Published October 19th, 2016
Orinda Parking Reform-It's All Or Nothing, But Nothing Yet
By Sora O'Doherty
A consultant presented findings of a citywide parking study to the Orinda City Council recently but the solutions proposed to ease the crunch were, at best, ambivalent. Chris Kinzel of TJKM, a Pleasanton engineering consulting firm, suggested five action items Oct. 4 including updating signage and time limits, increasing enforcement, removing casual carpooling, forming a public-private partnership and instituting a residential permit program.
The first two action items would include posting stricter parking time limitations and employing an additional parking enforcement officer, as well as making "fringe areas" less attractive for long term parking. But there was no credible suggestion of alternative parking space from the consultant, other than recommending that the city explore public-private cooperation to perhaps make private parking spaces available at some times to the public.
Orindans prize their semi-rural environment of narrow twisty streets with no sidewalks and no parking and lots of hills and trees. They also love taking BART or casual carpooling across the San Francisco Bay Bridge. But residents have no way to get to BART or casual carpooling except to drive, and when they do, parking and leaving cars all day is causing a parking nightmare in Orinda. To the question of where to relocate the casual carpool pick-up area, Kinzel replied that he did not know. Councilmember Dean Orr suggested that the various approaches had to be adopted at the same time, including, for example, parking permits issued to residents.
Last November Orinda hired TJKM to study the city's parking problems for an amount not to exceed $49,955, and TJKM presented its findings first at a community meeting last June. Kinzel stated that an inventory of parking stalls in Orinda showed 574 available spaces, comprising limited and unlimited parking. He admitted that TJKM's study did not count the number of private parking places in Orinda that, it is hoped, might become subject to a public-private cooperation to provide all-day parking relief for Orinda employees and BART commuters, nor did they approach private owners to see if there was any interest in such cooperation. In response to a question from Orr, Kinzel stated that TJKM did not review the parking plan prepared by Orinda staff.
The report did suggest a number of private areas that might be appropriate for public-private cooperation, either with or without the need for a shuttle, and a member of the public added that, as the California Shakespeare Theater already runs a BART shuttle for its performances, it might be added to the list of potential BART park and ride venues. Other areas suggested requiring a shuttle include Holy Shepherd Church, Saint Mark's Church and the Orinda Community Church. No shuttle would be required from Safeway, Rite Aid or Bank of America.
Councilmember Darlene Gee asked if the consultants had actually talked to BART staff. They had not. However, a representative of BART, Nicole Foletta, Principal Planner, attended the meeting. While BART is interested in collaborating with the city, she said, they aren't looking at providing more parking, but rather wish to encourage other modes of access to the station. She noted that BART is looking into the possibility of designating some parking spaces for carpool parking. They have applied for a grant and expect to hear whether they have secured it in a month. Mayor Victoria Smith wondered where BART parkers would be pushed to, if the suggested shorter parking periods and greater enforcement are implemented, recalling that most live in Orinda.
Residents on Brookwood Drive have been having unpleasant interactions with drivers pushing their cars into the bushes in front of the residents' homes, leaving the residents and their invited guests no place to park on their own street. And parking for the disabled? Forget it. Police Chief Mark Nagel explained that parking enforcement has fallen markedly because the sole Orinda parking enforcement officer has been pulled to perform other duties. He agreed that he would like another parking enforcement officer and that revenue is not the goal of parking enforcement. To hire a parking officer, the department would have to budget around $85,000 to cover salary and benefits; fines from greater enforcement are estimated at approximately $70,000. City Manager Janet Keeter noted that the normal time to add an employee position is midyear or at the beginning of a new budget cycle in February.
The council will reconvene to consider action on the parking issue at a date to be announced.

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