May Planning Commission Special Meeting: Commissioners, Public weigh in on Proposed Parking Management Plan
The Emeryville Planning Commission held a special meeting last week to discuss the city’s contentious Parking Management Plan. For a quick summation of the plan, the City is contemplating an overhaul of how parking is managed, which includes taking on a different combination of meter and permit types.
The Meters will vary from short-term (2 hour), mid-term (4 hour), and long-term (all-day) and the plan will also include residential and business permits. As currently drafted, the plan would apply to most of the city with an exception of the South Bayfront/Bay Street area. The City is also looking at the possibility of creating a commute-hour bus corridor on Hollis with the general idea being to create a special ‘bus-only’ lane on one or both sides of the street to allow for Emery Go-Round, AC Transit and other transit buses to move through the corridor faster. Read last week’s recap for a more comprehensive look at the issue.
There has been a healthy amount of public discourse as the study and initial draft has been put together by the City. A lot of the concerns that have been expressed at the various workshops were also vocalized at this meeting. In particular, several individuals highlighted the costs of the proposed residential permits, saying that it could be a huge burden for some families who are already finding it hard to cover all of the costs associated with living in the bay area. As Fran, an Emeryville resident, stated to the Committee:
“This plan is not well researched. Absolutely not enough data. The fees in this plan are two to four times higher than in any other city in the bay area. They are twice as high as Berkeley and four times as high as San Leandro.”
Another concern that is central to this plan is how businesses will be impacted. While there are numerous small businesses who see this plan as potentially helping create more turnover in parking and thus increase the amount of customer traffic they get, several businesses voiced their concern that it could increase the costs for their employees, many who can’t afford to live in Emeryville and have to drive to work. Requiring they get a business parking permit or pay metered parking all day could be an expense many could not take on. This raised the question of how to best balance a parking plan that would assist small businesses while minimizing the burden placed on individuals, while also working with the desire to push alternative means of transportation, something that has been a focal point for the City. While there are many residents and members of the Committee who feel the need to steer the City away from an auto-centric mobility plan, there are some, like resident Maryellen Farrell, who see this as a potential issue:
“In general, the idea of pushing people towards not using cars is not working. I’ve been to a few Planning Commission meetings where they’ve talked about how many parking spots are going to be allowed in units that are being built and it’s like one per unit… but it seems to me we really need to make sure we have enough parking for people when building new buildings.”
Watch discussion above at 1:18:53.
Framing the Issue and Creating a Plan That Fits
There was a lot of time dedicated to exploring what this initial study and draft plan really is. While many frame this initial analysis as a parking study, Commissioner Thomson wanted to clarify that this is more than just parking:
“This shouldn’t be a parking study, it should be a ‘mobility’ study, because the issue is getting people where they need to be. Cars are a part of mobility, and we need to provide a portion of that for cars, a portion of that for other means… Parking is always contentious, and I definitely hear the citizenry for the need for cars and figuring out how to have that as a portion of the solution.”
Commissioner Keller echoed Thomson and wanted to make it clear this isn’t just about cars but a means to push the City towards its goals of alternative transportation, a decrease in congestion and trying to decrease the impact our mobility has on climate change.
“I like the idea of calling this a mobility study. I think the whole idea of this is we are still archaic in our thinking that everything is auto-centric. We need to think mobility. We need to think alternatives.”
In addition to the Commission’s discussion on what the overall goal of the study and plan are, they focused on the fit of the proposed study. One take was from Vice Chair Barrera, who questioned if the proposed plan was going too far. For her, it seems the concern has been about small businesses and trying to help them increase turnover around their storefronts, while other topics like traffic and congestion are not a concern that need this type of solution right now. She commented that she would prefer a slower approach to rolling out this plan and allowing for more research to be done to see if the plan was impacting the City too much as a whole when a narrower solution could be a better fit:
“I don’t think that there is a lot of congestion in Emeryville and I don’t think the traffic is really bad…this seems like a response from City Council for those issues that were raised at that [small business] meeting, and I think that this parking plan however will impact everybody in the communities, and it seems like something that is in an effort to address an issue that some businesses are having… that’s all to say that I don’t think we should rush into implementing a parking plan like this, though I do agree with everything that my fellow Commissioners said about the need for more efficient mobility in the City.”
