Oakland votes to keep parking policies

September 23, 2009 11:26:51 AM PDT
In Oakland, angry merchants and their customers took on City Hall in a showdown over parking. Business owners were furious and shouting from the rafters on Tuesday night. The City Council imposed the new parking rules in July to help close its $83 million budget deficit, but what really has the people fired up is the way they're being treated on the streets.

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City leaders at City Hall have been inundated with protests since they implemented new parking rules earlier this summer.

On Tuesday on Grand Avenue, a shop owner just had his car dropped off by his mechanic. A minute later, before his wife was about to drop a quarter in the meter, she received a parking ticket.

Oakland business owners and residents call it "predatory ticketing" and went to City Hall to protest it. Business owners say it's chasing away customers. They went to City Council to demand that meter rates be returned from $2 an hour to 50 cents an hour, for meter hours to be rolled back from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m., and wanted a refund of all parking fines collected since July 1st.

"The transformation of parking in Oakland is nothing short of a public extortion racket," said Allen Michaan, the Grand Lakes Theater owner.

"After 6 p.m., you go to Chinatown, it's not a vibrant city any more. It looks like a ghost town," said Su, a business owner.

"We went through every single business in Chinatown and said, 'How much have you lost on average, from day one until now?' It's about a little more than 30 percent," said Carl Chan, president of Oakland Chinatown Chamber Foundation.

Earlier in the day, when asked if the Oakland City Council made a mistake? City Councilmember Pat Kernighan replied, "I think we implemented too much too soon, but it was exacerbated by the fact that the city administration gave so little notice to the public."

Many say the change can't come soon enough.

"I went over there and said 'Mam, here's my change I'm going to put it in the meter.' She said 'Go contest it with the city,'" said store owner Cyrus Pishdad.

The City Council meeting went until 1:30 Wednesday morning. The council voted to rescind to the length of the enforcement hours. That would have dropped enforcement from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; the vote was 4-3 to do that, but you need five votes to make it official - so nothing will change.

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