Solve Million Dollar City Budget Deficit By Closing Loophole.

San Leandro could raise up to $1.1 million a year in new revenues by instituting a tax on large parking lots like neighboring Oakland.


(Editor's note: Chris Crow is a candidate for city council.)

The Mayor recently highlighted in his "State of the City" address that San Leandro will be facing a million dollar deficit in fiscal year 2012-13. There may be a way to raise the revenues to cover it and help cushion future cuts that will need to be made still. 

Right now there is an off-airport parking facility whose premise straddles the San Leandro/Oakland border near the Oakland International Airport named Park’N’Fly.  The facility pays an 18.5% parking tax on half of its lot but not on the other half because San Leandro does not have a parking tax ordinance. 

Indeed, San Leandro wholly houses one of Oakland International Airport’s largest off-airport parking facilities, on Doolittle Ave., named Expresso Parking.  This facility sits just outside the Oakland border and enjoys a significantly better 3-day parking rate than other businesses yards away from them.   It also sits on one of the largest industrial parcels in San Leandro on that stretch of street near the Airport.

Expresso is operated by a large parking company corporation headquartered in New York with parking facilities all over the country, and on a lot of them, if not most of them, the company pays a parking tax or fee to the city.  

It is estimated by my research that Expresso and Park’N’Fly bring in a combined $300,000 to $500,000 per month in untaxed revenue.  An 18.5% parking tax/fee could generate $650,000 to $1,100,000 in new revenues for San Leandro annually. 

The City of Oakland and other large cities employ a parking tax to encourage multi-modal transportation and to be compensated for the loss of potential property tax revenue and employment opportunities from an improved piece of property, say a hi-tech campus, or large manufacturing plant. 

The parking tax in Oakland doesn’t account for a huge portion of their general fund, but it does help them pay for police and fire services and other services in town.  I propose San Leandro can achieve a similar effect if it closed this loophole, and implemented a parking tax or fee.  

Parking taxes and fees aren’t new and have been in large cities with a lot of commercial parking lots where it made more obvious sense.  Recently though the idea has re-emerged in several cities around the Bay Area.  Pleasant Hill is trying to enforce parking fees and San Jose is considering a parking tax to encourage multi-modal transportation to its proposed BART extension. 

San Leandro has the unique situation where it provides benefit for airport parking facilities given our location, but collects no parking tax. 

There could be future considerations of such a new policy, but it could bring some immediate relief to pending cut backs in city services.    

The city could exempt any city owned garage with a new parking tax/fee or it could choose to charge an additional fee for the monthly company parking reserved stalls.  This could minimize citizen impact or could offer additional revenue for a relatively low increase in cost compared to the rate. 

In some cities hospitals charge a $1 or $2 for parking and that rate doesn’t increase if they are paying a tax/fee.  They just pay the tax out of the revenue they receive.  I only mention this because the new Kaiser may offer an additional revenue opportunity as well if they charge for parking at their facility.  

Any future parking garage at the Marina, if they operated commercially and charged for parking would be another area for additional revenue. 

BART of course also charges for parking, and will in the future if they build their new garage in San Leandro.  In some cities they pay a tax and in others they don’t.  As I mentioned though the city could write the ordinance to exempt certain types of parking facilities if it wished.  

As a helpful effect the tax or fee itself may encourage more multi-modal transportation for San Leandro citizens, and closing this loophole would mostly effect people coming into San Leandro to park and go to the airport.  This move would also be in line with the city’s General Plan idea of industrial sanctuary, discouraging any other possible parking facilities from using prime industrial real estate. 

I frame this as a loophole closing because in fact there may be a way for the council to implement a fee on their own without a citywide vote because the specific nature of the opportunity and the fact it doesn’t effect a significant portion of the community. 

Maybe they have to put it as a ballot measure?  Some cities have administrative fees and others have taxes, so it really just depends. 

A parking tax or fee makes sense for San Leandro and maximizes our advantage of having real estate near an international airport.  If implemented soon enough the additional revenue could soften the blow of any coming deficit or fix it all together. 

I have provided some maps above to that show the areas near the airport that I am discussing. 

