Oakland Updates: Election, Budget, OAC, Parking, and ACT

25 Jul

Though a ton has been happening in Oakland this week, I’ve unfortunately been mostly unable to write about it, since I flew to LA after the MTC meeting and have been absurdly busy ever since. Luckily, others have covered the important stuff, so I thought I’d take a few moments to highlight what’s been going on.

Oakland passes all four election measures: Unless you’ve been out of the country for the past week, you know by now that all four measures passed overwhelmingly. I’m not going bother linking to any newspaper stories, but you should check out Brian Leubitz’s blog post about how Oakland’s election and other municipal elections show that Californian’s are ready to embrace new taxes when they make sense.

But state budget means there will be deep cuts to services Oaklanders depend on: During the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jean Quan announced the election results and the Council seemed please. Unfortunately, they’re going to be back to the drawing board because the state legislature approved “borrowing” money from municipalities. V Smoothe has a good round up of state budget coverage, but I have to warn you that it’s depressing.

The OAC saga drags on: After hearing dozens of speakers explain why the Oakland Airport Connector makes no sense and urging the MTC to hold off on voting until after the Oakland City Council had weighed in, the MTC approved the $140 million in funding anyway. The most maddening part was that several of the commissioners who voted in favor of the funding explained that this project is terrible, but that it’s too late to change it, and anyways, it’s BART’s responsibility, not the MTC. The fight is still not over though. The OAC will be going before the Public Works Committee as an action item on September 15th so mark that on your calendar and see if you can go into work a bit late to attend the meeting. I’ll have more details and info about how to get involved next week.

And now we have the parking saga to keep us busy too: If you drive, you’ve probably noticed that meter rates have been raised to $2 an hour and the meters run until 8pm. I love this new policy, and not just as a transit user, but also as a driver. Last Saturday night I went out to dinner in Rockridge, and it was easier than ever before to find metered parking. Fragmentary Evidence wrote a very compelling piece about why it makes sense to raise parking rates. If you’re going to read anything today, read that. (Which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here how much I love Fragmentary Evidence. If it’s not on your regular reading list, it really should be.) For a different perspective on the parking rates, take a look at the Grand Lake Theater owner’s commentary in the Berkeley Daily Planet, which argues that the raise in rates is a “death sentence for Oakland businesses.” The Oakland City Council discussed this issue in depth on Tuesday (I’ll have a post up about that next week), and something tells me that we’re going to hear much more about this in the days to come.

Ride ACT shares two videos: Another excellent blog is Ride ACT, and in the past couple weeks they’ve shared a couple of YouTube videos that area worth watching. The first is a beautiful piece about the 54 line:

The second is a promotional video about AC Transit that I must admit is a bit cheesy, but still enjoyable:

11 Responses to “Oakland Updates: Election, Budget, OAC, Parking, and ACT”

  1. Dave C. July 25, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    Thanks for the mention, Becks! In his Daily Planet op-ed, Allen Michaan implied that opponents might try to recall the City Council, and sure enough, I walked past the Grand Lake yesterday afternoon and I saw that they have posted “Procedures for the Recall of State and Local Officials” on several of the doors leading into the theater, along with notices about the new meter rules. Incidentally, I didn’t see a single open parking spot on Grand or Lakeshore, and both streets had at least one car waiting for a spot to open up, so claims that half the spots will sit empy because of the higher meter rates seem to be overblown.

    That said, I don’t doubt that the fear and anger of Michaan are others are earnestly felt, and given the large number of empty storefronts on Grand and Lakeshore and in other Oakland neighborhoods, I can understand why they are panicking. It’s not an easy time to be running a business, and any change can be scary. I just hope we’re right that the higher meter fees will end up being good for Oakland and these neighborhoods, rather than harmful.

  2. len raphael July 25, 2009 at 7:38 pm #

    B, i read L’s post and the voting results and don’t draw the same conclusion you do that ” Californian’s are ready to embrace new taxes when they make sense”.

