Monday Morning Thoughts: Freedom to Park Might Be an Ironic Title

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It kind of reminds me of the euphemistic title the “right to work,” but “freedom to park” is the title of the campaign opposing paid parking in the downtown – ironic because prohibiting the charging of a fee for public parking might do the opposite of what they intend, and limit the city’s ability to provide for parking in the downtown.

An op-ed in the local paper by Robert Milbrodt, Coleman Thomas Randall and Pam Nieberg notes that they rarely encounter advocates of “paid parking” – which is not surprising, given the public discourse.

The problem of course is that without the ability to charge for parking, the city has limited tools to redistribute the congested surface parking spots during peak hours, few ways to preclude employees from occupying those spots and, most importantly, few ways to generate funding to add actual capacity.

The advocates note that “the initiative prohibits the charging of a fee for the public parking that is already provided by our tax dollars.”

While I am not a lawyer and I am not looking at the exact language of the initiative, that phrasing taken at face value makes for some interesting legal possibilities.  First of all, to what extent is public parking provided by our tax dollars?  There are all sorts of public assessments and in lieu fees that might render that point legally problematic.

In addition, what happens if the city argues that current funding is insufficient to maintain those spots – does that negate the already “provided by our tax dollars”?

In short, an attorney would need to look at that provision, but, as currently written, it may not be legally enforceable.

Second, the authors note that “the initiative requires the replacement of the 120 parking spaces that the City has already removed from the downtown. These spaces can easily be replaced by turning parallel spaces into perpendicular or slant parking spaces, for example.”

But can they?  There are several problems here.  The first is that the most congested areas already have slant parking on at least one side of the street.  G Street is a great example.  The block between 2nd and 3rd for instance has slant parking on both sides of the street for a stretch.  There is also slant parking along 2nd Street.

Do the authors have evidence that there are areas wide enough to expand slant parking?

Slant parking is also dangerous.  There is slant parking on G Street outside of where our offices are located – the visibility is not great, cars drive too fast, and bikes are in harm’s way.

The piece argues that the city must replace the parking spaces already removed, but they may not be able to legally enforce this to the extent that the removal was part of making sidewalks and streets ADA-compliant.

Has anyone done an analysis to determine how many spots that were removed can be put back into place?

Will paid parking discourage the use of automobiles?  I doubt it.  I agree with the authors there.  However, the authors write: “[P]aid parking will discourage the use of paid parking spaces.”  That’s the idea.  At least in theory.

One of the beliefs of the parking task force is that a number of surface parking spots is taken up by long-term users of the downtown – namely, employees.  They simply park on the street for two hours and move their vehicle to avoid getting cited.

The belief is that if those individuals would have to pay, they would not be able to afford to park in the downtown and pay for eight hours.  Thus they would move their cars to long-term parking on the periphery and then walk.

That would then free up surface street parking for short-term users.

People would have a choice – they can get the convenience of parking up close, but they have to pay for it.  How much would such an option discourage street parking?  We know from experience that the E Street parking lot fills up during heavy use hours.  Clearly then, some people are willing to pay to park.

It is all a matter of experience and expectation.  When I drive to San Francisco and Sacramento, I expect that I am going to have to pay to park.  Most of the time, I am happy to just find parking.  Even in places like San Luis Obispo, you end up with a choice – you can pay to park on the surface streets, you get 90 minutes free in the parking garages, and you can park far out from the downtown and walk if you don’t want to pay.

When I used to live there, it would depend on how long I was going to be there.  If I had to work in the downtown, I usually parked far out and walked.  If I was getting something quick, I’d drop a quarter into the meter.

Will paid parking reduce the number of vehicles circling?

The authors argue it won’t.  They argue: “Those who are unable or unwilling to pay for a parking space will circle the streets searching for a free space, or they will drive somewhere else.”

There is a problem with that argument.  All someone needs to do right now to find parking that is available is go to the parking garage on 4th and G.  The data that we have presented many times shows even during peak hours, there is plenty of capacity outside of the heart of the downtown.

