City Council discusses potential changes to parking policies at special meeting

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At a special meeting Tuesday, City Council members discussed the possibility of extending metered parking hours, as well as the expansion of the city’s residential parking permit effort under city transportation program goBerkeley.

Staff of goBerkeley — a city program dedicated to reducing traffic and parking congestionupdated the council members during the meeting on the program’s progress. Their latest efforts include extending parking meter enforcement hours to remedy evening parking congestion, in addition to implementing license-plate scanning technology to ticket cars.

Currently, the program is limited to the Downtown Berkeley, Southside and Elmwood areas, but representatives of goBerkeley said at the meeting that they hoped to expand the operational areas of some of their initiatives, such as the Residential Preferential Parking permit system.

According to goBerkeley program manager Gordon Hansen, the team hopes the program will have positive effects in areas such as public safety and sustainability in addition to improving parking conditions.

“It’s about the confidence to find a spot when you need it, (but) it’s also about the quality of life,” Hansen said at the meeting.

Multiple council members, including Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington, praised goBerkeley for its efforts. Arreguin said the program has been “very successful” at accomplishing its goals.

“I think goBerkeley is one of the greatest ideas that we’ve had for many, many years,” Worthington said at the meeting. “The anecdotal evidence that I hear … is that there have been a few minor glitches, but the overwhelming sentiment is that this has been really successful.”

According to city Transportation Division manager Farid Javandel, the program is currently limited to blocks that are at least 80 percent residentially zoned. He said that changing the stipulations of the program so that blocks that are 80 percent residentially occupied — regardless of how they are zoned — would allow for more blocks to be included in the permit system.

Another obstacle to expanding the program is the fact that many streets in the city’s Northeast hills are too narrow to allow parking on both sides of the street. Javandel said the program would need to work with residents to negotiate the side of the street on which parking would be located.

Despite his overall support for the program, Arreguin expressed concern that the program’s proposed implementation of license plate recognition technology would confuse drivers who are used to the current system, in which a car’s tires are chalked to mark the amount of time the car has been parked in one location.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of angry constituents and visitors contacting us,” Arreguin said at the meeting, adding that informative signs could prevent confusion among drivers.

Contact Sally Littlefield at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @slittlefield3.