Berkeley parkers may get five-minute grace period

Laurie Capitelli thinks parkers should get a break.

In a measure that will be considered by the City Council Tuesday night, Capitelli is suggesting that parking enforcement officers give people a five-minute grace period after their meters expire.

“We hear that parking enforcement officers have been seen waiting at targeted cars for the exact minute the receipt has expired,” Capitelli wrote in the measure. “This has created tremendous ill will and frustration, ultimately discouraging people from patronizing our local businesses.”

Sometimes there is a discrepancy between the time on the watch of a patron and the time on the parking meter, Capitelli noted. This “friendlier” policy will ease that distinction.

The five-minute grace period would only apply to cars using a pay and display meter that produces a time-stamped receipt that can be displayed on a dashboard.

Any ease in parking restrictions would help attract customers because shoppers always have the option of going to a mall or going to Albany, where is parking is free, instead of coming to Berkeley, said Allen Cain, the director of the Solano Avenue Association.

“I honestly think it’s the least the city can do given the fact that parking enforcement on Solano is aggressive,” said Cain. “We think it has had a long-term impact on the character of the district. If Berkeley really wants to help Solano Avenue, it will eliminate paid parking to mirror Albany.”

Oakland adopted a similar measure in December. That measure was designed to ease tension when a person arrived at his or her car when a meter maid was writing a ticket.

Berkeley has revised its parking meter policies in the past to help out local business. In October 2010, the council voted to cover the heads of meters that had been installed on Adeline between Woolsey and Alcatraz because they had driven away business. It was supposed to be a six-month experiment, but the covers are still on the meters.

In February, City Council member Kriss Worthington asked the council to institute a new policy allowing meter maids to rip up a ticket if a driver arrived while it was being written. The measure was pulled from the agenda to allow more discussion with various parties.

Berkeley issues about 247,000 parking tickets a year, according to a city report. A ticket for an expired meter is $43.

Should Berkeley have a kinder parking ticket policy? [02.10.12]
New parking signs in downtown after neighborhood action [02.08.12]
Local towing company spotlighted in parking ruckus [01.18.12]
Parking around Trader Joe’s sparks vigilante action [01.05.12]

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  • Matt

    I wonder what the long term cost liability is on these meter people… As a long time Berkeley Resident, I find them offensive. They are rude, hostile, uncaring, and make a pretty BAD welcoming committee to visitors… Honestly, i have stopped shopping in certain areas of Berkeley where they roam… so many other needs in Berkeley, these Meter People must be stopped. It’s a tax on most of us… especially those of us who work in this community… They literally target the people I work with… and FOR THE RECORD… I think that chalking of tires IS an ILLEGAL act, as it is a mark on private property that tracks MOVEMENT, or a lack of movement… I really wish a wise Lawyer out there could send a cease and desist to the city on this… The supreme court recently ruled that YOU DO NEED a warrant to track movement with devices… chalk is a DEVICE…. That’s what I think… The next mayor that runs on the platform of firing the whole department WILL GET MY VOTE!!!! IMHO.

  • Mary

    I’ve gotten parking tickets for a few minutes over the meters before (especially on College Ave) and I’ve learned to just add more money to the meter and to set a timer.  Sure, I was bummed for the $40+ ticket, but I take full responsibility since I was unable to remember when my meter was going to expire.

    It’s annoying that our city is wasting time on implementing good will measures where personal responsibility is the key.  Berkeley, be accountable and stay happy.

  • Completely_Serious

    Five minutes grace period.  Then, I get there at the six minute mark and Kriss’ idea kicks in.  Might as well fire all the Parking Enforcement Officers and let the old hippies park their old vans full of crud all over the place for as long as they want.  (Oh, wait . . . )

    Did you know meters generate $12k at DAY for the city.  And meter tickets generate another $12K PER DAY for the city.   $24K PER DAY, let’s say 300 days a year = $7,200,000 per year in revenue.  That’s almost enough to pay for Kalmarz’ retirement.  Do guys want parking spaces or pools?  Parking spaces or parks?  Parking spaces or cops? 

