Our lead speaker was Michael Ford, Parking Manager from the OakDOT, our Oakland Department of Transportation.
He held up a copy of Don Shoup’s The High Price of Free Parking and declared himself a proud “Shoupista” and went on to give his presentation.
The plan is to make the price of parking so high that there will always be spaces available to those who can pay up. How high? Well it should be raised until there is always about 15% of the spaces available. Ford described pulling up and having parking available, he did not describe where the people who did not come and park had gone.
In his presentation our Parking Director called this process “creating parking”.
Now I am a radical environmentalist, bike riding, Green Party activist and I strongly believe in spending on mass transit, conversion off of fossil fuels and radical reduction of automobile use.
I don’t see how driving poor people out of their cars will help.
I also don’t see how having people decide not to park here and drive to another area will really reduce car use or help our local economy. This question was asked very clearly and did not receive any answers.
In this meeting we got some upsetting news. To start with they handed out a survey results on parking situation in Temescal as they describe it. The map showed that the survey applied to upper Telegraph, the back streets going towards the freeway and one block east into the residential areas east of the commercial strip. It was basically a circle around the business strips and the residential areas that could be used for business parking. Our neighborhoods were “out there”, not surveyed.
One nearby resident took a quick glance at the map and declared it to be inaccurate even in the limited area it covered, in which this resident lives. That, at least, was acknowledged. We got the normal disclaimer that the information on the map is dated (only five years) and “everything” is so different now and before we do anything we need to do a new study …..
According to Mr. Ford he has to balance the parking for three groups:
2 Business clientele and
2 Business clientele and
After saying that he went on to describe a situation that went about 75% restaurant and shop clients and 25% residents and when it came to talking about what can be done for the people who work here, we talked about something done in another neighborhood as maybe a good example.
For the business clients, the only thing put forward was raising the prices of parking where it is already over filled. “Price mechanism” was the euphemism and details were scarce. What was clear is that they plan to implement this kind of different price schemes in downtown Oakland first.
Temescal is on the list as being next because they have a “history”, meaning the study that led to the map that they were handing out.
For the residents there was only the suggestion that people get neighborhood restricted permitted parking.
And again, for the people who work in our thriving restaurant and shop district, not one practical thing was offered.
By creating parking we did not mean any space that was not parking before becoming parking now. We were not talking about the new construction all over our area putting more cars off the street.
We mean driving client cars out of the commercial district using high prices and we mean driving employee cars out of the neighborhoods with residential permits.
Then Ford went on to wax poetic and revel in the irony that the City Charter clearly states that parking enforcement dollars should go to pay for parking structures. He seemed to be bemused by the fact that this is not getting done.
One of the local property owners has already let this crowd know that as a private developer he cannot get a loan for a private parking structure as long as there is free parking nearby, and by that we mean the free parking lot between Walgreen’s and the Post Office in that plaza at Telegraph and 49th. Our BID board president made this point seeking some kind of engagement of the issue.
There was no discussion of seeking a resolution of either of these roadblocks so we have an area going high rise without a parking structure even being considered anywhere in the district.
What was offered, some by Ford, and some by attendees, was reasons why other people should not own their own car. There was some ugly stuff about people who leave their cars in the area for a long time and never drive them. Michael Ford told his own disdain story about a woman who wanted to start a residential street parking program near her new home in the MacArthur Transit Village and had two cars; one she keeps in the space provided, and the other she needs for work.
Now there is part of me that thinks it fine if people are using their cars less and taking transit and I did not hear of any plan to help them have a place to leave that car behind. The practical message was to either own an off street space, or sell your car.
We got a lecture about the cost of ownership of a car, as if people don’t know what their most expensive possession other than a home means to their budget. Others asked about workers who cannot afford the time to take transit because they need to get to do things like pick their kids up from school where there is no transit or go home where there is poor transit.
Nothing they answered seemed to have any practical value to me. This meeting left me with nothing I could say to a local employee that might sound like a practical solution getting to or from work with or without their car.
We heard a lot about how the plans were going to be flexible, and that there were twenty different things that the parking policy could do for us, but when the discussion became specific the plan was clearly always going back to raising parking meter costs, expanding metered parking zones, maybe putting in residential parking permit areas and then do more studies to do the same in other areas, ours included.
This is where I drilled in on the other OakDOT representative, Danielle Dai.
She was talking about these studies and I asked about the danger of asking questions that bring about a foregone conclusion and always come up with higher priced parking meters as an answer. So I wanted to know about the methodology. Have we done a census of the local business employees? (Not just count cars on the street). Will they survey residents on what their needs are and how they could be better served with parking rules?
After some very common waffling I asked her point blank if the OakDOT had the resources to do the kind of studies that they really needed to re-engineer our parking and traffic and the answer was a clear no.
“No” is also the answer to the question “Is there going to be any more parking?”
“No” would also be the answer to the question: “Is there an overall plan?”
There is no comprehensive plan. What we have is different groups pushing around public property, bits and pieces of transit and the odd ad hoc arraignment as if each action was some determinant influence over a market mechanism that will sort things out for us.
We know that plan. That is the plan that usually hurts those with the least money.
The only mention of more and better transit was the extension of the bike path and the B Bus. That the B Bus ever started without connecting the train station to BART or filling in the difference between BART stations, combined with neglecting the Grand Lake area, kind of makes one ask “what problem they are trying to solve”? Have they heard of Emeryville? They have a shuttle and one line runs from Amtrak to BART.
Others asked more questions about the spate of new housing going in all around us and we got another set of philosophical answers justifying insufficient parking in those new buildings. Most of the answers were about how people in these new buildings should adopt a new lifestyle, and there was no clear idea if these new, affluent residents would actually forego car ownership or what that actually should look like. Will a sufficient number of our new residents not own a car to make it work or will they end up using more of the already overcrowded street? Was not owning a car a requirement for anyone moving in?
Again there was little to nothing said about those who might make less use of their car and instead ride a bike or take transit, such as myself. Where are we supposed to leave our cars behind? Since I own a shop large enough to park that car off the street, I can do that without having to deal with the street sweeping, broken car window break-ins and predatory parking tickets in front of my home.
I rode my bike back from this meeting knowing that I can do so because of my social privilege, feeling that the parking plans will cause more hardship among the people who live and work here and drive potential clients away from local businesses.