Parking spots in the city of Berkeley truly represent the duality of life. When they’re empty, they’re a safe haven, an oasis in an otherwise barren cityscape.
An occupied parking spot, on the other hand, can be one of the worst things a commuting student can set their eyes on. In the eyes of UC Berkeley sophomore Juliana Ramirez, there simply aren’t enough accessible parking spaces — whether they’re on or off campus.
“Parking on campus is kind of confusing,” Ramirez said in an email. “I drive on campus sometimes but it feels like there’s no space to park or room made specifically for students to park.”
So, how hard is it to park in Berkeley? Looking at campus first, campus assistant vice chancellor and executive director of business operations Seamus Wilmot said there are about 6,100 parking spots, of which 1,780 are available to students with a student permit.
Students can purchase four types of permits: daily, weekly, monthly, and semester-long permits, according to campus’s Parking and Transportation website. Spaces allowing “S” permits may be few and far between, however, as campus employees or individuals with a “C” or “F” permit can also park in those spots.
In other words, “S” permit-eligible spots aren’t exclusive, placing another limitation on the amount of parking available to students. Outside of permit-restricted parking spots, commuting students have to pay at metered parking stations or in one of campus’s parking lots.
“I think that there aren’t (spots) enough for the people who are commuting, and having to pay for regular parking must be brutal,” said campus senior Izzie Porras in an email. “But for the most part, I think there’s enough. Berkeley’s a pretty walkable city. That’s from my perspective as someone with a consistent parking spot though.”
In spite of the competition, Wilmot noted there are 1,280 active student permits this spring. On campus, roughly 10,000 parking tickets were issued during the previous academic year, according to Wilmot.
With that in mind, is it still worth it for students to bring their cars to Berkeley if they want to? For Ramirez, the answer is very clear.
“It’s very freeing. Stressful at times because unless you have a pass, tickets can add up, but besides that I feel like it opens up the bay more to explore,” Ramirez said in an email. “I would absolutely recommend it if you’re wanting to. However, keep in mind a lot of things, like how it could financially affect you.”
Porras seconded the sentiment, and they noted how access to a car offered greater mobility and freedom to explore the Bay Area. Porras highlighted some of the issues they have encountered in terms of parking, emphasizing the difficulty of avoiding parking tickets on busy days.
To avoid getting ticketed by the city’s parking enforcement, Porras said they’ve had to wake up early to move their car before the two-hour street parking period expired. Both Porras and Ramirez pointed out the difficulty of finding a consistent parking spot off campus, and Ramirez aired some of her own concerns with the city’s parking rules.
“They’re dumb! So dumb! And discriminatory for so many reasons,” Ramirez alleged in an email. “Street sweeping, limited hour parking, parking cops that drive around to give out fines? It makes no sense to fine on every street when people who intend on parking are most likely residents who don’t have access to private parking or passes.”
Ramirez also pointed out how parking rules may not only affect students. She pointed out how houseless individuals who may only have their cars as shelters could be detrimentally impacted when their vehicles are towed.