Council to Examine the G Street Closure, Downtown Improvements

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – As the city once again starts to emerge out of the pandemic one question that the council will grapple with is what to do with changes to the downtown—G Street Closure and Outdoor Dining that arose out of the necessities generated by the pandemic.

The council is being asked to provide direction on these items on Tuesday with the potential for funding sources from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funds.

“While there are businesses still struggling from the pandemic,” staff writes, “a significant recovery from the depths of the pandemic continues.”  Staff believes, “Making additional investments into the downtown area will continue to accelerate this recovery increasing revenues for business and the City.”

To gain a better understanding, staff provided a list of options to the DDBA (Davis Downtown Business Association) who surveyed its members to solicit input on the proposed options.

Originally the closure of G Street along with the use of parking spaces and sidewalks for outdoor dining was part of a collaboration with “Open Air Davis” as a pandemic response effort to assist businesses having challenges staying open during times of COVID restrictions.

The city provided them with no cost, temporary use permits for outdoor dining.

“These temporary outdoor uses enabled businesses to continue to operate under emergency conditions and greatly contributed to the survival of many businesses that would have potentially faced closure,” staff wrote.

Even after the re-opening that occurred in June 2021, as many business restrictions were lifted, the city considered having available outdoor space as important, noting that “behavioral change is often slow” and “many customers are still hesitant to dine indoors.”

In summer discussions with DDBA staff, “there was general agreement to revisit the need for the space at the end of August.”  At this time, the DDBA provided feedback on both aesthetics in the downtown and the closure itself.

The city in the meantime said, “The City has received a lot of interest and support from restaurant owners and community members to make the temporary outdoor dining permanent. Many are also eager to move a process forward more quickly, and not waiting until after the pandemic.”

At the same time, “the City has received complaints about loss of parking, and temporary use permits and City street closures benefiting some downtown businesses more than others.”

City staff remains supportive of the Temporary Use Permit (TUP) program, noting, “The pandemic continues to evolve” and thus “recommends TUPs be allowed to continue but parking demand continue to be monitored to see if this needs to be modified or revisited.”

Some modifications include: defining a maximum size of the TUP, only allowing a TUP directly in front of their stores so as not to obstruct neighboring businesses unless they have written permission from their neighbors, and require businesses to have a contract with the city to ensure their TUP and surrounding area is well maintained.

The DDBA, for their part, “stated support for city staff recommended modifications” but wants design and construction guidelines for TUPs, a reapplication process, a city established fee for use of public parking spaces, city enforced cleanliness and maintenance.

DDBA also requested, “City determine an overall maximum percentage of downtown parking to be used for outdoor dining TUPs.”

Staff added that they believe “the TUPs should still be issued as temporary and revocable to allow for continued monitoring of parking needs in the downtown as more people return to offices.”

On the G Street closure the city offered three options—retain full closure, limited time street closure and reopening travel lanes.

Staff notes, “If there is a desire to keep the closure in place, there will need to be aesthetic improvements and modifications of TUPs issued within the street closure area. City staff feels that if there is support for continuing with the street closure there will need to better opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists to use the street and consistency relative to the size of the TUPs.”

Staff added, “Staff has received positive feedback on the street closure but there needs to be adjustments if the temporary closure is going to continue. There have been concerns expressed about parking and a lack of cleanliness/continuity by some businesses in the area.”

DDBA appears supportive a limited time street closure, they want G Street reopened to two-way traffic, TUPs issued, and the city to install removable bollards “to allow for temporary street closures for future special events.”

With the availability of funding, one option for the city to do is refurbish the E Street Plaza.

There are some options, including refurbishing the existing space at a cost of $150 to $250 thousand.

“This effort will help refresh this key plaza and bring more vibrancy back to downtown businesses who have suffered through the pandemic,” staff writes.

A more complete redesign could run upwards of $1 million.

“Redesign the E Street Plaza to create a modern, family-friendly environment with tasteful active features that better activate the space as a core downtown plaza creating an attractive amenity and discovery point for the community and visitors of the downtown area,” they write and could be consistent with some of the planning for the Downtown Plan.

There is also a cheaper option, “Explore a licensing agreement or leasing arrangement with the DDBA of the E Street Plaza for increased involvement in activity planning and also better enforcement of rules relative to behaviors that are undesirable for business activity and enjoyment of the plaza by business patrons and the general public.”

