Neighborly reminder of street sweeping at Hearst and Milvia put up in April last year. Photo: D.H. Parks

If you own a car in Berkeley there’s a high chance you will have experienced the frustration of being ticketed, or even towed, for being parked in the wrong place at the wrong time on a street-sweeping day. Would a reminder, sent to you on your mobile phone, have prevented the mishap and saved you some money?

Councilmembers Jesse Arreguín and Gordon Wozniak think so. And they believe the city could take a pro-active role in sending such alerts to its citizens — or at the very least providing better information on street-sweeping and tow-away zones, as well as residential parking permit-only zones. They are taking their suggestions to City Council tonight.

“I get calls on a regular basis about this,” said councilmember Arreguín. “Signage is often not visible enough, or confusing, and the city could be providing more readily available information which would avoid unnecessary ticketing. It would save residents some money and save city resources.” Arreguín cites the “guerrilla” signs put up by helpful neighbors to warn of upcoming street sweeping as evidence of the need for better communication.

Arreguín said he would also like to see the city take this opportunity to become more tech-savvy and launch itself into social media. “Berkeley is behind the curve. It doesn’t use Twitter or have a Facebook page. This is one of many initiatives where we could use social media and technology,” he said. [See our March 2011 story Why doesn’t the city of Berkeley have a Facebook page?

City's street sweeping signs are not always visible, said councilmember Arreguín

Arreguín said he was inspired to propose the changes by reading an article in the Chronicle which reported on how San Francisco was looking into developing a smart phone app that could provide alerts for street sweeping days or other parking restrictions. He says he would like to see the city take advantage of its local technology resources by partnering with the Computer Science Department at UC Berkeley to develop such an app for Berkeley.

In their recommendation to the city, which is on tonight’s Consent Calendar, Arreguín and Wozniak say cities such as Denver and Boston, as well as San Francisco, are exploring or implementing methods such as email and phone app alerts, as well as online information resources.

The Plaza Drive in Berkeley’s Claremont neighborhood is one Berkeley street that has opted out of street sweeping entirely after its residents voted on the matter — perhaps out of frustration at having to remember to move cars — and submitted a request to the city. Arreguín said it’s not the only street in Berkeley to have done so. But he believes with the enhanced information he is proposing, this type of decision might be redundant in future.

Berkeley’s residential street sweeping schedule can be found on the city’s website.

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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...