Maybe it is because I grew up in a town that always had parking meters in the downtown that I have never believed this was going to be a huge problem. Embedded within the discussion of the future of downtown has been the question – do we go to paid parking, do we build a new parking garage, do we do both?
I tend toward the view that, for the most part, there is enough parking in the downtown. The supply is poorly managed, and thus people congest on the surface streets rather than parking in central locations and walking.
From the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC) perspective, they believe we should “prioritize parking management before adding new parking.” One such tool is paid parking.
But there is some pushback, which could grow stronger.
Alzada Knickerbocker, a business owner in the downtown, spoke out against paid parking, noting that “many long term, well respected business owners agree as do their customers.”
She cited 12 businesses she talked to and stated, “We all agree, paid parking will be a deterrent to patrons of our individual businesses in the downtown.”
Ron Glick has long been an opponent of paid parking and also believes it will act as a deterrent to people coming to the downtown.
For the last two years, I have paid about $75 a month for a parking space behind PDQ in the Tim Spencer Alleyway. But as many are aware, starting this summer the alleyway, badly in need of repair, is undergoing at least six months of construction.
That means those of us who parked in the alley now have to find street parking. The city accommodated us with X-permits, and when that proved to be burdensome they allowed us, at least during the summer, parking on the streets during the day.
From what I have observed, not just during the summer but over the course of the last several years, the city does not have a parking supply issue – although it does get tight during peak hours, especially at night during the latter part of the week.
First of all, there have been many arguments made against paid parking, but look at the E Street Plaza parking lot. That has exclusively paid parking and the reality is that you cannot generally find a vacant spot unless a car is immediately pulling out of the space. So the idea that people won’t pay for parking – if that is the parking close and available – seems misplaced.
Paid parking will mean that people who park long term in the downtown will utilize free locations. For example, the parking garage on G and 4th is underutilized. You can park there for free for three hours – as opposed to other locations where it is two hours. If you wish to park longer than three hours, you can pay a dollar an hour.
The city has recently opened a lot on Olive and Richards that has spaces which are rarely used, and people can park there long term.
By implementing paid parking, people who do not wish to pay and who are mobile can choose. When I grew up in San Luis Obispo, there were three basic parking options. If you wanted the convenience of parking on the street, you had to put coins into the meters and pay. (It’s a lot easier now with machines that take credit cards, you no longer have to collect dimes and quarters).
Second, you could park in a garage and get about 90 minutes for free and then an hourly rate which was fairly affordable. Third, if you wanted free parking, you parked about four blocks away and walked.
The thing to note – both in the case of the E Street lot and other areas that require paid parking – the paid parking has not been a deterrent. People still come to downtowns where they have to pay. Heck, they often pay a lot more than what we are going to charge.
Everything that is done which is new is going to create a period of adjustment. But that is why we have comparative cities with studies to look into policies before we implement the changes.
Do we have a parking shortage? I have looked at the data. During peak times, we are bumping up against that shortage. Certainly, we are on the surface streets. But even during peak hours, I have never gone to the G and 4th parking lot and found cars beyond the first turn on the second level.
By getting long-term parkers and employees off the surface streets, the city would have a better flow of parking and fewer problems finding parking during peak hours.
Do we need more supply? We may at some point and we should look at ways to better utilize it. One thing I would like to see is, as we look at densification and redevelopment on city blocks, that we figure out ways to add parking internally.
One of the models that could work in Davis would be street-level retail and restaurants, offices above and residential above the offices. On the interior of the blocks, we could put parking garages to serve the residences.
That is what they have done in some areas of Sacramento and what they are suggesting with University Mall. Why not reserve the lowest level for patrons? That way, we are not only utilizing space better, we are providing more parking.
Others believe that driving will decline over time. I’m not so sure of that. I think the most likely scenario is more alternative fuel vehicles, not fewer vehicles.
Bottom line, observing the E Street Plaza lot does not lead me to the conclusion that paid parking is going to be a deterrent. People have other options nearby, and yet there is rarely an available space in the paid lot.
—David M. Greenwald reporting