Part Two of the Paid Parking Discussion Comes Monday


With a packed house and more than two hours of public comment on Tuesday, March 5, the council made the call to adjourn the meeting and reconvene.  After originally scheduling the meeting on paid parking for this afternoon, the city reconsidered and determined to set the meeting for Monday, March 25, at 6:30 pm.

As an adjourned item, there will not be additional public comment.  The same staff report will remain.

During the original staff presentation, the consultant’s perspective was, “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 are 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 southeast 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, and noise and frustration as drivers are unable to find parking.

“Why is paid parking the answer?” the consultant 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.

In fact, the community in general has also seemed to be 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.

As Alzada Knickerbocker, who served on the Downtown Parking Task Force and is a business owner, of the Avid Reader, pointed out in a recent op-ed, “Generally, the consultants and the community are at odds.”

She noted that the Chamber of Commerce presented 500 member names in opposition. The downtown group against metered parking provided nearly 1,000 more names.

She wrote: “Shoppers are continuing to sign petitions at downtown businesses that will further augment the current numbers.

Reasons for opposing paid parking are many. It’ll change the community feel of our downtown. It’ll be one more reason to keep customers away and compel them to shop online or in surrounding communities. Only during certain times of the day and week is parking an issue. Customers who come weekday mornings find parking readily. Paid parking could be installed incrementally — in the F Street lot, for example — and, where it currently exists, extended into the evening.

She said, “There are other mitigating solutions proposed by the city’s Parking Task Force, most notably exploring availability of existing parking, including permit parking, purchasing by businesses for their employees and improving transit options into the downtown.

“Before the council on March 25 will be the most extreme and costly remedy of all, one least capable of reversing. Most who patronize our downtown are opposed to such a measure. We call upon the council to seek solutions that will retain the friendliness and accessibility of the center of our town. We ask that the council reject metered parking where residents live, work and shop.”

We have not heard from the council yet on this matter.

During his state of the city address, Mayor Brett Lee was vague and somewhat guarded on the issue of paid parking.

“Council is supportive of downtown,” he said.  “We have good intentions.

“The city has limited resources,” he said.  “We don’t have $20 million for a (new) parking garage.

“With paid parking there is this understandable dislike for having to pay for parking,” he explained.  “One of the ideas is to have paid parking because we don’t have the ability financially to build a new garage.”

The mayor also noted that a “good chunk of the people parking in the downtown are employees or actual students.”  He said, “The question is how do we incentivize folks to not use parking spaces which would be better used by people who are shopping in our downtown?

“It’s kind of a tricky situation,” he said.  “I would say that the council is open minded, we want to do what will support downtown.”

He added that paid parking is still an open question for the council.

“When you look at the big picture, it is no surprise that we would look at the idea of paid parking,” he said.

With no need for a staff report or public comment, the council could quickly get down to the business of figuring out a way forward on the highly contentious issue of paid parking.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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23 thoughts on “Part Two of the Paid Parking Discussion Comes Monday”

  1. Darell Dickey

    But, while the staff was fairly certain about their solution, the community which showed up was overwhelmingly opposed.
    On the other hand, the community has remained overwhelmingly opposed.

    I think we may have too many hands here. Reporters seem to just love saying this, but it doesn’t need to be said multiple times in the same article.

    And ya know, it is more nuanced than for/against paid parking. There were many who took issue only with how the spillover and/or X permits would be handled. That is a separate issue from the yes/no on paid parking in the core, yet these comments have consistently and inappropriately been lumped in with the NO camp. And that includes for the countless time, all reports in the Vanguard and Enterprise. There were many commenters who did not hold a position specifically on the metered aspect (and even those who were FOR metering, but cautioned against ignoring the collateral aspects), and yet these folks were consistently counted as against meters. A bit more objectivity here would be refreshing.

  2. Alan Miller

    With no need for a staff report or public comment, the council could quickly get down to the business of figuring out a way forward on the highly contentious issue of paid parking.

    They could also quickly get down to the business of doing nothing.

    1. John Hobbs

      “the business of doing nothing.”

      Honestly, I have not had any trouble finding a parking space in Davis when I stop for a late lunch or cup of Joe on my frequent forays to buy musical instruments. A campaign to stop distracted driving would serve you better. And yes I’m talking about moms and dads picking up and dropping off kids and also you might want to make bigger stop signs as no one there seems to really get the concept.

