Council Does Not Make a Decision as Tensions Rise about Paid Parking Proposal


By Linnea Patterson and David Greenwald

City Hall was packed on Tuesday night to hear the city council’s decision on the highly controversial proposition of paid parking downtown. Consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard presented in front of Mayor Brett Lee, along with Mayor pro tempore Gloria Partida and council members Lucas Frerichs and Dan Carson. The suggested plan, which proposes fifty cents to one dollar an hour metered parking in the southeast quadrant of downtown, hit a nerve with many residents, which was reflected in the public comments.

During the staff presentation, consultants argued, “Paid parking is uniquely qualified to balance the availability needs with the efficiency needs of parking.”

In contrast to public debate over paid parking as a revenue generator, she argued that “paid parking is considered as a policy tool rather than a revenue tool.”

The ideal arrangement is to charge the lowest possible price that moves the parking availability into a 60 to 80 percent sweet-spot, where there is neither too many vacant parking spaces nor too few.  The ideal would be about one to two per block most of the time.

“The purpose of paid parking is for parking management, NOT revenue generation,” she explained.  The belief is that by varying the cost of the parking they move the needle in one direction or another.

Critical to the problem is the fact that, during peak hours at lunch and dinner, the SE quadrant averages about a 91 percent occupancy, ranging between 86 percent off-street during the evening peak hour to as high as 93 percent on-street.  Ideally they would like to reduce that occupancy to between 60 and 80 percent.

Once parking occupancy goes over 80 percent, it increases the parking search time, traffic congestion (as vehicles circle looking for parking), vehicle pollution, street-crosswalk conflicts, noise and frustration, with drivers unable to find parking.

Why is paid parking the answer? she asked.  It provides a simple and effective, market-based solution, prioritizes parking for customers, increases customer parking capacity, increases time limits while eliminating re-parking restrictions, reduces traffic congestion and maximizes the effectiveness of other parking recommendations.

But, while the staff was fairly certain about their solution, the community which showed up was overwhelmingly opposed.  According to Mayor Brett Lee, emails ran about five to one against paid parking.  Moreover, estimates about public commenters had them running about 70 percent against, as well.

Many citizens voiced their concerns for the people who work downtown, and the impact paid parking will have on them economically. One Davis resident expressed this problem: “When you reduce the number of cars being parked, whose cars are you excluding? It’s not going to be the rich guy – it’s going to be the poor guy. In Sacramento, one-fifth of wage workers spend their income on parking.”

Not only is paid parking a concern for employees, but for business owners as well. Many downtown business owners are worried that meters will discourage potential customers: “Paid parking will only encourage people to shop in Sacramento, Woodland, and Vacaville. Paid parking will turn downtown Davis into a ghost town.”

Much of the heat of public comments was directed at the city staff themselves. As downtown parking spots have been slowly replaced with bike racks and restaurant seating, many residents wonder if the city is attempting to solve a fabricated problem: “These are the same city employees that eliminated 100 parking spots downtown. They created a problem, and now they want to ‘fix’ it. If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

However, not every citizen opposed the change to downtown parking. Many argued that it’s a safer alternative to circling the block in rage, which risks the safety of pedestrians, bikers, and sanity: “We Americans come to expect parking everywhere we go, but parking is not free. We pay for parking in the times we circle the block, looking for a spot.”

The overwhelming public disapproval of the proposal was clear, as Mayor Lee noted about the city council receiving emails five to one against the motion. A concerned resident noted the gravity of this resistance: “If you move this forward with this kind of opposition, we have a lot more work to do in this community. This rests largely on the public’s trust of your leadership.”

After over two hours, public comments wrapped up and council members began to ask clarifying questions of the city staff.

Ultimately, the council decided not to reach a resolution on Tuesday.

As it approached midnight, Mayor Lee admitted he still had “gaps in [his] knowledge” and asked council members to postpone the motion until the next city council meeting. Lee emphasized the importance of the public comments, and that this decision is something the council “cannot afford to get wrong.” The motion will reconvene on March 22 at 4 PM.

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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.

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30 thoughts on “Council Does Not Make a Decision as Tensions Rise about Paid Parking Proposal”

        1. Bill Marshall

          Roman emperors knew the technique well…

          Paid parking arguments (pro or con) oft seem like gladiatorial combat… as if t were “a life or death” thing…

          We’ll have to wait to see whether ‘thumb up’, or ‘thumb down’, and who claims to be the victor… but, apparently, Tuesday, the thumbs were placed where they cannot be seen…

  1. Ron Glick

    A couple of points that I think need mentioning.

