Finding money on Oakland’s streets

You’re all probably tired by now of hearing how broke the City of Oakland is and all the terrible cuts to this department or that. Sadly, you’re just going to have to get used to it, cause the budget problems aren’t going away anytime soon. However, balancing the budget isn’t only about cuts. What gets discussed less often is the flip side, bringing in more revenue.

Part collecting more money involves hiking our already high fees for like, everything (see proposed changes to the Master Fee Schedule here (PDF)). Some of the proposed increases to parking fines (PDF) have been met with resistance by certain Councilmembers, since many of the new fines would be dramatically higher than those found in nearby cities. (See chart beginning on page 9 of this document (PDF) for comparison.)

But raising our fines is not the only way to suck more money out of all this perfectly good public space all over the City that we basically give away to cars. Parking is a hugely undertapped source of revenue for the City, and happily, we’re starting to look seriously at ways to get more money out of it. At tomorrow’s meeting (PDF), the Council’s Finance and Management Committee will be receiving a report outlining a number of measures under consideration to bring in more revenue from parking operations (PDF).

This is so overdue. I agree that we should not be charging fines for parking violations that are like, double that for the same violation in neighboring cities, but I also find the City’s cavalier treatment of the regular infringement of our streets and sidewalks by car drivers with an entitlement complex totally atrocious. Not only does our current lax enforcement cause us to miss out on potential revenue, but it also creates a public safety hazard. Allow me to give you an example. Not too long ago, a friend was giving me a ride, and I asked to stop and pick something up at the liquor store on the way to our destination. So we get to the liquor store, and there are no open parking spots on that immediate block. Well, there’s one parking spot open, but it is clearly not anywhere big enough to accommodate this person’s enormous van. The following conversation ensues:

Me: You can’t fit there, just circle around the block while I run in and get some vodka.
Him: No, no, I’ll just park here, it’s fine.
Me: Dude, I don’t think so. Just let me out and circle around the block, I’ll take like, 2 minutes.
Him: No, I can fit just fine. Watch.
[Parks. We exit the car and inspect the results.]
Him: Hmm. That’s borderline, what do you think?
Me: Um…only half of your car is in the parking space. The rest of it is totally in the road and you’re completely obstructing an entire lane of a major street!
Him: This isn’t a major street.
Me: Whatever. You absolutely cannot leave your car like that. Get back in and drive around while I run into the store.
Him: [considers for a moment] Nah, it’s fine.
Me: That is obviously not fine! You are going to get an enormous ticket!
Him: Relax. Nothing is going to happen. Oakland’s parking enforcement, like everything else in this city, is lazy and inept. And it’s after 5, so they’re not working now anyway.
Me: Fine, forget the ticket. You cannot leave your car in the middle of the street like that. You are endangering people!
Him: This is Oakland, V. Nobody cares.
Me: That’s ridiculous. Leaving your car like that is a public safety hazard. Go move it.
Him: Look, I’m not moving the damn car, I’m going to the store, there are no meter maids right now to give me a ticket, and there is not enough traffic on this street that they need two lanes anyhow.
Me: The police could drive by and see your car and give you a ticket! Do you know what the fine is for parking in the street like that?
Him: No, what is it?
Me: Well, I don’t know, but I bet it’s really high. Don’t you ever read ORPN? We have, like, the highest fees and fines of any city in the entire world or something.
Him: The world? Really?
Me: Whatever, I’m sure it’s a lot.
Him: Even if there were any police around here, they would totally not stop to give me a ticket.
Me: Yes, they would! Your car is dangerous!
Him: Okay, look. There’s a police car right now. How much would you like to bet that they do not care enough to stop?
Me: I’m not going to bet with you on that, because I would feel guilty taking your money when you have giant ticket to pay already.
[Police car is forced to switch lanes in order to avoid smashing into the vehicle in question, but drives by without stopping.]
Him: Okay, you lose. I’m going to the damn store.
Me: I still think you should move your car.
Him: Sigh

    Anyway, here are some of the things the City is considering doing to get more revenue from parking.