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Justin Agrella March 22, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Where there is a profit there is a way. You can have a parking lot with transportation to the airport. Those mentioned already have transportation to the airport anyway. None are close enough to walk there. :p Staying under their rate would be a better idea rather than to make it appear that we are trying to squeeze every last cent out of them. We already have that reputation. There is no reason to make it worse. You may see it as money left on the table but it is money left in the pocket of the consumer in reality.
Chris Crow March 22, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Good points Tom and Leah. Thank you. The demand for parking is not going away. Expresso, even by bringing our rate in line with Oakland's, would still have a commercial rate much much cheaper than the actual OAK on-Airport parking, so it will always be a cheaper means between commercially operated lots and those operated by the Port of Oakland. Expresso would be forced to compete more on service, which if you've parked their you'd know they offer a few extra goodies to customers like coffee and snacks. The business would not absorb this cost, they would simply pass it on to their customers, of whom most are not residents of San Leandro, and assuming they would still be the cheapest of the commercial lots in the area even if our tax rate was 18.5% they most likely wouldn't lose any business. Of course, as Justin mentioned there could be a level or fee here where San Leandro does still provide a small competitive tax advantage. And Justin, the city has already singled out this business by creating a category in the business license fee schedule just for them. Most businesses are classified service or retail. We already invented the dial, if you will - we just set it at it's lowest point when we did so. Times have changed, and I think Lit San Leandro could very well bring a large tech company that wants to build a campus on the Expresso Lot. The property is more valuable to us now, and there is nothing wrong with adjusting our policies accordingly.
Leah Hall March 22, 2012 at 05:15 PM
As consumers, we love low prices. However, as a tax payers we want our elected officials and paid city and county staff to do their best to optimise pubic revenues and expenditures. Some cities can't even afford to keep their street lights on at night. The line of thinking proposed by Justin and others just sounds absolutists and impractical. Talk of driving down costs only might tend to sound convincing to the unsavvy online, but makes no sense in the real world, especially when we take the time to get involved with local civic life.
Chris Crow March 22, 2012 at 05:15 PM
The rate comparison information I have for parking facilities that serve the Oakland Airport can be summarized as follows: Expresso 3-day Avg. Rate - $17.85 Other Oakland off-airport Lots 3-day Avg. Rate - $24.95 OAK On-airport 3-day Avg. Rate - $36 If Expresso had to pass on a $3 rate increase to be in line with a new Parking Lot policy they would still be more than 15% cheaper.
David March 22, 2012 at 05:19 PM
You're absolutely wrong, Leah. You can decide it's not worth it to park off-site, and park at Oakland airport instead. You can park in Oakland. Or, you can even take a cab (which would make sense for people like me who live within an 8 minute drive of the airport), especially if you're gone for more than a day or two.
Leah Hall March 22, 2012 at 05:20 PM
"public" Oops! :)
David March 22, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Ok Chris. Clearly you have different views on the English language. If the City Council proposes a parcel tax, where one never existed before, which would bring our property taxes up to Oaklandish levels, would that be "eliminating a loophole"? No, it'd be a new parcel tax. Proposing a tax, a tax that HAS NEVER EXISTED before, is a NEW tax. Period. Maybe it's a good idea. I just suspect, especially if you only tax one lot in the city, that a) it won't bring in the revenue you expect and b) it's legally suspect to single out one lot to tax.
Chris Crow March 22, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I consider this more a loophole than a new parcel tax because of the isolation, location, and the specifics of the issue. But again, we could clash all day on terminology, because yes indeed we all have different views of the English language. We have plenty of policies that single out individual classes of business. If this was developed as a change in policy, sure Expresso and Park'N'Fly could feel singled out, but it wouldn't make the tax illegal. And I believe I mentioned that other commercial parking lots could be taxed. It's a decision for the council to consider and make. There are options here.
Justin Agrella March 22, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Actually, what I want of my local officials is not for them to optimize the amount of taxes they are going to fleece the people with. I want them to make do with what they have---like every business has to do---live within its budget. Government is the only organization in which, if they spend more than they take in, they can tax the public to make up the difference. Name the city that can't afford to keep its street lights on. Costs are where all our problems being. Without attention to how much something costs, we have no idea how much to charge for it. Adding more costs to a business means the product is going to cost more to the consumer be it government of private industry. Econcomics don't change for government and private industry. it is the same.
