Guest Commentary: Parking Shmarking!! Accessing Downtown.

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Groningen, the Cycling Capitol of the Netherlands, where about 60% of all trips are by bicycle. This is the main public market (though not on a market day). While paid parking is available close to the market, no private vehicles are allowed to drive through the central area of town surrounding it.

by Todd Edelman

Yesterday the Davis Vanguard asked the nine candidates for City Council: The city of Davis will be embarking on its update of the core area specific plan.  Describe your vision for the Davis Downtown – be sure to discuss issues like housing in the downtown, retail business, parking, transportation and other issues.”

There are some really delicious mobility-related ideas here!

To start, bicycle-facilitated peripheral parking and walkable shopping – I don’t think people want major chains to be shopped here, however – from Gloria Partida*; a tax-making structure in the parking lot at Davis Depot – but read on to see why there’s a danger that this could be more so hex-making – from Dan Carson; Luis Ruis waxes excellent about E St. Plaza as Downtown’s “heart” and also “anchors” and some specific distributed businesses; Linda Deos’s broadening of sidewalks and parking management; legitimizing mixed-use and – hooray! – some acknowledgement of my dear BTTSSC** (sic… but really, thanks!) from Larry Guenther; Mary Jo Bryan seems to say that 2nd St will be focused on promenading (and so I suppose 3rd for bikes, yes, yes!), acknowledges Amtrak; Mark West has some similar ideas to above but then curmudgeons himself into the swamp of negativity (he could have addressed this issue with something more constructive, yes?); I am not sure why to Ezra Beeman more than three stories is not small town-ish when it literally makes towns smaller (and I’ve heard that although going above four stories requires elevator and expensive structural elements it can be made by the unit-bang-for-the-buck, so five floors might as well be six?); it’s great that Eric Gudz** mentions the Axis of Existence – though it’s live-play-work and not work-live-play –  but then about listening to business owners, it’s interesting because patronage and profitability are not nouny the same way “parking” is, because – as my grandmother would say – “parking shmarking, it’s about access, bubeleh!”

Curiously, the word “bike” only appears four times in the story; “(bi)cycling” twice; bicycle(s) also twice. With nine candidates, that means on average less than one time per candidate is our town symbol mentioned, and five don’t mention these terms at all!

Gloria Partida* wrote::

 “subsidized employee parking”

 You mean pay people to use the already “free” parking?

 “To further alleviate parking  we need at least one new parking structure.”

Where? At $50,000 per space? Who are the intended users? Replacement for current parking?

Perhaps make it peripheral, for example south of the train tracks so it doesn’t impact Richards and is an integrated part of the 80-Richards & Bus/HOV lane projects, providing a Park & Ride for Amtrak and a regional bus stop adjacent to the structure? Connecting to Amtrak – with a venue or other mixed-use instead of “free” parking to people who happen to work early – and further enabling a pedestrianized Downtown with a 24/7/365 autonomous electric shuttle operating on a fixed route? Build any structure so it can be re-used for other purposes, including using modular construction methods so it can downsized in the middle-distance future when there’s less personal car use.

Dan Carson wrote:

“Such a project could also include additional parking to support downtown businesses”

So now the parking lot would just fill a little later in the morning? And how do these cars get to it, through the Richards tunnel, across Downtown?

Luis Rios wrote:

“can be closed-off”

You mean “opened up”, right? The language of automobilization and entitlement is very important.

Linda Deos wrote:

“adding additional parking at the train station.”

Please see my earlier comments for Gloria Partida and Dan Carson.

Larry Guenther wrote

“Working with the banks to share parking should be a priority.”

Good point about efficiency but how can single-layer surface parking lots be justified at all?

removing parking from the E Street plaza”

See my earlier comments about language to Luis Rios and further up about peripheral solutions: Parking can be removed, but also relocated to be slightly less convenient for some, more convenient for others, and safer for all.

