Analysis: Still Struggling on the Parking Issue

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As the Downtown Parking Task Force wraps up its work and recommendations on parking, it seems like whatever ultimately emerges from that group’s work will not put the issue of parking to rest.

Developer Chuck Roe this week has sent a letter to the task force, and excerpts from that letter are in today’s local newspaper.

“I know you have had discussions about providing on-site parking for new projects as a way of providing for part of our parking shortage,” Mr. Roe writes. ” I don’t think this is feasible.”

Instead, he argues that his type of downtown development is likely typical of what we can expect in the future.  He argues, “Davis property owners and local developers like myself typically do not have the means to assemble large parcels for development. I believe this is a good thing because I’m pretty sure our collective vision doesn’t include huge parcel assemblage and large-scale redevelopment projects.”

Instead, he has designed a single downtown parcel and struggles to provide on-site parking for each unit.

He writes, “This added greatly to our cost by requiring the building to be built over the parking in most cases. Even so, we were not able to provide any extra spaces for the retail or office tenants of those projects.”

Mr. Roe argues, “Since it is a great benefit to be able to provide more on-site parking and offer that to the owners and customers of the retail/restaurants and offices, we always looked into the feasibility of going underground. When considering ramps leading in and out, a car’s turning radius and structural elements of the building, it was impossible to accomplish. It could, of course, be done. However, we got only a few additional parking spaces on each level underground and the cost was immense for each space. If this was required, I wouldn’t have been able to build in the downtown.”

In short, he argues that where are benefits of getting on-site parking when there are big downsides that include the fact “that at-grade retail and restaurant space is the most precious commodity we have. This has the highest development value and the highest and best use of the at-grade space should be required of any redevelopment. It should rarely used for parking. This is the space that generates the most vibrancy and pays the most taxes. To lose a portion of that for on-grade parking of cars on a lot-by-lot basis would be very foolish and shortsighted.”

Mr. Roe argues that the problem of parking is not a future problem, but rather a current problem.  A multi-story parking structure fell apart as redevelopment district funds disappeared.

He writes, “Now the need for additional parking is critical. Please don’t recommend a bunch of studies that will just lead to passing this issue along into the future. We’ve already done that for a dozen years.”

“We should not believe that we will help solve our parking shortage by getting on-site parking as the downtown redevelops. As noted above, on-site parking is probably the worst use of space as we redevelop,” Mr. Roe continues.

He does argue for parking meters throughout the downtown, noting the successful downtowns like San Luis Obispo and Boulder.

“Set them to the lowest cost on a block-by-block basis that results in a fraction of empty spaces on each block. Paid parking would get the downtown workers out of their every two-hour free parking dance and it would assure a few empty spaces if you really need to park near your destination. It also would create a revenue stream,” he writes.

Chuck Roe argues, “We need strong leadership on this because there will always be those who claim it will kill the downtown. Tell that to Boulder and San Luis Obispo.”

He also advocates actions to build the next parking garage.

Mr. Roe writes, “Like our other structures, it should be free to encourage workers and others to fill the garages and free up surface parking for those that need it or want to pay for it. The garage should have a financing plan that includes proceeds from the metered parking, possibly a downtown area assessment district and potentially a citywide bond. Let’s get concrete and move forward.”

In our view, the idea of a downtown parking task force was never a great idea.  The city has staff that could have done the research and evaluation.  There are too many cooks in the kitchen right now, each with a different vision for the downtown.

Back in June, another downtown commercial real estate business person, Michael Bisch, proposed utilizing the Boy Scout lot.

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.

Our suggestion would be a parking structure that enters behind the Design House on Olive Drive and extends over the railroad tracks into the existing lot.

The advantage of that structure would be that traffic would enter on Olive Drive – the intersection of which would have to be redesigned, but it would allow a huge flow of traffic to bypass the Richards Underpass.