In contrast to some of Vice Chair Barrera’s comments, Commissioner Keller voiced an opinion that this is a much more comprehensive plan that fits within the City’s goals and should be implemented sooner rather than later. He highlighted that this is not something the City just decided to look into, it has been a project a decade in the making and something the general plan envisioned, so it is time to move forward and start to implement a more comprehensive plan.
“This is a congestion management tool. Everyone complains about traffic, everyone complains that we have a crisis of global climate change, but no one is willing to make the personal sacrifice of making substantive changes in your life to help us with this.”
Watch the commission discussion above at 2:04:00.
Permits and Costs
A bulk of the discussion was around the proposed costs of the plan and how the residential permits would work in practice. Several Commissioners, including Commissioner Guerrero, voiced their concern with how the costs of these permits and meters would impact not only residents but those who commute to work in the City:
“I am really concerned about the people who work in our city that are going to be asked to pay for parking for positions that may not even pay enough for them to live in our city, and so I am very concerned for the additional costs for people that work in the businesses.”
Chair Donaldson added:
“I am also concerned that the small businesses have said loudly and clearly that this is an issue for them and it is impacting their businesses. However, we also hear from small businesses that the wage issue in Emeryville and the taxes… they are being stretched too, and employees having to be burdened with additional expenses. I think are parking and congestion issue are not necessarily an issue of personal choice. I don’t know anybody that wants to come to a place and circle around and circle around and look for parking. This has been a land use issue and trying to resolve it with this kind of a parking thing is only addressing a portion of the problem.”
While understanding the concern of those who would be impacted, especially those on a tight fixed income, Commissioner Keller expressed his belief that this was something that needs to happen to help push the alternative modes of transportation. Specifically, he pushed back on the notion that the permit prices were inappropriate:
“Emeryville is asking for $100 a year. Not a month, so just over eight dollars a month. That’s not two gallons of gas. And if you add the second [permit] to that, it’s just over 33 dollars a month. So, in terms of expenses it not all that bad and you compare that to Berkeley who is charging $55 a year, but you need to understand that Berkeley has an economy of scale, they have ten times the residents we have. They also already have their infrastructure, we are just starting our infrastructure. This cost is reasonable and understandable, and I don’t agree this is draconian or going to be untenable.”
Separate from the discussion of costs, the Commission raised the issue of how the City was going to structure the residential permit program. Chair Donaldson highlighted the fact that many people are in a shared-home situations. For instance, students or young professionals who rent out single rooms in a larger home and may need several permits. They asked for that to be studied so they can have a clearer picture on how that would be handled.
Hollis Transit Corridor
Generally, the Commission agreed with at least researching the potential for a transit-only lane on Hollis. However, there was debate on how long the lane should be and if it was needed year-round. Commissioner Keller agreed there needs to be more study of the potential plan, but sees it as a good investment:
“I think this is a worthy thing to study and look at. I really like it as an attraction to bring more alternative transit to the City. With the work we’ve done we’ve seen much improvement with our A/C Transit. We have the 29 coming through, the 26, the 57, the F, those are all everyday lines that we didn’t have a while ago. So I think we are working very well with A/C Transit, I think we need to do more. There is the chance of getting an Emeryville only transit bus service, which I think would be fantastic.”
Next steps for the proposed plan include City Council review and vote at a Special Study Session scheduled for June 19th. Staff will then bring a Plan reflecting this direction for Council approval of the Final Plan, expected on July 17.
View this meeting’s Agenda & Staff Report on Emeryville.org →
Draft plan and associated documents can be viewed at emeryvilleparkingmanagement.com.
Comments can be emailed to Amber Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org