Will Council Impose Paid Parking over Community Opposition?


On Tuesday the Davis City Council will be asked to make a determination on one of the longer standing issues of controversy in this community – the issue of paid parking.  Among other things, staff is asking that the council approve their paid parking policy recommendations along with their rates, and authorize an agreement for two years for parking management services.

Under the policy, if the council approves it, they would provide 690 paid parking spaces in the southeast quadrant between First and Third Streets and D and H Streets.  This represents just under one-third (32 percent) of the public parking downtown.  Paid parking spaces would have five-hour limits.

The rates would be fifty cents per hour off-peak and $1 per hour from 11:30 to 1:30 and 5 to 10 pm each evening.  Paid parking would be enforced between 10 am and 10 pm each day with a reduction of non-paid parking to 90 minutes outside of the paid parking zone from 10 am to 8 pm.

The issue goes back to spring of 2014, when the Downtown Parking Task Force completed their work with the Downtown Parking Management Plan.

The task force unanimously supported a package of 19 recommendation to improve downtown parking management and supply.

From their standpoint, the task force studied “parking management best practices, listening to experts in the field, reviewing downtown surveys, and studying downtown parking data.”

From their standpoint, paid parking will help ensure on-street parking is available for customers by pricing meters to achieve 80 to 85 percent occupancy rates.  Right now, studies have shown that there are sufficient numbers of spaces, but locations like the parking garage at 4th and G remains under-utilized.

By encouraging downtown employees – estimated at 15 to 25 percent of all spaces – to use a more distant available parking supply, they believe they can increase the parking capacity for customers.

Moreover, city staff believes this will allow “the City to extend timed parking restrictions, enabling customers to spend their money downtown longer without ticket anxiety.”

Staff notes that the two-hour time restrictions will no longer be needed “to force parking turnover because pricing naturally results in users staying only as long as needed, up to five hours.”  Furthermore, they will eliminate re-parking restrictions since “downtown employees will likely shift to more appropriate parking locations.”

Staff had previously argued that “applying paid parking in the southeast quadrant best balances the varied objectives for managing the downtown parking supply, best prioritizes users, while accommodating the needs of many user groups, and is operationally feasible.”

In April 2016, the city conducted a downtown parking occupancy rate survey.  Both on-street parking and off-street public lots and garages were surveyed.

While the ideal rate was roughly 85 percent, the average occupancy rate in 2016 was about 70 percent.  The problem was that, during peak hours, the southeast quadrant was about 94 percent full.  They hope by establishing paid parking and shifting employee parking to outside of these impacted areas, they can better manage the current parking supply.

From Councilmember Brett Lee’s perspective, we don’t have a supply issue, “we have a parking management issue.”  He added, “Paid parking is a very important if not essential tool in the management of demand.”

But not everyone agrees with this.  We have been noting opposition to the plan for some time, coming from bodies like the Davis Chamber and Davis Downtown.

In a letter from the Davis Downtown, they noted that they had conducted a parking survey sent out to their members in December.

In a letter dated January 28, they present three key findings.

First, they find that “71% of the respondents feel that the automotive parking supply in Downtown Davis is not adequate.”  They write: “It is difficult to park in front of the location you may want to shop. However, due to the closeness of the shops and restaurants one can easily walk from one location to the next. The time limits on street parking does require one to shop quickly.”

Second, most business owners are not supplying X permits to their staff.  They found: ““It’s very hard to keep moving their cars every two hours. When the parking permit for downtown for employees is so expensive.”

Furthermore: “When they need to move the vehicle, there is no space and they have to drive around, in some cases 10 minutes or longer to find parking.”

Finally, the vast majority, 77 percent, do not support the City’s plan to implement paid parking downtown.

They write: “Time limited free parking is necessary, requiring payment for short stops is a disincentive to shopping downtown. I won’t stop for lunch if I have to pay for parking to pick up a sandwich.”

Moreover: “Better enforcement of parking time limits. Shorten time limits in high demand areas. Bigger push for employees to park remotely.”

Meanwhile, in a January 28 letter to the mayor from the Davis Chamber, they note that they have “carefully considered the current Paid Parking Proposal that the Council will be voting on and has decided to provide strong objection to the current proposal as presented and respectfully request that you vote NO on the current proposal.”

The Davis Chamber, they write, “does not believe the proposal will enhance the unique character of the City or enhance downtown business vitality. We are equally skeptical that it will meet the objectives laid out by City planners to “increase parking availability.” Additionally, the proposal as presented to the community, does not do anything to address the real issue that must be addressed of increasing the supply of new parking spots.”

The key question now is whether the council will be willing to implement paid parking over the objections of both the Davis Downtown and Davis Chamber.

—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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13 thoughts on “Will Council Impose Paid Parking over Community Opposition?”

  1. Craig Ross

    I really don’t understand the business position here.  If the problem is really the 15 to 25 percent of employees parking in spots that should go to customers and if business owners really don’t want paid parking, then the answer is pretty simple – FIX THE PROBLEM.

    1. Alan Miller

      The problem is, there is no way to fix the problem.  I was on the parking committee 15 years ago and that was the problem.  The problem is, employers can’t force employees to use X permits, and the City can’t force employers to provide X permits.  So 15 years later the problem is still the problem.

