Around 750 spaces in a "premium" parking zone in Downtown will cost $1.75/hour rather than $1.50/hour. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Berkeley City Council Tuesday voted to raise hourly parking rates by 25 cents to $1.75 an hour within a pre-determined “premium” zone in Downtown in order to raise an estimated $125,000.

The area where the new rates will apply has the highest intensity of use, as calculated by the city, and includes around 750 parking spaces within the bounds of University Avenue to Bancroft Way, and Oxford Avenue to Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

The new rates could be effective as early as July 11 as they are being raised ahead of the Council’s expected approval of the designation of Downtown as a Property-based Business Improvement District. In a property-based BID, all property owners within the affected district are assessed, including public property, and the City’s total assessment will be $104,072 — hence the decision to cover that bill through increases to parking rates.

The recommendation was passed somewhat reluctantly by five votes. Councilmembers Gordon Wozniak, Susan Wengraf and Laurie Capitelli voted against it, arguing that the public would not take kindly to rate hikes and that downtown businesses would suffer as a consequence.

However, the consensus was that the funds had to be found somewhere and, at a time when the city is making serious cuts, including staff lay-offs, this option was seen as a trade off solution.

Any revenues from the increases in excess of what is needed to pay the PBID assessment will be used to support Downtown programs or services.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin (whose District 4 covers Downtown), said that, even with the raise, Berkeley’s parking fees were still lower on average than in cities such as San Francisco and Oakland.

The Downtown Berkeley Association is driving the PBID, which aims to boost the area’s local economy by addressing issues such  loss of retail, increased vacancy rates and uninviting public spaces.

Overall, Berkeley has about 3,700 on-street and off-street metered parking spaces, and citywide the hourly parking rate is $1.50 (except for the Berkeley Way Lot which has value pricing rates).

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...