Chris Crow March 22, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Justin, I never said the city shouldn't still look to make cuts. In fact in my first paragraph I acknowledge that cuts still need to be made. The mayor has it made it clear that is his primary goal as well. Oakland uses their parking tax to maintain a certain staff level of Police, fire, and other services in town. A Parking tax in San Leandro equalizes the parking lot opportunity on our northwest side of town with our neighboring city, and sets the priority of opportunities for manufacturing ahead of parking lots in our industrial area.
Justin Agrella March 22, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I wasn't replying to you Chris. That was more for Leah. However, you cannot tax your way to prosperity in San Leandro. It is a delicate mix that needs to be maintained. I don't use the Oakland airport so it is really no burden to me but it is the principle of the thing. I also hate to see local government deciding what is the best use for a property. That never works out right. Look at the Marina. What a stellar example that is. Look downtown at the old Lucky's site. Another stellar example fo what government can do as a self appointed developer. If there is no demand for something then it is going to fail no matter how much money you pour into it or want it.
Chris Crow March 22, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I agree you can not tax your way to prosperity. Closing this loophole won't make San Leandro rich by any means. At the moment it's just an idea - one I hope that will be considered and looked into and help guide some of the additional spending cuts the city needs to make. This move is much different than Albertson's or the Marina though, in that the city doesn't have direct control over the property, nor would they. The city would simply be aligning it's policies to a change in circumstances - Lit San Leandro & our current financial situation. Your last point is very valid...and as long as the demand for off-airport parking remains high, then that parcel will most likeley remain a parking lot with or without an additional tax.
Leah Hall March 22, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Parking lots are a lot more complex than first meets the eye. The one at Whole Foods, Oakland is a contemporary modern machine. Safe, clean, convenient, "free" (wink-wink, just like the parking is free at all Las Vegas Casinos). Now that we are talking yet again about parking lots, I am gaining new appreciation for their impacts within the public sphere. Wouldn't it be great if the Chamber and/or Leadership San Leandro would take parking lots in a "big picture" sense? I'd go on a tour if invited. I'd love to learn more about the economics and design aspects behind them. I know that when I was working on a mid-rise condo housing district in downtown Oakland, the land purchased by the developer was formerly a pair of private parking lots.
Antonio Cardenas March 24, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I don't particularly like your idea, of suggesting that the new Kaiser hospital charge for parking, they already will have plenty of tax breaks. I know you look at it as "an additional revenue opportunity." But some of us think of this suggestion as another expense impossed on the users of the hospital facilities.
Chris Crow March 24, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Hi Antonio, thank you or your comment. I am not suggesting Kaiser charge for parking, in fact I hope they don't, but in some cities hospitals do charge for parking. I was simply highlighting that a Kaiser lot that charges for parking would be a consideration for the future.
Leisel March 25, 2012 at 04:08 AM
There is a parking fee at Kaiser Oakland and San Francisco. I would expect the same in San Leandro.
Phyllis Udovch Lavoy March 25, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Guys and Gals, parking fee at Kaiser? What about promoting small business and bringing in more business that inturn bring shoppers and much needed tax revenue. The City's black eye is not keeping business in San Leandro and allowing outside business to build San Leandro, such as the Kaiser Project. There are no San Leandro businesses working on it and supping it. Look at E 14th Street. It is a ghost town. If you have a business development department, what is being done? I hear crickets!
Paul Vargas April 01, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Absolutely not! This is a ridiculous idea. Why do we need to force a San Leandro business to be uncompetitive with Oakland businesses? Does Chris live in Oakland or San Leandro? Why are you doing the dirty work for Oakland? First of all, it's none of your concern what kind of business is at Expresso Parking. Do you think people will continue to park in San Leandro? Have you ever heard of Hertz? People who live far away from the Oakland Airport, who now drive to the airport and park at Expresso may just rent a car one-way in Livermore, Walnut Creek, Antioch etc. I was hoping that this kind of "Tax Them, feather City Workers Pay" crap was over when Jack Maltester and Dale Reed died and Tony Santos was defeated. Unfortunately, like the pigs in Animal Farm, Stephen Cassidy is becoming the swine he replaced. If you want to encourage businesses that rely heavily on electricity to run computers and such? Then eliminate the Utility User Tax. Mrs. Lavoy, do you want to know why E.14th his a ghost town? Well, 10 years or so ago, John Jermanis and the City Council placed a moratorium on all new businesses and existing businesses from basically Palma Plaza to Ashland. Why? Well, the City WANTS, yes WANTS this stretch to become more run down so that they could come in and run those stupid AC Transit lanes.
Paul Vargas April 01, 2012 at 03:27 AM
But, it's not the municipalities "money" on the table. People can just as well rent a car in San Ramon, Livermore, Brentwood etc. one-way rather than drive their own car and leave it in an airport lot. Taking BART to SFO is a hassle, if I'm flying out of SFO, I won't leave my truck there, I rent a car and return it at SFO. Much, VERY MUCH more convenient that paying his parking rates or taking BART.