  • High-tech enforcement tools: So there’s this company called Paylock that makes all these neat-o parking enforcement tools. They make mobile license plate readers that automatically scan to see if a car has outstanding tickets, and then, once it identifies cars that haven’t paid, you can something called a “SmartBoot“, which is much lighter, and therefore easier to use than a normal boot, and then when they stick it on your car, instead of having to wait for someone to come remove it, you call in, pay your outstanding fees with a credit card over the phone, and then you get a code that you can use to unlock it yourself. They use them in Montgomery County, MD, New Orleans, Denver, and a whole bunch of other places. In Fredericksburg, VA, they even use it to collect delinquent property taxes.

    Another high-tech parking enforcement tool, not mentioned in the report, is this neat thing called AutoChalk that they have in Santa Barbara, that uses, like, GPS and time-lapsed photographs and lasers to identify illegally or too-long parked cars.

  • Increased enforcement hours: 12 part-time parking enforcement staff would be hired to so we can extended ticketing hours from 5 AM to 10 PM. The City anticipates this would generate $1.3 million a year.

  • Extra string operations to ticket abusers of handicapped and disabled parking spaces.

  • Doubling the fine for illegal truck parking, from $122 to $250.

  • Raising meter rates: From the current $1.50/hour to $1.75/hour. This would bring in another $1.2 million each year.

  • Raising meter rates for peak hours: For the highest demand parking hours, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, the City would charge higher rates for metered parking, probably $3/hour (PDF), possibly more. $5/hour for peak hours in high-demand areas could generate $3.2 million in annual revenue, but it does seem like kind of a lot of money. We’d get an extra $2.3 million for $3/hour.

  • Extending meter hours: We could bring in another $1 million/year in revenue by making meters go until 8:00 PM instead of 6:00 PM.

  • Having meters work on Sundays: This could generate $780,000/year.

  • Adding new meters in commercial areas that don’t have them.

  • Extending the hours of City garages: Yes! It seems so ridiculous that we have all this car storage all over downtown that people simply cannot use when they go out at night, and then we act like there’s some kind of parking shortage. It’s also extremely annoying to people who perhaps think they’re going to be leaving in time, and then they spend a little bit longer at dinner than they anticipated, and BOOM! Their car is locked in the garage and they can’t get it out until the next day and then it costs them a freaking fortune. This totally happens. I know this one guy who is constantly getting his car locked in parking garages overnight, I can’t even imagine how much it’s cost him. Not to mention the cost of a cab to get home when you’re stuck downtown without a car.

  • Meters you can pay by cell phone: This seems completely unnecessary to me.

Some of these changes will be part of the budget we’re about to adopt, and some clearly require more investigation before we’re ready to do them. More information about those will be coming to the Council in the fall.

47 thoughts on “Finding money on Oakland’s streets

  1. Ralph

    i love how we live in the heart of tech country and have yet to employ technology that could potentially reduce labor, increase enforcement, and improve collection. ABA.

  2. Jennifer

    Another parking issue: The number of cars with disabled placards is totally crazy — and they park for free anywhere, any time. I know if SF there is no way to know if these are temporary or permanent. It’s totally abused. There is no parking on the street by my boyfriends office any weekday because all the parking is taken up with disabled placards. I support them for people who need them, but most of them are bogus.

    Ralph — reduce labor — are you kidding?

  3. Justin

    It’s far more important to get the price of parking right than it is to track down and catch people with outstanding parking tickets. As Parking God Don Shoup says, parking rates should be set at the minimum price necessary to assure a 15% vacancy rate on any street segment. That requires far more variability than recommended here, but this is a very good start.

    People would be far more likely to pay more for parking if they knew that the money they were paying was going into improving the place they’re visiting. Increasing meter rates and parking fines to go into the black hole of the General Fund is not the way to do it. Parking revenues over and above what’s currently charged should stay in the neighborhood in which they’re generated. I think you can then displace GF funds from the area, but people need to see or feel some improvement to be comfortable paying more.

