Davis Bicycles! Corrects the Record on the Parking Garage


parking-garage-dtby the Davis Bicycles! Board of Directors

There have been a number of comments on the Vanguard of late pertaining to Davis Bicycles!’s putative opposition to the parking garage that are either unreasonable assumptions or mis-characterizations of our position. First of all, opposition to the structure is not an officially adopted DB! position, although some of our members and Board, in addition to other members of the public and even the DDBA, are asking hard questions.  We have tried to stay on message politely repeating several points:

  1. We believe in promoting low-carbon access.
  2. We believe that much of the “parking problem” in downtown is a management problem, not a shortage of spaces. Specifically we see no effective program to get employees out of curbside spaces.
  3. We do not believe that the need for the parking part of this project has been established.
  4. We firmly believe that the decision whether or not to build it must be based on science and data and must be rational, not “faith based.”


Here are some examples, with the text from a “DT Businessman” in bold and our responses not in bold:

“The bicycle advocates and the Cool Davis proponents firmly believe that autos will become obsolete in the next decade or two. Not only do they believe internal combustion engine autos will become obsolete, they think ALL vehicles will become obsolete (electric, Luke Skywalker air sleds, what-have-you).”

We not aware that any of us ever said anything close to this, in public sessions or even in private conversation. Lots of us drive cars. Even so we do believe that the internal combustion engine will play a smaller and smaller role in mode share. And we believe Davis is uniquely poised to lead the change to a greater bicycle and pedestrian mode share. For this to happen, soon, is a stated goal of the City.

“I’d also like to point out that the argument put forth by Davis Bicycles! and others is assumes a static environment. It assumes that there will be no increase in Downtown visitors or at least no increase in Downtown visitors arriving by car.”

This is not our belief, stated or otherwise. We recognize that Davis will grow and believe that downtown will also probably see an increasing proportion of customers from outside our city. This concern was voiced at the recent DDBA brown-bag lunch. Building a garage (if it is even used) may attract 230 more cars directly to the center of the core of the downtown. This is in conflict with the original Core Area Specific Plan from the 1990s, which called for additional parking at the periphery of downtown, not the center.  This central location of the proposed parking structure is also opposed to the stated goal of the February 2000 Core Area Strategy Report and 5 Year Action Plan, in which parking structures were to be on the periphery, a long-term parking strategy was to be developed, bicycle/pedestrian/transit access was to be improved, and employee parking in curbside spaces was recognized as a problem. These issues remain, and we don’t believe yet another parking structure is the solution to jump to before they are addressed.

Much of what DDBA is marketing as the character and charm of Davis derives from its pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly feel. Part of our concern is that directing even more cars to this central location will make the downtown less, not more, pedestrian and bicycle friendly and attractive. We want the downtown to thrive and believe it can do so best if supported by better pedestrian/bike access and public transit and less emphasis on automobile access.  This is also a very clear goal of the City’s adopted Climate Action Plan.

“And let’s talk about employee parking needs for a moment. I don’t have any statistics, but my observation is the vast majority of Davis employees and business owners arrive at work by car. Are they going to park their cars at bike racks or fold them up into their purses or backpacks?”

Too few of them park in the present parking garages. It should be well known that several studies conducted by the City of Davis Police Department, the Chamber of Commerce, and the DDBA over the past 20 years have shown that approximately half of the curbside spaces in the Core Area are occupied by business employees.

A presentation by City staff two years ago included the following actions either underway or to be initiated:

►   Increase employee use of parking garages

►   Increase on-street parking supply

►   Add short-term parking for customers

►   Set parking requirements to reflect demand

►   Encourage payment of in-lieu fees for small scale projects

►   Locate parking structures at the periphery of the Downtown Core Retail Stores area

►   Study shuttle between Campus and Core

►   Improve “wayfinding” to lots/garages

►   Increase parking enforcement to free up on-street parking for customers

►   Escalate parking fines for repeated violations

Even with all the evidence about the severity of the problem, and plans stating it will be addressed, DDBA and City staff have repeatedly sidestepped any meaningful program to get employees to quit taking up these valuable spaces that should be left free for revenue generating shoppers. Complaints about this problem and the inability to solve it occupied much of the discussion at the recent DDBA brown-bag lunch. It just doesn’t make sense to build another parking garage, especially in this location, to solve a problem that the two present garages have failed to solve.

