No one likes parking citations, but taxi drivers in Berkeley are especially upset.
Administering a policy known as “triple jeopardy,” city enforcement has been giving taxi drivers three different fines for one incident — citing them for blocking public streets, not parking in accordance with designated signs and parking in a marked zone during the day.
At its Tuesday meeting, Berkeley City Council will consider a referral by Councilmember Kriss Worthington to establish a policy of issuing just one citation for a single parking violation in an effort to alleviate seemingly punitive fines incurred by taxi drivers.
“I hope that the City Council will send a message that one parking ticket will be one parking ticket,” Worthington said. “One parking ticket for $100 is pretty heavy, but three tickets for $300 is way too extreme.”
Two weeks ago, taxi driver Nestor Salo said he was waiting less than three minutes for a passenger to return when he was issued three citations for parallel parking next to another car, also known as double parking.
“It impacts the business,” said Said Ali, chair of the Berkeley Taxicab Association. “People don’t make money.”
Last year, the Berkeley Taxicab Association submitted a letter to then-city manager Phil Kamlarz outlining a list of 13 grievances, consisting of concerns regarding high gas prices and illegal taxis that take business away from local taxi drivers.
About 16 taxi drivers have been fined for the same reason over the past four to six months, causing the association to bring up the issue with the council over the last few weeks, he said.
Most cases brought to the council’s attention have occurred in Downtown Berkeley on Center Street, Worthington said.
Furthermore, many taxi drivers said they have noticed city enforcers taking pictures and recordings of the taxis with their own cameras in private vehicles, which makes them feel uncomfortable.
“It’s a real issue that we’re not really happy with,” Salo said. “He didn’t even tell us he was taking pictures of (us) … hopefully the City Council will (revise) the three provisions.”
However, city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said documenting taxi drivers with videos and photos is not “uncommon,” even when taken by city code enforcers and not specifically city police officers.
Taxi drivers have the opportunity to contest the citations they receive through an appeals process, in which the alleged offender must request a review within 21 calendar days, attend a hearing and then a later court ruling, Clunies-Ross said.
Despite the lengthy appeals process, Salo remains optimistic that the City Council will change the parking policies in the near future.
“Hopefully, they will listen, because it doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “We are coming to a remedy, so hopefully it will reduce ticketing.”