    I’m interested in the consequences of higher fines for double parked trucks making deliveries. I mean, we’re trying to be a city here folks! Not every business needs a dedicated lot and loading dock so that a truck isn’t taking up a lane for 10 minutes a few times a day.

  4. MarleenLee

    The City needs to be careful about setting fees (like for parking meters) based on the need to generate revenue, as opposed to basing the fees on the actual cost of providing the service, which is what the law requires. Of course, I already know how committed the City is to complying with the law when it comes to taxes….

  5. gem s

    “Increased enforcement hours: 12 part-time parking enforcement staff would be hired to so we can extended ticketing hours from 5 AM to 10 PM. The City anticipates this would generate $1.3 million a year. ”

    Ugh, this would completely suck for everyone who lives downtown and needs those metered spots to open up at night in order to park their car. Leaving for work at 8am is one thing, but 5am?

  6. Ralph

    @ Jennifer, I have to assume that you could use technology either to reduce the maids of the street and possibly redeploy them. For example, if meters required license plate input and generated notice of violation to a central office, then we shouldn’t need as many feet on the street. Additionally, for those inclined to amass violations without paying the fee, I’d like to beam a signal to enforcement that scofflaw is parked on Lakeshore and boot the vehicle.

    @ Justin, doesn’t the money collected from parking already go to street repair and maintenance to the areas which generate the revenue.

    I like demand / yield pricing but something looks flawed in a straight 10 – 2 application. Seems to me that demand varies by neighborhood. Lakeshore and Grand on a Saturday is a goldmine.

    I like extended hours but only on the back-end. I can’t imagine that there are that many people looking for a park at 5am maybe 7; so, I assume council wants to stick it to the overnight parkers. Still, it seems like the cost to collect is going be higher than the revenue generated. And it would stink in residential neighborhoods with scare parking that abut parking areas. Imagine, your buddy is over and as per the schedule you get some morning nookie. The fun with morning nookie is you roll over and bada bing bada boom not get clothes on, go feed the meter and come back bada bing bada boom. City Council destroying the Oakland hook-up one neighborhood at a time. :) (Sorry it was a story on NPR this morning)

  7. Ken

    SF has some parking meters which are digitally connected, which allows them to change pricing based on time of day. These meters are marked with a red or green painted head.

    That is called “congestion pricing” for parking.

    The newer style of solar-powered credit-or-coin meter with a ticket works better than the old kind too. You can’t put a paperclip in them for free parking. wastes paper tho minimally.

    It’s about time the city charged for Sunday parking. I also support neighborhood parking permits in every neighborhood of Oakland to help pay for the street maintenance and get rid of abandoned cars faster.

  8. Ken

    Justin: in a city, parking should be considered a privilege, not a right.

    Cars sitting parked do nothing for me. I can’t use that space to play basketball, sit down and play chess, walk a dog or see a movie.

    It’s time for us as a society to wake up and face the music. Cars are over as a way of life. If not this year or next year, a following year. This will become more obvious with each passing year.

    I worked for a biofuel startup collecting kitchen grease in the city. We’d get lots of tickets and our drivers would feed the meter maybe 80% of the time if they carried spare change. Yes we’d double park. Every city will have deliery trucks parking for a moment. These shouldn’t be ticketed, if they can demonstrate the ability not to stay unfairly parked or double parked for hours in one spot.

    It works in japan. I didn’t see any deliv trucks getting ticketed there. People are also charged to use every single “free”way there. Standard rate is almost a dollar a mile. Pays for “free”way and keeps traffic congestion minimal.

  9. oakie

    How much was the city’s budget 20 or 30 years ago? Adjust for inflation and population growth/shrinkage. Now ask yourself if we’re getting better services from our government for the money we spend?

