Monday Morning Thoughts: G Street Was a Lifeline to Businesses

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – As I wrote earlier this year, the city ought to consider making the closure of G Street between Second and Third permanent and create a permanent outdoor pavilion and eating area.  Clearly not everyone agrees with that view—which is the great thing about democracy.

I read this letter in the local paper: “The closing of G St. between Second and Third is a major eyesore in Davis. I understand the need for outdoor eating space was necessary during, last year but this area looks like a major accident just occurred. The retail stores are hard to get to and one of the most visually attractive stores, The Artery, is hard to see, let alone visit. G Street looks unkempt. What are you trying to accomplish by closing off a major road?

“Please open it again so we can stroll, shop and enjoy G Street.”

The writer acknowledges the obvious—that by creating the outdoor eating space it was a lifeline to businesses that otherwise did not have outside eating capacity.  For long periods of time, that was the only place that people could go safely and have a semi-normal eating experience.

Indoor dining is back open, but, as someone who works on that block, I can tell you that the outdoor eating is filled most days.  You see people outside on the street in that area all of the time—and people are around and able to safely congregate in a public outdoor space.

The writer acts like things have returned to normal, but that’s simply not true.  Some people are clearly comfortable eating indoors now, but with the Delta variant, the area around G Street in the outdoor area there as well as the tent along 3rd Street by Temple coffee both continue to be quite popular.

The stores are hard to get to?  It doesn’t impact the ability for people to get to the stores.  If she is referring to the inability to park along G Street, it was hard to find parking on G Street during peak hours before, and there is the parking lot where Ace used to be that normally has a number of spaces.

Occasionally one might have to park a block away and walk, but if that is what she is talking about, that hardly represents hard to get to.

Even now I suspect G Street would be very dead were it not for the outdoor eating.  This has definitely been a huge boon to the city.  And with the climate as it has been—lack of rain, warm most of the year, the outdoor area is probably accessible and comfortable nine months out of the year, with a few exceptions when the smoke was really bad.

G Street looks unkempt?

I guess that is in the eye of the beholder.  From my perspective the businesses have gone out of their way to make the area nice, adding tents for sun cover, greenery, TVs, and lighting.

The whole area is quite clean.

I would, in fact, argue the opposite.  The way G Street was before was unkempt.  Homeless people and debris next to the parking lot.  Homeless people and their belongings in the doorways of closed-off businesses.

Probably a number of factors have reduced those problems, but it is actually a lot nicer now than it was two years ago when G Street really was an eyesore.

She asks, why we are closing off a major road?

G Street was never a major road.  In fact, I would argue that it was ill-suited as arterial.  One of the major problems is that it narrowed at the parking garage, which created all sorts of traffic problems.  There were always vehicles backing out of parking spots.  At midday the delivery trucks would partially block the street.

F Street is much better suited for arterial traffic than G Street ever was.  I go down there every day and actually don’t miss being able to drive down G Street.

The city does have some decisions to make about the permanent arrangement here.  When I spoke to the city a few months ago, they had not decided.  The city manager indicated that it was something they had never contemplated.

The businesses along there that I have spoken to like it, not just the eateries that are directly benefiting, but many of the other businesses feel they get more foot traffic because of it.

If the city is going to do it permanently, they do have options for a more permanent structure which might better suit the letter writer.  I know they still have not passed the downtown plan and this occurrence may change the way they look at the downtown.  But even in the plan that was largely completed pre-pandemic, the city was looking at more public spaces—this would fit perfectly into the concept.

Parking might be an issue, as I think I estimated about 50 or so spaces would be consumed by this.  The city might have opportunities to recoup that by restructuring the parking space across the street.  During the pandemic that has not been an issue, but with the students back, the downtown streets are looking much more normal than they did last year at this time.

All of these are issues to decide in the future, but I think, from my perspective, this has been a big plus.

