by 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:
We believe in promoting low-carbon access.
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.
We do not believe that the need for the parking part of this project has been established.
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.”
“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.