Oakland Parking Laws Make It "Illegal" to Watch a Movie

Merchants plan to shut down stores to protest meter hike

By Sajid Farooq
|  Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009  |  Updated 3:27 AM CDT
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Oakland Parking Laws Make It "Illegal" to Watch a Movie

The always political marquee at the Grand Lake Theater protests Oakland's new meter parking fees.

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Allen Michaan said his business is down 50 percent since Oakland made it illegal to watch a movie.

An oversight in the East Bay city's new parking meter regulations makes it difficult for drivers to legally watch a movie in Oakland's Lakeshore neighborhood.

On July 1, Oakland parking meter rates were raised from $1.50 to $2 an hour, while meter enforcement hours were extended to 8 p.m.and parking enforcement also went up to help generate revenue for the cash strapped city. On Lakeshore and Grand avenues, one of Oakland's more vibrant shopping districts, that leaves no meters that allow parking for more than an hour.

"You can't legally go to the movies here. I feel like I am being targeted.," Michaan said. "It's really illegal to come to the Grand Lake Theater and I say that because all the meters in front of my place (and down the street) are one hour parking and the city tickets $55 for feeding the meter."

Unless a patron walks, takes a bus or is able to find one of the rare five hour parking meters under the 580 freeway, Michaan and other businesses in the area are out of luck.

The technicality in the ongoing War on Fun drove merchants and residents across Oakland to start a petition to convince the city council to change the parking regulations or face a recall. 

Merchants complain that business is down because eating dinner on Lakeshore or shopping for a new dress on Piedmont Avenue in an hour is not worth the threat of a heavy fine. Especially when shoppers can drive less than 10 minutes away and park for free at Bay Street in Emeryville or pay 50 cents at a meter in Alameda. Merchants want the city to bring its meters in line with other cities.

Oakland has heard the complaints but City Council President Jane Brunner said last week that the city is "desperate for the revenue."

"We can tell if we're not charging enough if people can't find parking spaces because people are staying in spaces too long," she said. "The system is a work in progress. We will monitor the system monthly to see if it's working. If it's not working, we will change it."

Michaan said the new system is not working and if elected officials do not listen soon business in Oakland will be hurt beyond repair.

On Thursday several merchants will close their doors and hold a community meeting at the Grand Lake Theater at 6 p.m. to craft a plan to change the city's mind on parking. If their voices are not heard, Michaan said they will draft the necessary paperwork to recall the entire city council.

"This council has no idea of how much ill will they have generated for themselves for what they've done," he said.

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