Residential Permit Task Force
Seeks Parking Solutions
The “Area E” residential paring district has been likened to going theater where you buy a ticket for the show only to be turned away at the door and told there is no more seating left. This is the current parking reality around the Trader Joe’s store and the North Berkeley Senior Center areas (southeast corner of Area E). The current Trader Joe’s proposal will only exacerbate this part of Area E’s longstanding parking shortages for residents of adjoining blocks.
It is clear that the proposal before you has failed to consider the adverse impact for existing local businesses and residents in the area when parking shifts away from proposal’s identified streets onto adjoining residential blocks. The proposal for area parking changes needs to be broader in scope in order to minimize these impacts. Please consider the following:
1. Shifts in residential parking patterns: The council recommendation to alter parking with 1000 ft of the new Trader Joe’s Store has not calculated the displacement of exiting area business parking such as the NBSC and Ribicon who are now actively using several of the designated streets in the proposal. This traffic, with the proposed changes will logically shift parking patterns towards residential parking north of their locations and adding more impact to the Delaware Bonita neighborhood and other unprotected streets. (See attachment map, circled area C).
The proposal states “This modification will be limited to the already designated RPP blocks within 1,000 feet of the grocery store entrance.” A view of the attached map, circled area A clearly shows this is not the case. The item’s identified streets extend well beyond a 1000 from the entrance of the store. The map also shows the arbitrary exclusion of many closer streets to the Trader Joe’s store like that of the Delaware Bonita Neighborhood area (1800 block of Bonita and the 1900 block of Delaware. See map, circled area C) which is much closer to the Trader Joe’s store.
2. Protection of adjoining neighborhoods: The new plan also fails to consider the actual parking conditions around Trader Joe’s Store. Those streets identified by the proposed plan and located west of Martin Luther King are principally single residential dwellings. The streets east of Martin Luther King (see map, circled area C) are principally multi dwellings and large apartment buildings. This area has considerably more autos. Yet many of these streets like the Delaware Bonita Neighborhood area (1800 block of Bonita and 1900 block of Delaware) have been left out of the parking proposal despite being closer and more heavily impacted than some of the proposed streets. If the goal of the proposed plan is to preserve adequate on-street parking for residents in the vicinity of the new Berkeley Trader Joe’s store then should that same goal be in place for others in the area, especially the map’s circled area C?
You should know that a survey completed by the City Mangers RPP taskforce in 2000 around the Delaware Bonita Neighborhood showed that parking availability as defined by the RPP simply did not exist for circle area C. Simply stated, daytime parking availability in the Delaware Bonita Neighborhood was well below 25%. Yet, no attempt was made to protect the area’s inadequate parking at that time or at any other time. The conditions today are far more degraded than in 2000 and daytime parking is virtually nonexistent. The planned changes will only further degrade the area’s daytime parking.
3. Environmental Review of RPP: Recently, one council representative stated that what a great deal residential parking was since it cost so little. Yet, if you pay for permit but are unable to find parking then the permit would hardly seem a great deal. This is the myth of RPP in “Area E”. Each year more and more permits are issued but the number of parking spaces has not grown.
The “Area E” RPP is now one of the largest residential parking areas in size. It stretches from Shattuck and University to the North Berkeley BART to Shattuck and Vine. The size of the area has worked to negate the effectiveness of the “Area E” parking program, especially in the southern most portion abutting the commercial district. Area E problems are also reflected in other parking areas. An environmental impact report should be undertaken in order to formally reorganize the RPP program. This process is long over due.
4. Saturday Enforcement. In the last several years the increased activity at the North Berkeley Senior Center as made Saturday daytime parking one of the most difficult days to secure residential parking. The Trader Joe’s Store will make this situation more difficult. The Trader Joe’ parking plan should include a provision for Saturday parking restrictions and enforcement.
If the goal of the changes to RPP is “to preserve adequate on-street parking for residents in the vicinity” then another plan is in order. It doesn’t take a traffic engineer to know that street-to-street changes in a mixed use area of residential and business will simply displace the problem to adjoining streets. Change need to be done within a larger geographic area. It is request that the council include Delaware Bonita Neighborhood streets 1800 Bonita Avenue (Hearst to Delaware) and the 1900 Delaware (Martin Luther King to Milvia Streets)
A proposal to hike parking tickets to as high as $35 could kill two birds with one stone -- bring in extra parking enforcement funds, and kick off a program to encourage public transportation.
The suggestion, made by local activist L A Wood, would return a portion of the money to offenders in the form of vouchers for BART or other public transportation. It is just one idea of many to come up in recent discussions on how to deal with the city's limited parking supply.
The penalty starts at about $22 for expired meters and permit violations. "Let's not just be punitive," Wood said.
Wood is a member of a volunteer Residential Parking Permit (RPP) task force charged with proposing a list of solutions to the city by next month.
This year the city's traffic, parking and finance departments began investigating how to change the city's permit process, for both temporary and permit parking. Community input was prompted by perceived misuse of the old permit program.
The RPP committee is scheduled to go before the City Council on Jan. 22 and present a report based on its research. It will cover issues related to permit parking, including the distribution system, enforcement, and eligibility.
According to Berkeley Finance Director Fran David, one discovery has been that the permit process is more complicated than it seems.
"I think what's come out of the RPP program is its not going to function well if it doesn't have adequate enforcement support out on the streets," said David. "That's pretty much been a consistent theme of discussion."
Currently, permanent residential parking permits can be obtained by showing vehicle registration at a Berkeley address and a photo identification. An annual permit costs $21 per vehicle, and some low-income residents qualify for a 50 percent discount.
Residents may also purchase visitor permits for guest use, though the guidelines for doing so have become stricter due to reports of permits obtained fraudulently.
The parking problem has been evident at several council meetings where police officers, senior citizens and other residents have shown up to plead for permits. After months of research, the task force has come up with about 10 pages of findings for the council.
"The (RPP) committee is intrigued by L A's idea, but we don't have a clue how we would administer it," said David, who called the suggestion "very resource-intensive."
The task force had hoped to finish by this fall, but the group faces limitations other than a lack of parking space, according to Wood.
"We've gone from 8 or 9 people to five," he said, "We haven't been recognized like a commission process."
Still, headway has been made in other areas, such as controlling temporary permits. Earlier this year, the city started restricting its program by limiting the number of one-day and 14-day permits it would issue at a given time.
Fewer and farther between are the neighborhoods where a car can be parked for more than two hours without being cited.
David estimated that roughly 10,000 residents have permanent parking permits. While enforcement resources are down, the city's enforceable areas continue to expand.
The City Council recently approved spending $900 to install enforcement signs on a few blocks along California and Cedar streets and Hearst Avenue -- the latest in a list of areas to request permit parking on their streets.
And, as the number of permits go up, so should the public's awareness.
For instance, folks who tend to park near Hearst and Bontia Avenue and take the shuttle to campus will have to seek out some parking alternatives.
Generally, parking for cars without permits is limited to two hours between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except Sundays and holidays).
Churches, community centers and schools receive a certain amount of permits for their staff members, and some of them have also been limited, as well.
After the January presentation, City Manager Weldon Rucker plans to review it and come back in March with some recommendations for the council.
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