City to Look Further into Downtown Parking

Back in June, the issue of the Davis Ace Hardware proposed additional parking lot generated considerable discussion about both paid parking and the Core Area Specific Plan (the subject of this week’s conclave Wednesday at 6 pm at Sophia’s).

The council at the time was willing to grant the project (on a 3-1 vote), but also several councilmembers were very critical of the inability to follow best practices.

Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee called paid parking “a very important if not essential tool in the management of demand.”  He argued, “We don’t have a supply issue, we have a parking management issue.”

When the Downtown Parking Task Force put together their recommendations, they argued for the need to understand that the task force’s 19 recommendation were a package deal.  However, that package unity fell apart when a group of people opposed paid parking.

The city is still trying to implement the package of recommendations and staff is set to return to the city council in the near future to have another discussion on recommendation 2 (paid parking) and recommendation 8, tiered-fine parking citations.

In the discussion in June, Robb Davis, the lone dissenter on the Ace proposal, put much of the failure of the downtown parking task force on himself.  He said, “I take this decision as an indictment of the work I’ve tried to do on parking in the downtown.”  He said, “It’s a finger pointing at a failure to move forward a comprehensive plan that I helped to formulate before I was on council.

“This is a discussion about parking,” he said.  “We have options to expand our parking by several hundred spots, we haven’t done it.

“We have absolutely tied one hand behind our back by not instituting paid parking on block faces on the street,” he said.  “As Brett said, the evidence is clear on that.”

He noted this was the “accepted wisdom among all urban planners about the way parking should be handled today and going forward.”  He views this proposal as an indictment on what the council has not been able to do.  “This is an inevitable outcome – people see that they’re not having their needs met, so they take it upon themselves,” he said.

“I can’t vote with the planning commission on this (speaking of the Ace project), because I believe it goes against everything we should be doing on parking,” he said.  “But I do believe that we can achieve the ends that you want to achieve.  It takes the grand bargain.  It makes us take a step back and use the management tools that really do work in the real world.”

Brett Lee said, “Even though on this one little piece of downtown we are probably not moving in a congruent way for what our vision is with the downtown, that doesn’t take away the fact that it’s important that we try to implement those recommendations because we know that in the long run that is going to be beneficial to the downtown.

“Regardless of what the vote is right now, we need to push forward on those recommendations,” he said.

There  is an information item on the agenda this week on the Downtown Parking Management Plan.  Back in December, council gave direction to implement paid parking in city-owned, off-street garages and lots.

That has not been started as of yet.

The reason is twofold.

First, “While staff has received a cost estimate from our current vendor for multi-space meters (MSMs),” there is a dire “[d]esire to coordinate hardwiring of power supply for Parking Guidance System and MSM.”

But, more importantly, there are indications that the city council “may desire to re-consider direction given at 12/20/16 Council meeting.”

Staff is planning to return to council in October “for a dedicated discussion on downtown paid parking options” with key considerations of: on-street vs. off-street, geography, scale, technology, enforcement, and implications to existing time-restricted parking.

In the meantime, the tiered-fine citation system with “escalating citation fine structure applied to repeat downtown parking offenders” is in progress with the police department set to hold a public hearing to implement this recommendation.

In the meantime, the city is also exploring possibilities at the Amtrak parking lot.

A memo from Ethan Walsh to Brian Abbanat indicates that there was $125,000 originally granted to the city for development of the Amtrak parking lot.  The source of that grant funding was “Proposition 108 and/or Proposition 116 bond funding. It is also my understanding that in the application for this funding, the City represented that the parking to be constructed in the Amtrak parking lot would be free.”

The Grant Agreement from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) provides that the project is subject to certain conditions and assurances, including that “[t]he parking facility developed as part of the Davis Intermodal Rail Station Improvement Project will be restricted for use by Amtrak patrons only and will not be used for general downtown parking.”

Further, the Grant Allocation declares, “Commission shall be entitled to a then present value refund, or credit, at State’s option, equivalent to the proportionate funding participation by the State towards the Project in the event that Recipient, or successor public entities, fail or cease to utilize the Project property for the intended public passenger rail purposes or sells or transfers title to the Project.”

