One of the hottest issues around town has been one of whether to bring paid parking into town. Back in 2017, now-Mayor Brett Lee said of the situation, “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.”
In an op-ed over the weekend Mayor Brett Lee described the current parking situation as “an impediment” to the success and vitality of the downtown.
He noted, based on staff work and the work of the Downtown Parking Task Force, that “at certain times of the day and on certain days of the week, it is hard for people to find conveniently located parking downtown.”
Part of the problem has been that at “any given time” a good number of parking spaces are being used both by students going to class at UC Davis and downtown employees.
The questions he asks is “how do we go about improving the situation? How do we make it easier for shoppers and restaurant goers to find convenient parking? How do we make it so that if you want to meet friends for lunch and run an errand, you don’t get a ticket for staying longer than two hours?”
He noted that, after looking at the situation for a year, the parking advisory committee “came up with close to 20 recommendations.”
In addition to that work, the city also “hired one of the nation’s best parking management consultancy firms. This firm has assisted many communities like Davis develop and successfully implement parking improvement plans where the customers and businesses alike are much happier than before.”
The result was a parking improvement plan with several key components:
- Expanded employee parking areas that enable employees to park for more than eight hours, but located several blocks away from the core of downtown.
- Expanded information systems that let people know how many spaces are available at the city parking lots — which is especially important for the Fourth and G parking garage, which is typically under-utilized.
- Parking meters for about a quarter of the downtown which will encourage students and employees to park in more appropriate locations. In addition, parking meters will allow us to carefully expand time limits for parking in some areas so that people who would like to stay longer to enjoy our downtown can do so.
- The addition of a modest amount of parking capacity through partnerships and the addition of some surface lot parking.
The anticipated cost will be between $.50 and $1 per hour with the revenue expected to cover the costs of parking management and provide funds that would keep the downtown clean and tidy.
He notes, “The purpose of the paid parking component is not to raise funds for the city; it is anticipated to be revenue neutral for the city.”
In the meantime, a long-term fix seems unlikely at this time. Mayor Lee estimates the cost of building “a new additional parking garage would cost approximately $15 million to $20 million.”
He writes, “The city does not have this money and the tax required to cover such an expense would require a $200/year parcel tax for over 5 years just to pay for a new garage.”
Mayor Lee further notes that “the current parking structure at Fourth and G is underutilized.”
He adds that “the parking consultants strongly advise that building additional parking structures at this time is unwise due to changing driving technology and younger people’s transportation preferences.”
While he acknowledges that no one wants to pay for parking, he argues that “the status quo with the parking situation downtown is not acceptable.”
The reality is, as he puts it, “Many people avoid heading downtown because of the current hassles with parking. There is a well-established body of research and practical information on how to effectively deal with the conditions we are experiencing downtown.”
As such, he writes, the question should really be, “Would you be willing to pay a $1 so that you can find an easy and convenient place to park downtown in front of where you want to go, and for those days you don’t want to pay for parking, would you be willing to walk an extra 2-3 blocks to have free parking?”
—David M. Greenwald reporting