thought people should know. I just assumed they would stop ticketing people but nope!” She continued: “If we take the financial hit of not being able to work they should take the hit of not making money off tickets.”

A Trader Joe’s employee had a similar take, telling Berkeleyside that he has been taking particular pride in his work this week as people have flooded stores to stock up on important staples. He said many TJ’s staffers have to commute to Berkeley because they can’t afford to live in the city. He said he didn’t think it was fair to ask employees offering vital services “to dash away from our post every two hours to move our cars to avoid parking citations.”

Other readers wanted to know whether street sweeping and ticketing were considered “essential government functions,” which are the only ones that are supposed to be happening under the regional shelter-in-place decree.

In response to concerns like these that have cropped up in recent days, Berkeley staff said Thursday that the city would relax a number of parking rules — but not all of them — over the next three weeks. The ones that remain central to public safety and basic access will remain in place, said city spokesman Matthai Chakko.

Chakko said Berkeley will no longer enforce school-zone parking restrictions or time limits related to meters, timed zones or residential parking areas.

What will continue to be enforced, however, are painted curbs such as red zones or the blue ones used for disabled access, access to fire hydrants and driveways, passenger-loading zones and the like. People also need to keep delivery zones clear so businesses can receive vital shipments.

The city will also continue its street-sweeping program, Chakko said, and plans to issue tickets for non-compliance. Berkeley needs to keep the streets clear to avoid issues like storm drain impacts, among other factors, he said.

Chakko said it’s important for people to remember that, even with some enforcement on hold, the city hopes community members will be considerate and pay attention to the needs of restaurants and other struggling local businesses who may need curb access for carry-out orders and other aspects of their operation.

If the new approach isn’t working, Chakko cautioned, the city could reconsider and roll it back before April 7, when the current shelter-in-place order is set to end.

Chakko said the city began rolling out the new rules Wednesday and that Berkeley is still considering what to do with tickets that may have been issued this week before it made the change.

Chakko said City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley is taking all of these challenges into account as Berkeley considers how people are handling the shelter-in-place order and the ongoing public health emergency related to COVID-19.

“We are doing whatever we can to help people through this really unprecedented crisis for our city,” Chakko said. “She is trying to do whatever we can to make sure we are responding in a way that helps people.”

Emilie Raguso

Emilie Raguso (senior editor, news) joined the Berkeleyside team in 2012. She covers politics, public safety and development. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...

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  1. Yes, Shelter-in-Place and getting out to move your car are diametrically opposed but another problem: where are you going to move your car? I don’t live in an area where I have off-street parking, but I visit friends who do (before SIP and SD). This is what I see now: 1] street parking is in some areas lacking spaces for moving cars from one spot to another and 2] BART parking lots are empty. Conclusion: all those cars that used to be parked in a BART parking lot are now parked on city streets.

  2. Some otherwise progressive Berkeleans do their upmost to never be caught West of Grove, let alone (shudder) Sacramento.

  3. Which is A-OK. If you don’t have a car you also don’t need to worry about moving it.

  4. I sure don’t want to spend time trying to go through this budget, but I wonder how there could be sufficient expenses that leave a loss of $100K on revenue exceeding $14M? Surely there aren’t THAT many meter monitors with attendant equipment!

  5. Saw a meter maid on Shattuck near the Cheeseboard this afternoon giving out tickets. Seems they are still active even though hardly anyone is out.

  6. To go where? I’m sheltering at home as ordered. Also, in my previous life, I walked/biked to work. Not really sure why you’re asking, but there’s your answer!

  7. Yep, I still get my 2 accurate monthly text alerts (one for each side of the block) the evening before, as always. I don’t even have a car, but make sure my neighbors don’t get nailed. Some helpful people on other blocks use recycled campaign lawn signs for the same purpose, but the automatic text alerts are best.

