Commentary: Parking Garage Proposal for Boy Scout Lot

parking-garage-dt

Two weeks ago the Vanguard put forward, once again, its proposal to put the entrance to a parking garage on Olive Dr. adjacent to the Design House.  It would then go over the tracks and consume the current parking lot by the Boy Scout Cabin.  The idea there would be to get people to turn onto Olive and get out of their cars at F and 1st streets, which would put people within about three blocks of most of downtown.

At that place there could be free trolleys and bike rentals to allow people easy access to the rest of the downtown.

Michael Bisch was rather disparaging, calling it “a fanciful op ed.”

He wrote, “As for your proposed Olive Drive parking structure project with visitors and employees streaming by bicycle and trolley into a pedestrian and bicycle only Downtown, the DPTF [Downtown Parking Task Force] is operating in the real world with real data and was tasked with providing viable solutions. We don’t have the luxury of simply ignoring the data, human behavior, Council directives, and generally making it up as we go along. There has never been any input to the DPTF of any kind similar to what you are proposing.”

The interesting thing is, later that same week, he went ahead and proposed a similar structure, except it would be in the Boy Scout Lot without the Olive Drive entrance.

Mr. Bisch told the Enterprise that the Downtown Parking Task Force had to give specific guidance about a garage or “the council will lose sight of the issue of increasing the parking supply.

“Let’s temporarily focus on this space, see what can be done there and if the initial feasibility says ‘Yeah, this can be done,’ put a funding scheme together and then let’s do it,” Mr. Bisch told the Enterprise. “If that initial feasibility study says that site is configured all wrong … let’s strike it off the list and look at a new site.”

“The Boy Scout Cabin lot sits on the south side of First Street where F Street dead-ends into First,” the Enterprise reported.  “While Bisch isn’t sure whether the space can accommodate a parking structure – that assurance would come through the feasibility study for which he’s aiming to gather support – he believes it’s the most logical space for a new garage.”

“All the research that we had been given said that the greatest demand for parking is in that part of the downtown,” Mr. Bisch told the Enterprise. “That’s the most impacted area, that’s where the consumer wants to park … (and) we want people to park in the periphery of the downtown.”

The Enterprise noted that the plan would require a bridge that would connect the new parking structure to the existing garage above the movie theater.

Mr. Bisch suggested that the expansion could be financed by parking-in-lieu fees, development impact fees – particularly from the Cannery project, and parking fee revenues, with budgetary shortfalls covered by the city.

The Enterprise noted that the proposal passed the DPTF 5-4, but three of the opponents noted that they opposed the motion because of the parking garage proposal but supported the accompanying suggestion for paid parking in the heart of downtown.

In addition, a couple of the people who supported Mr. Bisch’ motion did so primarily to keep the issue of paid parking alive, which they feared would have difficulty passing, but did not necessarily support the parking structure.

For the Vanguard, it seems strange that Mr. Bisch would suggest this proposal, which would dump a huge volume of traffic on an already-congested area of the downtown.  This area has to accommodate much of the eastern flow of traffic as it seeks to turn onto Richards Blvd, go under the underpass and onto the freeway or into South Davis.

While our proposal would necessitate the redesign of the already problematic intersection and probably force the city to handle the freeway off-ramp flows differently, it would have the advantage of diverting cars from going through the underpass to the garage, which would then allow people to exit their cars and begin their downtown experience at F and 1st Street.

From our view, Mr. Bisch’s proposal might deal with the need for additional spaces, but does not address the traffic congestion and flow problems.

One member suggested what this will do is begin the process of a feasibility study.  Would such a study necessitate studying other alternatives?

That is a key question that has been unresolved. However, most people we talked to do not believe that the parking garage idea will fly.   The paid parking issue figures to be hotly contested, even if it moves forward from the Parking Task Force to the council level.

For us, the key question really is what the vision is for the Davis Downtown.

As we noted last time, how can one discuss the long-term parking issues of the Davis Downtown without discussing the larger plan?  The Downtown has increasingly become one of restaurants and entertainment.

