Editor’s Note: Every week on Friday the Vanguard will send all five of the candidates a question that they will be asked to respond to by the end of the day on Thursday for a Friday publication. The answers are posted in the order that they were received.
Answers are limited to 350 words.
Recently the Davis City Council voted on the Downtown Parking Task Force Recommendations. The goal of the recommendations was to “help to ensure convenient spaces are easily accessible for shoppers with short-term parking needs, in the area where the greatest concentration of retail and service businesses who depend on this type of parking access exists.”
Part of that plan involved creating paid parking to incentivize employees and other long-term users going to parking garages rather than street parking. Moreover, the task force saw this as a package deal that would not work with parts segmented out.
Given that the council voted to exclude paid parking from the plan, at least for the time being, how will the parking task force plan that was passed work to free up street parking for short-term users in the near future without the paid parking component to act as the incentive stick?
I will begin by pointing out the relationship between a City Council and any appointed body. First, the Council should give clear direction. Second, as the elected body, the Council is responsible to the voters and must exercise its best judgment on behalf of constituents. This means that an appointed body should not expect all of its recommendations to be adopted.
I am on record as opposing paid street parking in downtown Davis, so I think the Council made the right decision, so far, in this case. As I have previously stated, street parking in Davis is a service to customers provided by businesses that they support. In return, these businesses provide financial support to the City from tax revenues, rate payments, and fees. Having meters does not actually prevent employees and others from re-parking. And it is reasonable to expect that parking meters would discourage customers from coming downtown.
The Task Force Report recognizes that parking space is available, that the downtown problem is distribution rather than number of open spaces, and that employee parking and re-parking is a primary reason for the distribution problem. The recommendation for additional employee and employer parking options (recommendation #2) can make a difference, as can expanding employee parking locations (also recommendation #2) if promoted and used. It is clear that the existing employee parking program did not generate sufficient numbers of permits to make a substantial difference. However, increasing the cost of employee parking permits (recommendation #3) would further discourage use of these permits. As I stated above, just having parking meters does not prevent employee street parking and re-parking, as anyone who has worked in downtown Sacramento already knows. Other recommendations will help by freeing up a few spaces and opening up additional areas for employee parking.
This question is not about new ideas, and space prevents describing other approaches. So I will close by stating that human nature and habits can provide better solutions; while paid parking should be viewed as a last choice, rather than a management tool, for creating more convenient parking for customers in downtown Davis.
My starting point when considering city policies is the impact they will have on fostering a sustainable community. Our downtown is key to developing economic sustainability, and insufficient parking management is a constraint to increasing downtown economic activity and revenue. Council actions to date do not provide for the resources necessary to implement an effective downtown parking management plan.
Paid parking is first and foremost a management tool to provide downtown customers access to parking near their destinations. The Task Force concluded this based on empirical evidence from many cities including Davis. It also generates revenue streams sufficient to implement critical parking management tools.
On March 25 the City Council approved implementation of (among others) the following “Phase 1” recommendations:
#2: Increase employee parking location options—in Old North and East neighborhoods and the Regal lot
#3: Increase employee permit fees
#11: Develop transportation and parking alternatives campaign
#12: Collect quarterly parking occupancy data
#13: Explore voluntary shared parking district
#15: Streetscape improvements
#18: Improve transit options into downtown
Phase 1 recommendations also included studying the expansion of the parking supply (#16) but the Council voted to remove this recommendation.
Recommendations 2, 3 and 13 would most directly free up street parking with recommendation 2 creating over 250 new permitted parking spots. However, given the lack of revenue generated from these recommendations it is unlikely they will be implemented. This is because implementation of the approved recommendations would cost over $300,000 but would generate annual net revenues of only $10,000.
Council has yet to approve Phase 2 recommendations that include paid parking (Recommendation #1) and important management tools such as upgraded enforcement technology. Using conservative occupancy assumptions, staff estimates a net annual revenue stream of over $250,000 from this component (after the equipment is paid off—4-5 years). This revenue is critical to implementing the comprehensive plan, which was supported by Davis Downtown, the Chamber and YCVB.
 Though not a recommendation of the Task Force, Council should impose the restriction that all revenue generated by paid parking (if implemented) be used for parking management and supply expansion efforts.