    First, staff asked the council for authority to raise rates as high as $2/hour without CC approving the increases. As I have said all along the 50 cents to one dollar rate was a loss leader so I am not surprised, but, what I find interesting is that nobody seemed to know about this until it was proposed last night. Was it not in any press release? Did the CC even know about it? Will Arnold never mentioned it in his contributed remarks. No CC member brought it up with me and I spoke privately with many of them. As of now my best guess is they hid it from the public until the last minute but I wonder did staff hide it from the council too?

    Second, in the presentation the staff arbitrarily changed the finding of the Parking Task Force that enforcement  should be from 10-8 to 10-10. They did so on the screenshot showing the yet to be enacted recommendations of the Parking Task Force. They never explained why this finding was changed. They also never explained why they included enforcement on Sunday when the Task Force finding was for enforcement Monday-Saturday.

    My guess is that to get it to pencil out with a 10 year budget surplus they had to add more enforcement time. By adding two hours in the evenings and Sunday they increase the enforcement time 40%.

  2. Tia Will

    Ron is not wrong in his statement that raising the rate to $2.00/hr could be done without the specific approval. However, what he is not sharing is that within this same context, depending on results, the rate could also be dropped to $.50/hr also without specific city council approval. This is to provide for flexibility in achieving the target goals, not as a money grab, as he may be implying.

  3. Tia Will

    I get it that many people do not want the change to metered parking downtown. I am in favor of it. I recognize my minority position. That is not what this post is about, nor are the pros and cons stated last night.

    I am disturbed by two trends I saw put forward by  the anti metered parking side:

    1. It is all about the generation of money by “greedy” people. I do not for one moment believe that our city council members are in this “for the money”. Several speakers made the point once meters are installed, they will never go away. Probably true, but hardly nefarious, as they are a response to changing needs that will also probably not be going away.

    2. More troubling to me was the anti-expert theme which recurred throughout the evening. “High priced consultants” and “so-called experts” were repetitive themes. It should dismay no one that people go to school, and work to gain experience in their field precisely so that they can benefit from the time and work they have invested. This is the way our educational system works and while the work of experts should never be accepted blindly without critical thinking. Nor should it be denigrated out of hand by those who may be very emotionally invested in the issue, but who have no special expertise but rather want their personal objective to be given higher priority in the discussion.

  4. Jim Hoch

    Maybe I am missing something but why are they proposing converting the entire downtown at one time? Coin operated parking meters are cheap to acquire and install and likely you could buy them used from cities converting to central meters.

    They could put meters on the south side of every block so people who value convenience would be able to park there and the other three sides of the block would be free. Whoever collects the money from the meters could do it quickly if they were all in a line.

    Moving forward you can either increase the price of the meters or add the meters to another block face to keep enough open spaces.


    1. Bill Marshall

      Jim… a few points… how much “change”/coinage do you carry with you on a given day?  Do you understand how much maintenance is involved in coin-op meters, particularly when folk use foreign coins or ‘slugs’ to “feed the meter”?  Do you understand the costs of collecting coins from meters (collection, sorting, depositing, etc)[that’s why new installations are very seldom coin-op]?  Considering that the north and south side of any block in the Core is much narrower than the east/west faces, your concept of south side only, using coin-op machines would be about as expensive to implement/maintain/collect, at maybe 10% of the revenue…

      Jim, you’re “missing” more than a little ‘something’…

      1. Jim Hoch

        I always have coins in my car as coin operated meters are still common.

        Revenue is not the point. The point is to have some places for those willing to pay a small amount of money.

  5. Jason Taormino

    When paid parking was proposed several years ago I took the time to talk with bar and restaurant workers about whether they ride their bikes or drive.  Those who were driving told me that parking was a stressful part of their lives.  They were not provided with X permits, had little time to find parking, found it stressful to move their car every two hours and regularly received parking tickets.  They unanimously agreed that parking meters would be great for their situation and that they were happy to pay to park.

    I have not heard from the experts that they understood this issue and were confident paid parking would work.  I wonder what other college towns across the country do with their parking?



  6. Alan Miller

    bar and restaurant . . . unanimously agreed that parking meters would be great for their situation and that they were happy to pay to park.

    Not sure I understand . . . the workers are supposed to get X permits, I doubt they would want to pay every day, park and move their cars on longer shifts, or 90 mins if outside core.

