Drivers in Berkeley are set to get some relief from a slew of parking rules following this week’s regional shelter-in-place order from health officials designed to address the spread of COVID-19.
Oakland and San Francisco announced earlier this week that they would call off ticketing related to street sweeping. Many readers have asked Berkeleyside to find out if the city of Berkeley plans to make a similar move.
“I just saw a meter maid drive by on Bateman Street in Elmwood,” one reader asked. “Should we really be issuing parking tickets right now? Shouldn’t we encourage people to shelter-in-place, not go outside to move their cars to the opposite side of the street? Seems short-sighted.”
Another reader, who said she had lived in Berkeley since 1993, said she saw numerous parking enforcement officers issuing tickets Tuesday in her neighborhood, which is a two-hour residential parking zone.
“So even though we are being ordered to stay inside we still need to move our cars every two hours if we are home all day?? Seems crazy, but I thought people should know. I just assumed they would stop ticketing people but nope!” She continued: “If we take the financial hit of not being able to work they should take the hit of not making money off tickets.”
A Trader Joe’s employee had a similar take, telling Berkeleyside that he has been taking particular pride in his work this week as people have flooded stores to stock up on important staples. He said many TJ’s staffers have to commute to Berkeley because they can’t afford to live in the city. He said he didn’t think it was fair to ask employees offering vital services “to dash away from our post every two hours to move our cars to avoid parking citations.”
Other readers wanted to know whether street sweeping and ticketing were considered “essential government functions,” which are the only ones that are supposed to be happening under the regional shelter-in-place decree.
In response to concerns like these that have cropped up in recent days, Berkeley staff said Thursday that the city would relax a number of parking rules — but not all of them — over the next three weeks. The ones that remain central to public safety and basic access will remain in place, said city spokesman Matthai Chakko.
Chakko said Berkeley will no longer enforce school-zone parking restrictions or time limits related to meters, timed zones or residential parking areas.
What will continue to be enforced, however, are painted curbs such as red zones or the blue ones used for disabled access, access to fire hydrants and driveways, passenger-loading zones and the like. People also need to keep delivery zones clear so businesses can receive vital shipments.
The city will also continue its street-sweeping program, Chakko said, and plans to issue tickets for non-compliance. Berkeley needs to keep the streets clear to avoid issues like storm drain impacts, among other factors, he said.
Chakko said it’s important for people to remember that, even with some enforcement on hold, the city hopes community members will be considerate and pay attention to the needs of restaurants and other struggling local businesses who may need curb access for carry-out orders and other aspects of their operation.
If the new approach isn’t working, Chakko cautioned, the city could reconsider and roll it back before April 7, when the current shelter-in-place order is set to end.
Chakko said the city began rolling out the new rules Wednesday and that Berkeley is still considering what to do with tickets that may have been issued this week before it made the change.
Chakko said City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley is taking all of these challenges into account as Berkeley considers how people are handling the shelter-in-place order and the ongoing public health emergency related to COVID-19.
“We are doing whatever we can to help people through this really unprecedented crisis for our city,” Chakko said. “She is trying to do whatever we can to make sure we are responding in a way that helps people.”