  8. I don’t understand why it’s any different now with TJ employees from what it was before. Where did they park? How did they manage to move their cars 2 wks ago, for instance, and now it’s suddenly a problem?? This so-called hardship doesn’t make sense. Why should they now be able to park free all day in a neighborhood where residents have to pay, via permits, for parking? I assume, even if the store is busy now, employees still get their breaks.

  9. The city of Berkeley should continue to enforce all of our parking laws. It would be a tremendous benefit to all of the city’s current residents to do so. People need to be able to occasionally use their cars to obtain essentials. But if there are no parking rules, the streets will eventually become clogged with cars that never move. This will prevent the current residents from finding parking after venturing out to obtain food and medicine.

    All of our parking laws, especially our residential parking permit system and the 72-hour time limits, serve the valuable function of keeping at least a minimal circulation of parking traffic in our neighborhoods. This is good traffic hygiene. Even residents know that they have to move their car every three days.

    If there are no rules, our residential streets will fill up with cars that will park in one spot indefinitely, their owners secure in the knowledge that there are no rules to stop them. This will add unnecessary tensions to many residental neighborhoods at the worst possible time.

    When parking spots are taken up by long-term parkers, it removes the ability of current residents to have a fair shot at finding parking in their neighborhood when they return from driving their car to a distant location for food and medicine.

    The residents may lose any chance of finding a parking spot within one or two blocks of their home when they return from the store the first week that they go out. And the next week they might not find parking that is less than three or four blocks away. And it will only get worse. Parking will eventually become harder and harder to find for every resident who needs to use their car.

    Berkeley should continue to enforce all of its parking laws just as they are. Under these laws people have found a way to live. The city will upend our way of living if it drops the very reasonable rules that are now in place. The city should impose as few changes as are necessary during this difficult time. This is not the time to conduct an experiment that may result in extreme inconvenience. This is the time to keep things as normal as possible.

  10. A number of buildings in Berkeley were approved on the condition that the residents are INELIGIBLE for a RRP permit.

  11. Street sweeping is required by federal law to reduce water pollution. It removes lots of contaminants — including tiny oil leaks from cars — that would otherwise wash into the bay.

    Is it a revenue generator? Let’s see a citation for that.

  12. If our city really wants to make money with parking violations I suggest they start ticketing double and triple parking (well not right now, but once this pandemic is over).

    SB Shattuck in the middle of the reconfigured area had 1.5 lanes completely unusable weekday mornings because delivery trucks think you can park anywhere. You didn’t know? Hazard light immediately transform a road into a legal parking lot. Same thing around the Safeway on Shattuck and Cedar. Trucks double parked on Cedar because the loading bay’s occupied and they couldn’t care less. C’mon people, use some common sense and be courteous of other road users. Especially bikes and peds are put a unnecessary risk here. Motorists (paying too little attention anyways) can’t see through or around your massive semi.

    If I park on the wrong side of my small street it’s $51 before I can blow my nose. But double and triple parking on heavily used streets in our city? No problem. Go figure.

  13. Twice a month, Alexa reminds me it’s Street cleaning day. Sure, I have to set it up in advance each month after each alert. But it works!

  14. TJ Workers should be taking public transportation to work in my opinion. Why doesn’t TJ always move into places that have little to no parking and always are drawing people in that already congested area! Do the responsible thing TJ, tell your employees to take public transport and maybe you’ll get a tax break too!! I live two blocks away and hate that intersection with a passion. I now use Hearst as my way in and out of the area!

  15. Ok… Not to sound crass and insentive… But if you live in the COB and don’t have access to a garage/driveway already, you need to get a City permit if you live in an area that has one. Period. Even when I was commuting to Dublin every day for work and well beyond any chance of me getting a parking ticket under the two-hour parking rule, I’ve maintained a parking permit. I did this for the off chances when I was traveling for work, home sick or just working from home, I didn’t have to worry about moving my car every two hours!

  16. Have you never seen half of West Berkeley flooded when there is heavy rain?

    It’s a long-running infrastructure problem of older culverts being too small for the runoff combined with other older culverts crumbling that is being repaired steadily but slowly.