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. Don Shor

    The closure was a temporary measure to benefit restaurants that were in dire straits. The students are back and the urgency of helping those restaurants has passed. The author of the letter states that the closure is hurting the revenues of the other retailers:

    Non-restaurant businesses on the 200 block of G Street outnumber the restaurants more than 2:1 (24 retail, consulting or other businesses to 11 restaurants). Yet the retail, consulting and other businesses on G Street continue to suffer. We’re experiencing diminished income and are losing customers because of the street closure. I expect this will get worse as the winter comes.

    The reason for the closure of G Street has passed, so it should be reopened.

    1. David Greenwald

      Don –

      I’m skeptical about that. Just walked the street again.

      I think the number of businesses that could possible be impacted by the street closure is exceedingly small.

      In my building, there are 6 businesses. Only possibly Marina’s could be impacted by the inaccessibility, but she cut back on her hours well before the street was closed. There was a CPA here that closed but that was also early in the pandemic.

      There is a finacial lender and an accounting place, both places opened in the last six months since the road was closed.

      There is the Tennis shop – I don’t know how they are doing. They probably don’t rely on walk up traffic though given their off street location.

      There is Joe DiNunzio’s FIDO which wouldn’t be impacted by the closure.

      Fretted Strings – possibly but they were not exactly on the street as it was. Weren’t going to get walk up traffic in their spot.

      Copyland is probably hurting but more so by the lack of students in town

      The Vault – if you want a skateboard… I haven’t talked to him in awhile, last I did they were doing alright.

      After that you are south of the road closure, so you have full access to 2nd Street.

      Barber Shop is likely hurting but again more by the pandemic when people weren’t getting haircuts.

      The Artery – that woman said the closure was impacting it, haven’t talked to them.

      The smoke shop and the shoe shop are technically on Second street.

      So again, you can point to 22 businesses probably but how many would be impacted by the road closure? Two or three at most?

      1. Don Shor

        Did you actually speak to any of the business owners?

        DAVIS (CBS13) — More than a year after an emergency pandemic ordinance allowed restaurants to block off a downtown Davis street to allow for outdoor dining, some neighboring retailers now say the closure is costing them business.

        Games of cornhole have replaced cars on G Street, where restaurants have turned the block into an outdoor bar option tucked inside massive concrete barricades.

        What’s been good for the restaurants has not helped all their retail neighbors.

        Max Williams is a barber who says foot traffic and vehicle traffic are down for him, and parking is also a problem.

        “It doesn’t fully benefit us at all,” Williams said. “That’s just the fact of the matter is that there is sizably less parking.”

        A few doors down at the Artery, artist Jen Norpchen says her business is down, too. She blames the barricade.

        “I don’t want to take any opportunity from anybody else. I just, realistically, I want us to succeed, too,” Norpchen said. “I want them to succeed, but within reason.”

        The Vault Skate Shop on the same block says the closure increased their business.

        “Because we also have clothes, so people kind of, even if they’re not into skateboarding, can walk by, see that we’ve got clothing options, and are more inclined to come inside and take a look around,” manager Ryan Schultz said.

        The Davis Downtown Business Association is preparing a recommendation to the city manager to make a change to the street closure. A compromise is coming.

        1. David Greenwald

          I have not spoken to either the barber shop or the Artery. But I question both of those – first of all they are below the blockage. That means anyone can come along Second St. Second, the barber shop is going to be hammered by the pandemic just like any of those type of business. Third, of course foot traffic is down, before the blockage happened the block was completely dead. That said, of the businesses on this block, those are probably the two most likely impacted by the blockage.

          1. Don Shor

            I have not spoken to either the barber shop or the Artery. But I question both of those

            That’s pretty much the way these discussions seem to always go.
            Business owners state an opinion or, in these cases, present their observations. Their viewpoints are disparaged, their actual observations are called into question, and those who always advocate for street closures continue to do so regardless of the outcome.
            I cannot imagine why any downtown merchant would participate in planning processes when they are treated so disrespectfully.
            I am very glad my business isn’t subject to these kinds of countervailing pressures.

