OAKLAND -- People who overstay their time at parking meters in Oakland will have a short grace period under a new policy approved Tuesday by the Oakland City Council's Finance Committee.

The new policy is the brainchild of Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who said she wants to provide convenient parking in front of Oakland businesses and ease friction between the city and residents over parking enforcement.

Under the new policy, which takes effect immediately, people who use one of the city's pay-and-display parking meters will be given a five-minute grace period from the expiration time displayed on their receipt.

However, the policy is more complicated for people who use old-fashioned coin-fed meters.

Brunner said the grace period depends on when parkers return to their cars and when parking meter officers check the meters because there isn't a precise way of checking the exact time at which people feed their meters.

The basic idea is that a parker will get a break, rather than a ticket, if they return to their car while an officer is writing up a ticket, even if the time on the meter had been expired for a long period, Brunner said.

However, an officer could give a ticket to someone only a minute after their time expired if the person wasn't around at that time, she said.

In a report to her council colleagues before the meeting, Brunner said some residents have complained that their watches show a slightly different time than those on the pay-and-display meters.

She said, "In those cases, a person may return to their car to find a ticket being issued even though their own watch shows that they have not yet reached the time for which they paid."

Brunner said, "It is in the best interests of the city and its businesses and residents that shoppers who drive to Oakland's commercial districts be given a reasonable accommodation by the city with regard to the variation in time-telling instruments."

She said her proposal "eliminates one of the 'gotcha!' aspects of parking enforcement, making it easier to shop in Oakland."

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