“I heard the 3/4/E/F project was controversial, yet there’s been no rebuttal to my arguments in favor of the project. Is everyone on a 2-day bike tour or a peak oil conference?”

Here are some relevant facts. Our 68 counts of free parking spaces at the two large existing parking garages between March and September, 2011 show the following:

These two structures were never full. On average there were 326 free spaces in the two garages combined. This does include 103 spaces in the 4th Street garage that are restricted during working hours Monday through Friday. An additional 50 free spaces, on average, exist on the roof of the 4th Street structure, but these are inaccessible behind a fence and not included in the calculation. Both these garages are within two blocks of the proposed parking structure.

“The entire ground floor of the proposed project is retail.”

This seems not to be true. DDBA claims and City documents confirm that the proposed retail component is 12,000 sq ft. This is less square footage than the single building at 3rd and F Streets housing FedEx/Kinkos and the now vacant Blockbuster Video space.  The 3/4/E/F parking lot parcel is 42,000 sq ft.  So only 29% of the first floor will be retail, the rest devoted to parking or access to parking. And almost 80% of the cost of the project will be associated with the parking structure portion of the project.  The small retail component is apparently window dressing that will be provided to the developer at a subsidized price and may  compound the existing problem of vacant retail space downtown.

In summary, we believe there is no need for this structure. The parking spaces in downtown are adequate and were they managed properly would do a much better job of meeting the parking needs of the core. Building a parking structure may make sense at another location on the true periphery of the core, in a location that vehicles from outside Davis wouldn’t have to drive through the core to access. But this structure seems the wrong solution (actually no solution at all) in the wrong place.


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20 thoughts on “Davis Bicycles! Corrects the Record on the Parking Garage”

  1. Phil Coleman

    This bold-print stuff, who is being quoted? These over-the-top comments and ill-advised sarcasm needs to be authored.

    And for that matter, who exactly is responding in standard print? Boards don’t write, people do.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Phil, the article explains: “Here are some examples, with the text from a “DT Businessman” in bold and our responses not in bold:”

    As I was told, the board as a whole agreed to the language and thus authored the piece.

    Probably should have linked the original article however:

    Should City Study Parking in Downtown Prior to Constructing 14 Million Dollar Project? ([url]https://davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4643:should-city-study-parking-in-downtown-prior-to-constructing-14-million-dollar-project&catid=58:budgetfiscal&Itemid=79[/url])

  3. 2cowherd

    When I have driven my car downtown I have never had a problem finding a parking spot in either of the downtown parking structures.

    If there is truly a need for more parking in the downtown area – IT IS AT THE AMTRAK STATION

  4. Don Shor

    [i]opposition to the structure is not an officially adopted DB! position[/i]

    Then members of the group should take care when addressing the city council and speaking out against the project.

    [i]This seems not to be true. DDBA claims and City documents confirm that the proposed retail component is 12,000 sq ft. This is less square footage than the single building at 3rd and F Streets housing FedEx/Kinkos and the now vacant Blockbuster Video space. The 3/4/E/F parking lot parcel is 42,000 sq ft. So only 29% of the first floor will be retail, the rest devoted to parking or access to parking. And almost 80% of the cost of the project will be associated with the parking structure portion of the project. The small retail component is apparently window dressing that will be provided to the developer at a subsidized price and may compound the existing problem of vacant retail space downtown.[/i]

    A 3.5:1 ratio of parking to retail would be relatively low. Consider that Target has 19 acres of parking for 3.2 acres of retail (nearly 6:1).
    Let’s assume for a moment that the decision is made to turn 3/4/E/F into a retail development.
    12,000 square feet of retail would generate 100 to 200K annually in sales tax revenues, depending on the type of store and the configuration of the ground floor. That isn’t window dressing.
    That much retail would require, based on old formulas (I haven’t checked with staff to update) about 70 parking spaces.
    Developing the parking lot would remove the existing 120 parking spaces. So rounding our numbers, at a bare minimum retail development of the site needs to generate about 200 parking spaces.
    The proposal is for a building that provides retail and a total of 350 spaces, providing a net gain to downtown shoppers of 150 spaces close to existing retail stores.

