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The annual fee for residential parking permits will go up 30% this year. Photo: Lance Knobel

Berkeley City Council agreed on Tuesday night to raise the cost for the annual residential parking permit from $34.50 to $45, a 30% increase. The increase was a compromise following a recommendation from city staff that a 60% increase was necessary to cover the full costs of the Residential Preferential Parking program (RPP).

The RPP is projected to have revenues of nearly $1.6 million for the city in the 2013 fiscal year. But that barely covers the cost of parking enforcement, while the $311,000 cost of permit issuance and $105,000 cost for the transportation to administer the program results in overall losses. When the city council considered overall budget shortfalls in January, it instructed city staff to find ways to cover the RPP program losses. 

City transportation head Farid Javandel introduced the staff recommendation for a 60% increase at Tuesday night’s meeting. Two members of the public spoke in opposition to the increase.

“I’m sure there would be many more people here to object to it if they knew about it,” said Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “It’s only the people who live here who bear the burden of the program. Why can’t we increase the violation fee? The costs at least should be shared between the residents and the violators.”

Wengraf also suggested that the limit on one-day passes, currently 20 a year, should be increased to 50, and the availability of two-week passes should be increased.

Echoing Wengraf, Councilmember Linda Maio suggested that city staff bring back a proposal to the council with other options to close the program deficit. City Manager Christine Daniel said that because renewal notices for RPP go out in mid-April, any delay would mean increases would be delayed for one year. Mayor Tom Bates suggested the compromise position of a $10.50 increase this year, with other changes to the program to be considered by the council at a later date.

Bates said if additional fees could be raised from the program it could be used for the city’s climate action plan. Several members echoed that discouraging cars would help the city’s climate efforts. City staff were encouraged to look into higher costs for multiple permits for single households in future.

“If we raise the fee $10, that’s three cappuccinos,” said Councilmember Gordon Wozniak. “People focus on the percentage increase, but if you raise something from zero to $1, that’s an infinite percentage increase.”

“There are lots of people who don’t drink $3.50 cappuccinos every day,” said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. “I’m loath to raise these fees without comprehensively looking at it.”

In addition to the 30% increase to the residential and in-home care permit, the council agreed to raise the price of the community-serving facility permit from $46 to $56 and the merchant permit from $114 to $125. The various non-annual fees, such as the one-day passes, were not changed.

Capitelli and Councilmember Kriss Worthington were the only members to vote against the increase.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...