Mark West wrote:

“Parking should be incorporated beneath or behind the new buildings”

 See my comments to Gloria Partida about the costs of building private automobile storage (parking). Beneath can cost $50,000 per space and can complicate above ground construction. Behind can cost $10,000 per space.

“and hidden from the streetscape”

And just how do these invisible cars enter their housing units? Their entrances suck up facade and sidewalk space, and they all move through the streets, creating convenience for some, noise and worse for others.

Ezra Beeman wrote:

“distributed commercial districts around our fringe, which also help reduce congestion and improve quality of life.”

Can reduce VMT compared to trips Downtown, but from what I have seen 90 to 95% of journeys to these districts that are not by foot are by private automobile. They’re still too far to walk to for many, and the City needs to promote the use of specifically-equipped – though commercially-available – bikes that work very well for shopping (not backpacks, not the one-bag carrier on Jump bikes, and not necessarily trailers either.).

I think that the new General Plan should mandate that all new and existing housing has at least a decent corner store within a ten-minute walk, yet with no parking for people who live outside the neighborhood.

Eric Gudz*** wrote:

The parking dilemma is exacerbated by the lack of housing”

Dots connected, okay! But what if people who want to live in Downtown want to keep their cars Downtown?

* We have a lawn sign for Gloria.

**Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission.

*** I have personally endorsed Eric.

Todd Edelman has been a  resident of East Davis for not very long, pleasantly residing on the I-80 side of the Birch neighborhood.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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33 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Parking Shmarking!! Accessing Downtown.”

  1. Ken A

    Before asking that the “General Plan should mandate that all new and existing housing has at least a decent corner store within a ten-minute walk” you should be aware that almost all the “corner stores” in middle class and nicer single family neighborhoods around the US have closed (SF and the SF Peninsula has lost close to 100 “corner stores”  in the past 75 years) since while poor people still go to corner stores to buy one or two eggs, single cigarettes or a six pack that is a little cheaper than a case of beer at Costco most homeowners or home renters do not.  Little stores will still work in areas with higher density and lots of apartments but unless the city is planning to subsidise it each month a corner store won’t work in Northstar or Willowbank (since 99.9% of the residents will just drive past it on their way to Safeway, Nugget, Target or Costco).

    P.S. Where did the $50K/space cost for a parking structure come from?

    http://cal.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2015/07/April-Newsletter-2014.pdf

    1. Todd Edelman

      In regards to:

      P.S. Where did the $50K/space cost for a parking structure come from?

      OK. A little exaggerated. That’s the top of the range for above ground parking from sources I’ve seen for parking structures such as 4th and G – my guess is that is what Gloria Partida is thinking of. But also underground parking that’s mentioned by Mark West can be a lot more than $50,000.

      “Parking garage construction costs range from $2,000 to $45,000 per space, with an average of $19,650 per space. Surface parking lot construction costs ranged from $1,000 to $15,000 per space, with an average of $5,000 per space. Condominium parking space prices ranged from $17,000 to $100,000, with an average price of $45,400.” – National Parking Association’s Parking In America; Annual Review of Parking Rates in the United States and Canada, via this source from the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute.

      In 2012, the average cost for one underground parking space in San Francisco was $38,000; by the time anything proposed was built in Davis, it could happen as late as 2022, and so that figure might actually be low for construction in Davis at that time.

      It’s perhaps useful to also take a more holistic look that includes parking utilization, i.e. the value of unused and empty parking spaces.

        1. Todd Edelman

          falsehoods

          is a little strong, don’t you think? Do you mean to say it was intentional? Based on all the statistics I (finally) referenced, perhaps “conflation” is more accurate than “exaggeration”?

          I would like to know what prices Gloria Partida (and Mark West, and the others) were thinking about when they proposed adding to the parking supply.

