California Memorial Stadium. Photo: Daniel Parks

The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to increase parking ticket fines on Cal football game days to $225.

The vote was part of a package of changes staff asked officials to make to expand the city’s Residential Parking Permit (RPP) program, add parking enforcement staff and increase the fees for parking permits. Officials approved several of those recommendations but voted to put off to a later date the question of whether to increase permit fees and add staff.

The city already has increased fines in place and tow-away zones in certain areas to handle the parking crunch near California Memorial Stadium on Cal football game days. But staff told officials, in the report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting, the city needs to enact “tougher penalties for non-residents closer to the stadium,” which is located at 2227 Piedmont Ave. The Cal football team typically plays in Berkeley seven times a year between September and November, and the university urges fans to use public transportation to get to the games.

But many people don’t. As a result, it can be hard for Berkeley residents to park near home when a game is taking place. Officials said they were particularly concerned about the inconvenience to people with small children and seniors who need to drive. A city analysis found that parking occupancy south of campus increased by about 25% on game days. That spiked to 35%-50% higher than usual closer to campus: “Anecdotal evidence from residents also suggests poor parking by visitors may impede access to residential driveways at times.”

To make it easier for residents to park on game days, the city plans to add new tow-away areas on streets within a quarter-mile of the stadium, and create “enhanced fine areas” on streets within a half-mile, for vehicles without an RPP permit.

On a map of those changes, areas marked by diagonal lines will see parking fines of $225 for drivers without residential parking permits. Fines will be doubled in areas marked by cross-hatching. Red lines on the map show existing tow-away streets while blue lines show the new ones.

Staffers told council they plan to come back later this year with a proposal for charging higher rates in city garages and at parking meters during special events.

The city will install signage to alert people to the changes, staff said. New signage is expected to cost $80,000, with annual costs to maintain the signs estimated at $15,000. Annual costs include materials and labor to put decals on the signs that list the dates of Berkeley football games.

According to the city, the university paid about $18,600 for signage costs in 2017. Staff urged city leaders to “coordinate with UC Berkeley to fund the recommended one-time signage/decal upgrades, plus ongoing annual costs.”

In its vote Tuesday, council also expanded the possibility of residential parking permits to “Mixed-Use Light Industrial” zoning areas in West Berkeley. Residents on blocks that wish to get those permits will still need to go through the normal application process to seek approval.

The city launched is residential parking permit program in 1980 to “protect the integrity of residential neighborhoods,” staff told council Tuesday. In 2017, the city created a petition process to allow neighbors on additional blocks to opt into the permit program. According to the city’s tally, there are 500 blocks, and more than 1,000 block faces, that are part of the program.

As it stands, however, the city does not have enough parking enforcement officers (PEOs) to handle the demand. Enforcement in existing permit areas happens just once a day, according to the staff report.

“It’s been watered down over time as the program has expanded,” transportation manager Farid Javandel told officials. “We’re not providing the coverage level that people are expecting and wanting.”

Resuming morning and afternoon patrols, according to the staff report, “will help reinforce RPP time limits, particularly on streets near popular destinations such as public facilities or commercial districts. Increased patrols may also reduce the amount of one-off requests from residents who do not observe enforcement as frequently, which reduce PEOs’ ability to conduct regularly-scheduled beat patrols.”

Council members had asked staff previously to find a way to expand the city’s parking permit program while ensuring the program would cover all associated costs. The current program runs at a deficit. The gap has shrunk in recent years, but revenue from permits has also fallen, the city says. This “may be due in part to … the 20% fee increase on April 1, 2018. Customers may also have reevaluated their needs in light of the new maximum of three (3) annual permits per address,” according to Tuesday’s staff report.

Council decided to put off a suggestion to increase parking permit fees. Source: COB

Staff said adding seven new parking enforcement officers and increasing permit fees would make the program “cost-neutral.” Staff had suggested increasing the current annual residential fee from $66 to $90, increasing the merchant fee from $185 to $253, and increasing fees similarly for the various other types of parking permits the city offers. Council said it would discuss those suggestions at a later date.

The vote to approve the other changes to the parking permit program was unanimous. (Councilwoman Susan Wengraf had left by the time of the vote, which took place shortly before 11 p.m.)

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...