    My suspicion is that we are way overpaying for what we get. The problem is NOT that we don’t collect enough, it’s that we spend WAY TOO MUCH.

    Don’t you realize that by penalizing people who voluntarily come to our city to visit us or spend money here (and who brave the high crime) will only result in less business to our merchants? It is dysfunctional to look for ways to punish the innocent. And, boy, is this city dysfunctional.

  10. East Lake Biker

    One way of reducing enforcement costs is getting the meter maids out of those ugly Geo Trackers and onto bikes. Most of the time they leave the engine idling when writing a ticket, while taking up a lane. The City would save on gas and vehicle maintenance while increasing revenues and bettering air quality at the same time. Some of the $ saved could be used to buy bikes and pay for urban riding classes.

    In DTO and major commercial districts this would be ideal.

    Plus, it’s also satisfying for a cyclist such as myself to see someone on a bike “stick it” to cars.

  11. Patrick

    I second the motion for neighborhood parking permits. My neighborhood is littered with unused cars and RVs that should be parked in a garage – but why clean out the garage for parking when the street (and sometimes the sidewalk) is free?

    I suggest going even further. The city can issue “reserved residential parking” decals and paint the curb of your choice as a preferred parking zone (say, in front of your house). I’d pay $250 a year to have curb bling. I bet lots of other people would too, especially in a city where so many residents seem to value tricked out cars over everything else. Besides, as the sidewalk is now my responsibility, why not just offer the space next to it for a fee?

  12. len

    ML, what is the wording of the law on pricing parking penalties? Does the wording leave wiggle room for congestion pricing?

    re. alternate side of the street parking tickets, is the city intending to increase the fines and reduce street sweeping?

    P, residential parking permits don’t work as well as a alternate side of the street parking rules to eliminate abandoned vehicles and long term storage on the street. eg. there is one residential parking meter maid for most of north oakland.

    -len raphael

  13. Patrick

    Well, one good thing about my proposal is that no meter maid is required. The person who pays for the space would be the enforcer. A one time up-front fee would pay for curb painting AND removal. The curb paint could have the decal number painted on to ease enforcement. I would suggest employing a private towing service (as the city is inept) to remove cars illegally parked; $300 fine? $200 for the towing service and $100 for the city. It’s a cash cow – and it discourages driving. The City Council would eat it up.

    We had alternate side of street parking (street cleaning) in San Francisco. Which meant constant stress and ridiculous fees (trust me, I know). Plus, it always smacked of blatant revenue generation (I mean, I lived in Twin Peaks where the constant winds blew any trash down the hill), without any benefit to the citizenry. If I am to be financially responsible for the sidewalks which are of benefit to everyone, I think a fair trade-off is to benefit from curbside parking that is paid for by everyone. Especially if I pay for the right to park (or more importantly, preventing anyone else from parking) there.

  14. Mike Spencer

    Oakie, good point. Government is never very accountable because it does not come out of their pockets as individuals.

    On the revenue side, do the City or Police see money from traffic tickets? Or does it all go to the courts? About every other month I see speed traps on upper Park Boulevard, a 35 mph zone where many go between 50 and 55 mph close to residential areas. I know our poilice resources are stretched but I am all for raising money through enforcement of traffic laws. We could make a big dent ticketing daily on Park and Mountain boulevards.

  15. Robert

    Red light cameras would be a great step forward for raising revenue also. I don’t think I have ever seen one in Oakland.

  16. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    Having served on the Parking Task Force (although admittedly it was somewhat of a joke because no one listened to a word we had to say), I can say that other cities have had great success with increasing meter hours increasing revenue. However, most cities found that their sales tax revenues decreased when they raised the price per minute and many went back and reduced that per minute price after a few years, which seemed to be help in at least a few cities. Keep in mind that we already have the highest per minute meter costs in the Bay Area.

