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Parkers scatter in all directions as El Cerrito Plaza parking lot becomes off limits

People who have been parking in the El Cerrito Plaza parking lots -- estimates run as high as 1,500 -- seemed to have scattered in all directions June 27 as the Plaza lot became officially off limits to non-patrons.

As business at the Plaza has dropped and the need for BART parking has grown, the Plaza has become a popular place to park for riders getting on at the Plaza BART station.

But for the past month, fliers on cars and in the station and news reports have warned that commuters must find new places to leave their cars come June 27. The Plaza's owners need the cars moved so that work can begin on the long-awaited renovation of the shopping center.

A fence was to go up around the portion of the Plaza lot across the street from the BART station later the night of June 27. Plaza security spent the morning stationed in the parking lot. Most drivers turned around and left after seeing security personnel, and by late morning only a few cars had parked in that section of the lot.

Other drivers seemed to have taken a variety of options -- walking, getting rides to the station, riding the bus, taking their cars to work, and parking in an ever growing area of residential streets around the station. Few were using newly established car pool lots.

Just 15 of the slots set aside for carpools in the BART lot on Richmond Avenue were in use by 9 a.m. Tuesday.

An AC Transit driver said he'd seen no increase in ridership.

Mark Bayshore of Albany said he usually parks in the Plaza lot and had to park further away on residential streets Tuesday. He said he'll walk in the future but it will add a half hour roundtrip to an already long commute.

Sandy Shaw, also of Albany, said she took a bus the mile from her home Tuesday. She said if she ends up taking a job in Hayward she will drive because she doesn't want to deal with the hassle of taking three means of transportation to get to work.

"It's very sad. I hate doing it. I would love to use public transit all the time."

Shea Crofoot of Albany said she usually gets dropped off at the station or walks but sometimes opts to drive when it is raining, so having less parking will be inconvenient for her.

Mourtaza Asad of El Cerrito said he drives to the station and was forced to park further away, on a residential street, Tuesday. "I am really pissed. The whole BART system stinks." The system needs more stations, he said, and buses that are more reliable and run at night. "The bus network is so poor."

Louise of El Cerrito said she knows the area well and only had to park a block further than normal.

Matthew Surrence of Richmond, who was on his way to work at www.sonicnet.com in San Francisco, said he usually parks at the Plaza lot but that morning tried Del Norte first. He was at the Del Norte station about 8:15 to 8:20 am and all the slots in the lot and structure were full. He declined to pay $4 to park in a private lot near the Del Norte station, and came to the Plaza.

He ended up parking on the other side of the Plaza lot, which he said didn't appear to have signs discouraging him from doing so. If that doesn't work out in the long run, he said, he will walk or consider taking the bus to the station.

Julie Winkelstein of Albany said she usually walks to the station but is angry she will be inconvenienced when she does need to drive to the station.

Winkelstein said if officials were truly committed to public transit the system would be designed to make it much more convenient to use, with cheaper rates, more stops, parking lots at stations and remote parking lots for carpoolers, and a single pass good on all transit.

Jeff Nalle of El Cerrito was surprised to walk by and find so few people using the carpool lot. He's been looking at ways he could use the lot but said it's difficult because although his wife uses BART as well, she goes to work earlier than he does. In addition, he has a day care stop to make in the morning, which makes it hard to arrange a carpool.

"It's difficult but I don't know what else they could do," he said of the Plaza lot closure. He said he feels lucky to have been able to use the Plaza lot as long as he did.

The station agent in the BART station said she didn't have figures on ridership from the station but felt they were down. She said the man who usually sells newspapers in the station reported his sales were down from 380 to 300 newspapers Monday morning.

The new owners of the Plaza hope to have the major tenants, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Old Navy, and The Gap open in the fall of 2001, followed by the new, enlarged Albertsons in November 2001.
Run dates: 2000-06-27 - 2000-07-11

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