Davis Downtown is not set up to compete for retail with regional entities.  On the other hand, Davis Downtown can attract regional interest through what it does provide that is unique – unique dining experience and entertainment.

Some have expressed the desire for the downtown to become more than that, and suggested we need more retail options.

I am mixed on that view.  The development of retail seems to be outstripping the central core concept of a downtown.  I am not suggesting this is for the better, but I fail to see how a downtown can compete with the vast open areas that have been used to create the enormous retail centers in places like Woodland, Sacramento, Vacaville, West Sacramento and Fairfield.

Moreover, we should be discussing overall how we want to lay out and design the future downtown.  Do we want more of a promenade where people can walk and bike through key portions of downtown?  If that’s the case, why do you want street parking in the core, other than for very short-term needs?

I still think creating parking peripheral to the core and then allowing for easy access to trolleys and bikes and other secondary modes of transportation may accomplish much of what the downtown hopes.

But before we can decide all of this, we must decide what our downtown should look like in five, ten, twenty years of time, and design the parking system to fit those needs.

Right now, what I see is a lot of energy going to fix a system that is largely broken beyond repair.  We are going to put in meters and allow people to park longer?  Was not the entire justification for having the time limitations to free up spaces?

It makes very little sense to put long-term parking on the street.  The longer the parking, the further away people should be willing to travel to get from their vehicle to a business.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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44 Comments

  1. Ryan Kelly

    How ugly. two parking garages across the street from each other. A better place would be the train station parking lot. Build an enormous parking structure there and limit the overnight parking to the upper floor.

  2. JustSaying

    “For us, the key question really is what the vision is for the Davis Downtown.”

    If we have no objective, we have no need for additional parking. If we keep our quaint little downtown the way it is, we can do just fine with the cut tent parking. If our primary business continues to be providing entertainment and dining for students and other Davis residents, we’re just fine with existing parking.

    More parking isn’t going to mean a big boost in our sales tax revenue from outside. Who would want to drive to Davis and for what?

  3. Don Shor

    [quote]On the other hand, Davis Downtown can attract regional interest through what it does provide that is unique – unique dining experience and entertainment.[/quote]
    And small shops.

    [quote]The development of retail seems to be outstripping the central core concept of a downtown. I am not suggesting this is for the better, but I fail to see how a downtown can compete with the vast open areas that have been used to create the enormous retail centers in places like Woodland, Sacramento, Vacaville, West Sacramento and Fairfield.[/quote]
    Actually the trend is away from large stores, toward smaller footprints. Lowes (100,000 sq ft stores) has just put an offer on OSH (30,000 sq ft stores). WalMart is opening small groceries. A small, funky downtown with boutiques and wine bars and good locally-owned eateries can compete, and can generate more sales tax per square foot than those big spaces.

    [quote]But before we can decide all of this, we must decide what our downtown should look like in five, ten, twenty years of time, and design the parking system to fit those needs.[/quote]
    I’m not sure who you mean by ‘we must decide’ since it’s largely up to the building owners what happens in terms of retail. But I’d say five, ten, twenty years from now downtown won’t look a whole lot different. More plugs for EV’s, I hope. The present parking needs are not going to diminish.
    Your trolley/bike/promenade vision would kill the existing retailers and reduce the likelihood of a good mix of businesses.
    A healthy downtown has a mix of retail stores, restaurants, residents, and entertainment. Not a preponderance of one of the other.

  4. DT Businessman

    I hear there is CC support for David’s plan, although one CC member told me he/she would only support it if it included a blue, solar powered parking tram circling downtown serving free falafel wraps.

    The task force’s work is entirely data driven and shaped by CC directive. The task force has no data whatsoever to indicate whether there is consumer demand for downtown parking capacity at Olive Drive. The data does indicate there is high demand for parking capacity at 1st and F, also at 3/4/E/F and somewhat less demand at the train depot. The CC has never indicated that an objective of the task force was to make recommendations supporting a pedestrian and bicycle only downtown, so I don’t know why the task force would be considering such a notion.