Will most people really drive elsewhere due to having to pay a dollar or two to park? Given the cost of gas and wear on the car, the only reason to do that is stubbornness.

I suspect, after a period of adjustment, this won’t be a big deal to most people.  Of course, the council has largely backed off of paid parking anyway, so we’re probably looking at ten years down the line.

It will be interesting to see what the specific language is of this initiative, but on the surface, it seems somewhat questionable in terms of legality.

—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 “Monday Morning Thoughts: Freedom to Park Might Be an Ironic Title”

  1. Ron Glick

    “While I am not a lawyer and I am not looking at the exact language of the initiative, that phrasing taken at face value makes for some interesting legal possibilities.”

    Then why are you pretending to be one. I can see you now telling the judge you don’t know the exact wording of the law but…

    Instead of rehashing many disputed and refuted arguments for paid parking why don’t you start by actually reading the text.

    The problem as I see it that has brought this initiative forward is the attempted overreach of the city council and staff by trying to use a 2-4 hour a day problem to monetize a community resource for 12 hours a day.

    1. David Greenwald

      Whether their proposal is legal seems like an important question?  I notice you don’t attempt to address it.

      The council basically backed off the proposal – so I’m not sure why there is a pressing need to push it through and hamstring future councils from potential solutions.

      1. Rik Keller

        Greenwald states “The council basically backed off the proposal…”

        It seems like there is a story to be told there. At what meeting did the Council decide to “back off”? Was this a public decision?

        To my knowledge, the last official direction on parking from the Council was for City staff to bring them an ordinance. Did City staff ignore this? Did Council subsequently instruct them not to?

      2. Bill Marshall

        David… basic fact of life… current CC’s CANNOT (by law) bind future CC actions…  GOVT 101… check with any attorney in the public sector…

        “so I’m not sure why there is a pressing need to push it through and hamstring future councils from potential solutions.”

        El wrongo… nyet… mais non…

  2. Bill Marshall

    Please… let’s not re-morph terms because someone doesn’t want to use (or know?) the common use of terms…

    “slant parking”?  “diagonal parking” is the general term… “slant” has historically been used to describe ocular orifices of certain minorities!

    Have yet to hear “diagonal eyes” used as a racist pejorative…

      1. Bill Marshall

        Darn… you “outed me” [as a “boomer”(later side)] (see big grinning emoticon)… never used the term, but heard it… you also date yourself, but figure that’s “no problemo”…

  3. Darell Dickey

    Perpendicular parking on the street is both a disaster, and an expensive proposition. C Street by the Farmer’s Market is an excellent example. The road must be widened (who pays for that if not the drivers who benefit from it?) and the sidewalk is usually compromised (more than just money pays for that). Bike lanes cannot be used. And now you have folks moving their cars blindly into the street… in the case of the Farmer’s Market times, into a crowd of pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers honking at everybody else.

    I have to wonder how many supporters of this fully subsidized parking are typically champions of socialism. I don’t need a spot to park my car, but man, I’d sure like our tax dollars to buy me a beer whenever I wander into town.

    1. Ron Glick

      Come on Darrell free parking as socialism is a bit of a stretch.

      Q: What does GM have that Tesla doesn’t?

      A: A dividend.

      By the way, I be happy to buy you a beer and discuss it anytime. I’ve been watching the fabulous 2019 49ers at Parkside Bar so if you show up there I’ll get the first round. Lots of free parking and I’ve never failed to find a space. Oddly bike parking on G street is harder to find. Of course Freedom to Park mandates more bike parking too.

       

       

      1. Darell Dickey

        Hi Ron. Is it really much of a stretch? All the citizens pay their money. And then the local government decides how to distribute it. Like the city using tax dollars to foot the bill of “free” parking for all. Even those who may never use it. Much like socialized medicine, yes? Whatever it may be called, it is the opposite of capitalism, isn’t it? (And please note that I’m not here to support either socialized or capitalistic programs. I’m just pointing out what it looks like to me)

        We benefit from all sorts of socialized programs that cost varying amounts of public money… from tiny to enormous: Fire protection. Police protection. Our roads. sidewalks, green belts and parks, bike parking, Military. The list is huge. And none of this is paid directly by the user.