      1. Mark West

        Parking spaces are expensive especially for the City as they generate very little tax revenue. Todd’s estimated cost of construction is not far off so it is not worth quibbling over. Even in Todd’s car-less utopia though, we would still need parking for those who are less mobile than others or otherwise need a car, so planning for that parking is important. The way to make core market areas more approachable to bicyclists and pedestrians is to reduce the number of interactions between people and automobiles. That is where the idea of ‘park once and walk’ comes from, as opposed to our current downtown which is filled with private parking lots, each with its own driveway, that encourage (force) people to drive between one downtown location and another as they move about their business.

        What Davis should do is get rid of all of the little private parking lots downtown and replace them with central lots where auto driving patrons may park once and walk to their destination. As noted, however, parking lots are extremely expensive, so it no longer makes any sense to build stand-alone lots. Instead, we should incorporate the parking lots into larger mixed-use redevelopment projects that wrap the parking in retail/commercial businesses on the street level and have apartments or condominiums above. That would provide downtown housing for those who wish to live there, space for businesses to prosper, and parking for those who need it. The City gains the windfall of greater tax revenues both from the increased value of the buildings and from the expanded economic activity.

        One of the challenges downtown is that most of the parcels are too small for this sort of redevelopment. The City could help though by offering to have the City-owned surface lots incorporated as part of a larger project. There are a couple of areas downtown where there are connected parcels with single ownership adjacent to a City-owned lot that might be combined in this way.

        1. Todd Edelman

          re:

          car-less utopia

          I propose nothing of the sort. It’s always about the right tool for the job. I want to internalize costs of driving. I 100% support ADA. I am a carshare member. On numerous occasions herein I’ve proposed exemptions on parking restrictions for e.g. contractors or first responders.

          For now there’s not a good alternative to 4th and G, but the parking at Davis Depot and 1st. and F should be moved south of the railroad tracks. Outside of the area between 1st and 3rd and E and G (or H) Downtown, the current plans for street parking can probably stick.

          I’ve also argued that it’s bizarre to prioritize building housing for cars when people aren’t housed.

          Your suggestions make some sense but still sounds expensive and how are cars supposed to get to these places? Do you want a pedestrianized area Downtown, and if so how big should it be?

        2. Mark West

          “Your suggestions make some sense but still sounds expensive…”

          No more expensive than a stand-alone lot, and far more valuable to the City (tax revenues) and the community (housing, shopping, entertainment).

          “and how are cars supposed to get to these places?”

          That would require old technology known as a driveway. The difference is there would be one or fewer per block face rather than the current four our five feeding the existing private lots.

    2. Todd Edelman

      In regards to corner stores, I probably should have said something like “walkable, small, but high quality”. A lot of the opposition to these is based on the idea that they will increase traffic, but they won’t if there’s no parking, at least for people out of the area.

      As a community I hope we have a discussion about these huge “free” lots at the stores you mention. If we desire a change, do we just wait til eventually driving becomes more expensive due to fuel costs? Do we conceptualize something extreme – and fun! – like making drivers pay to enter the public ROW as they leave a lot?

      My main point – and this is how I address a lot of things in Davis – is that we can’t have our cake and eat it, too: With all this “free” parking, we’re always going to have a huge struggle to get people to shop not by car, and – if we want more than Amazon as the transportation alternative – we need to work hard to make these local, walkable destinations attractive enough to pull people away from those two means.

      You’re correct: If we want the local, smaller destinations we need higher density. But also why is it acceptable to subsidize shopping at larger centers – as we do through under-priced energy, parking and road use – but not local destinations?

      1. Howard P

        In regards to corner stores, I probably should have said something like “walkable, small, but high quality”. A lot of the opposition to these is based on the idea that they will increase traffic, but they won’t if there’s no parking, at least for people out of the area.

        You missed, “should be well stocked (for a large variety of needs), very affordable, friendly staffed by folk making a liveable (or better) wage, and full medical/dental coverage for all employees and their dependents, and most profits (if any, given your other criteria, and after expenses/ SS and other benefits, and taxes) distributed to the neighborhood.”

