By Jason Taormino
It feels like an affront to common sense that anyone would try to stop Davis Ace from parking cars on their own property. They have a disused area where their old lumber mill stands and they want to tear this down so that customers and delivery trucks have a place to park. The problem is that someone has asked the City Council to deny their request, and as such I feel compelled to make our community aware of this situation. I am asking you to support Davis Ace and send an email to our City Council or come to the upcoming Council meeting on Tuesday, June 20th and express your support for this Davis institution.
This issue has already gone before the Planning Commission which granted Davis Ace the right to use their land as desired. However, that decision has been appealed, by one person, at a cost of $200. I can imagine the consternation this would cause any business owner to be at the mercy of one or two people and all it takes is a few hundred dollars. I know many of you will be thinking that this is an over blown situation and surely calmer heads will prevail. I have no indication that the vote will be unanimous or even positive for Davis Ace. That worries me as typically there are hints and nods of approval or disapproval on most issues.
So what is the problem? There is an urban planning philosophy that if parking is to be provided in downtowns, then it should be located behind buildings or in structures above buildings. This allows pedestrians, bikers and car drivers to see store fronts, people dining and all sorts of other activity rather than parked cars. It is often referred to as an “activated street scape”. That sounds good to me. Davis Ace is not proposing to tear down their entire building and redevelop one of the largest privately owned parcels in town. What they have decided is that they need to focus on their customers. Their customers need to know that when they come to shop they can park, make their purchases, and get on their way.
Davis Ace wants to provide parking because we have a parking problem. I don’t meet many people who think that downtown Davis does not have a parking problem. At lunch and after work in particular is a challenge, and for a business like Davis Ace I can see that they want every customer to know that if they head to their store that they will not be circling the block for an hour. Not every business relies on proximate parking. If one is catering to students then much of their customers arrive on bikes or buses. If one sells coffee I would expect the percentage of people who drive, just to get a cup of coffee downtown, is fairly low. Davis Ace appears to me to be a type of store that is a destination (not to mention, a car is required to transport purchase from there – I can’t imagine trying to walk 6 blocks with 3 flats of veggies start for my garden).
As we have converted 60,000 square feet of downtown retail and office space to bars and restaurants the parking demands have increased four to ten times. If you have lived here for a few decades you know that the parking problem was not so dramatic ten years ago, and before this mass conversion.
As someone who appreciates the hard work, stress and contributions of those who run businesses, it pains me that they would have to suffer because of the anti-car and anti-parking zealots. I feel like the anti-car and pro-biking people are pushing too hard against those with different passions and concerns. Rather than being respectful of others, they are on the attack. That is not good for a civil society nor is it good for the long-term viability of our downtown. In trying to understand this behavior I have spoken to some of my friends who I grew up with riding bikes in Davis about where this anti-car philosophy originates. They don’t see it as a true Davis value. They see it as a Jonny-come-lately who doesn’t understand. As kids we loved the freedom of biking and now as parents we see it first hand how good and convenient it is for our own children. It is healthy, encourages self sufficiency and is quite convenient. We enjoy biking as adults and for some of us it is a lifestyle choice. The true Davis value system is pro bike, pro business and supports those who want or need to drive. I hope you agree.
Jason Taormino is a Realtor and Developer with Aileron Land & Development, he is also the President of the Davis Chamber.