We will see what the Downtown Parking Task Force comes up with this week, but in the end, the task may well fall back to staff and council to bridge the gap between a number of different proposals and visions for the downtown.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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37 thoughts on “Analysis: Still Struggling on the Parking Issue”

  1. David M. Greenwald

    Dear readers: Yesterday (August 6, 2013), the Vanguard server was shutdown over concerns by the company that usage spiked for more than ninety seconds. The Vanguard has been hit by a number of spam users and as a precaution, the ability for new users to register has been shutdown for the time being. Anyone who wishes to register to post can contact David Greenwald through the site messaging system and he will create an account for you. IN future, all registration will have to be manually approved. We apologize for this inconvenience, but it is necessary to protect the security of the site.

  2. hpierce

    [quote]The Vanguard has been hit by a number of spam users[/quote]That is unfortunate, and I hope the perpetrators are identified, and their ability to do that is permanently curtailed.

  3. B. Nice

    He does argue for parking meters throughout the downtown noting the successful downtowns like San Luis Obispo and Boulder. “Chuck Roe argues, “We need strong leadership on this because there will always be those who claim it will kill the downtown.”

    In my opinion what’s hurting (maybe not killing) downtown is lack of parking and the congestestion it causes. It’s not as bad in the summer, but when UCD is in session I find myself avoiding downtown. I would HAPPILY pay to park if it was convienant, and realitivly inexpensive, and if it did indeed make finding a spot more convienant.

    (Sorry about the spam situation).

  4. Growth Izzue

    [quote]In our view, the idea of a downtown parking task force was never a great idea. The city has staff that could have done the research and evaluation. There are too many cooks in the kitchen right now, each with a different vision for the downtown.[/quote]

    [quote]Our suggestion would be a parking structure that enters behind the Design House on Olive Drive and extends over the railroad tracks into the existing lot.[/quote]

    Why don’t you take your own advice or don’t you consider yourself a “cook”?

  5. David M. Greenwald

    “Why don’t you take your own advice or don’t you consider yourself a “cook”? “

    I’m just the fourth estate, not part of the process.

  6. EastCoastTransplant

    I envision a magical parking disneyland, with structures at Olive, the Boy Scout cabin, the Amtrak station, and the Whole Foods, all connected by sky bridges, with dedicated highway access. Sure, it would cost a billion dollars, but all the jerks that voted not to expand the Richards underpass will be thwarted at long last!

  7. Ginger

    B. Nice:
    [quote]In my opinion what’s hurting (maybe not killing) downtown is lack of parking and the congestion it causes. It’s not as bad in the summer, but when UCD is in session I find myself avoiding downtown. I would HAPPILY pay to park if it was convenient, and relatively inexpensive, and if it did indeed make finding a spot more convenient.

    (Sorry about the spam situation).[/quote]

    YES. See, we agree again!:-)

    I hate to admit it, but I also avoid downtown. And it’s getting worse each year.

    I was a vote against Target…precisely because I knew it would be SO EASY to go there, and I’d default to the easy, what with juggling kids, strollers, multiple errands, whatnot.

    Now when I need to get a preschool birthday present and food and my grade schooler needs new sandals and my older kid wants a new diary…WOW. Target is so easy. And the parking? Forget about it.

    Before Target? It would have been Alphabet Moon, the co-op or one of the Nuggets for food, the shoe stores when they had sales…

  8. medwoman

    Ginger and B Nice

    I have a different take on this. I am over 60, my guess is that the two of you from your posts are close to if not over 30. Convenience, for those of our generations tends to center around ease of access to material goods in stores that we access by car as in the examples Ginger gave.

    This mind set has led to a host of problems environmentally and in terms of health from pollution and a more sedentary lifestyle.

    I have a son and daughter both in their early 20’s. My daughter drives, but reluctantly. My son has never driven and has no intent to learn. If he can’t walk, ride his bike, or use public transport, he doesn’t go. Virtually all purchases can be made easily on line with efficient return policies if it isn’t just right. It doesn’t take much imagination, or even much effort today to plan and arrange our lives so as to avoid the temptation to go into what at the time it was voted on was the 10th Target within a 30 minute drive of some part of Davis, some of which were even less driving time than the Davis Target, depending on where in town you live.

