Let's say the clock has struck midnight and you're still having a good time at a downtown club or bar. Maybe you had dinner and cocktails at Flora, then saw a show at the Fox Theater (complete with six bars to quench your thirst). You might head over to Ozumo, Ave. or Luka's for some late-night lounging.
However, if you parked along Telegraph Avenue or Broadway in Oakland's downtown entertainment district and it is anywhere from midnight to 3 a.m., you are likely to get nailed with a $54 street-sweeping ticket unless you move your car — fast.
I'm not trying to make a big deal out of this. Downtown between 13th Street and West Grand is not the only place that bars and clubs are located in this far-flung city. In addition, the last time I got a street-cleaning ticket was near my Old Oakland apartment, where the trucks roll about 6 a.m.
But the city of Oakland — like most cities — is cracking down on parking violations in an effort to bring in much-needed money at the same time the entertainment district is heating up.
The situation has me and a few others perplexed. Well, up in arms might be a better description for the reaction from Peter Van Kleef, owner of Van Kleef's on Telegraph Avenue.
Van Kleef has been on the city's case for years about the parking, especially because he said he has paid thousands of dollars worth of tickets on his own car and those of his staff members.
The city agreed to delay street cleaning on his block until 2 a.m., but that poses another problem. There is a safety factor for employees who work until after a 2 a.m. closing time. If they move their cars away from the still unevenly lit strips along Broadway or Telegraph to avoid a ticket, they risk predators on deserted streets.
The city has talked about changing the street-sweeping schedule to keep up with the changes downtown, and officials are amenable to shifting the hours, perhaps to 3 to 6 a.m., said Public Works spokeswoman Stephanie Hom. The next step is to discuss the matter with merchants associations to make sure everyone is on the same page.
"Scheduling is a challenge, but it's doable," Hom said.
In the meantime, let's hope the parking enforcement department, which issues tickets, and public works are on the same page.
So, don't drive in the meantime, you might say. However, when I walked one weeknight evening down Telegraph Avenue, construction in front of a building in the middle of Telegraph and 18th streets requires sidewalk pedestrians to step inside a deeply recessed alcove that is obscured by a stack of construction material covered by a blue tarp. It is one of the few times downtown I have ever felt really spooked.
And forget trying to turn to taxis for a solution because, well, there are no taxis after hours anywhere in the city except maybe at the airport. A taxi anywhere else can be as elusive as a leprechaun.
BART is not an option after 12:50 a.m., when the last train to San Francisco and most other destinations leaves the 12th Street station. The last train from San Francisco's Montgomery station headed toward Oakland leaves earlier, at 12:24 a.m. Service begins again at 4 a.m. That schedule puts a lot of potentially intoxicated people in cars.
BART does maintenance during the down time, and officials are uninterested in changing the schedule. In lieu of BART, the All Nighter (previously known as the Night Owl) bus runs across the bridge and a number of other routes from 1 to 5 a.m. Service to Contra Coast County was cut last year because costs and profits were not matching up.
It takes some planning through www.511.org, and rides last longer than BART. But it is less of a hassle than the headache that 98 Alameda County DUI suspects in handcuffs over the St. Patrick's Day long weekend (March 13 until midnight March 17) are dealing with.
Late-night transport can, however, have unexpected consequences. For one, it takes time for alcohol to hit the system, said Beverly McAdams, spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Bay Area. So, if drinkers hit the booze hard during last call, the active ingredients in their beverages might not kick in until they step out of public transit and get back in their cars to head home.
In addition, people tend to drink more when they are freed from the responsibility of driving, McAdams said, which can lead to some unruly behavior. We've all seen the hooch-fueled fights late at night to know what that "unruly behavior" can look like.
In the meantime, Van Kleef and a few others I've talked to are entertaining the idea of creating an after-2 a.m. scene where patrons can sober out with a snack and some coffee. There are no all-night diners downtown — the only one left is Niko's in the Jingletown district at 23rd Avenue — so it might be a good idea.
Recently, I noticed a tamale vendor has begun showing up here and there, as well as a hot dog stand on certain nights. At least that is a start — and a tasty one.
Reach Angela Woodall at 510-208-6413 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.