Mr. Walsh writes the statement that the state “has the right to recover the proportionate value of the parking facility based on the State’s contribution of grant funds, seemingly in perpetuity, is problematic. I do have some questions as to whether the State could enforce that provision, but I think as a practical matter it is not worth the City’s time to research whether the City could challenge that provision. Even if the City were able to argue that the State’s remedy is unenforceable, that would be costly and it [will] likely impact our ability to secure grant funding in the future. It would not be a fight worth pursuing, even if there are problems with the language of the grant.”

He continues, “The Agreement also does not explicitly prohibit the City from implementing paid parking on the lot, but the original grant application from the City did declare that the City would not charge for Parking, and the grant documentation does incorporate the original proposed project by reference. At a minimum, there is a lack of clarity as to whether or not the City could charge for parking, and based on that lack of clarity, we would not give the City a legal opinion stating that the City can implement paid parking at the Amtrak parking lot without an amendment to the Grant Agreement.”

Mr. Walsh opines that both he and City Attorney Harriet Stein “think there are good policy reasons for making clear that the City can implement paid parking in the Amtrak parking lot…”

He adds, “It does not appear that free parking was a determining factor for the CTC, and other jurisdictions along the Capitol Corridor do have paid parking.”

He further opines that “we believe that the current free parking at the Amtrak lot results in riders from Sacramento coming to Davis to save money on parking, which is counter to the purpose of having multiple stops along the Capitol Corridor.”

As such they believe the city should engage with both CCJPA (Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority) and Caltrans Rail Division and these talks should involve high level participants, including Public Works Director Bob Clarke and City Manager Dirk Brazil, “so that we can build political support for amending/clarifying the agreement to allow for implementation of paid parking.”

For further discussions on downtown parking and the Core Area Specific Plan, join us on Wednesday at 6 pm at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen on E St.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for

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.

Related posts


    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t see any way forward without the use of paid parking to help the city better manage the supply of parking.  Howard makes an important point – parking is being paid for now, paid parking simply shifts the costs away from the businesses and the taxpayers.

      1. Howard P

        Not sure businesses are paying their fair share today, David… that is a piece of the equation.  General taxpayers have a share, too, but are paying far more than their ‘fair share’… the “frequent flyers” definitely are not paying their fair share…

        1. David Greenwald

          They pay in two ways.  The first way is in in-lieu fees, the second way is in the potential loss of business due to the perceptions about lack of parking.

        2. Howard P

          In-lieu fees are for capital costs… they are, and always have been, inadequate… ‘rock-bottom prices’… businesses are not paying for operations, and maintenance… the former are ‘sunk costs’.. unless the City builds parking structures… ops and maintenance is the uncovered public costs…

          Key word: proportionality…

          ‘Hinge points’ in pricing to make sure that we don’t lose otherwise viable businesses, is part of that complex equation to which I have referred…

  1. Howard P

    Will have to agree to disagree with Keith’s view… all parking is ‘paid’… the question is who pays, and how costs are apportioned… currently, almost all the downtown parking is paid for by the taxpayers… no matter who uses/benefits from it.

    Apportionment will not be a simple equation, but as someone who infrequently uses downtown parking, I’d prefer seeing the “frequent flyers” pick up more of the ‘tab’… am willing to contribute my fair share of the costs, but so should the merchants/business folk, their clients/customers, particularly the ‘out-of-towners’…

    1. Mark West

      The best practice is not based on a fairness issue of who pays, but rather on space availability. The goal is to set the price at a level that allows for a parking spot to be readily available when someone comes to shop. The required price will vary by location and time of day, so the best results come with some form of variable pricing. The critical question is how the City implements the program.

      Where I think the CC made a mistake is when they decided to implement paid parking in the city lots first, instead of starting with the on-street parking.

      1. Howard P

        Mark… nuance…

        space availability. The goal is to set the price at a level that allows for a parking spot to be readily available when someone comes to shop. The required price will vary by location and time of day, so the best results come with some form of variable pricing. The critical question is how the City implements the program.