    A problem I see here in Oakland is the *paying* of the fines. We hire an outside company to collect, and they skim a pretty good portion off the top. I don’t have the exact numbers. What makes no sense is that it’s a seemingly easy collection since they can’t renew their car registration until the tickets are paid.

    The other problem is that you have those living beneath the poverty line who claim inability to pay said fines and they are often let off. Well what’s their incentive to not do it again? We had suggested coming up with a community service type payment system. No one wanted to do that because it would cost money to administer.

    We need to look at this from a long term prospective – how do we make for A Better Oakland? An Oakland where people WANT to live, which in turn increases property values (and increase property tax revenue); an Oakland where people want to shop (and increase sales tax revenue); and an Oakland where schools create better kids who will grow up to be better adults.

    The quality of roads, schools, and other public services are scaring people away. We do need to raise taxes, but the people won’t vote for that until we have a different mayor with a perceived better plan.

  17. jack b dazzle

    I stopped eating lunch on College Ave because I kept getting parking tickets. Now I eat in Emeryville at the public market (where I see a lot of Oakland people).

    If we are going to succeed, we need to help business and add jobs, not punish our residents and businesses.

    To raise revenue, how about charging hills residents a few to allow them to trim trees on their properties or city property?

    Currently, there are a lot of trees that can’t be trimmed. Because it improves the view, I am sure that people or builders would be willing to pay 5-10K, and it does not hurt the tree. It might also raise property values, which would help our budget.

  18. Izzy Ort

    “Red light cameras would be a great step forward for raising revenue also. I don’t think I have ever seen one in Oakland.”

    Supposedly there is one on San Leandro Street at 66th and there were plans for 19 more, according to an Oakland Tribune article from last August.

    “In a contract negotiated by former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly, Oakland will pay Reflex, one of the largest companies in the red-light camera business, $4.32 million over three years — about $120,000 monthly ($1,440,000 annually) — to install and maintain the equipment, according to a July 2007 resolution approved by city council members.”

    It doesn’t sound like it was designed to rake in the cash, though.

    “Any city revenues remaining after program costs and salary of an employee to review the citations would go to the general fund, the police traffic enforcement division, traffic-safety funds and a project to be determined, according to the resolution.”

  19. gem s

    Writing red-light tickets for profit is somehow better than simply raising taxes?

    The reason for writing tickets should be safety, not profit. Tickets should not be monetarily incentivized unless you want to see cops writing tickets for jaywalkers and smokers and all those other laws that are supposed to make life better and safer (I’m not saying that is true), not just be on the books to fill the coffers.

    Red light cameras have been abused by cities who shortened the yellow in order to catch more people and get more money. Other cities have signed contracts with system providers that have netted the city very little income- certainly not as much as the for-profit camera companies.

    Oakland actually has red-light cameras, and in 2007 police chief Tucker suggested that cameras be used to spy on Oakland citizens as well. Here’s the agenda report PDF to Edgerly authorizing her to lobby for California’s vehicle code to be amended to allow for monitoring “purposes outside the enforcement of red light violations”.

    Here’s an article from Oakbook which points out that neither Fremont nor Emeryville had seen an increase in revenue, while the company that runs the program is doing OK.

  20. Ralph

    OTGJ, I think you are assuming people with outstanding tickets actually go through the trouble of renewing their registration?

    I think it really stinks that the city failed to implement the free labor/ for fine idea. At least we would have clean parks. I think they need to revisit that proposal.

  21. SF2OAK

    JOakland is ripping you off again. The meters or pay stations are a crap system- because they force you to pay in advance for a spot when frequently you don’t know how long your errand will take. How long is the line at the post office? who knows? Why don’t they use a fast track like device where you hang it in you window and start the meter when you exit the vehicle and stop it when you return and your account would be debited. If a parking control officer sees that your fasttrack meter is running you don’t get t ticket otherwise you do- this is not a technological hardship to do- i have seen it in other countries. Me thinks Joakland just wants the $50 or more that a ticket costs and wants the extra revenue from the pay stations because you are virtually forced to buy more time than you need just in case.

