Oakland feels cheated by disabled parkers

September 23, 2009 6:52:41 PM PDT
One way to make-up some of $1 million the city of Oakland would lose if they reverted back the old parking fee structure is to go after people who are gaming the system.

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Car after car after car, disabled parking placards are on display on Oakland's streets.

"There's just no way that they are all legitimately disabled," Oakland City Council member Pat Kernighan said.

Near the police station Wednesday, there were seven disabled placards in a row; downtown 11 out of 13 spots were taken up by cars with placards and on one block in Chinatown there were placards in five out of six spots.

State law allows disabled placard holders not to feed the meter but Oakland city officials say those abusing the system are cutting into Oakland's bottom line by more than $1 million a year.

"And they tend to park their there all day, it's pretty clearly people who are employees or store owners who are using these to get free parking all day," Kernighan said.

Disability advocates say part of the problem is that these placards are just too easy to come by. A certificate from a doctor or a doctor's assistant or even a midwife is all it takes to get a placard from the DMV.

The problem seems so bad in Oakland, people have started taking their own informal polls.

City staffers recently surveyed the five square blocks around City Hall and counted 100 cars displaying disabled placards.

The Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce found that out of 227 parking meter spaces in Chinatown, 125 were occupied by cars with disabled placards.

"Our estimate, to be conservative, I would say at least 50 percent of these folks are using it illegally," Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Carl Chan said.

It is illegal and Chan says it also hurts business.

City officials plan to crack down on the abuse by conducting sting operations with police soon, but those using the placards legitimately say a secret operation to catch the violators is not necessary.

"I see it all the time," driver Helen Bookman said.

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