As we reported earlier this week, the so-called “Freedom to Park” initiative fell short of the required 3938 signatures needed to qualify. A statement from the organizers indicated “we are going to reorganize and resubmit.”
They vowed: “The initiative will still be on the ballot in November as we know 90 percent of the public is with us and there is plenty of time to get new signatures.”
It is hard to know where the public is on this issue. Polling is not available on the issue of paid parking, but parking overall is a middle-of-the-pack issue. With the council scaling down the paid parking initiative, it is not clear that there was that much urgency on the part of the public
However, as noted earlier in the process, there are two issues of legality here that have not been addressed. For its part, the city is not formally commenting. Privately, both the city and attorneys we have spoken with have questions of legality on two points, but have not had the initiative formally legally evaluated until and unless it would qualify for the ballot.
As Dan Urazandi wrote in an op-ed: “While everyone is grousing about a parking shortage, the city has spent the last 20 years removing more than 100 spaces for bulb-outs, expanded restaurant seating, E Street Plaza, bicycle parking in the street, etc.”
One way they were going to create the additional parking spots would be to remove the bulb-outs. That creates two separate problems. The first problem is with ADA law.
Under the American with Disabilities Act, cities and others are required to keep buildings and access points compliant with current ADA law. However, rather than have an active requirement that they must retrofit buildings, sidewalks, streets, etc., the law requires that when you make improvements or repairs, that you at the same time have to upgrade to adhere to current standards.
So if you had an undisturbed sidewalk, you would not have to put in an ADA ramp. However, once you create one, you can’t then remove it. The bulb-outs are in most cases necessary to create the ADA ramps and, therefore, to remove them would put the city likely in violation with the ADA if they were required to remove them.
Moreover, the city could simply challenge the initiative and likely get such a provision tossed out.
The second potential problem is related to the first. The initiative sets a baseline of “1888 auto parking spaces and 1888 bicycle parking spaces in downtown, an increase of around 120 auto and 240 bike spaces. It bans paid parking throughout Davis…”
While the initiative doesn’t tell the city exactly where to put them, removing bulb-outs and other features that have removed parking spots over the years has a cost. The drafters of the initiative do not evaluate what that cost would be.
Remember, this is a city that is running an $8 million deficit each year. As we reported yesterday, the city needs about $10 million each year for road repair and has maybe half of that.
There is no funding mechanism by which to fund changes to the downtown roadway that are being proposed here, whether it is removal of bulb-outs, removal of or relocating bike parking, adding angled parking and restriping the streets.
We asked some officials whether it is legal to have an initiative that requires the city to make major expenditures without a proposed funding mechanism. Again, the city has not evaluated this legally and thus does not have a definitive answer, but the people we asked do not believe it is legal.
Some of these problems are of course avoidable. Simply remove the requirements that the city add parking spaces and the like, and they could probably pass an initiative that prohibits paid parking in the downtown.
But that does leave the question as to why they want to do that when the city council backed off from paid surface parking and have limited paid parking to the surface lots like the E Street lot. Given that there is a paid parking lot across the street from Dan Urazandi’s business and it is usually at or near capacity, how is its presence causing him a problem?
Finally, as we have pointed out previously, the biggest problem with parking in the downtown is not addressed by this initiative. During most of the day, there is ample parking available on the streets. The times when capacity is down to less than 20 percent and even less than 10 percent are during peak hours.
A big unresolved problem has been that of employee parking. Employees park on the streets and then simply move their vehicles every two hours to avoid getting a citation.
With paid parking, that practice would have a cost and many would seek either the X-permit areas where they can simply park and walk, or park far enough out to avoid having to pay for parking.
In theory at least that would free up the surface parking spots for customers.
At least in the informal Davis Downtown Parking survey, business owners indicated that “4% of employees who work downtown park in time limited spaces.”
The city reports do not have great data on this, stating only: “Employees (despite the low monthly rate of $10 for an X permit) likely opt instead to utilize on-street parking in the downtown core.
“The implementation of paid parking will likely influence more employees to purchase the X permit. Paid parking will allow the City to influence employee behavior through the use of a rate structure. The current time-limit-only model for on-street parking allows employees to park all day for free as long as they move their cars one or two times during each shift. In many cases, employees do not need to move their cars due to the lack of consistent enforcement. Paid parking would be easier to manage for enforcement and it would provide a monetary incentive to participating in the X permit program.”
None of this of course is addressed by the initiative. I have often maintained that if employers did a better job of policing their employees on this matter, they might avoid the need to have the city implement less favorable solutions.
But the “Freedom to Park” initiative remains silent on this vital issue.
—David M. Greenwald reporting