Campus parking costs increase to the dismay of students

Jessica Doojphibulpol/Staff

Like most students, I tend to be a little cynical when I hear about the latest budget saving measures at UC Berkeley. I mean, just the other day, I received an email blast exclaiming that the Big Give fundraising event raised a “momentous” $22,452,870. That same day, I also watched a fellow student’s seat collapse into pieces during a lecture in Wheeler Hall.

Between the cost of attendance, the ever-expanding housing crisis and the $4 million spent on “free speech” last semester, most students can agree that they do not feel as if they are getting their money’s worth. That is why I am not surprised that the latest belt-tightening measure targets one of the most marginalized groups on campus: student parents.

On March 13, the associate director of family student living, Jen Siecienski, sent out a mass email to all University Village residents to alert them of a new change to the current parking policy. In a curt and direct manner, Siecienski declared, “In early April, we will begin to charge a fee for all of our guest parking. The cost will be $1 per half hour, or $12 per 24 hours. All of our guest spots will be affected. These fees are the same as on campus, and smaller than the City of Berkeley.” Just your basic “Sorry, not sorry.”

Siecienski then goes on to make vague claims that this new revenue stream will fund increased safety and security measures in the Village (ahem … more parking enforcement officers) and lessen the impact of campus budget reductions on residents and students in general (by indirectly charging them and their guests to park in their own neighborhood).

I say this is a blatant misrepresentation about these new costs of student family housing parking, and I am personally disgusted by this latest scheme to squeeze additional revenue out of this university’s students. The intention is clearly to take advantage of the fact that many families require more than one vehicle to function in their day-to-day activities. Whether it be visiting friends and family members or just the day-to-day juggling of classes, jobs and daycare, the guest parking spots are always filled to near capacity.

By monetizing these parking spots, the university has figured out a way to indirectly raise the rent and exploit the families who depend on the spaces most. This could essentially raise their cost of attendance by more than $4,000 a year. While some will be able to easily pay this fee as some sort of luxury tax, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families will bear the burden.

University Village claims this will have a minimal effect on residents, as “residents will still have one dedicated, free parking space per unit.” By “free,” they must mean included in the lease and paid for by the monthly rent. They also assert that the guest parking spots are not intended for residents to use. Assuming that this sentiment is genuine, the targets of this revenue campaign are the individuals who help make attending UC Berkeley possible.

All in-home service providers will be expected to either take a dollar decrease in their hourly wages or raise their hourly rates. Students will have to convince their peers to not only drive three miles northwest of campus, but also pay a parking fee for the privilege of studying with a student parent. Additionally, the maintenance and delivery trucks who freely park in residential spaces could cost thousands of dollars in administrative man-hours and guest parking fees.

Those who suggest parking on the unmetered streets of Albany do not seem to realize that many buildings in the village would likely be a half mile or more from nearest open space. There was also no mention of the cost of installation, maintenance and enforcement of this metered parking — only that it will provide much needed funding for “to support student services.”

Without seeing any of these figures or projected profits, one can only assume it will surely be funded by diverting money from other programs and services until it becomes a fruitful venture.

Make no mistake: This will have a negative and long-lasting effect on the majority of residents in the village.

What is perhaps more disturbing is that this was all proposed and decided in a very clandestine manner. On Feb. 15, an alert went out stating that certain spaces would be repainted and the unmarked spots would be painted as guest spaces. The adjacent and controversial University Village Shopping Center has even, seemingly by clairvoyance, recently installed signs stating that vehicles parked in excess of two hours will be towed at the owner’s expense.

When asked why the University Village Association failed to inform the residents of the proposed changes, they claimed they were only notified 48 hours prior to the release of the mass email. This policy change, which will directly affect the lives of hundreds of student parents, was proposed, approved and initiated months before any notice was given to the student parents or their leaders.

I want to repeat that not a single parent or family was provided notice or interviewed for an impact assessment. This is how marginalized groups are targeted and disenfranchised.

Robert Hoogsteden is a UC Berkeley student studying electrical engineering and computer sciences.