OAKLAND -- District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf met with residents at Montclair Elementary School to discuss the idea of creating a parking benefit district in Montclair Village.
"Parking shouldn't be a governmental shakedown. It should help commercial areas and shoppers," said Schaaf at the Oct. 2 meeting. "I think we can come up with something better than we have now. The goal is to make Montclair Village a better place to shop."
Creating a parking benefit district is intended to ease the issue of parking in the village, which would enhance shopping, by varying meter rates according to location. The district would also seek to make the city owned garage on La Salle Avenue more desirable, and seek to ease the impact of parking on neighborhood streets.
"The point of (parking) meters is not revenue collection, but to make parking available where you want to shop. We need to change how parking is currently being managed. Many cities make parking more flexible," said Bruce Williams, the city's senior transportation planner with Public Works.
The parking benefit district would be the first of its kind in Oakland. Schaaf and her office have been working on the district, obtaining a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to begin the project. The proposal will come before the City Council on Tuesday.
A study was conducted analyzing the parking patterns and availability in the village. There are some blocks that are more desirable than others. For example, 92 percent of the parking spots are occupied at Antioch Court, near Peet's Coffee and Tea, while spots along Mountain Boulevard are vacant all the time, said Bruce Stoffmacher.
Currently, all meters in the city of Oakland are $2 per hour, regardless of their location.
The parking benefit district proposes to price the meters based on their desirability. Less desirable locations may not only be cheaper, but might also be extended beyond the two-hour time limit. Rates would fluctuate in 50-cent increments.
"The proposal would be to create a parking model where people can always find an open spot to park. You can pay a little more for the choicest spots, and a little less if you don't mind walking further," Schaaf said.
Other benefits might include keeping a portion of the money in the village to reinvest in infrastructure and capital investments.
Changing meter rates requires a change of legislation. However, there is a fair amount of flexibility in the garage, Schaaf said.
The parking study also showed that the garage is underused. It found that the ground floor of the garage is 92 percent full, the second floor is 50 percent full, and the third floor is empty.
The garage is the only one in Oakland that is not operated by the city, but is managed by the Montclair Village Association. This unique arrangement was made in deference to the Montclair Business Association's participation in the construction of the garage.
Currently, the cost to park in the garage is the same as on the street -- $2 per hour -- with the disadvantage
of no pricing for a partial hour. Park in the garage an hour and 15 minutes, and it will cost $4, compared to costing $2.50 on the street. The difference is because of the antiquated technology being used in the garage cashier, Schaaf said.
However, more than 50 village businesses offer parking validation for one hour of free parking, said Daniel Swafford, executive director of the Montclair Village Association.
Schaaf proposed the possibility of reorganizing the garage's fee structure. Ideas include allowing the first 20 minutes or half an hour of parking free, and a discounted monthly parking rate for spaces on the roof in the hopes of enticing more commuters and village employees to park in the garage instead of on neighborhood streets.
The project would begin with an 18-month trial period, during which time the success and economic impact of the program would be analyzed and community input would be sought.
Resident David Brady, who lives on a street adjacent to the business district, likes the proposal.
"I am happy with it, especially since there are protections for residential parking," he said.
But resident Linda Olvera isn't as pleased.
"I don't like it," she said. "I'm always in a hurry. I don't have time to park away and pay a cheaper rate. I will have to pay the higher rate."