The Berkeley City Council will consider a measure at its meeting Tuesday night suggesting that parking enforcement officers allow people a five-minute grace period to return to their cars after their meters expire.
The measure, which was submitted by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, comes amid multiple complaints from Berkeley patrons and business owners about aggressive parking enforcement, Capitelli wrote in his proposal.
The proposal recommends allowing the grace period only for vehicles where a valid receipt from a pay-and-display meter is displayed on the dashboard.
“We hear that parking enforcement officers have been seen waiting at targeted cars for the exact minute the receipt has expired,” Capitelli wrote. “This has created tremendous ill will and frustration, ultimately discouraging people from patronizing our local businesses.”
The current parking enforcement is a huge deterrent for patrons on the Berkeley section of Solano Avenue, where free parking is available just blocks away in Albany and in nearby El Cerrito, said Allen Cain, director of the Solano Business Association.
The avenue has been doing well recently in filling vacant storefronts and putting up new businesses, Cain said, but the “predatory” nature of the city’s parking enforcement is only hurtful to businesses.
“Things are clicking,” he said. “If we could just get the parking enforcement people to stop hunting, we’ll be okay.”
Oakland instituted a similar resolution in December 2011 on a six-month trial basis, reads Capitelli’s proposal.
In February, the Council reviewed a proposed parking policy change to not ticket people who show up to move their vehicle while the ticket is being written. But after parking enforcement officials said the policy would interfere with their jobs in more bad ways than good, the agenda item was tabled by the Council to gather more information.
Capitelli said that while the old proposal put parking officials in an awkward position of trying to determine whether or not to issue a ticket, this new measure would create slack for people returning to their cars while also clearly defining the time to issue a citation.
There has been tension between the public and parking enforcement officials over tickets, and people are sensitive to the high costs of paying a ticket, he said.
According to a city report from 2010, parking meter fines cost upwards of $45 depending on the circumstances of the violation, and approximately 247,000 tickets are issued annually.
“Hopefully it will be a bit of good will that will make people feel more comfortable,” he said.
Annie Sciacca covers city government.