Signs for new parking meters at Lake Merritt have already been installed on Lakeshore Avenue as of Jan. 31, 2023. Credit: Jose Fermoso

The city is considering getting rid of free parking and installing kiosk-managed parking meters along multiple streets in parts of the Lower Bottoms, Dimond, Redwood Heights, San Antonio, Jack London District, Brooklyn Basin, and Temescal. 

Major streets that would receive metered parking as part of the expansion include International Boulevard from 14th Avenue to 23rd Avenue, MacArthur Boulevard from May Court to High Street, and 7th Street from Wood Street to Oak Street. 

The new metered zones will allow Oakland to add 400 new paid parking spaces that will be managed by 40 kiosks. According to OakDOT, this will generate $600,000 in revenue per year. 

The full city council must still approve the parking meter expansion for it to move forward. But a subcommittee—the council’s Public Works Committee—unanimously approved the plan at its meeting Tuesday. 

City officials are expected to reach out to businesses and residents over the next few months to figure out exactly where each kiosk will be placed. The digital kiosks are used in place of the old parking meters to collect payment from drivers who use the streetside parking spots. OakDOT staff said it might take up to three years to install all the new parking kiosks, although the recent installation of about a dozen or so new parking kiosks around Lake Merritt only took about a year. 

Oakland City Planner Kerby Olson told The Oaklandside the new pay-for-parking zones were chosen due to increases in the number of people living in these neighborhoods and growing numbers of businesses operating there over the last 10 years. 

Oakland currently uses meters and kiosks to charge for parking on 172 roads or parts of roads.  

“Some streets within these areas could benefit from greater parking turnover, allowing residents and visitors to access them reliably. Parking meters are a proven strategy to increase parking turnover,” OakDOT Director Fred Kelley explained in a report to the council. Not every section of a road identified by OakDOT for the parking meter expansion will require payment to park there, but the highest demand areas “will be prioritized.” 

OakDOT Parking Director Michael Ford said at the meeting the city is trending towards replacing single-space meters with kiosks. The city installed 500 kiosks in 2005. Other cities are doing the same. San Francisco recently replaced 10,000 single meters with kiosks. 

The addition of new metered zones across the city is part of a bigger project called the OakPark+ Program, which is being funded by a $1.5 million Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant. 

On Tuesday, the council committee also authorized OakDOT to explore expanding metered parking to other parts of the city.

Access and equity is a concern for all

Some Oakland residents felt that the expansion of parking meters around Lake Merritt last year was inequitable and would cause some low-income people to avoid the historically free lakeside parks. City staff argued that the meters would actually increase the turnover of parking spots, making the lake more accessible to a broader range of people. The city has not yet provided data about who is using the new parking meters. But the OakPark+ program will pay for 55 new parking sensors to help OakDOT track real-time parking data, for the salary of one new full-time OakDOT staffer to manage the OakPark+ program, and for one more OakDOT enforcement vehicle that can read license plates, for a total of seven vehicle-mounted plate systems.

The program will also pay for the development of a universal basic mobility program that provides prepaid debit cards to low-income Oaklanders to use to pay for public transportation like the bus.

At the meeting, Councilmember Dan Kalb asked OakDOT’s Ford whether the city has enough staff to enforce paid parking. Ford said OakDOT is going through a major hiring process that will add 20 parking technicians who can check payments and write tickets. 

“We expect to be at full strength sometime in December,” Ford said. “We’ll move ahead as quickly as possible.”

Ford admitted that the current enforcement around parking violations, which is run by OakDOT, is still limited. 

“We are not a 24/7 operation. We don’t have the resources to respond to evening issues. [We have] no dispatch operation. Our general parking enforcement is from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a limited team in the evening,” Ford said.

Relatedly, the committee also approved new, higher fees for illegal parking in bike lanes, crosswalks, sidewalks, and double-parking, and created a new traffic violation for parking on a median or a traffic island. Fines for these violations will now all go up to $105, which with additional state fees, will be $118. 

According to the report written by OakDOT Director Kelley, these fines will “help ensure that sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, and traffic lanes remain available for use and clear of parked vehicles. This will also help to prevent traffic collisions that might result from those dangerous parking behaviors.”

Jose Fermoso covers road safety, transportation, and public health for The Oaklandside. His previous work covering tech and culture has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, and One Zero. Jose was born and raised in Oakland and is the host and creator of the El Progreso podcast, a new show featuring in-depth narrative stories and interviews about and from the perspective of the Latinx community.