    All i see is that residents of Oakland are willing to raise taxes on someone other than themselves.

    btw, one could make a reasonable argument that Oakland independently imposing it’s very high transfer tax on an expanded set of transactions was not thought through. That type of thing has to be done on a state wide basis or Oakland commercial real estate prices just drop to reflect the higher transfer tax. Maybe that means lower tax base for redevelopment districts because the prop 13 base drops. Maybe or not, it makes investing in DTO less attractive to the people you want to put money here to build higher density attractive buildings.

    -len raphael

  3. len raphael July 25, 2009 at 9:53 pm #

    the owner of the grand lake is an extreme example of someone who never seemed to take much interest in improving oakland; but very interested in saving the world.

    when it comes to something that raises revenue for paying for oakland services but could hurt him financially, all of a sudden he’s thinking locally.


  4. len raphael July 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    whether one believes that raising meter rates and/or extending them will drive away customers or residents ( i don’t), such increases/extensions are an tax on the customers of local businesses and housing/apt residents. as such, they make it harder for the businesses to raise prices or residents to pay higher rent.

    if the city delivered quality services efficiently, it would be a reasonable deal. but mayor and cc has not even bothered to promised to improve service delivery. the city officials are correct: residents and business’s expect to pay more for less.

    -len raphael

  5. Andy K July 27, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Do I like paying more for parking? No.

    Does it influence where I shop? No. I go where there are good shops that have what I need and are conveniently located.

    I would say that by writing letters to the editor, and protesting, you are driving away customers by drawing attention to the parking rates. For a family of 4 going to a movie the cost is roughly $40 – an extra $2-3 for parking is not something that figures into the equation. Energy would be better spent building up your business and community. Tell me why I should go to the Grand Lake, not why I should recall City Council.

  6. AC Transit July 27, 2009 at 10:55 am #

    Becks, thanks for the shout out (one of the many reasons you are on our reading list).

    Let us know if you have any recommended blog posts, or things you’d like to learn about AC Transit. Email us at rideact [at] actransit.org

  7. SA July 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    I can see why the owner of the theatre would be particularly upset about extension of the meter times so late into the evening. A 2-hour window of time is not enough to see most films.

  8. Jasmine July 29, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    My problem with the meter rates are not that now that I have to pay more, even though I think that that will drive people to eat out and go to movies in Berkeley and Emeryville instead of Oakland. My problem is that all of the metered spots around the Grand Lake Theater are one or two hours, which makes it really difficult to go to a movie there. I went to a movie at the Grand Lake last Saturday night; the only spot I could find was in one hour parking, and we got there at 6:30, so I had to run out at the beginning of the movie to put more money in the meter. That’s just ridiculous; I love the Grand Lake, and I like spending money in Oakland, but I don’t like risking parking tickets when I’m just trying to see a movie.

  9. len raphael August 3, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    it’s obvious that charging market rates for street parking is a good thing to do in theory. it’s the timing of this that’s bad.

    you don’t need to commission a study to know that if you raise the cost of driving, you remove disposable income that could be spent at the destination retail store.

    because of the recession, because of oakland crime, costco, large chain stores, pending mandatory health insurance benefits, etc. small retailers are a rare breed on the brink of extinction. they know it and are very very worried.

    how many of your posters have ever run a small business and worried about covering their employees paychecks?

    if you have, you’ll have more empathy for the merchants whose cute little stores you want to survive and you’ll figure out a way to raise parking revenues less abruptly.

    • V Smoothe August 3, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

      I’ve been in that situation, Len. My experience with fledgling and struggling small business in retail districts in the inner East Bay involved all the street parking in front of our restaurant being taken up all day long by employees, who would leave every two hours to illegally feed their underpriced and underpoliced meters.

  10. len raphael August 4, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    the retailers have a sense of balancing the needs of their employees vs attracting customers.

    at this point in the oakland economy, most of these retail areas have enough excess parking capacity for both. there hasn’t been a big outcry from retailers complaining about inadequate parking (other than in the planned brt corridor).

    employees of small retailers usually get minimum wage. even 150/hour, $2,880/year is a huge incentive not to park at metered spots all day. when they drive to work they’ll find free parking in the residential neighborhoods, or the 2 hour free zones if they cant’ find free residential parking.

    raising that employee cost 25% or more to say $3,600 will put pressure on the retailers to increase wages or lay off employees.

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