    Here is the Transportation and Parking Committee 2011-2012 Work Plan (through August 2012): [url]

  5. E Roberts Musser

    I am not for or opposed to the proposed parking garage, but certainly have a lot of serious questions as to need, location, aesthetics, is it a solution in search of a problem, lack of data, lack of a coherent Parking and Access Plan. I plan to keep an open mind, but I need a lot of these questions answered…

  6. biddlin

    This sounds very much like the “World class city, without traffic or noise ” nonsense Sacramento’s mayor and council keep spouting ! That stated, from my frequent forays into downtown Davis in the last couple of years, I have seen little indication of need for more parking spaces .

  7. Michael Harrington

    I have lived and worked 24/7 on the 400 block of E/D Streets since 1995. I am the only owner-occupied business and resident I know of, between C to G, and 1st to 5th. I know my downtown better than most, and certainly better than many of these garage proponents who don’t live here or don’t hand around downtown after business hours and on weekends.

    We are the most visible “city of bikes” in this country.

    How embarrassing that our City’s best solution for sales tax decreases, more empty offices and retail spaces than I have ever seen before, and a desire for more customers is to put up another ugly and expensive parking garage.

    I really expected better from this City Council, especially given its members who actively bike around town.

  8. odd man out

    DB! writes: “First of all, opposition to the structure is not an officially adopted DB! position, although some of our members and Board, in addition to other members of the public and even the DDBA, are asking hard questions.”

    and: “In summary, we believe there is no need for this structure.

    So, what is it? Is DB! for or against the parking structure?

  9. DT Businessman

    I fail to see how DB’s piece above does anything to foster a substantive debate regarding this project. They haven’t corrected the record; they’ve only muddled it further. As I have pointed out in previous threads regarding this project, and as some bloggers have pointed out immediately above, the arguments put forth by the project opponents are rife with inconsistencies, inaccuracies, ommissions, and a general lack of understanding regarding specific project details the sum total of which undermine an honest discussion on whether this project fosters or detracts from a sustainable community and a vibrant downtown. Why the fear? Why the fear of allowing the architectural firm to be hired by the City to generate some design ideas for the project and streetscape improvements (outdoor dining, pedestrian improvements, etc.)? Why the fear of preventing the public process? Once the community has an idea of what the project might look like and some specific details, perhaps the community embraces the project, perhaps they won’t.

    I’d encourage my fellow bloggers to view the DDBA’s ACTUAL position regarding the project at http://www.davisenterprise.com/opinion/opinion-columns/retail-parking-project-supports-downtown/

    I’d also encourage you to view the DDBA’s parking/transportation work plan, which Don linked above. And Don, perhaps you would be so kind as put the DDBA’s vision for the Downtown up on the web (the Downtown Framework). These documents provide a far more accurate description of the DDBA’s position than DB’s regurgitation above.

    And Mike, how do you square your verbal position above with your physical downtown office rental property? You have no onsite parking, so your tenants are entirely dependant on publicly provided onstreet parking. Presumably you paid in lieu parking fees in order to develop the property in the first place. Imagine your property was a retail or restaurant property. There’s no way you could attract a tenant for lack of parking. Imagine you had wanted to develop a 3 or 4 story building. Again, it would not be possible for lack of parking. You are condemning the Downtown to a low density urban area thereby directing growth to the periphery.

  10. Mont

    DT Businessman
    Why the fear of preventing the public process?

    Presumably you meant “allowing” rather than “preventing”, but there is no fear. I’m strongly in favor of seeing a preliminary design so we can make some judgments about whether it’s pretty or ugly, etc., and so we can talk about a more specific idea than “the parking garage.” I’m also strongly in favor of the public process to decide what to do. And I’m entirely in agreement with you that the appropriate questions should be “does this project foster or detract from a sustainable community and a vibrant downtown.”

    Yet the more I am around it the more I am convinced that the real problem is that there is free parking on the streets in downtown and that this is (and has been for a long time) distorting the process and decisions.