          2. David Greenwald

            One of the problems is that they may have observations – but what is the comparison point? Before the pandemic? It can’t be during the pandemic because the street was completely and totally dead in the early stages.

            I know it’s frustrating but there has to be some sort of analytics used here.

          3. Don Shor

            Any business owner has year to year, month to month, week to week comparisons. We all do projections for our revenue and are aware that 2020 was anomalous. I don’t recall anyone asking the restaurant owners to provide their data before the street was closed temporarily on their behalf. They are under no particular obligation to provide the data; if they say business is down, I see no reason to disbelieve them.

  2. Ron Glick

    For a long time there has been discussion about closing streets in downtown to auto traffic. This is a good time to have that discussion since we have now experienced a year of the closure of one of the streets downtown. Personally, I don’t have a dog in the fight. However, if the City chooses to close streets they need to improve getting people  in and out of downtown using public transportation. For people in West Davis that means direct bus lines into downtown without the need to transfer buses at the University.

  3. Alan Pryor

    The businesses along there that I have spoken to like it, not just the eateries that are directly benefiting, but many of the other businesses feel they get more foot traffic because of it.

    How many of the non-food businesses on the closed section of G. St. were queried before making this observation – 2?, 10?, all 24?  Of these affected non-food businesses, , especially retail, what is their percentage of increases or decreases in revenues since the closure compared to other downtown retail businesses on nearby streets not subject to closure? Instead of just an off-the-cuff observation leading to the conclusion that the closure is a good thing, a real quantitative survey of ALL of the affected G. St retail businesses is needed.

    1. Don Shor

      Instead of just an off-the-cuff observation leading to the conclusion that the closure is a good thing, a real quantitative survey of ALL of the affected G. St retail businesses is needed.

      I agree. I think Davis Downtown could survey the businesses and get a more accurate picture.

      1. David Greenwald

        I get their surveys on these things, there are a lot of problems with those – they don’t do a good job of distinguishing which businesses are directly impacted from which just have opinions.

    2. Richard_McCann

      A couple of difference data sources are the historic fees paid to the DDBA and the business fees paid to the City. The latter might be available by business.

      1. Don Shor

        Also, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (formerly BoE) has quarterly data and will have Q3 2021 at the end of October when we all file. I believe the city receives those reports broken down by the different categories of businesses.
        These are the kinds of data points that could inform decisions about street closures in the future, as part of the downtown plan. The current situation was presented as temporary, we have an anecdotal report that it is having adverse effects on some retailers, and the reason for the closure is behind us now. So reopen G Street and continue the discussions of street closures that has been ongoing now for a few years.
        Downtown business owners have a legitimate complaint about a temporary urgency measure becoming permanent without any kind of public input.
        One thing that always bothers me in discussions of downtown issues is how quick people are to dismiss the concerns of downtown merchants.

        1. David Greenwald

          “Downtown business owners have a legitimate complaint about a temporary urgency measure becoming permanent without any kind of public input.”

          I don’t think the city could/would act without a public meeting and process.

  4. Richard_McCann

    The City could do a better job with the closure. Winter’s has a very attractive closure of Main at Railroad. However, I don’t think the street needs to be  opened to vehicle traffic. This is the usual myth raised by downtown business owners who demand free parking in front of their store. Stores are more likely to get business when pedestrians feel comfortable walking around downtown into multiple stores. Businesses need to cooperate, not believe that somehow they are competitors with their neighbors.

  5. Keith Y Echols

    It seems to me that there should be a solution that is palatable to everyone involved.

    Yes, the current setup isn’t acceptable.  The street seating worked as an emergency response to Covid.

    But going forward as the article eluded to that a more permanent structure that is not an eyesore is necessary if there is going to be long term outdoor seating.