  3. Alan Miller

    I’m pretty ambivalent about this . . . the current situation sucks, paid parking sucks, parking structures suck (UGLY, UNDERUTILIZED AND EXPENSIVE).

    And yet as someone who tries to park in SF and Berkeley on occasion, Davis is a breeze, even during peak.  Unless I want to park in front of a particular store and didn’t allow the time to walk two blocks. (OF COURSE I USUALLY WALK OR BIKE)

    What is going to be a disaster is the five-hour parking.  When I was a student and realized I was too late to bike or bus, I’d jump in my car for 90 minute parking downtown for a 50 minute class.  A few bucks for 5-hour parking — HAPPY NEW LATE STUDENT PARKING LOT, DOWNTOWN DAVIS.

    1. Bill Marshall

      For similar and other reasons, 5 hour parking should come off the table, now… or, if not, I’d prefer ‘no limit’… will have consequences (many, negative), to be sure, but not ‘capricious nor arbitrary’… and cut expenditures for enforcement, big time.

      Have dealt with paid parking, have dealt with ‘free parking’… I truly care not.  I’ll deal with it, either way.

      I would like it if the discussion was rational, but that is a foolish ‘aspiration’… not singling out the VG conversation, but in general… the issue is not life or death, but the extreme pro AND con arguments have a ‘religious/cult-ish’ flavor… makes me want to expectorate…

  4. Don Shor

    Given the high cost and basically irrevocable nature of installing meters, and the apparently overwhelming opposition to this plan, the council should reject the current proposal and defer action on paid parking. I suggest they consider a collaborative process of providing incentives to employees and businesses to see if  peak demand can be reduced. I’ve previously proposed one method of doing that, but a steeper fine structure and ramped up enforcement might need to be part of it. In a year they can assess whether demand has been abated.

    I think it would be a mistake to proceed with the current proposal without first exploring alternatives.

    1. Mark West

      “I think it would be a mistake to proceed with the current proposal without first exploring alternatives.”

      I agree there are problems with this proposal that need to be worked out, but we have been ‘exploring alternatives,’ as you put it, for nearly 20 years and they haven’t worked. Why would anyone think that repeating the same actions over and over again will result in a different outcome?

    2. Bill Marshall

      What Mark said…

      Paralysis by analysis… time for CC to fish or cut bait… despite what anyone says, whatever decision is made, it can be undone/redone sometime in the future…

      Disagree with Don, as to ‘irrevocable’ (a sword that cuts both ways, as it were… a decision to not implement paid parking [which we already have, BTW] is “irrevocable”?  Cited as a precedent handed down on titanium tablets?)… I agree that it is unpopular to many, and that should be a consideration… in 2019… but now is the time to make a decision, and live with its consequences, one way or the other… further discussion on ‘paid parking’, in 2019 is futile (we will be assimilated, one way or the other)

      I keep saying, I care little… can deal with either course, now, or in the future… but whatever decision is made, it should be made, and laid to rest for 2-5 years…

      Other options have been proposed, but none are ‘on the table’ for CC, and there has been little/no progress made by the Davis Business community on the options they either can implement on their own, or bring to the CC as a unified group, to help them implement… bunch of whiners, for the most part… if there should be additional parking, where is their financial backing to implement? Concrete (pun intended, sort of) proposals that the majority of businesses support?

      1. Bill Marshall

        Oh… credit to David, for previously asking the question of “what do the businesses propose/support”…

        What appears to be Alzeda’s suggestion of “more transit” has no indication of  ‘who pays for that?’

        Or, is it like what we are asked to do with school parcel taxes, “it’s for the kids”… maybe we need more taxes/diversion of expenditures for “more parking… it’s for the business folk”?

  5. Alan Miller

    What appears to be Alzeda’s suggestion of “more transit” has no indication of  ‘who pays for that?’

    There is no source.  Look at the history of the massive increase in service on Yolo Transit over the last 30 years.  Oh, yeah, there isn’t any.

    “Route 42, where aaaaaaaaaaare youuuuuuuuuuuuu?!!!!!”