        And of course, no MV accomodations.

        Want fries with that?

  2. Tia Will

    I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. It was a time when America developed its irrational love affair with the private automobile largely without realizing the downsides to this form of transportation. Parking, shmarking indeed. To even start with the idea that “parking” is the major issue is to buy into the myth that the car is more important than the individual using it. Ohhh, the horror of an able bodied individual having to walk a few blocks to their destination rather than circling wasting gas, time, creating fumes while getting what may be their only bit of exercise for the day. Until we get beyond the idea that our cars are more important than our health, our time ( spent circling instead of walking), our environment, I do not believe we will solve this issue as many European cities have done. Fortunately, the milllenials and younger gens do not seem to have adopted such a rigid perception of the automobile as sacrosanct.

    1. John Hobbs

      ” …its irrational love affair with the private automobile …Until we get beyond the idea that our cars are more important than our health, our time ( spent circling instead of walking), our environment, I do not believe we will solve this issue as many European cities have done”

      https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8744/16951874862_149d919d05_c.jpg

      Until self righteous elitists stop parroting propaganda and admit their biases, this is a pointless discussion.

      The automobile made the thriving socially liberal middle class of the ’50s and 60’s not just possible but a reality. The geographic freedom allowed countless country kids to go to college. It allowed people from California and Maine able to travel to Alabama and Mississippi to stand up for civil rights. It provided incomes and opportunities for previously impoverished African-Americans who otherwise would have been relegated to share cropping or domestic work for slave wages.

      On a personal note, while I still walk to the corner store for a quart of milk or box of tea, at 65 with a blown Achilles’ tendon and compressed lumbar discs, I rely on my car for transportation to doctors’ visits and major grocery shopping. I suspect that the aging Davis population is in the same situation. I find your chauvinistic view of automobiles and characterizations of their owners offensive in the extreme.

      1. Alan Miller

        > chauvinistic view of automobiles and characterizations of their owners offensive in the extreme

        Wow . . . OK . . . backing away from the parlor to the front door of the creepy, dark mansion . . . hey, why is the door locked?

      2. Tia Will

        I freely admit my biases. I have stated my preference to get as close to a car free existence as I can on many occasions. I see nothing any more “elitist”, assuming you are using this as a quasi derogatory term, about my preference for a healthier environment and improved individual health than in your preference for the use of the automobile. Of course the automobile presented certain advantages. It also presented a number of undesirable consequences.

        1. Howard P

          No one questions your choices…

          Many question having your choices foisted on them, and/or being excoriated for not making the same choices.

          Simple.

  3. Don Shor

    I think that the new General Plan should mandate that all new and existing housing has at least a decent corner store within a ten-minute walk, yet with no parking for people who live outside the neighborhood.

    I suspect you would have great difficulty finding a retail tenant willing to open a store in that situation.

    You haven’t been here very long, Todd. I suggest you read the General Plan.

    http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/planning-and-zoning/general-plan

    It has at least a couple of dozen references to shopping centers. Neighborhood shopping centers are protected, and each is supposed to have a grocery store. The size of the grocery store has an upper limit. That was the subject of a long and contentious battle (Google ‘grocery wars Davis’ or read Mike Fitch’s great history of Davis) when the upper size limit was increased to 45,000 sq. ft. The net result of that, along with other trends, was that grocery stores have struggled in two of the neighborhood shopping centers for many years. Convenience stores have done fine in small strip malls locally.

    I really suggest you learn more about the planning history and the planning documents that guide Davis as you make your suggestions. We should have a General Plan update coming up soon, since it is long overdue. But you really need to know more about how we got here before you embark on utopian proposals that won’t meet the needs of the city’s changing demographic.