        No basic disagreement, except I assert that there should be an element of fairness/equity in the complex equation.  And, I question what you may or may not mean by the word ‘readily’… you somewhat cover that with ‘time of day’ expectations… I have a different expectation on a school year, mid-week noon trip than a Sunday mid-morning one…

        Where I think the CC made a mistake is when they decided to implement paid parking in the city lots first, instead of starting with the on-street parking.

        Easier lift…everyone believes that the parking/street adjacent to their residence/business is inherently theirs… the Streets and Highways Code does not support that view (try telling that to any property owner!)… also,control is easier and less costly in the lots vs. on the streets, particularly as to original implementation.
        The City I grew up in had parking meters throughout ‘downtown’… over 50 years ago… not a biggie (parking costs), but the maintenance cost was high… it was much more for ‘parking management’ than revenue generation.  So I get that…
        Davis merchants, through the DDBA, supported paid parking, but wanted every cent of revenue (before expenditures of implementing/enforcing it) to be ear-marked for ‘downtown enhancements’… I hope they have changed their position enough that it would be at least a zero-sum game for the taxpayers…

        1. Mark West

          “And, I question what you may or may not mean by the word ‘readily’”

          The research suggests a target of ‘one free space per block.’ Not my area of expertise, so only repeating what I have read. I have posted the relevant links before.

        2. Michael Bisch

          What? Your statement, HP, about the DDBA position is inaccurate. DDBA positions are in writing & they’re public. So where did you get the false idea about gross versus net parking meter revenue?

  2. Keith O

    “currently, almost all the downtown parking is paid for by the taxpayers… no matter who uses/benefits from it.”

    All homeowners pay parcel taxes for our greenbelts and parks.  Not all homowners use the parks and greenbelts, that’s unfair.  Should a fee be charged park usage?

    We all pay taxes for the bike paths, not everyone has a bike.  Should we charge a bike path usage fee?

    We all pay taxes for bikers to park their bikes in racks.  Should we charge a bike parking fee sinse everyone doesn’t use them?

    Come on now, we must be fair.

    The list of things that taxpayers pay for but don’t use apportionately is endless.

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re raising a fairness issue, but the reality is that we end up with a lot of user fees to supplement costs when existing revenue mechanisms are insufficient – everything from toll roads to gas taxes finance roads and infrastructure.  A public Museum may be subsidized by taxes but still requires an access fee.

      1. Keith O

        I didn’t raise the fairness issue, someone else did when it comes to car parking.  My question is what things that we all pay for but don’t all use proportionately should be fee based?  Don’t use it for car parking when you’re not willing to look into everything else.  After all, we must be fair.

        1. David Greenwald

          And my point is simply that we often have things where the joint payment is insufficient and needs to be supplemented with user fees.  That’s the case here.

        2. Howard P

          Ahhh… the good must be put aside for the perfect… BS, Keith…

          There is plenty of pasta available at Nugget and Grocery Outlet… be sure to re-supply…

          Some of us would rather discuss merits/concerns of the issue at hand… you’re obviously not one of them…

        3. Howard P

          don’t present fee based parking as a fairness issue.

          You presume to tell me what to do or not do!  You should feel totally free to refute my arguments, but you may want to consider whether to cross the line.  And yes, I am suggesting (not an imperative) you not to do something, but I have the Dec of Ind, and First Amendment on my side… and facts…

  3. Alan Miller

    Be careful what you wish for.

    The provision for non-rail (city business) use of the Amtrak lot in the evenings and weekends was negotiated on the part of all stakeholders and greatly benefits the downtown businesses in the evening.  I know because I was a big part of getting this provision through.

    The provision was based on the fact that the lot was full for commuters on weekdays, but excess space was available in the evenings and on weekends.  Part of the negotiation was that the city use parking could be revoked at any time if the parking was needed for rail users, since the state paid for the lot for this purpose.

    A likely part of any review of paid parking in this lot would include whether the lot still has sufficient capacity for rail riders nights and weekends.   Given the increased use of the lot both by rail riders, and downtown business due to the shift to restaurant and club evening businesses, this could certainly be brought into question.

    The City may wish to realize what a great agreement they already have regarding the Amtrak lot, and not look a gift-State in the mouth.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for