    I visited sfPark.org yesterday and was fascinated to learn in detail about how SF is instituting Donald Shoup’s performance pricing in numerous trial locations. (BTW the peninsula community of Redwood City, pop. 74,000, has also just adopted this approach.) This adaptively adjusts the street meter parking rates to make sure every block has about 2 free spaces. The rate is constant on a block face but varies from block to block and with time of day. Once a month the rates may be changed on a block if there are too few or too many free spaces. The average rate in SF appears to be about $2-3/hr but I expect a much smaller rate in Davis would push most of the downtown employees presently taking the street spaces into the garages, freeing up the street spaces for paying customers. The DDBA and City planners and merchants have been literally paralyzed for nearly 20 years in their efforts to solve this “commons problem, once removed”. And the business owners, who could solve it by simply prohibiting their employees from parking on the street, appear to be taking the classical commons approach: one more of my employees parking in valuable street spaces provides more short term value for them (and maybe me), even if the whole group (DDBA) loses. This only happens on “commons” with zero cost to the owners of the commons.

    The bizarre thing is that it seems to me the proposed solution, building another $11M parking garage, isn’t rational because there are already off-street garage spaces available and folks aren’t using them. There probably is a price for street parking that would solve this, and my guess says its a pretty small one, using free market principles.

    But it appears to me the DDBA and merchants are so afraid that any parking fee will drive shoppers to Walmart that they aren’t willing to try it. Or at least that’s the explanation I have come to. Does anyone here think paid parking, even a pittance, would provide enough of an incentive to push the busboys parking on the streets into the structures? When I asked this question (“Who thinks paid parking can work in the DT?”) at the DDBA brownbag lunch only about 1/3 of the people who voted said yes.

  11. DT Businessman

    Mont, would you bet your salary and pension that paid parking won’t drive shoppers to Walmart? That’s what you’re asking DT retailers to do. It’s easy to gamble with other people’s livlihoods. Small, independent retailers nationwide are under tremendous competetive pressure on a number of fronts.

    That said, we cannot operate from a place of fear. I think paid parking is less likely to drive shoppers to Walmart if one creates a DT experience so compelling that a shopper would gladly pay a small parking fee to enjoy the DT. I don’t think we’ve made the necessary investment yet to create such an experience. But perhaps we’re on the cusp of making such investments. We’ll see what the CC decides to do in the next few months.

  12. Mont

    DT Businessman

    I recognize that we are talking about livelihoods here, those of our friends and neighbors. I hope, were I a downtown merchant, that I would be able to assess the various possibilities and choose the one that makes the most rational sense, and that I wouldn’t not try an alternative simply because I was “afraid” that the shoppers would go to Walmart. It isn’t economically rational to drive to Walmart when gas is $4 per gallon only to avoid a $1 parking fee in DT. Maybe shoppers aren’t economically rational but I suspect they are.

    I’m not sure it’s that big a gamble. It may not be as big a gamble as staying the course (see below), although it may feel that way to the merchants. If you are afraid, change isn’t the natural choice, freezing in place is. I don’t know that much about how the decisions are made about what to try and what is off the table vis a vis parking changes: is it largely staff recommendation or is it the DDBA parking committee’s decision? For example, how and why was it decided to try paid parking in the E St plaza lot? Was this a staff decision or recommended by the PC or joint? And what was the rationale? Was the committee “afraid” that such change would drive shoppers away?

    To me it seems that city staff defer completely to the committee recommendations. Is this the case? Although presumably the members of the DDBAPC are in touch with their customers’ feelings, etc., they certainly aren’t traffic and parking professionals. And the best choice for their livelihoods may not be to continue down the present path of free parking almost everywhere.

    This performance pricing is not a shoot-from-the-hip-reaction. According to a recent document by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org) (entitled “Parking pricing implementation guidelines”), many cities (Victoria BC, Austin, Aspen, Whistler BC, among others), and lots in California besides San Francisco (e.g. Ventura, Redwood City, San Diego, Pasadena, Glendale and Santa Monica), some with a similar size to Davis, have begun to implement these ideas.

    Davis is a special vibrant place. Last night DB! did a parking survey of the entire downtown around 8:00 pm during the very busy second-Friday ArtAbout. Downtown was jumping.