    1. Ken A

      I have to admit that I get a kick out of reading about what Todd dreams about for Davis.  If Todd were to take Don’s  advice and “learn more about the planning history” we would not get to read funny stuff like moving the train tracks out of town in a “rails to trails” project, putting a green roof on I80 or adding dozens of “walkable, small, but high quality” stores around Davis that no one would go to (since the labor costs at a low volume “walkable, small, but high quality” stopr would be so high that everything would cost even more than 7-11)…

      1. Alan Miller

        > we would not get to read funny stuff like moving the train tracks out of town in a “rails to trails” project

        Did TE write that?  What tracks, to where?  Funded by what?

        I know the County (in league with Angelo Tsodapulopulous) proposes to move the N/S line, and their economic consultant proposed building 4-5 story dense apartment complexes along H Street, not a trail, to justify the expense with “economic benefits”.  Whilst not utopian, it is short several monkey brains.

    2. Todd Edelman

      Don:

      Would shoppers drive to everything from Target to the Marketplace if they had to pay for parking?

      I am reading and learning more all the time. Thanks for your patronizing encouragement, but it’s not possible to do detailed research every single day to make comments herein.

      I understand that the spatial dynamics of neighborhood shopping centers are intentional, but still very few people walk or bike to them. Supporting cycling and walking is clearly not enough a part of this “neighborhood” definition — that’s a big problem.

      1. Don Shor

        Would shoppers drive to everything from Target to the Marketplace if they had to pay for parking?

        Hard to say. Why would private property owners charge their customers for parking, particularly if it might reduce their sales traffic?

      2. Don Shor

        I understand that the spatial dynamics of neighborhood shopping centers are intentional, but still very few people walk or bike to them.

        Yes. Most people prefer to drive. As we’ve noted before.

      3. Todd Edelman

        It’s called internalization of costs, and for example it’s evident when Oak Tree Plaza gets a nice repaving but the streets near it are a mess.

        I assume that changing any rules – essentially making a development agreement more progressive – would be difficult at best, which is why I made the point about toll gates on exits. That’s how absurd the situation is. People want to drive in part because it’s cheap to do so.

        1. Don Shor

           for example it’s evident when Oak Tree Plaza gets a nice repaving but the streets near it are a mess.

          I have no idea what you’re trying to say.

        2. Alan Miller

          > I have no idea what you’re trying to say.

          You just aren’t trying hard enough, Don; you just aren’t trying hard enough.

          PS.  Neither am I.

        3. Todd Edelman

          What I’m saying is that if Oak Tree Plaza and similar places charged for parking, people would consolidate journeys or take alternative means to the store.
          The people who continue to go by car would end up buying the same (or a bit more…. people who ride bikes are good shoppers as they tend to travel to the store more frequently as a modest cargo-oriented bike only carries two bags of groceries easily.)
          The money the store collects goes to fix the streets that people use to get to the store. The streets get more comfortable, and a drive becomes more pleasant, a bike ride even more so.
          The trick is not make it so expensive to park that people end up switching to Amazon – this works better if the store is part of a destination, place meet friends, etc.
          North Nugget as it’s called could be modified without an extraordinary amount of difficulty to make this happen (locating the side shopping cart bay, perhaps to the front of the store, and opening up a second side to the coffee and deli counters that faces the current courtyard seating.) A proper restaurant that didn’t compete with Nugget would help — CVS could do just as well with a smaller footprint and this space (etc.).
          There.

  4. Jeff M

    A fixed and scarcity mindset is a terrible thing to do to an otherwise working mind.

    My guess is that most of those that believe that Davis would be better with fewer cars enjoy a lifestyle advantage that most others are not as privileged to own.

    In fact just living and working within Davis is a privilege that few get to experience.

    People cannot be forced to stop using their cars by making parking spaces more scarce.  They will just go elsewhere.  They already are going elsewhere.  Have you noted how many vacant commercial properties exist in the downtown core area?  I guess we need more coffee and pizza though.

    1. Howard P

      I guess we need more coffee and pizza though.

      Sorry, you forgot “booze”, nouveau cuisine, veggie/vegan sandwiches… other than that, je d’accord…

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