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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Councilwoman West Addresses Parking Issues In Anticipation Of Big Saturday Meeting

Councilwoman West Offers Counter Narrative To Property Owners Group On Parking

In anticipation of this Saturday's Town Hall meeting sponsored by former councilman Ken Bukowski and the Emeryville Property Owners Association (EPOA), councilwoman Jennifer West offers alternative ideas about the contentious issue of parking in North Emeryville.  EPOA has been arguing for among other things, more free parking for businesses and residents, something we can no longer and should no longer supply according to Ms West.  

The following is from two entries about parking from the councilwoman's blog.  The bottom entry is about Saturday's meeting specifically:

Parking or "Where do we put all the cars?"

By Councilwoman Jennifer West
When I decided to run for City Council, I had lots of conversations with people in Emeryville concerned about traffic. I have written a few times about this, and yet, after 3 years on the council, I am not sure that the average person thinks things have improved. Consider that within the next 20 years, it is projected that the number of residents in Emervyille will increase from 10,000 to 16,000, according to our General Plan. Where are we/they going to put all those cars?

I have found a strong consensus through the transportation planning world about how plentiful, free parking actually encourages people to use cars when they otherwise might not; free parking is like a car magnet. Emeryville is different from our immediate neighbors to the north and south, in that public parking is free here. (Note that some private parking, like at our hotels and at Bay St. is not free.) I believe that free and unrestricted parking is part of the reason we have more cars here than we like. You should also know that we have 20,000 people working in Emeryville each day. They weigh many considerations as they decide how they will get here, including the direct cost to them of driving.

Several years ago (before I joined the council) Emeryville commissioned a study of the North Hollis area to look at parking issues and solutions, as the streets in this part of town are very often completely "parked up" on a weekday. Restaurants and businesses with customers who come and go have complained people can't find a place to park, and that this could impact their number of customers and sales. With off-street parking required to be provided for employees, why is the on-street parking so full all the time?

Wilbur Smith Associates, who completed the study, found that people will park where it is most convenient. With free unrestricted street parking, people will park there first, and when it is full, find another spot (maybe in a garage). Some people don't have access to off-street parking as it is private or don't want to park there as it is costly, and find themselves circling, looking for a spot on the street. With no time limits on the street, during the day there is very little turn-over of spots.

By limiting street parking in non-residential areas with a time limit, we can help people find spots that are meant for them. This is about managing parking, not just providing it. We can manage it with time limits or fees. Our hope is to first put limited time parking zones in places planned out by the study. Eventually, if the city puts in paid parking on the street, we could use the revenues (once capital costs are covered, which would likely be within 2 years) to fund additional pedestrian or bike improvements that would enhance the area for everybody. This is called a parking benefit district, where the use of cars and paid parking actually helps to pay for direct improvements. Right now we taxpayers are all subsidizing those who drive here and park for free.

Residents need to be protected from other users spilling over into the areas they depend on for parking. We have some areas with residential parking permit programs, and the city can support more if it is warranted.

What is important is to hear from the community regarding this pending change. I want residents to have residential parking, I want employees to have employee parking, and customers to be able to find customer parking. It is great if we can share parking, but I know we can manage the parking we already have better to be sure each type of user can have parking when and where they need it.
Emeryville is special in that we have a free shuttle provided by businesses, property owners, and our city government that gives us a ride to and from BART, the Emery-Go-Round. With over 1.3 million riders each year, Emery-Go-Round certainly keeps some cars off our streets. We can build on this service to further encourage people to get to Emeryville without driving their cars.

More Parking discussions, Sat 1/12 and Tues 1/15

By Councilwoman Jennifer West
The Transportation Committee meeting on December 11 at the Fire Station on Hollis Street was very well attended, thanks in part to the efforts of Ken Bukowski. We had about 30 people there: residents, property owners, and business owners. Many points of view were expressed, and quite a bit of concern about changes, as well as frustration about the current situation.

This issue is not an easy or obvious one to solve. Emotions run high when it comes to parking. Some expressed the "right" to park for free in front of homes or businesses. Some pointed fingers at other property owners who have not handled parking needs correctly. Some said that we do not want to be like Oakland or Berkeley where parking is too hard or too expensive. Others said that permit parking will be the future, sooner or later. Some said there are too many empty parking garages, perhaps because of the fees charged there. Some say that the public doesn't respect private parking for customers, disregarding signs. Although many say that these problems already exist, there was real fear that any changes will make them worse, not better.

I recognize that parking management is very complex. I do not believe that Emeryville has a parking shortage. I think that we have a parking management problem, and that we should try to make sure that each street has spaces for the users who have priority for that area. If you are allowed to park for free all day long in front of your house or business, then it will be very hard to prevent anyone else from doing so as well, or worse, instead of you.

On Saturday, January 12 at 10:00 am, Ken Bukowski is hosting a community meeting at the Ralph Hawley School site at Doyle St. and 61st St. to have the opportunity to talk more about parking issues in Emeryville. I am grateful that he is allowing me to address the gathering for 10 minutes. Please consider attending and sharing your point of view as well. His flyers talk about a parking plan in a limited part of town that the City Council is considering implementing, and will be discussing on Tuesday, January 15, City Hall, 7:15 pm. The plan has been waiting on the shelf for 3 years. It is a sensible plan with a phased approach and monitoring in place to see how changes that are put in place impact availability. It does not include paid parking in the first year or two, only later in the plan. The initial changes include limited time parking, with the painting of green curbs on certain blocks. Later in the plan there is also the possibility of residential parking permits and business/employee parking permits, if there is a need to support these uses.

I know that we all need to do our part to reduce reliance on cars, not only in Emeryville, but in the region, in the state and the world. It is a hard change to make for many of us. We have already committed to these changes with our state laws, such as SB375. Regulating on-street parking is one way to change people's behavior. Free parking actually costs all of us a lot of money in the long run.

Please consider joining me on Saturday morning, or on Tuesday evening. I welcome your comments.

1 comment:

  1. Your approach makes a lot of sense to me. Unfortunately, I live right across the line in Oakland, so don't get to vote on anything. Permit parking and limited-duration street parking work in Temescal near Kaiser Oakland, and I support using some of these modern traffic management tools, rather than encouraging gridlock in this entire area.