    The train depot location is far more challenged than 1st and F from a traffic circulation perspective. Also, the city cannot unilaterally develop the depot parking surface lot. It requires the approval of additional parties. The same is true of every opportunity site other than 1st/F and 3/4/E/F. But if the city can obtain the approvals to develop the depot parking lot, more power to them. Get on with it.

    PS: For the record, my comments to the Enterprise were on background only and the reporter erred in attributing comments to me. This matter is far too important to become personalized.

    -Michael Bisch, DPTF member

  5. rdcanning

    Michael- I am curious if respondents to any parking surveys were asked about an Olive Drive lot with overcrossing to 1st street (Boy Scout cabin lot)?

  6. Davis Progressive

    ” hear there is CC support for David’s plan, although one CC member told me he/she would only support it if it included a blue, solar powered parking tram circling downtown serving free falafel wraps.”

    why the cheap shot?

    “The task force’s work is entirely data driven and shaped by CC directive.”

    what is the source of your data?

  7. Don Shor

    Just for the record, as of June 2012 there were 84 retailers downtown listed in the Davis Downtown membership roster. Far more than the number of eateries and entertainment venues.

  8. DT Businessman

    Cheap shot? I’m pretty sure the CC member intended it as humor. I, for one, snickered when I heard the comment.

    It’s not my data. The data is all on the City website on the DPTF page.

    -Michael Bisch, DPTF member

  9. DT Businessman

    The thing that continually has me flummoxed is that David states that their is no vision for the downtown and then he goes on to describe his vision for the downtown. There actually is a vision for the downtown. It’s a dynamic mixed-use district that also comprises an A&E district and an innovation district. The mission given the DPTF by the CC is to provide parking recommendations that support the CC’s vision, not David’s vision. The DPTF does not have the luxury of making-up our mission as we go along. We have a specific job to perform within a specific timeframe.

    -Michael Bisch, DPTF member

  10. Davis Progressive

    so, you really got that response from a councilmember?

    the question is still, what is the source of the data you claim that the DPTF is relying on? whether it’s your data or the city’s doesn’t really matter to me.

  11. DT Businessman

    DP, the data on the city website contains detailed citations and references. The sources are all listed. It’s all public as are the meetings. It’s no mystery.

    -Michael Bisch

  12. DT Businessman

    I’m not answering because I don’t know all the sources off the top of my head. There are many, many sources. We reviewed a lot of data, case studies, etc. It’s pretty unreasonable that I be expected to shake the names of the sources out of my sleeve when the info is all available on the City web site. Just go to the website.

    -Michael Bisch

  13. Mr.Toad

    Why drive downtown to an parking garage ramp cantilevered over the railroad? Better yet, why not drive downtown, put your car on a rail car and have a valet park it on the edge of town near the tracks someplace. Then when you are done having a cup of Coffee you have the valet load it back on the rail car and return it to you at the train station. Don’t forget to tip the valet.

  14. Mr.Toad

    Why would a sitting council member make such a remark? Perhaps because the expense of building such a structure would be preposterously large. Maybe a parking structure on the south side with a walking bridge over into downtown might be a possibility but then again making it ADA accessible would be a challenge. I wonder what Olive Dr. residents would say about such a parking structure?

  15. Davis Progressive

    i think if you’re citing it as your rationale you can at least explain the source of your opinion. it’s not as though the conclusion you have taken directly follows from your opinion since you have widespread disagreement among those who saw the same data as you. i would not expect you to be able to cite all data, but i would expect you’d be able to rationally justify your opinion.

    as it stands right now it sounds like you’re asserting your opinion with the caveat that we look at the data.

  16. SouthofDavis

    Mr. Toad wrote:

    > why not drive downtown, put your car on a rail car and
    > have a valet park it on the edge of town near the tracks
    > someplace. Then when you are done having a cup of Coffee
    > you have the valet load it back on the rail car and
    > return it to you at the train station. Don’t forget
    > to tip the valet.