  • Since the only two distinguishable circumstances which matter in metered parking are in-meter and out-of-meter it seems like a so-called “grace period” is essentially just a free five minute extension to the in-meter parking time. This being the case I imagine the only effect of this law will be people arguing that they shouldn’t get a ticket because they’re still in the “grace period” which will rapidly but irrelevantly supplant the current arguments that they shouldn’t get a ticket because their parking is still covered by the time on the meter.

  • justme

    Overall, I support Mr. Capitelli’s decision to address this topic.  I am, however, responding to “Mary”.  Last week on Solano Avenue I returned to my car in a timely manner.  I had purchased a ticket, noted the time using my cell phone alarm.  I arrived at my car, opened the trunk to stow my purchase.  As I moved to the car door I was boxed in by a City of Berkeley Parking Vehicle and the City Parking Department employee wrote a ticket while I sat in the car!   
    A friend was recently ticketed on Shattuck while she was at the vending machine purchasing a permit.  When she pointed this out to the Parking Department employee she was told that was “no excuse”.
    I believe meters should be monitored and the limitations respected (no feeding meter, etc.)  I know this has had a chilling impact on my decision to shop at certain small retailers  Recently while second in line at a women’s clothing retailer near Solano/The Alameda, I had to leave v. get a ticket. Consequently, the retailer lost a $100+ sale, I went on-line to buy a pair of pants, and no one wrote or received a parking ticket.  And, yes, I just missed the City Parking person by seconds. 

  • Jane Tierney

    Unfortunately, for the public, the City of Berkeley seems to be totally dependent on parking fines and meter income to balance (or attempt to) the city budget. It’s a self-defeating enterprise. The more they focus on fines and fees, the more people shop elsewhere, increasing the deficit of sales and business taxes. Stop the fines and let the businesses flourish. I know there are people who will argue we should get out of our cars, and that the fines and meter fees encourages use of public transit. Okay, true to some extent. But a lot of people need to drive to/from places within the city, where public transit is lacking or takes too long, to locations for shopping or work. Each of these issues must be worked at the same time. You can’t just fine and fee people, without a reasonable alternative for transit. Reasonable being defined as being able to transit from one end of town to the other (5 miles) in less than an hour (one way) and for less than $10. RT (combination of BART, bus, walk)! Add to that the large percentage of women (less than 20 years old – including children + over 40 = 28%?) and/or women with children, add an additional 15%,  who don’t feel comfortable waiting for over half an hour at a bus stop at night or in bad weather and you’ve got a recipe for mass transit failure. (stats here: Plus there’s just the sheer geography of it. A large portion of our city is very hilly and circuitous. Very discouraging for public transit and/or walking with children, packages, groceries, etc. Other than installing funicular trams, I don’t see this situation improving. Where is the city leadership on this? It’s just too easy to fine people. Get creative!!

  • Guest

    Also, I wonder if this plan may unrealistically tax the time keeping and addition skills of our generally less than bright meter maids?  Let’s face it, the meter maid force, although very well paid, does not exactly attract the “best and brightest”.

  • Anonymous

    Every city above podunk size has meters, it’s a great source of revenue. Paying for parking is no more a tax than paying for anything else you buy.

  • Bruce Love

    Since the only two distinguishable circumstances which matter in metered
    parking are in-meter and out-of-meter it seems like a so-called “grace
    period” is essentially just a free five minute extension to the in-meter
    parking time.

    Not so.

    There are two clocks that matter here:  one is on the ticket writing machine, the other is on the machine that issues those parking vouchers.

    Those clocks can be provably kept in pretty close sync, but not perfectly.   That’s why getting a ticket for being 10sec over (according to the ticket itself) is outrageous.

