Berkeley City Council raises annual parking permit fees

Gracie Malley/File

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The annual fee for residential parking permits will increase by approximately 30 percent this year to cover a deficit in the Residential Preferential Parking program after a Tuesday vote from Berkeley City Council.

The Residential Preferential Parking program has projected a $410,108 deficit for program costs in fiscal year 2013. At its Tuesday meeting, Berkeley City Council voted to raise annual parking permit fees from $34.50 to $45, an increase of around 30 percent.

The Residential Preferential Parking program enables Berkeley drivers to park in certain zones that may be limited to two-hour parking for those without permits. Currently, 14 different permit zones have been established throughout Berkeley, particularly in commercial and residential areas around the UC Berkeley campus.

Originally, the city staff recommended a 60 percent increase for all permits to cover the $410,108 deficit. This would have generated revenue of about $2 million and a surplus of about $16,000 for fiscal year 2014.

“There’s a shortage of $400,000,” said Councilmember Gordon Wozniak. “We’re faced with cutting programs for a lot of other areas.”

But both residents and council members expressed concerns about the dramatic increase to various fees.

“We pay more than enough taxes to cover the cost of dealing with this,” said resident Mark Copeland at the public hearing. “If I get a permit, I expect that what I should be paying for is the permit. I shouldn’t be paying for traffic enforcement or anything else … going after people’s permit fees is completely inappropriate, completely.”

However, for fiscal year 2013, operating the program — including identifying and establishing the zones, administering the program and enforcing the permits — costs a projected $1.99 million, while the sources of revenue from permit fees and citations is projected to be $1.58 million.

Raising annual parking permit fees from $34.50 to $45 is expected to increase revenue by approximately $184,000 per year, according to Pamela Embry, spokesperson for the city manager’s office.

Councilmember Susan Wengraf said she was surprised that not many residents showed up to voice their objections to the proposed permit fees.

“We are asking residents to bear the burden, but the people who violate the system don’t get the increase,” Wengraf said. “It’s only the people who live here who bear the burden of the program. I think it’s all mixed up.”

In addition to increasing annual permit fees, the council also decided to increase merchant permit fees from $114 to $125 and community-serving facility permit fees from $46 to $56. Nonannual permit fees, such as those for one-day visitor permits, were not changed at the meeting.

However, Councilmember Laurie Capitelli raised concerns about how the council and staff should spend more time evaluating all the options available to establish a more detailed plan.

“I’m loath to raise these fees without comprehensively looking at the whole picture,” Capitelli said.

On top of the fee increases passed Tuesday, the City Council has directed the city staff to examine other possible fee changes for nonannual permits and raise the limit on how many visitor permits a resident may purchase, which will be discussed at a later date.

 

Daphne Chen is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @dchen_dc.