    The only way I knew Mr. Toad was joking is that he did not mention a separate electric rail system powered by solar panels, having the valets tending to a roof top garden when they were not parking cars (that would provide fresh fruit for the homeless) or giving parking priority to people that are car sharing (hybrid or electric cars)…

  17. JustSaying

    “There actually is a vision for the downtown. It’s a dynamic mixed-use district that also comprises an A&E district and an innovation district.”

    Dom or Michael, what document lays out this description?

    What kind of “innovation district” are we working to locate downtown, how large? “Mixed-use” must mean retail and services shops, eateries, hotels and dwellings as well as the noted A&E–a “dynamic” assortment of these sounds pretty typical.

    What is it that keeps our downtown from prospering more? We’ve gone out of our way for years to protect our downtown merchants, culminating with the famous Target mall restrictions list. Now, someone has decided that parking is our problem–apparently to provide more convenient spots closer to existing stores than the many eternally vacant parking spots just blocks away.

    My small survey suggests that high building rental rates is a significant factor. Both Bogeys and Dimple Records told me that they’d have strayed forever if not for dramatic rent increases. Then, the former book store was empty for, what, two years and the former record shop still is vacant. Maybe we should use our money to build out a block or two with city-owned rental space that small retailers can afford instead of another ugly parking structure.

    Maybe David has a point about “vision” or maybe he could have called for “objectives.”. Who are we trying to draw downtown, UCD students or our aging population? Are we really aiming at getting outsiders here to cough up sales taxes? And, how does the growing competition from UCD affect our planning?

    I see the Downtown Parking Task Force has been very busy. I hope we’re focused on the right thing.

  18. DT Businessman

    Widespread disagreement? I’m not sure where you’re getting the widespread disagreement from. There was overwhelming task force agreement (8 of 9 members present) on developing more parking paired with doing a better job of managing the existing parking supply including instituting paid parking for some of the supply. Indeed, the consensus was built on this pairing. The consensus weakened on how to go about identifying the best location to develop the additional parking.

    Again, this is not my opinion. It’s the broad consensus of the task force. And the consensus is based on the entirety of the info the task force reviewed. I fail to see the point you are trying to make, DP.

    -Michael Bisch

  19. DT Businessman

    JS, the A&E district was established by the DD about 18 months ago. The downtown innovation district 2-3 years ago, and the mixed-use thing in numerous documents including the General Plan and the Core Area Specific Plan, but most recently in the CC’s 2 year goals, as well as the DPTF mission (which David has chosen to ignore). The ordinance establishing the DPTF states that the DPTF was to make recommendations furthering the CC’s 2-year goals including:

    1.“considering downtown as a destination, both for Davis residents and for visitors;
    2.“advancing the redevelopment of the downtown to provide mixed-use residential, retail and service, along with significant increase to parking;
    3.“exploring the reconfiguration of parking and streets, maximizing utilization and convenience for customers;”

    To achieve these goals the Council determined that “a comprehensive downtown parking management plan is needed to review, manage and execute parking plans intended to achieve the goals of Council.” The comprehensive plan was to include short-, mid-, and long-term actions to address parking management and supply.”

    -Michael Bisch

  20. Davis Progressive

    i think you’re being intentionally obtuse here. let me try it again, what is the basis – i.e. underlying data – that suggests that putting a parking garage on 1 st works and is the right place?

  21. Don Shor

    City web site links to individual pages and pdf’s usually don’t work. At the link I provided above you will find the minutes of the task force. Staff reports are attached to each. Jan. 10 2013 meeting has parking utilization reports. Feb. 6 2013 has parking surveys. April 3 2013 has parking zone maps and average occupancy rate maps by weekday and Saturday.

  22. Davis Progressive

    “Where is the underlying data that suggests putting a parking garage on Olive Drive works and is the right place? “

    i’m sure nothing that they are currently looking at will answer whether it is or is not.

  23. Frankly

    I’m still looking for any working example of a small city the size of Davis with a downtown providing full retail service and no peripheral shopping centers where parking is free, unrestricted and plentiful. My thinking is that a parking garage will go unused unless there are more reasons to go downtown to justify the added time and hassle it takes to park in a parking garage.

