Town Crier: Are parking fees hurting small business?

MONTCLARION: July 16, 2010

Like a long winter’s nap, folks are hunkering down for what looks like a long, pitted road to economic recovery. From the furthest reaches of the planet to our own little village, we’re seeing the effects of a global recession.

Here at home, Montclair Village continues to see a real estate shuffle — higher rents and sagging sales mean something’s got to give, and that something is breaking the backs of many small business owners. Reader David Cloutier thinks the new, higher parking fees are contributing to the problem.

“I cannot justify stopping at Peet’s on a weekday morning, running to get some aspirin at Rite-Aid or picking up a sandwich at Grinders when I have to pay one to two dollars to park,” he writes, adding that most of his neighbors concur.

Cloutier’s solution is an annual Montclair parking pass — let’s say $50 a car — so that locals can frequent their own village. Roger Vickery with the Montclair Business Association says it’s an interesting idea, but the city would have to sign off on it. Currently, the Village Garage at the top of La Salle charges $90 a month for parking and many merchants pay this fee to avoid having to pay meters and move their cars every two hours.

Would the city be willing to lose parking revenue just to help struggling merchants (and shoppers) in Montclair? How about other business districts in Oakland? Wouldn’t they demand a break as well? Vickery says the bottom line is that no one likes to pay for parking, but if we let that stop us from shopping in the village, it won’t be long before we won’t need a $50 annual pass — there won’t be a village. Still, the city should know how motorists and merchants feel about the new, higher parking fees. You can reach Noel Pinto (Oakland’s parking enforcement chief) at

 SWEET DISTINCTION: Local mom Ann Rapson is celebrating yet another blue ribbon for her country peach pie at the Alameda County Fair. Rapson and her daughters are regulars at the fair, but this year she was whipping it up alone because her daughters are all grown. She says her husband, Dave, was very helpful, however, picking out fruit and eating the pie afterward.

MAKING HISTORY: FDR’s Floating White House has a new marketing partner. The venerable Red & White Fleet has taken over VIP events and private cruises on the USS Potomac, a national historic landmark that can accommodate up to 120 people. Dozens of Bay Area event planners kicked off the partnership the other night, enjoying cocktails and small plates as they sailed around the Bay.

CRIME STORY: Here’s proof that neighborhood-watch programs work. Folks on Harbord Drive saw three men breaking into a neighbor’s home in broad daylight, and they called 911. Maybe it was the fact that dispatchers got several calls or that the burglary was in-progress but they sent out a full response of officers. The result? All three suspects were arrested, red-handed.

PEACEFUL FEELING: If love is the answer, then what is the question? I’ll leave that up to the organizers of the first Thursday peace vigil held each month in the Dimond District. Ruth Villasenor with Paws & Claws says they light candles and hold signs promoting peace — not just for Oakland, but for the whole world — from 7-8 p.m. at the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue. Call 510-530-3099 for more information.


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