  22. Max Allstadt

    V you’re totally exaggerating my Starsky and Hutch approach to parking. And my van is not “enormous”.

  23. yasha

    We absolutely should raise parking fees and other vehicle use fees in the downtown.

    During daylight hours public transport is really pretty good in Oakland, IMO, so we should incent people to switch to the bus as much as possible. Raise parking to $2 an hour (more than a bus ride) – those that really need to drive will find a way to pay, those that don’t will take the bus. Further, less cars makes for a more pedestrian friendly environment, more pedestrians means more people, which means more commerce, more saftey and a lively street scene.

    Seriously – we heavily subsidize cars by providing all these roads and cheap parking. We need to move to a less car centric mode and economic incentives are worth a try.

  24. SF2OAK

    Last Friday I believe I witnessed a huge cash cow for Joakland in a speed trap on Lakeshore Avenue- a motorcycle cop just sat and waited for moving violations and I was down on Lakeshore for probably 1.5 hours and the cop was constantly giving tickets- I think hwewas idle for 5 minutes in between stops. Btw I was enjoying the free parking at the “Trader Joe’s” lot which is apparently up for being a pay lot per city council.

    Joakland ought to be alot more friendly to business, especially retailers- more parking hassles more people will go to free parking in Emeryville and bye bye sales tax $ as well as loss of street life. We ought to be know as a city that is friendly to people who want to spend money in direct contrast with SF but instead what do you think Joakland’s image is?

  25. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    SF2OAK – Edgerly went with the newer meter systems (which were in storage for over 18 months before implementation) because people complained about the old coin meters and not being able to pay with a credit card (or ATM). Unfortunately, they decided that they would go with higher merchant fees just to get the money even a few days earlier.

    I’m not a fan of these things because you have to walk over, pay, get the pay stub, go back to your car… when you could have thrown some coins in and been back from your destination (in many cases) already. In many places in Europe you can use your cellphone to pay (vending machines too!), which is why that has been suggested here. I’m ambivalent. I just want it to be easy. When you’re dumping 8 quarters into a machine, it SEEMS more expensive than feeding 2 $1 bills.

    But extending meter hours seems to be a winner… notice that parking enforcement is working on furlough days.

  26. MarleenLee

    Len – the general rule is that “a regulatory license or permit fee levied cannot exceed the sum reasonably necessary to cover the costs of the regulatory purpose sought. Such costs, however, include all those incident to the issuance of the license or permit, investigation, inspection, administration, maintenance of a system of supervision and enforcement.”

    There was already a parking meter case that went all the way up to the appellate court in California, with a plaintiff claiming the parking meter fees constituted an improper fee or tax because the revenue exceeded the cost of the program. The plaintiff lost; the case is not precedential. However, when a City starts basing its fees on how much money it wants to generate to help fill a gigantic $85 million deficit, due to its own financial mismanagement, as opposed to how much it costs to maintain parking meters and hand out tickets, the City needs to think about the cost of potential legal challenges as well.

    I, for one, work in the suburbs, and I love being able to go shopping and never have to worry about parking. Why should I shop in Oakland and have to worry about parking meters (let alone excessively expensive parking meters) when I can go shopping in Dublin and park right next to the store for FREE?

  27. Sean Sullivan

    Is SF2Oak correct?
    Whoever thinks adding parking meters to the Trader Joe’s parking lot is a good idea is out of their minds. I live closer to Trader Joe’s in Emeryville but make a point to shop at the other Trader Joe’s that are in our fair city to help stop the tax leakage. This does require the burning of more fossil fuels I’ll admit but I couch it with trips to the gym or other walks around our thriving centers of local business and corporate chain mix on Grand, College Avenue & Lakeshore. I tell you, adding a meter to these lots will take many patrons right out of shopping in Oakland and would be a death knell to these Trader Joe’s and surrounding businesses. The paid parking lot in between Grand and Warner is already disincentive enough.