  6. Edgar Wai

    For the sake I f parking manage to dynamically leave one or two free spaces on each block, I think we only need to install one or Two meters per block. The rate could be 25c for first 20 minutes then 25c for each 10min after.

    Since not all businesses oppose meters, we could ALLOW them to install meters in front of businesses that do want meters. The business and supporters can bare the cost of installing the meter, and the business can collect the coins themselves.

    1. Robert Canning

      What do the businesses support? One only has to look at the survey done by DDBA. Question 18 has a variety of responses, but given the menu of options to improving parking in downtown Davis, fully 75% of respondents suggested that building an automobile parking structure was the way to go.  This was followed, in descending order, by “adding automobile parking spaces” (60%), a combination of free and paid parking (what we already have) (43%), all free parking (41%), paid lot parking (26.5%), and parking meters with free and paid periods (22%). Several other options had smaller percentages, including paid street parking (10.3%). 

      So where does Ms. Knickerbocker come up with increasing transit options?


      1. Bill Marshall

        Self-evident (?)… her business benefit, responsibility/cost is the “burden” of others…

        She and Stan (on CC @ time , no recusal as I recall, but might be wrong) strongly opposed the project that brought Borders Books to town… then, and now, sure seems “it’s all about… (‘me’?)”

        Don’t blame her for looking out for #1, but tend to discount her message

  7. Robb Davis

    The principles and practices that should guide the final decision are straightforward and largely captured by the parking task force and other study groups:

    1. Parking is not free but treating it as if it is creates scarcity because it is over-consumed.

    2. Charge for parking as a management tool, to reduce overconsumption of a limited commodity, not as a revenue generation tool.

    3. Do not determine a fixed price up front, rather, determine what price or combination of prices, clears approximately one parking space per block at all times.  Modern parking meters can allow for flexible pricing and flexible pricing should be the norm

    4. Price parking based on intensity of use, which means pricing higher where occupancy rates are traditionally highest (southeast core) and reduce price (even allowing free parking) further away from desired zones (such parking could still be time limited).

    5. Price parking higher for longer occupancy.  That is, encourage turnover but allow longer parking by using graduated rates for longer parking.

    6. Those wishing to park the longest (downtown workers) should be pushed out of the core into other options… including

    7. Expand parking options by using Old East and Old North neighborhoods and incentivizing those parking longest (downtown workers) to go there.  This might include very low cost X (or other) permits made available only to businesses who must register relevant license plates (this is one area in which the task force made an error—X permits cost too much). Keep all money generated by neighborhood parking in the neighborhood for neighborhood enhancement.

    8. Direct drivers more aggressively to discounted/free parking zones.

    People will pay to park

    The downtown will not die if paid parking is introduced.

    There will be less congestion and circulation if these steps are taken.

    Retail sales in the downtown will likely decline if paid parking is introduced. They will decline NOT because of paid parking but because most shoppers are moving online and have been for about a decade.  If we want to create more retail opportunities downtown then we must figure out a way to create a large amount of housing in the downtown so that large numbers of people can live there, thereby attracting retail to meet their quotidian needs. 

    One problem with the way the conversation has evolved is that various actors have tried to pull apart/take out parts of the plan that do not appeal to them.  The problem is, the task force saw downtown parking as a system—a rather complex system.  Taking out key elements of a complex system leads to its collapse.

    1. Robert Canning

      Well put Robb.

      One final point of contention I have with the downtown business owners. They have claimed over and over again that “the community” does not want paid parking downtown. I can’t remember where I read it but they have presented around 2500 names/signatures on petitions to the CC in opposition to instituting paid parking.

      Let’s face it – 2,500 names is about 2% of the population of Davis. The business community downtown is not representative of Davis and shouldn’t be claiming that they are or have special knowledge of what “the community” wants.

      They essentially have stonewalled the parking problem and refuse to budge. (But even their own survey shows that a small group of business owners support parking on the street or paid parking all over downtown Davis.) They talk about the towns that don’t have paid parking (Palo Alto, La Jolla, and others) but don’t talk about the towns that have active parking programs like Chico and San Luis Obispo.

      I believe the CC needs to move forward with some version of paid parking in the southeast quadrant. Exactly what the rates should be are open to discussion as is the issue of how best to deal with other high-demand areas such as around the Community Church (who were the only opposition who provided any kind of data to back up their arguments) and the issue of employee parking. (Which, by the way, the owners say many of whom do not move their cars when they park in time-limited spots.  See the responses to their survey question No. 26 in which 54% of 56 respondents report that their employees do not move their vehicles when parked in time-limited spaces during working hours.)