    They were not provided with X permits . . .  and regularly received parking tickets.

    I don’t understand this either . . . one parking ticket avoided will cover most of the cost of an X permit if they bought it themselves.

    1. Don Shor

      My conclusion is that employees park wherever they can to get to work on time, can’t plan ahead readily because traffic is unpredictable, and just take their chances on getting tickets.

      1. Alan Miller

        This implies that for some reason the employees would be ‘happy’ to pay to park, if I understand correctly?  The parking meters are to deter employees and make X permits attractive, and why would they want to pay for parking every day at meters that have a five hour limit?

  7. Alan Miller


    The retired parking consultant who suggested tabling the idea, and instead making the whole downtown 2-hour parking with no returns at all downtown.  This would prevent the 2-hour shuffle and force employees to find other options.

    Downside:  anyone parking and then moving to go to another store on another block face could get a ticket.

  8. Alan Miller

    As for the five hour limit:  seems like it’s inviting students to use downtown as their ‘oops I’m late for class’ parking location.  Five hours is enough time to get to campus and back, have two classes and lunch.

  9. Ron Glick

    “This is to provide for flexibility in achieving the target goals, not as a money grab, as he may be implying.”

    Sorry Tia, you are inferring something I wasn’t implying. My point is that as far as I know these rates were not shared with the public. Everything I read in both the Enterprise and The Vanguard said 50 cents or a dollar yet when we get to the actual staff presentation to the CC they are asking for the authority to go to $2/hour without returning to the CC for permission.

    Lacks transparency, no?

    I do however believe, that going to 7 days a week twelve hours a day, instead of 6 days a week ten hours a day as the Parking Task Force recommended is about making the program show a 10 year budget surplus.

  10. Don Shor

    I just watched through the public comments from the council meeting. I would just like to say that when three of our local business owners of longest duration — Jennifer Anderson of Davis Ace Hardware, Alzada Knickerbocker of The Avid Reader Bookstore, and Dan Urazandi of Bizarro World — take the time to weigh in so cogently on an issue that directly affects their businesses and customers, the council and public would do well to listen.

    You need the stakeholders on board for a decision like this, and they clearly aren’t on board. Take the time to do this right if you’re going to do it at all.


    1. Bill Marshall

      Don… isn’t everyone in town a “stakeholder”?  Or just business folk and downtown property owners?

      Your 8:46 post is ‘telling’…

      I have a lot of respect for Jennifer… she reminds me so much of her Dad, who I also had the privilege to know… Don was ‘cool’…

      1. Don Shor

        Don… isn’t everyone in town a “stakeholder”? Or just business folk and downtown property owners?

        You need the stakeholders (which includes everyone, in different interest groups) on board for a decision like this, and they (the business owners, one of the stakeholder interest groups) clearly aren’t on board.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Ok… I agree (je d’accord)… as long as we are in agreement that it is the ‘community’… not just DT interests, not just the ‘social values’ advocates, not just one or two segments of the community…

          Yet, finding “consensus”, with every ‘stakeholder’ (or stakeholder group) agreeing, is neither real, nor ‘democratic‘…  maybe a “fools errand”…

          I dislike the risk of going to paid parking (costs vs revenue), but am open to taking the risk… I’ll deal with whatever the outcome is.

          I would not strongly support more paid parking, nor would I oppose it.   lean towards trying it.

          I grew up on the SF peninsula… paid parking downtown in San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City (County seat)[loved a meter, in front of a funeral home, downtown Redwood City, that showed “expired” where most meters there showed “violation”], has been around longer than I have.

          If it is revenue neutral, or better, I would support/not oppose… not enough ‘facts in evidence’, presently. But, if we don’t try it, we will have no “facts”..

          Most of the discussion to date has bee


    2. Mark West

      “Jennifer Anderson of Davis Ace Hardware, Alzada Knickerbocker of The Avid Reader Bookstore, and Dan Urazandi of Bizarro World — take the time to weigh in so cogently on an issue that directly affects their businesses and customers, the council and public would do well to listen.”
      “You need the stakeholders on board for a decision like this, and they clearly aren’t on board. Take the time to do this right if you’re going to do it at all.”

      Jennifer and Alzada were both members of the Downtown Parking Task Force that recommended (unanimously) implementing paid parking five years ago.

    3. David Greenwald Post author

      Don – The problem is that while they are all business people, they are not necessarily experts on this point. There are studies, analysis and science not to mention examples from other communities here. I think a lot of people are reacting out of fear rather than knowledge on this.

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