Michael Jacobowitz April 16, 2012 at 07:01 PM
We should call it the Cassidy/Crow Leave No Business Alone Tax!. That way when my parking fees are raised and another local San Leandro business is not quite as successful, we can have clear lines of responsibility.
Chris Crow April 16, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Hi Mike. The parking demand in any city no matter how expensive or cheap is only expected to increase in the future. San Leandro has the cheapest parking rates around from metered spots, to city owned free/pay lots, to these off-airport parking facilities. Our businesses are already not as successful as they should be, and the cheap parking is not helping them, nor would an increase in parking fees hurt them. In fact the revenue raised from the measure I am talking about could be used to improve the roads, offer incentives for new businesses to move in, pay for city services that have been slashed or cut these past few years, all of which would help create a more destination oriented economy, and a more successful business environment. A parking tax also helps promote more altnerative means of transportation for local residents to and from destinations in town. That's good for the environment. So yes please feel free to place my name in a prominent position on such a measure.
Jason H. August 29, 2012 at 06:29 PM
I always park at the airport lot but last time I took an extended trip I parked at Expresso because it was so much cheaper than any of the other lots. I never thought about whether the lot was in SL or Oakland but because of the rates SL got the business.
Chris Crow August 30, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Thanks for your comment Jason. Even with an increase in San Leandro's tax rate for parking lots the San Leandro lots would still be the cheapest because of our lower property taxes and other costs of doing business than Oakland's lots. .
Justin H. September 04, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Chris Loves ultimately penalizing the consumer, thats part of his plan. As in his economic tuneup where he advocates a rewrite to tax code for big box stores not fully understanding the trickle down effect. Big box stores are major corporations that are publicly traded. When you increase their tax in a particular city, the company will respond by increasing the prices of goods to offset the cost. There is a piece of tax built into the pricing of every item. So ultimately the guy buying razors or the mom buying cereal will pay a portion of the economic tuneup. I think we both agree on what we need, I am just proposing we use existing revenue smarter.
Chris Crow September 04, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Justin, as someone who came out very Pro-Labor in your SL Times article I am surprised at your lack of support for a different Big Box Retail tax. It's part of labor's platform. I suppose you are just now fleshing out your own feelings on the issues, and that's fine. And as I mentioned in the comments on my "Economic Tune Up" blog, big box retail stores are mostly thriving in communities with a higher tax than San Leandro. These adjustments in pricing are already built into business models that remain profitable for Walmart and your employer Target. How exactly would you use revenue smarter? What's not being used smartly right now?
Justin H. September 04, 2012 at 06:20 AM
Being Pro Labor, doesnt mean I am going to be doormat to every piece of a certain platform. Just like being pro police/fire doesnt mean Iam always going to agree on every issue they support. It just means I am pro labor and pro public safety. I get what your doing bringing up the police support of it and the pro labor support of it tryin to bait me into contradicting myself. clever career politician:-) Like I said we will agree we disagree on the idealogical views on this.
Chris Crow September 04, 2012 at 06:38 AM
Where would you find revenue to pay for additional Police Officers? What programs or wasteful spending would you cut? I don't have to bait you. We are engaging on the issues right now. I'd hope you'd offer solutions, not just find a reason to disagree and dislike me.
Justin H. September 04, 2012 at 07:22 AM
I disagree with you on many issues, but I do not dislike you. At the end of the day we both share an idea to make the city a better place we just have different ideas on the road to get there.
Chris Crow September 04, 2012 at 08:32 AM
Justin, you have used your Facebook and public comments to others to express your great displeasure with me personally. You have likened me to some Black Bear sitting at a picnic table, trying to poke fun at me, and describe support I've expressed towards a green energy project in District 4 as "Sleasy shit". On top of that you have lied to the media and to too many people around town about yours and mine sole phone conversation in which you seem to forget when you told me you would probably vote for me if you weren't running. All of this is clear evidence of a personal dislike towards me - call a spade a spade right? Why would you be afraid to admit it here and now? Had most of your comments been here on Patch, discussing issues with me, then I would have an easier time believing you only disagree with me on the issues. Good luck in your campaign Justin. I look forward to real conversations with you about real issues that matter in moving San Leandro forward.
Fred Eiger September 18, 2012 at 04:46 AM
Why doesn't Chris open up an airport parking lot and then see how he thinks his "loophole" idea works. This is the most ridiculous thread I've read in a while.


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