Oakland businesses protest parking fees

August 6, 2009 5:47:35 PM PDT
Several Oakland store owners are engaging in a unique protest. They're demanding a change in new parking laws that they say are driving customers away.

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Walden Pond Books is one of perhaps six businesses that were closed on Thursday in protest.

"There has been a decrease in the number of people who have come in the last three or four weeks and there has been a noticeable decrease at our cash registers," said Walden Pond Books Store's Bob Fisher.

Fisher says business is off 20 percent since the new policy began July 1st, when parking rates jumped from $1.50 to $2.00; hours of enforcement increased from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and a host of non parking meter citations also jumped. City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan says it had to happen.

"We felt like the public services were really suffering. We also raised revenue from some other sources, but we decided at the time that we would rely also partially on these parking increases," said Kernighan.

But Fisher says if the new plan is hurting business, then it's counterproductive.

"You have fewer people paying those parking meters, than you have fewer people shopping. The sales tax to the city has obviously decreased because there are fewer people spending money," said Fisher.

Most businesses in the Lake Merritt district stayed open on Thursday, including Grand Bakery, where owner Bob Jaffe had his reasons.

"The people we are trying to be good to is the customer and I don't think that the word is out enough in advance to have people drive around and then get ticked off that 'ohh your not here.' I mean we are shooting ourselves in the foot," said Jaffe.

The increased rates, fines and enforcement are the number one topic for Todd Ensley who has been slapped with a couple hundred dollars in fines since the new policy came to town.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous. This is Oakland we are working people. This is not downtown San Francisco. It doesn't make a lick of sense," Oakland resident Todd Ensley.

Councilwoman Kernighan said she is interested in changing the policy from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m.

There is a meeting on Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Grand Lake Theatre. Many merchants are expected to show up to plan what will happen next.

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