    Those clocks can generally be relied upon to not be more than 5min apart.

    If your ticket is timestamped more than 5min after your voucher expired — even though there are two different clocks there — you “weren’t even close” to being in-meter and your ticket is well justified.

    Think of the 5min. as a cushion that compensates for the close-but-not-perfect synchronization of the clocks on the ticket writing machine and on the voucher issuing machine.

  • StudentForLife

    City managers, take note: I’m completely guilty to shopping elsewhere and online to avoid worrying about my meter expiring while I’m shopping. A $10 purchase quickly turns into a $64 purchase with a fine; not worth it! when compelled to shop in Berkeley, I park in grocery store parking lots or take my bike just to avoid the darn meters, but that’s not always possible; and it’s not about the cost, it’s second-guessing how much time a purchase might take, it’s having enough change, it’s going back and forth between the car and the parking machine to put the sticker on the dash, it’s constantly checking my cell to make sure I still have time; it’s running out of stores if a purchase takes too long, it’s avoiding saying hello to people I know because I don’t have time for a chat. What an archaic, uncivilized, sociopathic system.

  • Thanks Bruce

  • anon

    so the city is going broke and people want to do away with one extremely lucrative and consistent revenue source?  smart thinking…..

  • justme

    I do not gather that the consensus here is to “do away with” parking fees, meters, time-limits, fines, etc. but to foster a mutual understanding of the need and benefits of the system and a level of cordiality/common courtesy from those hired to enforce the mandate.  I appreciate that the parking enforcement employees probably receive more than their share of verbal affronts–  this is unfortunate.  There are also park a car and get in the “slow checkout line”, bump into a friend, etc. who deserve to get in their car and leave v. being “boxed in” by the quota patrol. 

  • Anonymous

    Lol….good luck getting any smart lawyer to touch that idea.  If you pay attention to the supreme court ruling it said that manual tailing from another car was fine; their contention was using automatic tracking devices, of which chalk is not one of them.

  • Tim44227

    I don’t shop where there are parking meters.

  • Eugene

    Cool, do BART and AC Transit riders get a discount too? Oh, only car drivers. Well, that seems fair.

  • Guest

    Bart and Train Riders are heavily subsidized by property taxes so you are getting a de facto discount.

  • Charles_Siegel

     ” It’s a self-defeating enterprise. The more they focus on fines and
    fees, the more people shop elsewhere, increasing the deficit of sales
    and business taxes.”

    If that were really true, it would be easy to find vacant parking spaces.  The fact that the metered spaces are full shows that the city’s policies are not discouraging people from driving to Berkeley businesses.  No matter what the city’s policies, you are not going to get those spaces any fuller than they are now.

  • Charles_Siegel

     You miss out on the most interesting places to shop.

  • Eugene

    Are you saying that property taxes don’t pay for roads?

  • Guest

    If you look on your tax bill there are specific amounts that go to public transport. 0.0041% goes to Bart. There is also a special assessment for AC Transit Measure VV of $96. There is no itemized amount on the property tax for roads. I think that is funded by tax on petrol and vehicle registration. Technically it is but I think if that money actually went to roads and was not sucked away for other stuff we would have decent roads in good repair. 

  • joeschmeaux

    Parking fees and fines were originally meant to guarantee turnover of parking spaces in business districts, so shoppers would be able to find a place to park for a relatively short period of time. At some point in time, the amount of fees and fines necessary to insure turnover rose to the point at which the revenue started adding up to an amount significantly higher than that needed to administer parking enforcement programs. The surplus was generally put towards other programs.

    During tough times, city governments have tried to get money wherever they could and because we’ve had so many tough periods over the last three or four decades, the fees and fines have risen to ridiculous levels. In Berkeley, cars are considered evil and treated like hazardous waste. It seems no amount is too high for the city to charge drivers for the privilege of parking here.