    I don’t agree with Marleen that we should emulate Dubiin.
    I do agree with V that we do need to create incentives to get people out of using their cars and implementing our bicycle master plan would do that. Increasing parking lot costs is not an incentive it is an unfair penalty.

    Max, somehow I knew it was your van she was talking about.

  28. Robert

    Marleen, I think in that case the damand based fee would be the way to go, since the regulatory purpose would be to insure adequate available parking (10 to 15% free spots).

    On the other hand, if we really want to be competitive with the suburbs for sales tax from shopping, free parking is the way to go.

    The city gets a cut of the red light cams, and how much can administrative expenses for such a system really be?

    And yes, in certain circumstances I think that they should be ticketing jaywalkers. I frequently see people jaywalking across Lakeshore and holding up traffic while they do it.

    I think that one of the limitations of the new meters, besides the inconvenience, is that you can’t actually implement a demand based parking fee on the system, unlike others sytems in the area that can easily be programed to have different fees at different times and on different days.

  29. Robert

    The Trader Joes parking lot proposal would allow two hours of free parking, which is the same as now, but allow for longer term paring with a payment.

  30. Izzy Ort

    ” I live closer to Trader Joe’s in Emeryville but make a point to shop at the other Trader Joe’s that are in our fair city to help stop the tax leakage. ”

    I live closer to the Trader Joe’s on Lakeshore, but go to the one in Alameda because it’s easier to park, and it’s less crowded inside. My parking strategy is to go to where the empty spaces are and then hoof it back, even it it’s far away. I hate getting stuck in a lot or garage behind cars camping out waiting for a spot that’s close. Once you pull into the Lakeshore TJ’s it’s like you’ve entered a parking black hole. There’s no getting out. And the store itself was packed the one time I was there.

    I have become a fan of the Mi Pueblo on High Street, though, so we’re diverting some otherwise Costco-bound dollars there lately. It’s like the anti-Whole Foods. I bet their lard isn’t even organic.

  31. Patrick

    Mi Pueblo rocks! Best supermarket ever. Mmm…the chile rellenos from their Mexicatessen are awesome!

  32. Ralph

    I would support parking meters at TJ provided the initial 2 hrs is still free. I typically don’t flow that way during the weekday, but I imagine that this proposal was borne out of the Saturday nightmare. Prior to TJs opening, I may have lingered in that lot. Now that TJs has opened and they have parking people taking note of the abusers, I handle my business and get to going at the end of the two hours, if not sooner. (That being said, as I’ve never lived more than 1.5 mi from here since moving to the O, I just assume walk the 20 mins than spend forever and a day in that parking lot while people circle waiting for a park .)

    What you don’t want happening is a bunch of people hoarding spaces and reducing turnover, thus reducing the potential sales of taxable items.

    I guess I am not convinced that the parking fee approaches the disincentive level discussed here.

    @Robert, if we wanted to compete with suburbs we would need one small thing – retail store density. It is simply cheaper and more efficient (at least for me) to shop SF. But where I can I will drop my dollar in the O.

  33. David

    I know this thread is specifically about raising taxes (and yes, raising these “fees” is the same as raising taxes, or conversely, people will just do more shopping in Emeryville, etc)…but let’s review Oakland’s spending.

    2000: Oakland’s population: 399,484
    2007 (lastest number I see): 401,489 — I think we can safely assume it’s not significantly higher today.

    Oakland’s 2001 budget: $813M
    Oakland’s 2009 budget: $1.1B

    This is an increase of about 37% in 8 years.
    There has been no increase in population. Inflation over those 8 years has been 20% total.

    Therefore, 15% of the budget should be “cuttable.” Shockingly, that would pull Oakland back from the brink of insolvency and put it into the ‘fixable’ category.

    Funny how that happens when you live within your means.

  34. Robert

    @Ralph, good point. I was think of when (if) the city brings in retail in the Auto Row area.