  24. Don Shor

    [quote]My thinking is that a parking garage will go unused unless there are more reasons to go downtown to justify the added time and hassle it takes to park in a parking garage.[/quote]
    By my quick count there are 84 retailers and 85 dining establishments downtown. But I guess you need more reasons. [url]http://www.davisdowntown.com/shop-dine[/url]

  25. Mark West

    Don Shor: “[i]By my quick count there are 84 retailers and 85 dining establishments downtown. But I guess you need more reasons.[/i]”

    Tell me Don, how many of these establishments have you spent money in over the past six months? For me it has been fewer than 5%. Not because I don’t shop downtown, I am there almost every day, but because for the most part the things I am looking for are not available there (yes, I have looked).

    The only way that a parking garage will be fully utilized is if it is significantly more expensive to park on the street (either due to parking meters or strenuous enforcement).

  26. Michael Harrington

    The City has looked at putting a parking garage on its land, between the back of Design House and the tracks. But the city’s lot is land-locked. If there was a garage there, it would need to be a skyway bridge for bikes and pedestrians.

    Anyone who wants to put a garage behind Design House is going to need to pay Noni Storm for the right of away.

    Also, sorry to say, but putting a garage on the Boy Scout lot will never, ever be approved by the voters. It would hugely impact traffic under the tracks at the Subway, and then we are back to widening the subway. Shades of Measure E.

  27. JustSaying

    Businesses will always want more parking as close to their own businesses as possible, thinking that the move will draw more customers and income. It’s a no-brainier, right?

    But, I wonder. I cannot remember a single time that I needed to circle the block more than once in 20 years. Whenever I’ve used the 4th & G or theater structures, I noticed there was room for many, many more to join me. (The only downtown parking problem I’ve come across in decades is the dearth of handicap spots on our streets–how non-Davis can we be?) I realize this is anecdotal. I presume there must be some good data contradicting these observations in the Task Force files.

    Don sez 84 retailers and 85 eateries, but Mark’s suggestion that potential shoppers need a reason to shop downtown is a critical consideration. I realize that local geezers might not be downtown’s target audience, but who is? Still waiting for some enlightenment on whether we really are targeting outsiders (and which ones? and with what strategy?)

    What if we build yet another parking structure and nobody comes?

  28. Mr.Toad

    Make the outside climbing walls and have zip lines off the roof. You could climb up and zip down to E St. Plaza, Whole Foods or Froggy’s. I’m sure some regulars could figure out how to jump off the zip line and land right on their regular bar stool. Reminds me of a W.C. Fields movie I saw long ago where he jumps out of an airplane window trying to retrieve a whiskey bottle that had fallen out.

  29. Mr.Toad

    Okay. Seriously. How about we set up a lot somewhere and have a shuttle bring people to and fro. The real issue is the workers who can’t park for their entire shift so lets shuttle them in.Or let’s get rid of the restricted parking between b and the university and north of fifth. Ever wonder why its always so hard to park downtown after 4 pm. Its because all the workers move their cars close in after parking enforcement stops. Honestly I don’t otherwise get the need for parking structures. i drive the T-mobile downtown all the time and the worst is i need to go around the block a few times. Michael is there evidence that lack of parking is driving business out?

  30. Growth Izzue

    [quote]So what’s your point? That people aren’t shopping downtown? If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have a parking problem. [/quote]

    I think the point is for many if they were charged for parking downtown a large enough fee in order to try and force them into parking at a perimeter garage they would probably just say to Hell with it. There’s not that much downtown that people either couldn’t go without or would just curtail trips because of the hassle.

  31. Frankly

    Downtown needs to focus on A&E. There are parking challenges, but people will park in a garage coming downtown for fun, food and drink. They will not come down town to purchase a mattress or a drum or a sheet of plywood if they cannot park on the same block as the store.

  32. Jim Frame

    [quote] But the city’s lot is land-locked…Anyone who wants to put a garage behind Design House is going to need to pay Noni Storm for the right of away.[/quote]

    That’s a tempting assumption given the appearance of things, but I not sure it’s correct. Technically, of course, the city parcel isn’t landlocked, as it fronts on Richards Boulevard. However, the grade change as the roadway approaches the underpass makes a normal (as in “at right angles to”) entry to the parcel infeasible.