    About 10 or 15 years ago, the city started the street cleaning program, I imagine because some street cleaner company convinced some city council people that the city could make a whole bunch of money by buying a small fleet of expensive street cleaners. Thus a whole new stream of revenue for the city of Berkeley was born. Before then, a few times a year, crews of young people (perhaps doing court ordered community service?) hit the gutters with shovels and wheelbarrows. I wonder how much money the city makes from street cleaning tickets — especially since it only occurs once a month, which is just enough elapsed time in between to forget that it’s that day until you hear them coming and race out to try to beat the parking enforcement officer (who has usually been there and gone before the cleaner is close enough for you to hear it — $$Cha-Ching$$, Berkeley gets your money!

    On Martin Luther King Jr. Way in my neighborhood, one side is ticketed, err, cleaned on the 2nd Thursday of the month, and the other on the 2nd Friday. I’m so glad I have a space off the street, because, I would get many tickets if I didn’t. Every time the street cleaner comes by, there are many cars on the street. I’m sure the city is making a killing on the backs of people who can’t really afford it. It sucks that it has come to this.

    Sure a five minute grace period is better than none at all, but the prices are still outrageous. $43 is much more than enough to deter meter violations. The current rate at meters is more than enough to deter people from parking longer than they need to, as it is much cheaper to park in a lot for longer periods of time. Give our current economic conditions, the fees and fines should be lowered, as they should be only high enough to deter, and the revenue should not be counted on for anything other than administering the parking program.

    We want business in Berkeley. We want locals to be able to go around town and patronize all the merchants without worrying about paying exorbitant fees and fines for parking, not just the merchants with big free parking lots. We already have enough big chain stores with plastic signs in Berkeley. If we all but price parking in town out of the reach of the middle class, the only businesses which will be able to survive will be those with parking lots and those which cater to college students on foot.

    Why don’t we stop eliminating parking spaces downtown?

    Why don’t we stop gouging on fees and fines?

    Times have changed. City governments have to find new streams of revenue. Getting rid of meaningful parking control on Solano Ave. is unreasonable, but jacking up the rates to the point at which only the rich can afford them in order to generate revenue is very un-Berkeleyan. The city should find new revenue streams. I realize that’s easily said, but it must be done.

    Roll back the fees and fines!

    Stop forcing drivers to pay more than their fair share.

  • Eugene

     I don’t own any property at the moment, so I’m just a parasite off of hardworking property owners like yourself. But woah, 0.0041%? That’s outrageous. Drivers should get to park for free if that’s how it is.

  • Kp Miller

    my husband and i drove into berkeley from kensington to try a new lunch spot we’d seen advertised on oxford street.  we ate lunch at an outside table no more than 35 feet from our car.  we finished, walked over to our car completely aware that the meter guy was about ten spaces back behind us.  we were actually getting IN the car when an outrageously hostile guy rolled up in his meterwagon, blocked our exit and wrote us a ticket for expired parking.  what’s THAT about?   we were parked at one of the newer metering areas where there is not a single meter per space.  my understanding was in berkeley, if you are at your car BEFORE the ticket writing has been begun, and certainly if you’re IN your car before the guy even GETS to you, city policy was “no ticket”.     initially, he wouldn’t even answer my questions about that policy.  then he said that was the policy at a SINGLE meter space but not at these new kinds of meters.   horrible experience — get rid of the gestapo tactics.

  • A Different Guest

    An arrogant parasite, at that, since almost half of your ride is subsidized.

    “In 2005, 53% of the budget was derived from fares, 32% from taxes, and 15% from other sources”

  • joeschmeaux

     It’s illegal for them to block your space. I suggest you turn on your windshield wipers and washers and start honking your horn until the parking enforcement officer decides it’s not worth it.

  • joeschmeaux

     Oops, I mean it’s illegal for them to block you from leaving your space.