From the DDBA’s perspective, “The complete redesign and reconstruction of the E Street Plaza with new amenities was the highest priority item on the DDBA Board of Directors list for improving downtown aesthetics.

“City staff believes that in the near-term working with the DDBA on a licensing agreement would be beneficial for the existing space and are supportive of the redesign and reconstruction of the plaza, which could serve as a catalyst project to encourage further redevelopment of the downtown area consistent with the vision outlined in the draft Downtown Specific Plan.”

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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  1. Ron Glick

    Was driving from Mischkas to the Co-op yesterday. Before the closure I would have gone up G St. Instead I was stuck on F St. between 2nd and 3rd in a congestion induced traffic jam for several minutes. As soon as I got past 3rd St. the traffic was normal again.This article says nothing about how the closure of G St. is impacting surrounding traffic flows. I hope the CC takes those impacts under consideration.

    1. David Greenwald

      The staff report doesn’t mention any traffic analysis. I have not seen any traffic congestion on F St (I’m there and driving on it every single day) other than resulting from things like construction, so perhaps you just hit it at a bad time. This week has not been great as 5th Street has had road work as did Richards.

        1. Bill Marshall

          The City has “been there, tried that” (1980’s, E/F couplet)… was far from being a resounding success… there was no traffic signal @ E/First then… doesn’t mean it can’t be tried again, but I’d not bother copy-righting the idea.

    1. Keith Olson

      Yes Matt, what a great LOOK, right?  It’s all about perceptions and camera angles.

      Downtown parking has always been at a premium.   Maybe the numbers are down now because of COVID, but everyone knows the numbers will ramp back up and taking away parking spaces is not the answer.

      Just this guy’s opinion.

  2. Alan Miller

    once against starts to emerge out of the pandemic

    Um, yeah.  Transmission rates being down from weeks ago does not an emergence make.  We are still WAY above the June transmission rate low and the dropoff has plateaued (stopped dropping).  Not time to declare an emergence.

    “behavioral change is often slow” and “many customers are still hesitant to dine indoors.”

    Maybe they are hesitant because the vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting the virus nor stop one from getting sick.  I’ve had many more friends get Covid-19 in the last few months than in the entire first wave, most of them vaccinated, one of whom got pretty darn ill.  Yes, the vaccine makes it much less likely of dying or getting super sick, but it’s not a cure-all.  What is nuts is people sitting in restaurants (eating without masks) while others walk their dogs solo with masks in a park.  No one seems to understand how the thing spreads.  Groups of people half with masks – what’s the point?  We are in chaos.

  3. Alan Miller

    On the G Street closure the city offered three options – retain full closure, limited time street closure and reopening travel lanes.

    I think Davis has one main option – not have the public street area be ugly as f*ck and look like a riot zone with Jersey barriers. G Street has become a joke among the townspeople.

    One word:  WINTERS

    If you haven’t enjoyed Main Street, I recommend taking your money and giving it to our neighbor town.  I had a wonderful outdoor meal there yesterday afternoon at Putah Creek Cafe.   Removable bollards, closed at prime times, beautiful eating areas in dark brown with nice designs, no industrial signs, no Jersey barriers.  Is it that hard, Davis?  Just look 12 miles west for the answer.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Yes, Winters has the benefit of not being beholden to the college student population.  In Davis the best use of commercial retail space for restaurants are hip trendy fast food or fast food like restaurants (that come and goes frequently).  Winters’ downtown is designed and marketed to a more mature segment of adults.

        1. Keith Y Echols

          I’m talking in general…before the pandemic and after.  Students = cheaper eating places that don’t invest as much in their eating environment which leads to the city not pushing for nicer public areas in the surrounding areas.

  4. Ron Oertel

    The staff report doesn’t mention any traffic analysis.

    Otherwise known as “Problem #1”.

    If one is actually performed (as it should be, when closing off streets or parking spaces), hopefully it won’t still evolve into Problem #2 (whoever performed the traffic analysis in regard to the Mace Mess).

      1. Ron Oertel


        Demand for parking would increase on surrounding streets, as a result.

        And those who would then be looking for parking spaces on other streets would also impact traffic flow.

          1. David Greenwald

            It hasn’t been an issue yet is part of it. Also how many spots overall are we talking about?