  2. Todd Edelman

    The Davis Chamber, they write, “does not believe the proposal will enhance the unique character of the City or enhance downtown business vitality. We are equally skeptical that it will meet the objectives laid out by City planners to “increase parking availability.” Additionally, the proposal as presented to the community, does not do anything to address the real issue that must be addressed of increasing the supply of new parking spots.”

    In the proposal the “supply” of parking IS increased, without spending huge money for more permanent physical parking spots.  Can’t they see the difference? Consider that airports with perhaps a couple dozen gates handle thousands of flights a day, or their own retail members’ stores have a single cashier — users come and go, sometimes there’s a bit of wait. It’s not magic, not some slightly hippy fantasy, it’s just smart business practice…. and if Chamber members had to pay for all of it – at 30 or 40k per newly-constructed space – I bet they’d have a different opinion. Right now the under-utilisation of 4th St is extremely stupid business practice.

    The prices are extremely reasonable: While it might be free to ride a bike Downtown for lunch… just to illustrate this point: A group of five co-workers who do this journey by car with a different person driving each day will each pay a total of $1 per week for their lunchtime parking. If they gross $50,000 per year, that’s a 0.002% tax for lunch!

  3. Bill Marshall

    Well, DT merchants could always insist on a ‘validation’ thing, where they could stand in for the customer’s parking expense.  Most DT businesses overcharge anyhow.

    My first concern is, most often, I park downtown for maybe a half hour… but will have to pay for a full hour, it appears… I can afford it, but ‘it don’t seem right’…

    My second is, that the costs of installation of ”meters”, including maintenance (and eventual replacement)/operation/enforcement costs won’t be completely recouped by the City… and I’d add in all the staff time to date, and in the future, to the calcs…

    Grew up where you could feed the meter for as little as 12-20 minutes at a time… appears you’ll pay the same for 20 minutes as for an hour, under the proposal as presented here…

  4. Don Shor

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    Among the 19 recommendations of the Downtown Parking task force report from 2013 are these two items:

    #1: Establish paid parking in SE Quadrant. • Extend time restriction from 2 to 4 hours. • Charge lowest price possible without creating a shortage. Elsewhere: • 90-min free on street. • 2-hr free on surface lots. • 3-hr free in garages.

    #16: Expand parking supply. • $150,000 for feasibility study, design concept, and preliminary engineering of a site-specific parking structure. • Boy Scout lot • 3/4/E/F site • Amtrak lot • A location between B/C/1/4 Streets

    It seems these are supposed to happen in tandem. From the executive summary:


    Importantly, the recommendations presented in this report should be considered an integrated package, intended for coordinated implementation.


    While the Task Force recommended further study of the exact timing and best strategy to address this need, any project substantially increasing the parking supply will require multiple years of planning. Thus, the City should undertake this process as soon as possible in order to be prepared to act when appropriate. Additionally, gathering the funds necessary to undertake such a project will most likely take considerable time; thus, it is important to define the project and its costs, and the appropriate strategy to fund it as soon as possible.

    So while I have no dog in this fight, I submit that the downtown business community has valid reasons for their concern with this implementation.

    1. Bill Marshall

      You might have a ‘dog in this fight’ in the not too distant future, Don.  The ‘free’ on-street parking on Fifth, north side, from L to Pole Line, is heavily used by students connecting to Unitrans to go on campus, and is, and may well be more so, by employees of DT businesses.

      Just a thought. 

      We’d probably schedule our trips to Redwood Barn so as to find space where you have off-street parking. Usually, not a problem to do so…

        1. Bill Marshall

          Don is absolutely correct… no one posting here should opine/speculate anything, unless they have (irrefutable?) evidence… same for the articles posted… my bad… I was in serious error with my previous post(s)… have self-reported one of them…

          1. Don Shor

            I don’t care if you were speculating, I just wondered if there was more to it than that. There is a plan somewhere in the works to finish the bike lanes on 5th Street, restripe, etc., but nothing has come of it since I first heard about it (a couple of years ago now). As you know probably better than most who read here, there are some complexities with reconfiguring 5th Street past L. But I personally doubt parking there is on their radar.

  5. Ron Glick

    My dear friend, teacher and Vietnam Veteran, Bob Beagle, may he rest in peace, once said to me “The finest form of both leadership and teaching is by example.”

    Yet while the Davis City Council seems set to impose paid parking at least one question remains, will the members of the CC give up the perk they enjoy of having a permit that exempts them from city parking regulations?

    When parking is free it sort of makes sense that if a member of the City Council is in a meeting downtown they shouldn’t need to take a break to move the car every two hours. However if the members of the CC are so set on imposing paid parking they should lead by example, give up that perk, and pay like everyone else they are asking to pay. That would be leadership by example.

    I have been raising this point for over a year and in that time I have had several members of the council tell me how infrequently they use their city issued exemption placards. But these conversations miss the point because it says nothing about how their behavior might change when the rules change. Besides, it isn’t whether they use them or not. Its that they are going to impose a cost on the rest of us that they are exempted from paying themselves. It is that they are failing to lead by example, something that is an example in, and of, itself. It’s simply a bad example failing Bob Beagle’s test of leadership.

    It is in this exact context of privilege that the pigs in George Orwell’s classic book Animal Farm proclaimed, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

    Sadly, at all levels of government, we see too often elected officials fail the test of leadership by example. Will the Davis CC rise to occasion?



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