        If these are not socialized, what are they?

        (I apologize for not understanding your GM/Tesla example. And I’d like to because I’ve owned a GM and a Tesla vehicle, as well as the stocks! Do you perhaps mean government subsidies? Because man, there’s almost nothing in common there. But I digress…)

    2. Bill Marshall

      Technical issue, Darell… as far as total area paved, diagonal parking is more efficient, as to paved area needed due to needed aisle width… but less efficient as to total spaces… trade-offs… reality…

      That aside, am not sure whether “right to park” (there isn’t) or “subsidized parking” are ‘right’ terms… I lean towards the latter, as any pavement to allow parking on street is nominally “subsidized”… but being able to park, or have visitors park on the street is OK [particularly in front of my house], and I’m willing to subsidize that… within limits…

      Bicycles take less space… but some of us have disabilities that discourage that…

      1. Darell Dickey

        Thanks Bill.

        Right. I understand the parallel, diagonal, and perpendicular car parking trade-offs of total space, isle space and… obstruction of other road uses. Bike lanes are eliminated for anything other than parallel parking. (or *no* car parking)

        And of course bicycles take FAR less space, and money, and resources, and… They don’t create a door zone, or a hazard of backing into our out of diagonal or perpendicular spaces. And every bicycle we see being used or parked in town represents one less car needed to be stored on a large swath of pavement.

        I of course understand the “not everybody can ride” argument. Certainly there are times when I cannot ride, and end up driving as well. But we must never lose sight of the fact that not everybody can (or should!) drive either. Our school kids for example. And there are folks who cannot afford cars, as well as those who cannot or should not be driving due to disabilities, lack of driver’s license, etc.

        In fact, I personally have (temporarily, I hope) one of those afore-mentioned disabilities that discourage my driving. I’m thankful that I still have personal transportation. My e-bike is playing the part of my knee-scooter right now.

         

      2. Darell Dickey

        And… my agreement with all this!

        >> That aside, am not sure whether “right to park” (there isn’t) or “subsidized parking” are ‘right’ terms… I lean towards the latter, as any pavement to allow parking on street is nominally “subsidized”… but being able to park, or have visitors park on the street is OK [particularly in front of my house], and I’m willing to subsidize that… within limits… <<

        And you forgot one in your list… *Freedom* to park. AS if… But of course in today’s society, we certainly think of driving and parking our cars as a “right” that protects our freedom!

        Massive car congestion be damned.

  4. Richard McCann

    “Those who are unable or unwilling to pay for a parking space will circle the streets searching for a free space, or they will drive somewhere else.”

    Given that this hasn’t and doesn’t happen in any other towns where there’s paid parking, this statement is borne of ignorance.

    1. Rik Keller

      McCann: stated “Given that this [circling] hasn’t and doesn’t happen in any other towns where there’s paid parking…”

      Given this statement from an actual parking expert (Hank Willson, who manages parking policy for the SFMTA) contradicts yours,what shall we say your statement is “borne of”?

      “The goal is to ensure that parking spaces are used and that anyone willing to pay a meter can find an empty spot. “If you price it too high, then people will stay away: They won’t come to a neighborhood and they won’t spend money,” says Willson. “If you price it too low, that leads to more circling for parking, more congestion, and more greenhouse gases.”
      https://www.wired.com/story/san-francisco-adjustable-meters/

    2. Rik Keller

      McCann: to combat “ignorance,” you might also check this out:
      “If off-street parking is expensive, many drivers will hunt for curb parking, an entirely rational response to prices. Thus, by underpricing their curb parking, cities create an economic incentive to cruise. To study this incentive, I collected data on the price of curb and off-street parking for an hour at noon at the same location—City Hall—in twenty cities throughout the United States…”

      “Cruising for Parking” by Donald Shoup, professor of urban planning at UCLA

      http://shoup.luskin.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/02/CruisingForParkingAccess.pdf

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