Business owners battle parking policy

July 30, 2009 7:23:27 PM PDT
Oakland merchants are threatening to strike; they say they will close their doors for a day to protest hefty increases in parking fees and fines; increases they say could put them out of business for good.

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"The council members are telling us to eat our cake; there needs to be change and there needs to be change today," Oakland merchant Steven Pishdad said.

Angry Oakland merchants joined with dozens of community members for an emergency meeting to express concerns about their city's new parking policies.

"This is the depths of depravity that they're going to, to get money," Oakland resident Eva Redd Hornsby said.

"The parking meter rates have gone up 400 percent since '02/'03," Oakland merchant Jim Forsyth said.

July 1, the Oakland City Council increased street parking rates from $1.50 to $2.00 per hour, extended the hours to 8 p.m. and launched aggressive ticketing of those who stay even a minute too long.

On once-bustling Grand Avenue, there are now rows of parking spots, wide open.

"Yesterday I was here around 3 or 4 and you could pretty much pick the space that you wanted," Oakland resident Lidia Wal said.

But the Oakland City Council believes the higher parking fees and fines will generate $4 million per year in new revenue for the struggling city.

"Almost every employee has taken a 10 percent pay cut; we are just looking at every spot there is for revenue, but we do not want to jeopardize anyone's business," Oakland City Council member Jane Brunner said.

Business owners say whatever the city hopes to gain from higher fees will be lost when their sales plunge.

"It is no way to solve a budget deficit by driving businesses out of town because businesses are the most important revenue generator, and when you destroy business, you destroy your city," Allen Michaan of the Grand Lake Theater said.

The merchants are so angry; they are collecting signatures to remove the City Council.

Those who shop and dine in Oakland will start to see signs about an August 6 protest of the parking policies in which some stores will be closed.

The City Council has said they will study the impact of the policies in September, when they return from their August recess. Business owners say they may not be able to last that long.

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