  • Of course if the city of Berkeley doesn’t bring this revenue they will have to bring it in in other ways.  How about fining people who DON’T shop in Berkeley?  Hey, if Obama can fine people for NOT buying health insurance, why can’t the city fine people for not shopping?

  • I’m searching for something accurate in this post, and I think the only thing I found was the time stamp.

  • This city would probable gain more in business tax if they did away with parking meters entierly.  But if they wanted to skirt the difference they could at least reduce the cost of parking meters, increase the time and reduce the fines.  THOSE factors would ATTRACT people to the area.  Consider; if fines actually cost less per offence (say half) people would be less likely to care about any one offense.  The meter watchers might actually write more money in tickets due to people’s lack of concern.  That on top of bringing more customers to the area could spell big dividends.

  • Anonymous

    We have money for road and infrastructure maintenance and have even sold bonds for it. The money just gets used for the obscene amounts of graft that the city government and administration helps themselves to.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Was this article posted on drudgereport or something?

  • Syzlak

    If you think you’re paying anything close to the true cost of motoring, you are sorely mistaken.

  • BHills

     I am sorry that you were treat so shabbily after going out of your way to patronize a business in Berkeley.

  • I’m Jes’ Sayin’

     Beware.  Soon that practice will keep you from shopping anywhere in town.

  • I’m Jes’ Sayin’

    I suggest that you use your cell phone to document the facts in your case.  There is a process whereby you can go sit in a room with a nice lady and tell her your story.  She can make these sleazy tickets go away. 

    Hopefully you also can find the right people with whom to share the photo of the meter minder.  I can’t guarantee that would make him or her disappear or change attitude and tactics, but doing nothing cannot possibly bring about change.

  • I’m Jes’ Sayin’

     Not to mention this:

    Good old progressive Berkeley stakes a major portion of its budget on carbon-centric revenues (there are many others like the city share of VLFs) while paying lip service to being Green.

  • Biker 94703

    See above post from Charles Siegel concerning the number of vacant parking spots.  Obviously, people are quite willing to park under the prevailing terms.

  • Kay

    Wow, sorry to hear that!

    Seeing stories like this makes me wonder if the parking enforcement folks have felt pressured to meet ticket quotas each month (i.e.: like we hear about police officers and moving violations). Maybe the newer meter system works “too well” in many ways and the city is now finding it is generating less revenue via parking violations that it had hoped, so there is pressure to make up the income and, unfortunately, the public bears the brunt?

  • Kay

    Wow, sorry to hear that!

    Seeing stories like this makes me wonder if the parking enforcement folks have felt pressured to meet ticket quotas each month (i.e.: like we hear about police officers and moving violations). Maybe the newer meter system works “too well” in many ways and the city is now finding it is generating less revenue via parking violations that it had hoped, so there is pressure to make up the income and, unfortunately, the public bears the brunt?

  • justme

    “Jes’ Sayin”-  I did snap a photo on Solano from inside the car showing the Meter-Minder Mobile across my bumper at the same time as the ticket.  Since my “incident” I have started snapping photos of Meter-Minders in places/and doing things I find curious for instance in the parking lot of the Target store in Albany, parked driver-window-to-driver-window in a UC owned/operated Parking Garage for lengthy periods.  I just might be creating an interesting collection.  

  • Jacob Lynn

    If you can afford to live in the hills, you can afford to stick a couple of extra bucks in the meter.

  • Jacob Lynn

    Parking meter iPhone app?

    EDIT: Actually, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to set up a system where you simply pay for the amount of time your car spends sitting there. Use a FasTrak to track occupancy and bill parkers.

  • tcbrekke

    Whoa. We still calling them meter maids? I don’t even live in Berkeley anymore, but I was surprised to see that term instead of something gender neutral. Meter reader, parking enforcement officer, etc. I grew up in Berkeley and… had school holidays for International Women’s Day and called the mailman the mail carrier. I don’t imagine it’s really too early to retire “meter maid.”