Parking Battle Brewing in E’ville
The City Council unanimously approved to implement the first of a series of recommendations from the controversial North Hollis Short term Parking plan at last Tuesday’s council meeting. The five year old, 69 page Wilbur Smith Assoc. parking study recommends a multiple-solution approach to dealing with our escalating parking scarcity, the first of which is adding 141 short term spaces (mapped below) or 2-hour “green zones” expected to be implemented by the end of February. In addition, signage on Hollis will direct drivers to the fifty free 4-hour spaces that the city has subsidized in the Glashaus garage on Hollis and 65th. Part of the reason the vote went through without opposition is the low-risk nature of temporary parking and the relative low-cost of implementing it. The consensus comments of the council seemed to be a “let’s see how this goes”. The next phase of the plan is to evaluate the second recommendation of adding metered spots anticipated in late summer/early fall with implementation if approved to follow in early 2014 or later. Further information on the direction of transit can be found in this stakeholder survey.
Former city council member Ken Bukowski’s EPOA group (Emeryville Property Owners Association) hosted a series of community meetings in an attempt to rally citizens prior to Tuesday’s vote. He himself stood in opposition of the action citing that it was not something the community had initiated and argued that businesses were not in fact supportive of it. If you’ve never had the opportunity to attend a City Council or other community meeting, you may not be aware of broad opinions that the city possesses. Some residents and business owners take the “libertarian” approach that constraints on parking is a heavy-handed way of bloating our government and unfairly taxing us. One resident suggested a conspiracy theory so the powerful Wareham Development could artificially drive up the value of parking and profit from leasing spots from its nearby vacant lot (hmmm…) and there was also at least one resident that wanted to offer conflicting evidence of the science behind climate change. Many residents expressed frustration that the city’s pandering to development had gotten us into this mess.
In fairness, Bukowski invited Council Member Jennifer West to address the crowd and defend her reasoning for supporting this measure. West seems determined to find a compromise among these vast & conflicting opinions and has a newly minted Masters of Public Policy degree from Cal and professional position at the Transform public transportation non-profit to back up her stances. She reviewed her three-pronged Management/Balance/Long-Term approach with those in attendance and outlined her own thoughts on dealing with parking on her professional blog. West’s overall philosophy on parking seems to be ‘Free, unrestricted parking encourages abuse/Paid Parking encourages greater use of Public Transportation’.
I can personally attest to the increasing difficulty of parking in my own Park Avenue District. Business owners I spoke with would like to see greater turnover in parking to allow patrons to visit their establishments but are dubious of stricter enforcements that would penalize violators of the current lenient approach. “If clients can’t park easily, this is a problem. No one likes to have to circle the block and be late because there are no spots free” says Shed Salon proprietor Lisa Harvey. “It is very helpful to my business to have 2 hour parking out front” but added “no one has been ticketed and the 2 hour curb doesn’t get enforced”. I can vouch for her claim here as I haven’t seen a ticket issued for violating the 2-hour green zones on Hubbard in over five years.
A few things seem clear to me: Emeryville seems committed to filling every square foot of land with development and generally this comes with an increase in vehicles and a subsequent shortage of street parking. Many residents fled San Francisco to avoid its draconian parking measures and do not want to see our city embrace these same policies. The congestion on Hollis is beginning to resemble that of Christie & Shellmound and we residents do not want that. The current projections have our city jumping from its current 10,000 residents to 16,000 over the next 20 years. The city appears to be taking a proactive approach to the time-bomb that parking is headed toward … but is it enough? Many residents I’ve spoken with would be more inclined to drive less and use Emery-go-round more if it went to the West Oakland BART station which could shave 30 minutes from their daily commute. Something the EGR agency seems opposed to. What do you think?