  5. Ron Oertel

    By the way, is it fair to businesses on other streets, who aren’t allowed to have their own “no-cost” space for “kindling-wood restaurants” (or street closures) on their streets?

    And also to deal with traffic that has shifted from those who do benefit from that?

      1. Bill Marshall

        El wRONgo… been happening for years, in substance… the “kindling wood” comment (very trollish) aside.

        Downtown businesses have gotten permits for street closures, for decades, for ‘special events’… as anyone who lives in Davis and goes downtown, know… but suspect you are ‘trolling for comments, too… you and Ron make a good ‘tag team’ (congrats).

        I am opposed to the street closure on a long term, “let’s spend big bucks to ‘make it “permanent”” basis… I believe it is bad public policy… but not for your or Ron O’s trite ‘reasons’… public access, including through traffic, delivery trucks, public maintenance of essentially private enterprise spaces at 5 cents on the dollar, THOSE are my issues…

    1. David Greenwald

      The proposal going forward would add cost. But one question I would have – do restaurants on other streets lack access to outdoor seating like they did on G St?

      1. Ron Oertel

        I would think that some do, some don’t.

        However, I don’t see that as a relevant question in the first place, except during a pandemic.

        Not afterward/permanent, as some are proposing (per your article). Which was 100% predictable.

        It’s similar to attempting to not (indefinitely) renewing leases for cattle ranches in a national park. Good luck with that.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Seems like an odd thing to ask me to provide (e.g., a list of all restaurants on all streets throughout Davis) which lack access to their own, private outdoor space.

          Especially when I already noted that it’s an irrelevant question in the first place (beyond the pandemic).

          Did they not know how much of their own (private) space they had, before they opened their restaurants? And now, they’re asking the city to make up for their own proclaimed shortcomings?

          1. David Greenwald

            “Seems like an odd thing to ask me to provide (e.g., a list of all restaurants on all streets throughout Davis) which lack access to their own, private outdoor space.”

            I didn’t. But if you are going to argue against me, it’s nice for you to have some facts to back it up.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I wasn’t aware that we were “arguing”.

          What are we arguing about?

          And given that I’m probably at 5 comments, I guess the “argument” will have to continue on without me.

      2. Bill Marshall

        You’re being your own ‘troll’ David… lot’s of businesses have gotten permission to use portions of public rights of way… quite too cheaply, by the way, as far as ‘exclusive use’ of portions of sidewalk, parking spaces, etc.

        You, Keith O, Ron O, are all over the place… do you all have ‘agendas’ in this?  We’re talking about public right of way, public access (not just to abutting properties) with public utilities underneath, publicly maintained/repaired, etc.  And you focus on “how many angels on the head of a pin”!

        Here’s a radical, but I feel appropriate alternate… using State codes, make that section a “private street”, with all maintenance, repair, liability (including sidewalks) going to the abutting property owners… the city/utilities reserving easements for UG utilities, with no obligation to the private folk except for replacing, in reasonable kind, any improvements if they have to go in and maintain/repair/improve their facilities in the future.  That would be simpler, fairer, more equitable.

        Fish or cut bait.

    2. Bill Marshall

      Other businesses, on other streets have taken up sidewalk space (technically, part of the street) and parking spaces (definitely part of the street) in Davis downtown… by ‘permit’… with conditions… long before Covid.

      You’re either ignorant of DT Davis or are “trolling” for responses… you got mine.

  6. Dave Hart

    First of all, traffic is a non-issue beyond the fact that it may take a few more minutes to drive through the downtown area at some times on some days, but by no means all the time every day.  We’ve driven downtown for routine appointments and always found a parking spot within a block of our destination.  Sorry, not interested in hearing people’s crying about parking.

    Second of all, I refuse to believe anyone actually planned the closures to be as ugly as they are with the intent of seeing the closures fail as a policy; but I can sure see how some people could see it that way.  I’ve visited many different towns both smaller and larger over the last year that have built outdoor seating for restaurants and Davis has, by far, been the ugliest and least attractive.  Astounding in a town that is supposed to have so many smart people.

    Third, it is frustrating to hear the rationale for reopening G Street to two way traffic based on the ugly, dirty and chaotic closure.  The closure is popular with customers in spite of its poor implementation and I truly believe businesses on G Street would have done better (possibly better than pre-pandemic) if the closure had not been so badly botched by the city and the businesses.  To now cite the closure as a cause of business declines leaves a pretty sour taste.

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