Thats the ticket: Sinai, Oakland reach parking compromise

“Baruch atah … will the owner of the red Volvo, license number 1AXLO71 please feed the meter. You’re getting a ticket!”

Statements like the above certainly do not add to the sense of spirituality at a Shabbat service. And, hopefully, Rabbi Steve Chester will no longer have to remind his congregants to run out and feed the meter, as had become “the ritual” at the Kiddush.

“It broke the solemnity, but you had to ask people to do that on Shabbat,” said the spiritual leader of Oakland’s Temple Sinai.

“We always found it was sort of interesting that Oakland, which prides itself for its diversity, could not find a way to solve this problem.”

At long last, that problem may have been solved. After years of discussions with the city on how congregants could avoid racking up parking tickets on Saturdays in spots with two-hour meters, Oakland has thrown Temple Sinai two extra hours.

In mid-June, the city installed four “pay and display” parking devices that allow drivers to pay for up to four hours and park anywhere they wish on several city blocks near the temple. The “pay and display” machines accept credit cards and only allow a two-hour maximum stay on Mondays through Fridays, but a full four hours on Saturday.

The machines, not unlike those in private parking lots, were installed as part of a three-month pilot program; when that time period is up, the city will decide whether to install more throughout Oakland.

“From our standpoint, it’s taken some time to get to this point, but we’re delighted the city has worked with us and we have what we have now,” said Barry Dubin, a Sinai congregant and lawyer tapped by Temple Sinai to lead negotiations with the city.

Sinai congregants have been racing out of services to feed the meters ever since the days that Studebakers and Packards were parked on Oakland’s city streets. But it was only in the last several years that the temple began negotiating with City Hall to do something about the problem.

Oakland’s parking department eased up on the congregation during High Holy Day services, setting up ticket-free zones. However, for the past several years, Sinai has held these services in the nearby Paramount Theatre, thus rendering this gesture of good will moot.

With the “pay and display” machines, the temple and city can reach a compromise. Congregants can sit through a whole sermon — with an oneg afterwards — and not dread spotting a green envelope under their wiper — and the city doesn’t lose out completely on parking revenue (though it no longer cashes in with the lucrative tickets).

Ken Greenwood, the North American marketing director for Parkeon, the manufacturer of the “pay and display” terminals, said Oakland paid between $7,000 to $12,000 a pop for the meters. In the long run, however, Greenwood argued that the terminals will generate revenue for the city.

First of all, each one replaces eight-to-12 parking meters. Second, the machines accept credit cards, which means that drivers are likely to charge the maximum time limit rather than toss in all their small change and hope the meter maid doesn’t come.

And Chester is pleased to discard the “ritual” of reminding congregants to race the meter maid to their cars.

“Hopefully, this is something we won’t have to deal with [anymore] and we won’t have to make announcements all the time,” he said.