The Berkeley City Council voted March 1 to increase parking fees for the downtown area from $1.50 to $1.75 an hour to help finance the service improvements that will take place under the Downtown Berkeley Property-Based Improvement District (PBID). Though the fee increase comes during an economically difficult time, the potential the PBID has to reinvigorate the Downtown area justifies the modest rise.
The fee increase is fair because those who frequent the Downtown area most often should be most responsible for the costs of renovation. Considering the increase is only 25 cents, the burden is bearable for the average patron.
While the parking fees will likely deter a small number of patrons from shopping downtown, we believe this loss will be nearly inconsequential to many of the cash-strapped businesses. And once the PBID is completed, we are confident that the businesses will see a financial improvement well worth the increase.
The improvements of PBID will increase student presence Downtown. According to a recent survey by the ASUC, the vast majority of students generally leave Berkeley for places like Emeryville and San Francisco for shopping, work and other professional services. The PBID, which will cost the city an estimated $105,000 annually, will address some of the concerns students brought up in the survey — such as cleanliness and safety — and inevitably attract the patronage of new consumers. This will increase sales tax revenue and help rescue Berkeley from its dismal budget situation while also assisting the private sector’s economic recovery.
The fee increase will raise an estimated $125,000, more than covering the city’s commitment to the PBID, and will ultimately help with the city with its other fiscal commitments. For example, the estimated $20,000 left over could be redirected toward the city’s other financial burdens, particularly the budget deficit.
This is a responsible way to generate revenue for renovation because it balances a modest fee increase with the potential for reinvigorating the Downtown district. We look forward to what the PBID has in store and believe that in this case, the ends do justify the means.