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Council Approves New Fees, City Mission, Extension of Cell-Phone Tower Moratorium

The El Cerrito City Council Monday night approved a modest increase in parking permit fees for residents near BART stations, following discussion over whether the boost should be higher.

Residential parking permits for homes near BART stations will cost a modest $6 a year as part of a variety of fee increases approved by the El Cerrito City Council Monday night. The fee is currently $4.50.

At its regular meeting, the five-member Council also unanimously adopted a new official "mission statement" for the city and agreed to a one-year extension of the existing moratorium on new cell-phone towers.

In other city news, City Manager Scott Hanin told the Council that city staff and officials from the West Contra Costa Unified School District began discussions Monday on future uses of the abandoned site, including possible joint use. The school buildings were abandoned last year because of seismic hazards, and classes are being held in temporary buildings while a new Portola is built on the site of the now closed Castro Elementary School.

The new residential parking fee was discussed at some length by the council, with Councilman Greg Lyman questioning whether the low fee is out of balance with that charged by other cities and by fees charged by El Cerrito for other items, such as $14 for annual garage sale permit. 

The residential parking permit fee was implemented a decade ago as part of plan to give residents parking permits for then newly established restricted parking zones near BART stations.

In a report to the Council, City Treasurer Mary Dodge said El Cerrito's fee is substantially below Berkeley's $34.50 as well as the fees in Oakland, which range between $35 and $150. Her report said fees in the $35-$40 range would more accurately reflect "the cost of performing the service." She acknowledged that raising fees to that level in the coming year would be difficult for residents, so the city staff proposed only $6 for the year beginning July 1.

"It is certainly far less than other cities," acknowledged City Manager Scott Hanin. He said the previous Council at the time the initial fee was adopted wanted to minimize the financial burden on residents.

In a unanimous vote, the Council also approved all the other city fee increases proposed in Dodge's report.

In other action, the Council adopted a new official "mission statement" that had been hammered out by the Council in two special council meetings on Saturday mornings. It says:

The City of El Cerrito serves, leads and supports our diverse community by providing exemplary and innovative services, public places and infrastructure, ensuring public safety and creating an economically and environmentally sustainable future.

Councilwoman Janet Abelson praised the statement for "incorporating a lot of the ideas that truly represent us as a community." The Council had examined several  mission and vision statements from other cities.

The Council also approved a one-year extension of the current moratorium on wireless telecommunications facilities for "review of existing regulations of such facilities and study of opportunities to encourage the use of new technology that would eliminate or reduce the need for such facilities."

The measure was urged in a report by city Planning Manager Jennifer Carman and City Attorney Sky Woodruff. The city placed a temporary halt on new cell-phone towers a year ago, following a community dispute over a proposed tower at the Boy Scouts' .

Slip Mahoney May 03, 2011 at 03:55 PM
It's worth noting that when the Council supported a raise in the El Cerrito sales to to 10.25%, the highest allowed by State law, they didn't focus on what neighboring cities were doing.
Renate Valencia May 03, 2011 at 09:06 PM
"City Treasurer Mary Dodge said El Cerrito's fee is substantially below Berkeley's $34.50 as well as the fees in Oakland, which range between $35 and $150. Her report said fees in the $35-$40 range would more accurately reflect "the cost of performing the service." What "service" does she mean? Costs associated with charging residents? The cost of producing and mailing out stickers? I'd love to see a breakdown of costs, and what it works out to per household or sticker. Would it be better for the city to just assign stickers to houses in restricted zones and ask for stickers to be picked up, rather than going through a paperwork process and all the rest of it? Maybe not—I don't know how charged this issue is. I'm just thinking that there may be a better way to do it to save administrative costs.
Lindallc May 04, 2011 at 04:21 AM
Ever since BART started charging for parking, parking has been difficult for those of us who live near the station. It feels like we are being penalized for living here. Commuters take our parking places and we have to pay to park near our homes. I'm thankful that the fee is low, and don't have a solution, but it's too bad BART doesn't pay the fees for our neighborhood ... out of the fees they receive, which is probably in the $$$ millions.
Renate Valencia May 04, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Yes, it's not easy. I live in a restricted zone and right across from Harding. We have one little car and often can't find a space.

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