I support the vote and current direction of the city council. I generally agreed with the proposal for paid parking in a limited area as suggested by the Parking Task Force, but I cannot support moving forward at this time without a clear financial plan. I support the work of the Task Force and would like to see the other recommendations put in place and look forward to the report within a year to asses if the incremental changes helped to alleviate peak parking time problems.
Two recommendations need to be implemented immediately: signage to help visitors find existing, underutilized parking garages/spaces and educating downtown business owners on the existence of employee parking passes for employees. Business owners should want to maximize the customer experience by increasing parking availability and minimize disruptions in the work day by workers leaving to move their cars. In the long term, we need to work with downtown building owners to encourage a more diverse mix of retail, restaurant, residential and office space. If we have an optimal business-type mix, the high parking demand at meal time would be decreased, and it will have the added advantage of varied tax income.
With the loss of RDA monies, a parking structure will need a different funding source. Potential sources could include bonding when fiscally prudent (not now) and as a part of a larger planned transportation hub in conjunction with the Richards underpass, the conference center and the Nishi project.
For location of a multilevel parking structure, I prefer the current Amtrak lot site, which is almost always full. I am interested in a resident pass to recoup some funds from people parking from out of town. This structure would also be a more ideal location for employee parking in the impacted area. It would be safer for late night workers as it is closer and better lit than distant neighborhood parking pass locations.
Even without the paid parking component I believe that the task force recommendations can still make an impact on parking downtown.
For starters, establishing a tiered-fine citation system will encourage repeat offenders out of the core area. Virtually every downtown employee I have talked to has gotten a parking ticket before. Most of them are willing to eat the $43 if it means they can park closer to work. Once they start getting $129 dollar fines behavior will change.
Expanding parking enforcement from 10am to 8pm and including Saturday will also help to push employees out of the core area. Saturday workers currently have no incentive to move out of the core at all and the same holds true for night-shift workers.
Removing the “D” permit option for employees will also help to free up street parking. Considering the fact that the “D” permit is less than a third of the cost of the “X” permit, and is located at the First & F structure, it’s no wonder that we issue twice as many permits as spaces available. Those employees who are unable to find a spot frequently use on-street parking, occupying a potential customer space.
Finally I do believe the parking task force plan, even without paid parking, will still generate revenues which can be used to try and implement some of the other recommendations. The tiered citation system is expected to generate $55,000 in revenue and the streamlined permitting process will generate anywhere from $22,000-$115,000. I will admit I don’t know what the revenue estimate for the streamlined permitting will be without paid parking as an incentive to get employees to buy more permits, but I imagine we will find out soon enough.
The revenue generated won’t be enough to fund all of the other task force recommendations. Once the council gets a revised estimate of incoming revenues they should choose the recommendations they believe make the most direct impact. Looking at the decline of citations issued over the past decade my money would be on upgrading parking enforcement technologies.
The revenue proposed as a part of the parking task force’s plan did not adequately address the funding required to implement, nor did it address the concerns of many of our downtown patrons, residents, and businesses. Our city cannot afford to spend $1.5 million until we identify funding sources. We need to look at solutions to our problems that work with our current budget realities.
We also need more discrete data on the parking habits of our downtown drivers so that when meters are put in place, we know that our policy is creating the greatest outcome with the least impact. We also need a more comprehensive outreach plan to measure and encourage employee business usage. Much less than half of downtown businesses have employees that use X permits.
We need a parking plan that works for our downtown patrons and businesses. I believe that we need to assess the impacts and redesign implementation based on those findings given the concerns of customers, residents, employers, and business owners. As our economy continues to recover, we cannot look to mitigate downtown parking issues merely by introducing charges to those who use the spaces. We require a more nuanced approach that not only avoids impacting downtown businesses, but increases capacity. As I mentioned the night of the vote, I believe we do need to assess options with the Amtrak lot where we could move to a permit process for locals or other measures allowed under our agreemet.
There are still many aspects to the parking plan that will improve our parking issues downtown with little cost like adjusting parking enforcement shifts and increasing employee parking options.
Ultimately, the parking task force plan can’t and won’t be the last effort to improve our parking situation in Davis. I believe that we need additional innovative solutions.