Berkeley City Council approves increased Downtown parking rates

Rocio Soto pays a meter for parking in the Downtown area on Friday. Downtown parking fees could rise by 25 cents per hour in July.
Allyse Bacharach/Senior Staff
Rocio Soto pays a meter for parking in the Downtown area on Friday. Downtown parking fees could rise by 25 cents per hour in July.

Downtown Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue, which has boasted packed parking slots on most weekend afternoons, might soon find itself with many more vacant spaces as a result of a recent decision that could increase the hourly parking rate from $1.50 to $1.75.

The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday to increase the hourly parking rate of the 750 parking spaces found in the Downtown by 25 cents — a decision which could take effect as early as July 11.

Other cities do have higher hourly meter rates — San Francisco with an average of $3 and Oakland with $2.

“If you look at other cities, this increase by 25 cents still puts us below the average in the East Bay,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, whose district encompasses the Downtown. “Also, the money will be going toward the city’s contribution to the PBID (Property-Based Improvement District), which will help invest in the infrastructure of the Downtown area.”

The increase affects 88 pay-and-display stations between Oxford Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way and between Kittredge Street and University Avenue, which includes popular parking areas such as Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way.

“The increase is a way to pay for the city’s portion of the new Downtown Berkeley Property-Based Improvement District,” said Phil Kamlarz, Berkeley city manager.

The increase is estimated to generate $125,000 in revenue, which would more than cover the city’s potential PBID payment commitment of a rough annual $105,000.

The Downtown Berkeley PBID would be a special district where property is assessed to fund Downtown improvements and services including maintenance teams, marketing projects and neighborhood watch programs.

If the PBID is approved by property owners in the affected area via the petition and ballot process, it will appear on the November 2011 Alameda County tax bill for voter approval.

The council’s decision passed with some apprehension among some of its members, with 3 of 10 voting members voting against it.

“I support the PBID, but I cannot support an increase in rates at this time,” said Councilmember Gordon Wozniak. “Our Downtown businesses are already fragile. The Downtown has to compete with a lot of regional shopping centers where they don’t charge for parking or parking is cheaper. The rate increase will not completely discourage people, but it’s going to discourage some from visiting the Downtown area.”

Wozniak said he fears that even the increased rate might not actually generate more money. With an increase in parking rates and fees within the last couple of years, Wozniak said he has noticed more available spaces and cautioned that this rate increase might detract from the already dwindling downtown parking revenue.

Councilmember Linda Maio said that while she understands the concerns of the increased rates, she sees the measure as a way to generate more revenue for the city.

“Nobody wants to do this, but … it is just generally that people are not as active in shopping as they used to be,” Maio said. “I just don’t see where we are going to come up with $105,000 to pay for PBID.”

Though some were concerned that the increased rate would deter people from parking in the area, South Berkeley resident Pat Sussnan said she would continue to park in the area.

“The rate increase will not affect my Downtown parking habits,” Sussnan said. “Paying with a credit card is so easy that I won’t even think about the 25-cent increase.”