  35. len

    Trader Joe’s generates business tax and some sales tax for Oakland, but grocery stores only charge sales tax on alcohol, hot food, pet food, supplements. so make sure you buy your alcohol and pet food in oakland.

    ML, “fee levied cannot exceed the sum reasonably necessary to cover the costs of the regulatory purpose sought. Such costs, however, include all those incident to the issuance of the license or permit” is that definition of costs expansive enough to cover indirect costs of car traffic such as road maintenance?

    btw, on the meter thang, is there some uninforced rule that a vehicle is supposed to move after meter expires?

    GS, when emeryville first installed red light camera i got a ticket. a few weeks later i walked over to the intersection and timed the yellow light. amazingly short.

    didn’t bother fighting it, but have noticed they often turn off the camera’s.

    JBD, besides free parking, isn’t the price of typical lunch at the emeryville food court about 40% less for 20% more than College Ave?

    -len raphael

  36. OnTheGoJo/Joanna


    On the meter “thang”, yes, there is a rule that says if the meter limit is 2 hours, then even if you pay up through the two hours, you can add more money after that, but technically you are breaking the law by staying longer. The problem is that sometimes they do enforce this and sometimes they don’t.

    We had a similar problem with our mixed-use parking permits… without a permit you can park for four hours. But you can’t move your car and park elsewhere within the district for the other four hours. That’s something we had asked about when coming up with the plan, and the city told us one thing and then later we found out that it was something else. You can’t even park in a 2-hour non-permit space after parking your four hours in the District.

    BTW, I do buy pet food and alcohol in Oakland! Very rarely anywhere else. Thank goodness BevMo is so close by. ;) And we only have to go to the PetVet place on Broadway once every two months.


  37. dave o

    In the hospitality sector, we stuggle to insure that people have a good experience when they come to Oakland. Agressive parking-fee collection just discourages them from coming here. Oakland already has a reputation for mean-spiritedness in city government, and more agressive parking-fee collection just feeds the bad PR. Let’s bring back the culture and festivities that used to make Oakland a destination.

    Also, these parking fee approaches are regressive. Poor people are already highly stressed trying to survive in this bad economic situation. Putting more financial stress on the poor just leads to nasty unintended consequences.

  38. Chris Kidd

    raising parking fees are regressive only if we don’t provide a reasonable public transit alternative. I’m not saying that we DO have that right now, but we should. And we should jack up parking meter rates too. No more free real estate.

  39. Robert

    CK, that all depends on what the goal of the provision of parking is for the city. And of course, that is not defined. If it was defined, deciding an what the appropriate charge is would be a fairly straightforward proposition. But since it isn’t, you think parking rates should be high to discourage car use, dave o thinks it should be low/free to encourage people to shop and work in Oakland, and the city may think it is to maximize revenue. It is a question of priorities and mission.

  40. Ralph

    ahh, that George Zimmer. I haven’t seen a MW commercial in so long, I completely forgot who he was

  41. Oh Pleeze

    Meter maids on bikes? How about park rangers on bikes, ticketing the multitude of cyclists who eschew the very expensive and presumably invisible Grand Avenue bike lanes, choosing instead to run pedestrians off Grand Avenue’s sidewalks?

  42. East Lake Biker


    I’m with you that cyclists shouldn’t be on the sidewalk, under the vehicle code we belong on the street. In an ideal world everyone would take urban riding classes. This also happens on College. Bike commuters do use the bike lanes, have you been out on Grand during peak times?

    Back to my original point. Parking enforcement officers on bikes would be non-polluting and would free up lanes. PD occasionally does bike patrols, for example.

  43. Robert

    ELB, in the commercial areas with daigonal parking and the new meter system the meter readers are usually walking now, since they have to in order to get to the front of the cars to see the receipt. They use their cars to get from one area to the next. Giving them bikes would be a problem because they would have to walk or ride their bikes on the sidewalk to check the windshields.

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