parking meters and other issues of city living

August 11, 2009

There is a current uproar in Oakland about the parking meter increase.

Before that there was an uproar about the downtown plan in Berkeley.  And that will come up again because people are trying to get signatures to change the approved plan that will increase density in the downtown area.

But let’s start with the Oakland parking meters.  Businesses are PISSED!!!  So very angry.  They say that they are losing customers because of the second increase to meters in the last year.  Now this last increase was used to fill in the budget short-fall in Oakland.  They didn’t know what to do, couldn’t agree on what to cut, didn’t want to start laying off police men so they raised parking rates.  Was it right?  Maybe not, but it got the job done fast.

Personally I think that we should start stopping every single person who is holding a cell phone while driving and make them cough up $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $400 for the third.  (Exponential growth can be very… forceful.)  Just from personal observation we would have overflowing coffers in a couple of weeks.  But I’m sure someone would shoot down that plan.

Part of me really feels for the shop owners.  Getting people in to shop right now must be hard enough but removing easy parking is just going to make things worse.  But another part of me thinks everyone drives WAY too much.  There are times when you need a car to transport things but most of the time we drive when it would be better if we walked, took transport, carpooled, etc.  It’s easy for me to say that because I don’t own a car.  So I don’t have the constant temptation.

I did read this interesting article – The High Cost of Free Parking.  No one likes to think about that.  For generations we have been told by the oil industry and the automobile industry and the tire industry that we MUST have cars.  Light rail won’t work, buses are for people who can’t afford cars, DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE.

I dont’ know if you’ve heard the news but … that’s causing problems that we might not be able to fix.

Depressing huh.

And on top of that – you have to pay more to park.  Oh the horrors.

Yeah – I’m no where NEAR as sympathetic as I should be towards the shop owners.

So back to that other thing about Berkeley’s Downtown Plan.  There are a lot of people upset about the possibility of very tall buildings in downtown Berkeley.  They will ruin downtown.

Did I miss something?

Isn’t downtown Berkeley ruined enough?  Are there people who come here on purpose to shop?  Stores just keep leaving.  And new ones don’t show up.  Well except for the frozen yogurt shops but I already complained about that.

UC Berkeley wants to build more but can’t get the permits.  (Now that I kind of get because the City of Berkeley doesn’t get tax revenue from the land that Berkeley owns.)  But come on… the condemned old California Department of Public Health building that takes up a whole block around Berkeley Way and Oxford…. shouldn’t we just let the University tear that down and do something USEFUL with it?  Is letting it just sit there condemned a good plan?  Really?  Same with the UC Press building on Center and Oxford.

There is an amazing article from the East Bay Express about density that discusses the irony of Berkeley’s resistance to change.  For a town that proclaims itself as progressive they seem to LOVE doing nothing.  Ugh.

Another thing I learned from the article is that there is a big difference between building a tall building and a smaller building.  Under 75 feet you can use a frame that costs less.  Go over that height and you have to use a more expensive frame that doesn’t become cost effective until 180 or so feet.  Bit of a difference there.

Do I have the answers… NO!  But there are a lot of very interesting things we need to start thinking about.  Urban sprawl is not a good thing.  We need to find better ways of doing things.  And we can’t leave the solutions to someone else.

You know what… I’m done with this for now.  I’m going to drink a glass of wine and watch a murder mystery.



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