I read with some fascination this morning the column from Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning quoting from a reader who argued for a new parking structure in the Davis Downtown.
Here are a few of the points that were raised:
“Adequate parking is absolutely essential to the health and vitality of the downtown.”
“You simply have to add parking spaces.”
“We have not added significant parking since the two parking garages were built on F Street and G Street.”
“The city councils since around 2000 have done little more than ‘study’ parking and report on it, tinkering with the edges of the issue…”
“Unless and until the City Council builds more parking structures, the situation will continue to deteriorate (after all, UCD and Davis continue to add people). A significant number of housing projects have been approved by the City Council and on campus without adding one additional parking space in the downtown.”
“We need at least one more large parking structure in the downtown. Alternatively, three small parking garages (each adequate for 60 cars) will help a great deal.”
Bob Dunning responds to this with: “That’s a plan that certainly has my vote.”
Will Bob Dunning also support the financing of that plan? Just wondering.
My response to this is: if only it were all that simple. There are two basic problems here – the first problem and the reason why we are not currently talking about a parking structure is we do not have money from a parking structure.
We could certainly put a measure to fund such a structure on the ballot – but there is no guarantee it would pass. The city last June put forward a measure to fund road construction and it received 57 percent of the vote – but that was not enough to reach the two-thirds needed.
The problem here that Bob Dunning hints at the outset of his column, but doesn’t return to: parking is a controversial issue and he notes the controversy around the 15 parking spots at Davis Ace – an issue that was relatively small in scope and privately financed.
So it sounds great to argue that we “simply have to add parking spaces,” but there is not necessarily agreement on this point.
I find it remarkable that neither Bob Dunning nor his confederate address the issue of where the money is going to come from to finance this.
Back in March 2014, the city unveiled the Downtown Parking Management Plan. That plan has been slowly implemented with the latest push for paid parking generating a lot of controversy.
The basic issue is one of fundamental disagreement – while Bob Dunning believes apparently that the problem is lack of supply – not everyone agrees with that view. In fact, there is actual data to dispute that view.
Now Mayor Brett Lee back in 2017 argued, “We don’t have a supply issue, we have a parking management issue.”
He sees paid parking as “a very important if not essential tool in the management of demand.”
Bob Dunning and his confederate note that there were two parking garages built and F and G – but neither one is apparently aware that the Parking Garage on G is never filled. NEVER.
The management advocates argue that we can simply manage existing supply if we find a way to get downtown employees to stop parking on surface streets and move into the garage or even some of the neighborhoods or the city parking lots such as off Richards – a lot that is normally empty.
I have seen the data that the city has on parking during peak hours – and having had to fight for parking near G St during peak hours, I can sympathize with those unhappy at the lack of peak hour availability of parking on surface streets. But by the same token – I could always parking the G St Parking lot and walk two blocks to my office (during the Spencer Alley renovation) – there was never a time I had to park above the lowest part of the second level. Never.
I therefore have a hard time advocating for another parking garage when in fact we aren’t even fully utilizing one of the two we already have.
It is also worth noting that the groups actually charged with studying these issues are not the ones pushing for more supply right now. Expanding Parking Supply was definitely part of the management plan developed in 2014, but it was considered a down the line recommendation – in part because of the financing issue but also because we needed to implement modern management practices first.
We also have recommendation coming out of the DPAC (Downtown Plan Advisory Committee) who are tasked with helping to implement the Core Area Specific Plan. They have actively solicited input from the community, but their preliminary recommendation is to “prioritize parking management before adding new parking.”
I have talked about the cost considerations and also the management issues, but there is a third point not discussed by either Mr. Dunning or his confederate and that is future use. A key question that many on the committee have told me is the question as to where future transportation is headed – are we headed toward more cars on the roads, are we headed to a situation where there are more in the community, thus we need more parking, or are we headed in the opposite direction.
The confederate argues that there have been a significant number housing projects approved by the council and on campus – but a lot of those are within walking distance of the downtown – a lot of those folks are students and students increasingly do not have vehicles and likely will not use those vehicles to come downtown in order to search for a parking spot.
The people I have talked to – many of them experts on the subject – believe that before we build a very expensive parking structure, we need to have a better sense for need and the direction of driving as the primary mode of transportation.
It is true we might be able to pass a revenue measure for a downtown parking structure – might is the operative word – but that will come with an opportunity cost – the opportunity not to fund perhaps a more pressing need.
The reason why we have not added a parking structure in over 20 years is therefore complex – it is costly, there is not widespread agreement on the need and there is increasing resistance by segments of this community to simply add more capacity for environmentally unfriendly modes of transportation.
—David M. Greenwald reporting