      1. Edgar Wai

        Which, by the way, the owners say many of whom do not move their cars when they park in time-limited spots.  See the responses to their survey question No. 26 in which 54% of 56 respondents report that their employees do not move their vehicles when parked in time-limited spaces during working hours.

        Why no chalking? Running out of VIPS?

    2. Edgar Wai

      Robb, I don’t understand the relation between managing parking and CHARGING parking.

      In your point 1, if charging is free, it creates scarcity. In our context, the scarcity exists only during hours near lunch time. And, even given that downtown has no spaces during those hours, how do you conclude that people need to be charged?

      DMV broadcasts it’s wait time online. People can check and decide when they want to go to DMV. If there is a system broadcasting the vacancies of the parking lots, people could check before they decide to circle.

      If the city makes a rule that all parking spaces become 1 hour parking spaces they can also manage parking without charging or installing meters. (No one can park for more than 1 hour during 10am to 2pm.)

      Scarcity is not a reason to charge. In city council meeting, time is scarce but many people could make many public comments, but everyone only gets 3 minutes. It sounds wrong if someone suggest that a speaker must pay to s po eak doesn’t it? It you want to manage comment time, you could use some lifetime record so that the person who had spoke least to the council gets to speak first, and after some hours the comment section is over. You don’t need to charge to manage.

      Charging requires a different justification.


  8. Robb Davis

    If you read my entire set of points you will see tha I propose charging based on demand.  That could mean there are times when it is free to park even in the SE core.

    Charging a fee for an overconsumed (public) good is exactly how to deal with overconsumption.

    The comparison to a CC meeting is meaningless because everyone has a right to speak.  People do not have a right to park.

    Broadcasting vacancies via an app or online sounds good and I have heard (not seen) that some systems allow it on the street.  That does not obviate the need for charging.

  9. Ron Glick

    “If you read my entire set of points you will see tha I propose charging based on demand.  That could mean there are times when it is free to park even in the SE core.”

    Problem is that the time of scarcity is so limited that the proposal requires a public subsidy most of the time today for managing a scarcity problem part of the time. The reason the city changed the finding of the Parking Task Force of going from enforcement hours of 10/6 to 12/7 was not because it was needed to manage scarcity but because it was needed to manage overhead and generate revenue to pay for the purchase and maintaining of the meters, a parking manager and two enforcement officers. Even the Task Force hours of 10-8 Mon-Sun were excessive if they are coupled with meters.

    1. Ron Glick

      Correction last sentence should be:  Even the Task Force hours of 10-8 Mon-Sat were excessive if they are coupled with meters.

      I’ve been thinking about about this “We don’t have a parking problem we have a parking management problem” argument. When I met with Dan Carson he showed me a picture of a mostly empty 4th and G parking garage at a time when the streets were full. I think it was from a Sunday evening. David Greenwald has also argued that 4th and G is underutilized so he goes there whenever he can’t find another place.

      Putting aside as a different argument that the city’s contract to use that space expires in 7 years, as do the advocates of paid parking, I came to realize that we don’t have a parking problem we have a PARKING EDUCATION PROBLEM.

      I ran into a friend the other day who was running to teach at the University but stopped by Mischkas to get a coffee. She told me she never pays to park at a meter in the E St lot. I don’t think she will be stopping at Mishkas on her way to work when the meters go in. Anyway she spoke about when she can’t find a place to park downtown she leaves. I told her about the 4th and G garage. She didn’t know about it but claimed she would try it since she didn’t mind walking a few blocks. This woman has lived here longer than me and I’ve been here 30 years.

      As DDBA has pointed out parking meters are being advocated before exhausting the alternatives. I agree. It seems the city has never gone all in on educating the public about where they can park and is going to an all stick no carrot approach with meters 12 hours a day 7 days a week. Monetizing parking when there isn’t a shortage is a failure of management and a failure of oversight of management by the council.

      1. Edgar Wai

        When I first came to Davis, I assumed that all parking structures were paid parking. Maybe there should be signs in downtown directing people to free parking structures.

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