Berkeley is known for many things — a world-renowned university, the golden hills to its east and the marina on the west. The city, however, has never been considered a parking-friendly place. But drivers could be cut some slack if the Berkeley City Council approves a resolution at its Tuesday meeting that would establish a grace period for some parking violations. The proposal — authored by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli — would allow a five-minute window for drivers with a valid, time-stamped receipt on the dashboard to return to their vehicles after their time has run out.
We are encouraged by this proposal and urge the City Council to approve it. We acknowledge the city’s need for revenue from parking citations. This measure would allow Berkeley to continue that, just without being unnecessarily aggressive. People should not be punished for making a good faith attempt to return to their vehicles, only to arrive as many as five minutes late.
A 2007 analysis conducted by The New York Times found that of about 276,000 New York City drivers who were ticketed in the first five minutes after their parking expired, 28,000 were issued citations immediately. While the specifics of this analysis are not perfectly equated to Capitelli’s recommendation — and Berkeley is not New York — it suggests that enforcement officers pay more attention to the letter of the law than its spirit. The current proposal could potentially cut down on some of the animosity that exists between drivers and parking officers.
A previous measure regarding parking violations was taken off the Feb. 14 council agenda and postponed. That proposal, presented by Councilmembers Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington, would have given leniency to people who arrived at their vehicles while the ticket was being written. We commend Councilmember Capitelli for bringing up this issue again in a more clear-cut manner than before. The five-minute rule still strives for accountability for drivers but, unlike Anderson and Worthington’s idea, gives a definite rule to parking enforcers.
Besides the obvious benefits for drivers, the proposal could also be advantageous for local businesses, encouraging customers to park and shop in Berkeley, knowing that they have a few minutes of leeway.
Nonetheless, though we believe this proposal is a good move, it should not be the last move. The parking situation in Berkeley is still grim. The city should continue to look at ways to cut down on parking tickets. This is a good first step. We hope it’s not the last.