    I do not believe that forward thinking should necessarily imply, given changing demographics and habits, that we concentrate on creating the ability to park within the same block as our destination. For me, this is thinking from the 70’s and 80’s and sometime soon we need to get beyond
    this outdated and destructive model.

  9. Don Shor

    [quote]I do not believe that forward thinking should necessarily imply, given changing demographics and habits, that we concentrate on creating the ability to park within the same block as our destination.[/quote]
    I’m sure most downtown retailers disagree with you; not necessarily the ‘same block’ but within a block or so. If people can’t park close to the shop they want to go to, they just drive on.
    My guess is the council will adopt all the other recommendations, and punt on the parking garage.

  10. B. Nice

    “I do not believe that forward thinking should necessarily imply, given changing demographics and habits, that we concentrate on creating the ability to park within the same block as our “

    I’ve lived in Davis for most of my adult life (just over 20 years, but since I still think of myself as being in my 20’s I have hard time realizing). It seems like traffic/congestion downtown has gotten significantly worse in the past 5.

    Not being able to park on the same block isn’t my problem with downtown. It’s the congestion formed mostly by people trying to find a parking spot. The first place I head when I go downtown, regardless of the store I’m going to, is the E St plaza lot, where, on a weekday I can usually find a spot, (forget it on Saturday, a day which you will be hard pressed to find me downtown) and where I gladly pay for that convience, and gladly walk to a bit to my final destination. Nightime and weekends are different story, traffic and congestion are awful.

    Congestion is why I’ve started to avoid downtown for my every day small errands, mostly now that I’m thinking about it revolve around getting food, coffee, a begal, frozen yogurt, or dinner with friends, but which when I do make it downtown turn into an impropmtu trip to the Avid Reader, the Paint Chip, Outdoor Davis, etc. When I go to Nugget for coffee because I don’t want to get stuck in downtown traffic all these other business lose.

    I’m not sure what the solution is, but in the past 5 years I’ve found myself heading downtown less and less often.

  11. medwoman

    [quote]I’m sure most downtown retailers disagree with you; not necessarily the ‘same block’ but within a block or so. If people can’t park close to the shop they want to go to, they just drive on.
    My guess is the council will adopt all the other recommendations, and punt on the parking garage.[/quote]

    [quote]Congestion is why I’ve started to avoid downtown for my every day small errands, mostly now that I’m thinking about it revolve around getting food, coffee, a begal, frozen yogurt, or dinner with friends, but which when I do make it downtown turn into an impropmtu trip to the Avid Reader, the Paint Chip, Outdoor Davis, etc. When I go to Nugget for coffee because I don’t want to get stuck in downtown traffic all these other business lose.
    [/quote]

    I don’t doubt the accuracy of both of these comments as relates to people’s current perspectives. This is why I emphasized the word “forward thinking”. It is not necessary to maintain every aspect of the status quo. I believe that many people do just what B Nice has stated. Go downtown for one purpose, and end up wandering around checking out other locations. For me, encouraging/ incentivizing people to park at the periphery is not an impossibility and it would benefit our city for private businesses and the city to explore more creative ways to encourage people to enjoy our downtown rather than to simply stick to the model of getting one’s care within
    “x” distance of their planned destination.

    We have seen what were once thought to be impossible behaviors to change, actually change drastically over time as people became aware of the downside to their behavior. Smoking is the behavior that comes to mind most readily for me. There are a number of reports coming out now about turning the tide on childhood obesity by encouraging healthier food choices and more physical activity. A third example would be the reduction in teen pregnancy rates by education and provision of more reliable means of contraception.

    I honestly do not see changing the perception of our individual car culture as the most desirable means of transportation as impossible. But it would require the willingness of our public and business leaders to at least consider something more innovative that the best location for yet another parking structure.

  12. Growth Izzue

    I’m always able to find a parking spot dwontown. I don’t care what day or what time, I find a spot. Sometimes it might take an extra trip around the block or I have to park a block away but it’s really no big deal.