    But although all on-street spaces and every surface off-street lot was virtually 100% full and there were reportedly cars circling for on-street parking, there were more than 300 free parking spaces in the two downtown garages (279 at 4th St and 24 at F St)! If this isn’t a stark demonstration that our parking resources aren’t managed correctly, I don’t know what would be. I think we should be asking why, and what can be done to improve their utilization during these peak periods. But this has to bring to mind the question: If the garages aren’t even used at one of the “special event” evenings where parking demand is absolutely at peak, how can it be a logical strategy to build another garage?

    BTW, during this event bicycle parking was beyond saturated, with most racks and the two on-street areas full to overflowing and lots of irregular parking against trees, poles, and buildings.

  13. DT Businessman

    There are many factors that flow into shopping decisions many of which are far from rational. The same is true of parking and circulation decisions pertaining to shopping (some of which are discussed in detail in the book “Traffic”). This is one of many reasons why I find it objectionable for DT parking and circulation decisions to be made without significant input from retail, leasing, and development issues. I have heard “transportation” experts cite alternative parking project locations that make zero sense from a retail and redevelopment perspective.

    The City confers with the DDBA Parking Committee regarding DT parking matters, but the City makes the rules. Many of the parking policies that you have advocated are shared by the PC. I suggest you go to http://davisretail.org/2011-2012P&TWorkPlan.pdf. You might also consider regularly attending the monthly PC public meetings.

    According to the numbers you cite, the parking utilization in DT Friday evening was at 89% of total capacity (2,667 total DT spaces). That seems pretty full to me. The 1st/F garage at 87% capacity also seems quite full to me especially given the poor physical design with very tight spaces. The 4th/G garage has been the problem child, but utilization will improve with better signage and as the north east portion of DT continues to develop.

    My casual observations indicate the average DT bicycle rack utilization is well under 50%. Using this DB! metric, no further racks are necessary. Fortunately, it is my understanding that DDBA does not give much weight to this metric and therefore will continue to advocate for more bicycle racks and other bicycle amenities.

    I’ll take a moment to correct a couple of DB! misstatements of fact above. DB! incorrectly states that “The entire ground floor of the proposed project is retail.” is a false statement. The entire ground floor of the project is indeed retail from a practical perspective. No additional feasible retail can be created on the project site given site and project constraints. Or is DB! advocating for the construction of interior retail space with no storefronts? Or is DB! suggesting that no ground floor ramps be created to access the upper parking levels?

    DB! incorrectly states that the CASP calls for parking structures to be constructed on the periphery of the Core, but then goes on to provide the correct quotation from the CASP which is:

    “Locate parking structures at the periphery of the Downtown Core Retail Stores area”

    The Downtown Core Retail Stores area is the area between 1st, 3rd, D and the rail road tracks. The 3/4/E/F project is cited exactly where the CASP envisioned it would be constructed. I find it incredibly surprising that DB! has gotten this wrong given a DB! board member was a CASP project team member.

  14. DT Businessman

    I have a further observation regarding bike rack utilization. Many DT employees take up prime bike space in front of stores and restaurants. If these employees utilized the racks on the DT periphery, there’d be more spaces available to shoppers and diners in front of the stores and restaurants.

    Before the bicycle advocates have an aneurysm, I’d like to clarify that my comments regarding bicycle rack utilization are all tongue-in-cheek.

  15. shopowner

    As a Downtown Davis shop owner, I consistently hear from my customers (local and visiting) they would love more retail shopping options (clothing, electronics, housewares, etc.) in Downtown Davis. They would also prefer more centralized parking within the core of the Downtown. They want at least 3 hours of free cost and hassel free Downtown Davis core parking. This is so they may enjoy and patronize Downtown Davis without the worry of receiving a ticket or experiencing the inconvenience of reparking.

    [b]I would hope that my one on one discussions I have with my customers bring a practical and real approach to what is needed for our downtown to grow. [/b]

    For more information on why the 3/4/E/F Project is needed, please refer to:

    The survey and it’s results support DB!’s argument that this decision [b]must be based on science and data and must be rational, not “faith based.”[/b]

    Please note the following from the survey that Davis residents (over 6,000) overwhelmingly stated they wanted [b]Product variety/selection[/b] and [b]Convenient Parking[/b].

