Parking changes to begin in September are slated for three of Berkeley's business districts. Image: goBerkeley
Parking changes to begin in September are slated for three of Berkeley’s business districts. Image: goBerkeley
Parking changes to begin in September are slated for three of Berkeley’s business districts. Image: goBerkeley

The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss proposed changes to parking pricing in three of the city’s business districts.

The temporary changes are part of a new pilot program, called goBerkeley, designed to link metered parking pricing to supply and demand, and free up spaces for customers downtown, on Telegraph Avenue and in the Elmwood District.

The council has yet to vote on proposed changes, which would use a range of approaches to free up one to two spaces per block in the affected areas. Strategies include a “progressive” rate, to make parking more expensive the longer a driver parks; a “peak period” approach, which would result in more expensive rates when demand is highest; and “premium vs. value” areas, which would offer higher rates in more convenient spots and lower rates in areas, such as parking garages, that are further away.

According to a report presented to the council Tuesday, changes in the Elmwood would have the goal of balancing longer time limits with the need for more turnover. Staff recommended either a progressive rate or peak period approach. In the progressive rate scenario, parking could cost $1.50 for the first hour, $2 for the second, and $3 for the third. The “peak hour” approach would cost drivers $2 from noon to 6 p.m., and $1.5o at other times. Staff has recommended extending parking meter hours until 8 p.m.

In the area south of campus, around Telegraph Avenue, council will consider a premium vs. value approach or a peak period approach. In the first scenario, parking on or closer to Telegraph would cost $2 an hour; further away, meters or garages would cost $1-$1.25. A peak rate approach would cost $2 from noon to 6 p.m., and $1.50 at other times. The goal would be to shift some drivers from areas where meters tend to be full to areas with more availability, such as parking garages.

Downtown, the goal would be the same, to encourage drivers to move from areas with full meters to more available areas, such as garages and lots. Staff has recommended either a premium vs. value approach, or a progressive rate approach. In the first case, some “premium” areas — those that are more convenient — would have a two-hour limit and cost $2.25 an hour. Value areas — those slightly further away — could have a four-hour limit and cost $1.25 an hour. In the progressive rate approach, parking could cost $1.25 for the first hour, $2 for the second, and $2.50 for the third.

The council may consider a combination of the approaches outlined above to come up with the best formula to ensure that one to two spaces per block would generally be available in the pilot areas.

City staff said many of the people surveyed about the program thus far have advocated to extend parking time limits in the pilot areas. Staff noted that many people surveyed also said they didn’t think the rate changes are drastic enough to change behavior; but staff said they’d rather take an incremental approach to changes than go too far.

Public workshops in July

A series of public workshops will take place in July to lay out the recommended options to members of the public and collect more feedback. Stay tuned to the goBerkeley website for details. City staff have held three workshops already in the affected areas. Changes would take effect in September, and last for at least one year.

Numerous members of the public who spoke said they support the pilot program, and that changes to the city’s approach to parking are long overdue. They said they are happy to see the city taking a data-oriented approach that would make parking prices more sensitive to supply and demand.

Council members spoke about the need for clear signage, as well as the importance of extensive public outreach going forward.

Councilman Gordon Wozniak called the pilot program “ambitious,” and said the city needs to make sure members of the public understand that the different pricing levels are due to the varying demand in different areas. He said it would be important to build strong alliances with merchants in the pilot areas to help them understand how the program could help business.

Parking policies described as “insane and irrational”

Councilman Kriss Worthington called the city’s existing parking policies “insane and irrational.”

“They are a conflicting mixture of multiple well-intended directions that are sort of contradicting each other and contradicting common sense,” he said. “It’s exciting that we’re trying to get a rational policy that’s thought out.”

He said low-income and middle-class drivers tend to get hit with a disproportionate number of parking tickets, and that he hopes to get a better sense in the coming months of the economics of the pilot program and how it will affect the city budget.

Councilwoman Linda Maio called the potential changes “pretty complicated,” and said she thinks it may be difficult for some people to understand the program. City staff said they have extensive systems in place to inform people about the program via a range of outreach types, which will include street teams, new signage, a dedicated website and the like.

Councilwoman Susan Wengraf said she hopes to get a better sense of the relationship between parking pricing and its effect on retail revenue and the city’s economic vitality.

“We are struggling with this issue,” she said. “We’re trying to encourage success in all of our commercial areas. I think this whole thing’s very sensitive.”

Parking changes slated for 3 Berkeley business zones [05.23.13]

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...