Meeting held on Oakland Zoo parking complaints

Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid and officials from the Oakland Zoo hosted a special meeting Monday night.

On the agenda: parking safety for residents living in the area. They say traffic is a nightmare as zoo-goers are flooding their neighborhood.

"If you leave your house you might not be able to get back in. Some of the people will double park and look like they want to fight you," said Aaron Woodson of Oakland.  

"We are really sympathetic to what neighbors are going through when trying to get back to their homes," said Oakland Zoo President & CEO Joel Parrott.

Zoo officials said the increase of cars and people started in July of last year when its 56-acre California Trail expansion opened. Officials told the crowd of more than 100 people, they only expected a 10% increase in attendance.  But that number jumped to 30%.  

"It causes a major traffic jam on the weekends. I literally can't park in front of my house," says Aalim Moor of Oakland.

"All the streets around here, for five or six blocks there are cars bumper to bumper, people walking across the streets. You'd think there is a carnival going on," Woodson said.  

Residents said on weekends and holidays, cars are parked on both sides of Golf Links Road, and families with small children are walking in the streets because there are no sidewalks. 

"Is it going to take someone getting hit by a car. Hopefully, I'm not the person hitting them. Because you can come around the corner and run into 15 people that are in the middle of the street," says Phyllis Holmlund of Oakland.

Zoo officials say they're looking at a number of possible solutions, including a new shuttle bus that will be used to pick up people in the neighborhoods. They've hired Oakland police officers to direct traffic on weekends. They're looking into possibly expanding their current parking lot as well as looking into off-site parking.

However, for the immediate future, they've spent $600,000 for a new parking admission system. "Within 30 days we'll switch to where people can stream into the zoo, but then pay on the way out," said Parrott. 

Few in the crowd were pleased with the zoo's solutions. They said they are thinking of taking matters into their own hands, which would involve the city to step in. 

"[There's permitted parking on the weekends. So there is only one hour or two-hour parking if you're not a resident with a sticker," Holmlund said. Zoo officials said they're also working with ride share companies on giving discounted rates to encourage people not to drive to the area. They're also working with CalTrans to rework the exit lanes from Interstate 580.