  13. Mr.Toad

    I wonder about the need for more parking to improve business especially the idea of moving the train depot. Won’t that actually hurt business? There is a good deal of commerce that benefits from the train. Has Davis ever tried to leverage the train to drum up business. Instead of a parking garage how about a ride the train to Davis its a walkable city campaign. We could rent bikes and segways there too. Merchants could help move larger items back to the train for customers all that needs is some yellow parking spaces instead of all those underused white ones. You could advertise along the train route and maybe in the train stations and on BART and light rail too. What about a lot for workers somewhere with a shuttle since much congestion is caused by the workers coming in after 4 pm? There are other solutions but we seem so car focused on this one why don’t we try some other ideas first.

  14. B. Nice

    People driving around downtown looking for places to park creates the congestion I referred too. (I remember one Saturday night getting stuck in downtown gridlock for almost 20 minutes just trying to go around the block.) It also creates pedestrian hazards. Crossing the streets downtown with young ones as people circle the blocks looking for parking is a stressful experience and another reason I tend to avoid downtown when I’ve got my kids with me, and one of the main reasons I don’t ride bikes downtown with them.

  15. Growth Izzue

    Keep the downtown as it is, we don’t need ugly parking meters lining the streets or huge cement parking garage monstrosities that nobody wants to park in.

  16. Growth Izzue

    [quote]No place to park. Another consequence of densification. Beware of what you ask for. [/quote]

    That’s funny coming from you Frog. How is your stand of being for every Davis housing project under the sun going to improve downtown parking?

  17. Ginger

    Medwoman:
    [quote]I do not believe that forward thinking should necessarily imply, given changing demographics and habits, that we concentrate on creating the ability to park within the same block as our destination. [/quote]
    I have the exact same response as B. Nice. Parking on the same block as my destination isn’t my concern. It’s the congestion. It’s sitting at a stop sign forever. It’s the people who think a four way stop means slowing down and then continuing through. It’s cars driving slowly hoping a parking spot will open up. It’s people zipping too fast into parking lots hoping to get to that open space they spotted. It’s medwoman’s son’s UPS truck double parked as it delivers his shoes from Zappos (I KID!!! Except that Zappos is my #1 shoe source…they are great for those returns).

    Honestly, it’s also the bicyclists who don’t follow the rules of the road and pedestrians that treat a crosswalk as if it’s no different than the side walk. Look left-right-left, people, don’t just saunter through without even a glance to see if the car is proceeding through the intersection because it’s been sitting there for three minutes already. (Side rant: is it me or do people walk FAR slower than they used to? It’s rare to see someone scurry a little faster to be kind to the motorist waiting for them to cross, let alone give a little wave. Pet peeve.)

    I’d far rather have a parking structure on the periphery of town that doesn’t require me to fight traffic TO GET to it and walk to my destination.

    BTW, I almost always bike to Target. I’m not riding downtown with my youngest because, like B. Nice said, the congestion makes me feel like it’s not safe.

  18. Growth Izzue

    Ginger, there already is a parking structure on the edge of town that always has open spots, the garage on 4th and G behind the Regal Cinema.

  19. Ginger

    [quote]Ginger, there already is a parking structure on the edge of town that always has open spots, the garage on 4th and G behind the Regal Cinema.[/quote] That’s too far away.

    (HA. I kid again!)

    I should have said free parking. I hate paying for parking. Maybe that makes me a bad citizen or something, maybe it is unrealistic for any new parking structures, but it’s the case. It seems somewhat hostile towards people who just want to go downtown to spend their money. Same thing for the timed parking zones.

  20. B. Nice

    [quote]Keep the downtown as it is, we don’t need ugly parking meters lining the streets[/quote]

    There are centralized meters now, no need to line the streets.

  21. B. Nice

    [quote] It seems somewhat hostile towards people who just want to go downtown to spend their money. Same thing for the timed parking zones.[/quote]

    I think charging a nominal fee to park is designed to help free up parking spaces for those making quick shopping trips downtown. If it would help the situation I would have no problem paying a dollar an hour (or 25 cents for 15 minutes) to park in the core section of downtown. (then make parking free in the garages for those willing to walk to save a few bucks).