    [b]1)Product variety/selection 68%[/b]
    2)Lower prices 52%
    [b]3)Convenient parking 43%[/b]

    And in the [i]Staff Report to Business and Economic Development Commission (PDF format)[/i] (please download) The majority of Davis shoppers stated clearly what they wanted in retail:

    Specialty Grocery 84%
    [b]Books/ Stationery 80%
    Home Improvement Clothing – Discount 69% 69%
    Clothing – Moderate68%
    Crafts/Hobbies 67%
    Linens/Soft Goods 66%
    Sporting Goods 60%[/b]
    Bulk Discount58%
    [b]Electronics 55%
    Applicances 52%
    Clothing – Premium Furniture/Home Décor 51% 51%[/b]
    Automobiles 44%

  16. DT Businessman

    Great post, shopowner. Finally, someone beside myself and Don Shor who recognizes that the 3/4/E/F project is more than a parking/circulation project with wide-ranging implications for the downtown.

  17. Mont


    “… they wanted Product variety/selection and Convenient Parking. “

    Thank you for posting the website for the 2003 Davis Retail Survey (DRS). It is helpful to know what the respondents wanted, insofar as the questions asked were complete. And I am willing to accept this as relevant today, 8 years later. The DRS clearly showed that customers want convenient parking. And this is also clearly data, the kind of data on which we should base decisions. But the reason this conclusion is so prominent may have been mainly because they were provided with only this option (convenient parking) as opposed to another (free parking). I don’t know how the survey was worded. Perhaps someone does. Was there any suggestion or intimation about the cost (or lack thereof) of parking? Perhaps (and most likely) it was simply assumed that, because it’s the way it has always been done, that the parking would obviously be free.

    “They would also prefer more centralized parking within the core of the Downtown. They want at least 3 hours of free cost and hassel free Downtown Davis core parking. This is so they may enjoy and patronize Downtown Davis without the worry of receiving a ticket or experiencing the inconvenience of reparking. “

    I appreciate that your intimate interactions with your customers, on the front lines so to speak, gives you more insight into what they want than those of us who aren’t in constant contact with customers. Still, respectfully, your verbal report that they want “free cost” parking is not data in the same sense as the DRS is. In a court of law it would be called “hearsay” evidence. And I am reluctant to base a big decision on only your report because it isn’t data. Respectfully.

    What I am trying to explore is whether performance pricing parking a la Donald Shoup might not provide the customers with exactly what they said in DRS that they want, albeit at a small cost. One of the goals of Shoup’s scheme is to always have two spaces vacant on each block face, on the average. This seems to me to be absolutely convenient in that your customers would almost always be able to park nearly adjacent to your store (or at least on the same block). What could be more convenient than this? It would also appear to be hassle free, if the parking periods aren’t too restrictively short, in that they would be able to stay as long as they want.

    What seems unreasonable to me is that they should expect (whether they do or not, which I don’t think we know) to have this (central, convenient, hassle-free parking which I absolutely accept that they want, based on the data) at zero cost, especially when the City and DDBA PC have been unable to solve the well-known “employee parking problem”. How do we know that the customers would not be willing to pay a small amount to obtain the convenience that they clearly desire? If we don’t know, how could we find out?

    We have reason to believe that a small price for on-street parking could shoo the busboys and clerks, and even store owners, into the garages during the day. We, so far as I know, have no reason to similarly believe that a small price for on-street parking would also redirect all, or even a significant portion of, the paying customers to “Walmart”. Or do you have data that suggests otherwise? If not, how could we get data like this?

  18. DT Businessman

    Mont, you pose a number of thoughtfull questions regarding parking. Keep in mind, though, there are numerous objectives that the project is meant to achieve. Instituting paid on-street parking a la Shoup and resolving the “employee parking problem” do little, perhaps nothing, to achieve the other project objectives. Also, you might reconsider your position on anecdotal information. Anecdotal information is frequently utilized when assessing projects and policy. It’s particularly useful when assessing retail-related issues such as what we’re confronted with here. We’re not trying to convict shoppers afterall, we’re trying to attract them.

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