  17. You can report abandoned vehicles (or, parked more than 72 hours) by calling the non-emergency PD number at (510) 981-5900. At least, you can under normal circumstances. I’m not sure if they will be towing abandoned vehicles at this point. I hope not.

  18. If you live in an RPP 2 hour zone and you have to move your car every 2 hours: you are doing it wrong.


    Trader Joe’s workers should park in the EMPTY UC LOT behind the godawful brutalist UC Extension building. How about it UC? Ready to give back for once?

  19. Par for the course in this city. I emailed my councilman, Ben Bartlett, asking how this is considered a critical function when people are obviously distracted. The likelihood that an elevated number of people will be slapped with a citation when distracted by what we hope is a once-in-a-lifetime event, is pretty high. But, I scarcely need to add, no response. Newsom just demonstrated what a real leader can do in a crisis. But this is the minors.

  20. These days we all have such smart phones. They’re good for more than pokemon. I set up a a recurrent calendar event on my iPhone calendar. Every month it reminds me the evening before. I learned my lesson after getting nailed to the tune of $51.

    Now how the guy on Cornell who has his two cars under tarps (with believe it or not cones set up around them) gets around these tickets I have no idea. From all I can tell those vehicles haven’t been moved in months. Same goes for the busted RV on NB San Pablo right at the Albany border.

  21. In my nieghborhood upper n. Berkeley, we don’t have such a thing as street, rubbish, cleaning day. Says it with nose, and pinky in air, sipping teacup. This doesn’t reflect the area, or people, just me, being me.

  22. As always with Berkeley city govt, a very slow and late decision, even when the right action is obvious.

    Now how about doing a lot more about those most likely centers of infection, homeless camps and senior residences? What are the City Council and our expensive redundant city health dept doing? We need lots more than what they did Tuesday.

  23. The city should institute an automatic e-mail and text message alert to remind citizens of street sweeping times. If your doctor, dentist, and Amazon can do it, why can’t the almighty City of Berkeley?

  24. Moving cars for sweeping means going out over and over. I you are in a tight parking area it means walking some distance when you find an alternate spot to park. Seems the streets could go a month without this.,

  25. The street sweeping program is both a revenue creator and a jobs program. It has little or nothing to do with environmental protection.

  26. Anyone who follows Berkeley politics knows darn well that the primary purpose of the street sweeping program is revenue production, not to improve bay runoff. If runoff were the issue, why does over 1/3 of the city not participate in the program?
    Leaves and dirt are not particularly toxic, so clearly this program remains untouched because it is profitable to the city.

  27. Yes, my understanding is that a very large hunk of the City budget is revenue from parking fines. It would be interesting if Berkeleyside could tell us what that figure is, for this fiscal year.

  28. Too late. They nailed us this morning for a $50 street sweeping ticket because we’re sheltered-in-place at home.

  29. For once I think this sounds quite reasonable. Relaxing on time limits make sense considering overall traffic is a fraction of what it usually is. OTOH continuing to enforce parking bans in front of hydrants makes sense, BFD’s mission is unchanged. Street sweeping still needs to occur to make sure our storm drains remain functional.

  30. Not ticketing TJ’s employees (and the like) who opted to drive to work rather than take Bart, seems pretty reasonable. However, if you’re allowed to go outside to go to: the grocery store, post office, car repair shop, drug store, take out restaurant, or any other number of “essential businesses,” or to go for a walk, run, or bike ride, you can just as easily go outside to move your car a few feet for street sweeping. It’s really not that complicated. In fact, it’s even easier for most than before, because you’re probably home already. Streets need to be swept for a reason. Overall, a surprisingly prudent temporary policy change.

  31. Lower Stuart St where I live is basically gravel and asphalt dust. The street is not scheduled for any type of repair in 5 year plan. Street Sweeping only tears up the machines and put enormous dust clouds of contaminates in our homes. After the sweeper passes the street is further eroded into long rows of gravel. Yet another example of Berkeley Stupid!