Proposed parking policy could mean more lenient ticketing

The city of Berkeley could change its parking policy so that people approaching their vehicles will not be fined if parking enforcement officers are in the process of writing the ticket.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he suggested this proposal — which the Berkeley City Council will consider at its meeting Tuesday — to ask the city manager to create an alternate policy after he received complaints from city residents about an increasing number of parking tickets being given out.

Many other council members agreed that there should be some kind of grace period for people whose parking spaces have expired. However, while the city’s new multi-space parking meters record the time the car was parked on a special ticket, the individual old meters do not, and instead just show that the meter is expired.

“If I’m the parking enforcement officer (and) the meter says expired, I don’t know if it expired two hours or two minutes ago,” said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

However, council members were supportive of a grace period, and will consider methods to keep track of how long the person has parked at single-spaced parking meters at the Tuesday meeting.

“If somebody is coming to their car, cut them a break,” said Alameda County resident Cheryl Young. “Nobody likes getting a $40 ticket when it’s a minute over.”

According to Worthington, the purpose of parking meters is not to make money but to encourage turnover parking so customers can find a place to park.

But ticket fines have been raised by $5 twice over the last two years, according to Councilmember Gordon Wozniak. Because the state receives a share of the money from the parking tickets, cities have had to increase the cost of parking tickets and rates of parking meters to fund other programs, according to Capitelli.

“The fact that the tickets have gone up makes it more stressful for people who do get tickets,” Worthington said. “We need to strike a balance.”

If the referral is passed, the city manager will research and create an analysis of Berkeley’s current position and the financial implications of establishing this policy.

Worthington said that, as far as he knows, no other cities have a  similar policy, although Oakland has a five-minute grace period.

“I think it’ll improve visitors’ morale and more people would want to shop,” Wozniak said. “People don’t mind paying for the parking meter, but they hate getting a ticket.”