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No more free parking? Berkeley could charge for spaces in 2 neighborhoods

Many residential streets in Elmwood that now allow drivers to park for free for up to two hours, like this block of Benvenue Avenue, may soon have paid parking. Credit: Nico Savidge

The days of free parking on the side streets of Berkeley’s Elmwood and Southside neighborhoods may be coming to an end.

City authorities consider pilot program this would start charging for parking in many of the residential blocks in these two neighborhoods, where visitors can now park for free for up to two hours. The proposal also calls for lengthening the deadlines on these blocks – allowing drivers to pay for up to eight hours of parking, rather than having to move their car every two hours.

The idea is to eliminate the “two hour shift” of drivers who park multiple times a day, which increases traffic jams and greenhouse gas emissions, and to encourage people to find ways. to get to these neighborhoods without using a car in the first place.

But the proposal – which city officials say is “not final” – is prompting some residents and businesses to step back, especially given the impact it could have on employees in shops and businesses. neighborhood restaurants.

David Salk, the owner of Focal Point Opticians in Elmwood, noted that a worker with an eight-hour shift would have to spend $ 14 per day under the program’s proposed rates to park near his business, and even more if you hold onto. account for a lunch break. or the time spent walking to or from the car.

“Do you think most employees – who are concerned about high rents, high food costs and high gasoline prices and all the rest – are going to want to jump up and down to work in a neighborhood where parking costs $ 330 per month? Salk said. “I do not.”

“The crowds will quickly decrease and companies are already struggling to find employees,” he added.

A map showing in yellow the blocks in the Elmwood neighborhood where visitors should pay to park, rather than being allowed to park for free for up to two hours. Areas shaded in blue, green and purple already have paid parking. Credit: City of Berkeley

The city is now collecting comments on the proposals with an investigation open until January 14.

Berkeley City Council will decide whether to adopt the one-year pilot program in the spring; if that happens, the new parking rules could be in place by June. City officials said they would then collect data on how the pilot was going and come back to council in spring 2023 to decide whether to make the program permanent.

The proposed changes would not affect people who have city-issued parking permits for residents, visitors or merchants, or those who have disabled signs – they could continue to park on the affected blocks at no charge. additional.

Everyone should pay for their space either by using a mobile application or by using payment terminals installed in both neighborhoods. On certain blocks, the program would also extend the hours of parking enforcement.

The rulers of Berkeley and other cities were rethink their approach to parking rates in recent years, as critics argue that not charging for these spaces makes people drive even if they could walk, cycle or take a bus instead. More cars in an area means open parking spaces can be harder to find, and car trips add more carbon to our warming climate; transport, mainly from passenger vehicles, represents the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California.

The Telegraph Business Improvement District has not taken a position on the proposed parking changes in the Southside, said executive director Alex Knox. While some members share the concern about how the additional costs might affect employees, Knox said the district also recognizes that parking pricing can help ensure spaces are available for those willing to pay.

“There isn’t a lot of space” on the street, he says. “We have to make do with what we have, and strategies like these can help. “

A map showing in yellow the blocks in the Southside neighborhood where visitors should pay to park, rather than being allowed to park for free for up to two hours. Areas shaded in blue, green and purple already have paid parking. Credit: City of Berkeley

The proposed changes to parking rules would come with an incentive to educate people about public transport and other alternatives to driving.

But Salk argues that taking public transport would mean a longer commute for those who now drive to work, which could make life more difficult for parents or people with other time commitments. The Elmwood shopping district is about a mile from Ashby and Rockridge BART stations, and along AC Transit Line 51, with buses arriving every 12 minutes for most of the day.

“We have to be sensitive to people’s lives,” Salk said.

While he acknowledges the “two-hour shuffle” is a problem, Salk believes the solution is for the city to increase the number of parking permits available to businesses, which could then pay to give their employees free parking. in the surrounding neighborhood.

City officials contacted by Berkeleyside did not respond to questions about Salk’s suggestion. In an emailed statement, Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko wrote: “What we are presenting to the community are some options on how we are helping people move to and through some. Berkeley neighborhoods. One element is to use demand-driven parking strategies that have been successful in other parts of Berkeley. “

Doris Nassiry, an Elmwood resident who also opposes the parking changes, said she would agree to grant more permits to merchants, saying employee parking in the neighborhood is “not a burden” . She also objected to the idea of ​​charging for parking on residential blocks in the first place, saying it wouldn’t be fair to people visiting the neighborhood.

“It’s punitive,” Nassiry said, “and it’s unfathomable.”