    But an entry closer to Olive Drive might work. I don’t recall whether or not I’ve ever seen a title report on Noni’s parcel, but my recollection is that the old Highway 40 right-of-way includes a 240-foot radius curve that goes through Noni’s parking lot, perhaps even clipping a corner of the store’s covered entry. The engineering design of an entry road might be challenging without an additional right-of-way take, but it might be practical.

    I’m not sold on the idea of a garage there — I’m skeptical about the net parking once you incorporate a RR overpass — but I offer the above as more grist for the mill.

  33. Mark West

    Don: “[i]So what’s your point?[/i]”

    Following up Frankly’s comment: “[i]My thinking is that a parking garage will go unused unless there are more reasons to go downtown[/i]”

    you responded with: “[i]By my quick count there are 84 retailers and 85 dining establishments downtown. [b]But I guess you need more reasons.[/b][/i]” (emphasis mine).

    Clearly you believe there are more than enough reasons to shop downtown so I was curious how many of those 169 establishments you actually spend money at? I want to shop downtown, but as I said before, I have made a purchase at fewer than 5% of those 169 establishments in the past six months. Since you think there are more than enough options you must be a regular customer at far more of those places than me. So, how many of them have you purchased from in the past six months? It is a simple question with no hidden point.

    Now to the rest of your response.

    “[i]So what’s your point? That people aren’t shopping downtown? If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have a parking problem.[/i]”

    Most times of the day we don’t have a parking problem. What we have is a perception problem. Now if we had real options for retail downtown then we would have a real parking problem and not just a perceived one.

  34. J.R.

    This whole parking discussion is very annoying.

    A bunch of busybodies want to spend other people’s money to fix a parking problem that doesn’t exist.

    Having lived in many cities and towns, I can tell you that my experience is that parking in Davis works much better than in comparable areas that have paid street parking and ugly parking garages that often become filthy and dangerous.

    Downtown Davis parking is not hard to find, and part of the charm of the town is that it is free.

    I will be seriously annoyed at any city council member who votes for paid parking. Or to subsidize a stupid parking structure.

  35. Don Shor

    [quote]So, how many of them have you purchased from in the past six months? It is a simple question with no hidden point. [/quote]
    That is an interesting exercise. Using the Davis Downtown directory ([url]http://www.davisdowntown.com/shop-dine[/url]), I count 11%. Some quite regularly, others occasionally. Plus banking. Note to task force: I’m a big fan of the 20-minute green parking spots.

  36. JustSaying

    [quote]“The basic principle is that people want to park close to where they shop. For some reason, some people here don’t believe that.”[/quote]I think some of us buy the principle, but don’t see that we really have a parking problem downtown.

    Now, maybe the owners and employees of 169 businesses feel they need more parking for themselves. But, why do they think their potential customers just need even more parking to buy more downtown?

    Triple the number of 20-minute and handicap spaces, slap a one-hour limit on the rest of the street parking, free four-hour parking in the structures, keep the metered lot for the rich folks. “Problem” solved.

  37. biddlin

    “The only downtown parking problem I’ve come across in decades is the dearth of handicap spots on our streets–how non-Davis can we be?”
    That and the general lack of accessibility for the disabled was the first thing I noticed when looking to relocate after retirement.

  38. EastCoastTransplant

    There are huge problems parking downtown. If you haven’t experienced them, it’s because you’ve adapted your habits to avoid them, or you are insanely lucky at finding parking. Any time there is a farmer’s market, downtown becomes un-drivable and un-parkable for hours. It’s a nightmare. There is a serious parking problem at the train station. All of the parking spots are full by 8:30AM. It discourages day trips by train, errands by train, or train travel for anyone who doesn’t regularly have to be in Sac or SF by 9AM. Surely, fed money and Amtrak money could be secured to help pay for that plan. Geez, run a shuttle to the train station from Olive if you don’t want to pay for a bridge.

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