    As far as timed parking zones, with out those I imagine UC Davis folks would just use downtown as a free parking lot, I think not have timed zones would create nightmare parking issues.

  22. Growth Izzue

    Ginger:
    [quote]I should have said free parking. I hate paying for parking. [/quote]

    Most of that garage is free. I’ve never paid to park there, up to three hours are free and I’ve always found a spot everytime I’ve used it.

  23. Growth Izzue

    B. Nice
    [quote]I think charging a nominal fee to park is designed to help free up parking spaces for those making quick shopping trips downtown.[/quote]

    What makes you think there will be more available parking downtown if they charge a fee? Do you think that people park their cars and say since I’ve got two hours and I’m going to stay downtown and use the full two hours? People are going to come and go whether they pay or not.

  24. Ginger

    GI: [quote]Most of that garage is free. I’ve never paid to park there, up to three hours are free and I’ve always found a spot everytime I’ve used it.[/quote] Oh, I thought only one hour was free and then after that you have to pay.

    Regardless…I hate the time limits thing, too. Three hours gets eaten up quickly when you want to shop, have lunch, stroll around town.

    It makes a difference…it affects behavior. After being downtown for two hours, I know the clock is ticking. I have to get back to my car, pack up the stroller and fasten the car seats…I’m not going to figure out what a different zone is and repark. I’m going home.

    So, yeah. I want to park for free for as long as I like. 🙂

  25. B. Nice

    “What makes you think there will be more available parking downtown if they charge a fee”

    I said if paying helped the parking situation I don’t have any problem with it. Since it is being raised as a solution by people who know more about this then, I assume there is evidence that it helps. I can say on weekdays I never have problem finding a spot in the E St Plaza lot, even when street parking is scarce.

  26. odd man out

    It’s my understanding that the city has not done a parking utilization survey in 7 years, and that they are basing some of their decision-making on 7 year-old data. UC Davis does parking utilization surveys 4 times a year in order to gauge the need for more (or less) parking facilities.

    The city should also keep in mind that UC Davis plans to add 5000 additional students by 2020 plus the corresponding staff and faculty to handle the increased student population. Yes, many of those folks will be competing with you for downtown parking spaces.

  27. odd man out

    It’s my understanding that the city has not done a parking utilization survey in 7 years, and that they are basing some of their decision-making on 7 year-old data. UC Davis does parking utilization surveys 4 times a year in order to gauge the need for more (or less) parking facilities.

    The city should also keep in mind that UC Davis plans to add 5000 additional students by 2020 plus the corresponding staff and faculty to handle the increased student population. Yes, many of those folks will be competing with you for downtown parking spaces.

  28. B. Nice

    “So, yeah. I want to park for free for as long as I like. :-)”

    Unfortunately if people were allowed to park as long as the wanted for free, all the core downtown spaces would be taken up by people who work downtown, on campus, or students, leaving few if any for the rest of us. The only way I can see to avoid this from happening is either set time limits or charge.

  29. Ginger

    B. Nice [quote]Unfortunately if people were allowed to park as long as the wanted for free, all the core downtown spaces would be taken up by people who work downtown, on campus, or students, leaving few if any for the rest of us. The only way I can see to avoid this from happening is either set time limits or charge.[/quote]I understand the conundrum, and I’m glad I’m not charged with finding a solution, but I also know that I’m not alone in my feeling. Having to move your car after a couple of hours means you’re likely going to leave the core at that point…and that assumes you chose to go to the core and battle the congestion (and maybe pay for parking) in the first place.

    Just like moving the train station would mean lots of lost purchases in the core (that slice of pizza, that magazine, that xyz), the unfriendly parking situation must mean the same, if not much more.

    Mr. Toad [quote]No place to park. Another consequence of densification. Beware of what you ask for.[/quote] I keep coming back to this quote. It’s always the unintended consequences…

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