    But some concessions to the non-eatery businesses must be made.  Maybe a handful of reserved parking spaces for those shops.  If there’s a new structure(s) built for outdoor seating; add some signage and/or advertising for those shops to those structures.

    Also, I do not know what the current arrangement for the outdoor seating is between the restaurants and the city is.  But I think going forward restaurants should have to pay the city for use of those seating areas/structures as they are on public property.  Maybe if restaurants don’t pay to use the seating, tables and structures then it’s open to the public….restaurant patrons can still use them but restaurants can’t reserve them for their customers, take orders from the tables and alcohol can not be served or consumed at them.

  6. Sharla Cheney

    What I’m hearing is that the street is cleaner and calmer with the outdoor seating.  No fighting by drunken hordes who spill out onto the sidewalks. With the street as an extension of the businesses there are more eyes and ears monitoring behavior and maintain a sense of ownership of the space.  Employees are quicker to call for assistance, if ever needed.  Because people are sitting and eating/ drinking there is more of an effort to clean the area.  I’m not sure even the Artery attended to the sidewalk and gutters outside their business before this.  I tired of stepping over trash to get to the stores along G Street, pre-pandemic.  Anything permanent should be better designed to be attractive, easy to maintain, and attended to daily. An attractive environment will attract people and increase pedestrians to the area.

  7. Ron Oertel

    So, I see that David is still harping about this in his “free” subscriber article, today.

    Left out of all of this discussion is the fact that businesses and residences on any particular street don’t own it, and likely don’t even comprise the majority of users.

    If government allowed businesses and residents to close streets in front of their own properties at will, there likely wouldn’t be any streets open to traffic (passing through) at all.

    Perhaps the government should take this a step further, and allow businesses and residences to establish “toll roads” for the streets in front of their properties? (Same idea with parking, as well.)

    I once parked in front of a business in San Francisco that had convinced the city to establish a (10-20 minute?) zone, in front of their business. When I went to park there, the business owner came out and tried to tell me that the spot essentially “belonged” to the business. I became concerned that they’d vandalize my vehicle, for disobeying them. But I parked there, anyway. (I should have complained to the city, regarding that business.)

  8. Alan Miller

    I once parked in front of a business in San Francisco that had convinced the city to establish a (10-20 minute?) zone,

    “Convinced” probably equals “bribed” . . .

    1. Ron Oertel

      I think that there may have actually been a fee for the city to make the change, at the request of the business. As such, they may have paid that fee.

      But they still didn’t “own” it.

      I was worried about my vehicle the entire (20-minute?) time that I parked there. I figured that anyone bold enough to challenge me in that manner might have no qualms about vandalizing it for “disobeying” them.

      Of course, they would also have to (correctly) assume that I would not retaliate, regardless.

      Welcome to San Francisco (and increasingly, places like Davis – the “San Francisco of the Valley”). Goes hand-in-hand with increased density, as well. (As does rising prices for housing.)

      1. Ron Oertel

        Of course, they would also have to (correctly) assume that I would not retaliate, regardless.

        Though truth be told, I’d probably find it amusing if someone with a Hummer “took out” the wooden, ramshackle “parking-space restaurants” that we’re increasingly seeing in cities.  (As long as no one was “dining” in the parking spot, at the time.)

        And for that matter, maybe even taking out the street barricades in the same manner.  🙂

        Maybe leaving behind a note, saying “Fixed it for ya”.

        Now, that’s some security/video footage I’d probably look forward to seeing.

      2. Alan Miller

        Welcome to San Francisco (and increasingly, places like Davis – the “San Francisco of the Valley”). Goes hand-in-hand with increased density, as well. (As does rising prices for housing.)

        Yes but now parking minimums rather than maximums will have to come back so that courtesy tows for people of lesser means can be achieved by having plenty of legal parking to move their illegally parked cars to legal open spaces nearby.               😐

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