Oakland considers parking meter grace period

December 13, 2011 5:47:43 PM PST
The controversy over parking tickets and fines is heating up again in Oakland. A new proposal Tuesday is pushing for a grace period at some city parking meters. The City Council is considering the plan as a way to deal with all the bad blood over recent changes to the parking policy.

The idea is that the parking meters could allow drivers a bit of a grace period, but shop owners and drivers say that parking enforcement officials have become even more aggressive.

"I think that they're sitting in their offices and they don't see the reality of us who are in the trenches," Annette Benjamin, owner of Pimlico Place, said. The city of Oakland's parking policies has her frustrated. "Because that translates into fewer sales for us [and] frustrated customers."

Benjamin says that shoppers' fears of receiving a parking ticket will more often than not have them choose to cruise right past her boutique.

"People drive by, they slow down, if they can see parking they'll stop and park and come into the shop," she said. "If they don't they leave."

"A lot of folks are going to places like Emeryville, places where the parking is relatively easy, and I think we need that right here in the city," shopper Joe Regula said. "I think it would make a big difference here in Oakland for the tax base."

Councilmember Jane Brunner says she understands the anger, that is why she put forward a resolution Tuesday to have a five-minute grace period for parking at public pay-and-display parking meters.

In a situation where every second counts, five minutes can make a huge difference to a person's wallet. One driver we spoke with named Austin, who only wanted to use his first name, was not happy to see a ticket upwards of $80 issued only four minutes ago, waiting on his windshield.

"I got to borrow, scrimp and do all this so I can pay this [expletive] $80 that I don't got," he said.

Brunner isn't suggesting that a five-minute grace period at parking meters will have people singing in the streets, but she does believe that it's a great place to start.

"It's a gesture," Brunner said. "It's not the answer to all parking, but I met with the administration last week and they are on it. They really understand the parking issues."

However, Benjamin also has a suggestion that she believes will help merchants, shoppers and the city of Oakland.

"My holiday wish would be, up to Christmas -- the two weeks prior to Christmas -- while the businesses are open, allow people to park free of charge," she said.

Oakland will eventually roll out public pay-and-display stations throughout the entire city. Until then, the city administrator that oversees parking regulation says that they will find a way to work with those still using coin meters so that they can extend to them the same five-minute grace period.


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