By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA –I heard complaints this Tuesday about the configuration of G Street and people finding vomit and other things in front of their stores. If anything, it was worse before the pandemic and the road changed.
When I first moved to the G St. location, I was appalled by what I saw on G St. on an everyday basis. There were homeless people camped in vacant storefronts. Vomit, feces, blood, urine smell were an everyday occurrence.
The roadway was used by cars trying to treat the narrow street as an arterial.
Bumper benders were a daily occurrence. During peak hours, cars would circle the block three or four times to find a spot—if they ever could. Service vehicles would double park even during congested hours, blocking traffic and forcing dangerous cut arounds.
Those complaining about the aesthetics of the current arrangement and the ad hoc nature of it are not wrong. But going back to pre-2020 doesn’t make a lot of sense either.
A number of businesses including Woodstocks pointed out that they were not going to invest huge amounts into the street and their business until they knew better what the city was doing.
Some of the non-restaurant businesses are struggling and they blame the road closure. But given the pandemic, and the current state of the economy and the disruption that has taken place, it is hard to know if that’s true.
If you want to point to empty store fronts, just remember there were empty storefronts in 2019 and if you drive to other parts of G St., there are empty store fronts there too. Go to the block between 4th and 5th and half the west side of the street is empty now.
While I understand the trepidation of businesses like the Artery, they should look at this as an opportunity. Now that the city has made the decision to keep this arrangement, they can fix a few of the issues that businesses like the Artery faced.
They can make part of the block of G St. a one way, which will allow them to configure parking correctly, route through traffic through the lot toward H Street, and put in handicap spaces.
That should help with the access issue.
Second, the city doesn’t know what it’s going to do with the public space. But now they have an opportunity to plan something that looks good and is functional.
Yesterday I asked who would have access to that space and what the cost would be. The answer was it was still to be determined.
But think about this, a group like the Artery, a co-op, has the potential to seek out grant funding. They could have a public art space. They could have street art and displays. It could be a way to engage family with small children and the art community in a way they have never been able to before.
They could reach out to whole new demographics. They should immediately reach out to the city and figure out partnership opportunities.
Someone pointed out that there is not a lot of family friendly eating opportunities on G St. That’s largely true. I do see families at Woodstocks, which has already done an amazing job with their new space at the corner. I also see a lot of families with small children sitting outside of Temple Coffee.
One of the points several restaurants I talked to on Tuesday made is how much things have shifted since 2016. Remember at the time of the murder at KetMoRee, there was a ton of nightlife on G St. It was a college crowd, it was loud and crowded.
That all has changed. We’ve seen restaurants go away from night clubs and towards catering and other services.
With outdoor seating, you might have the bars with outdoor components, taking advantage of the nine to ten months of conducive weather—right now, it’s either too wet or too cold. But most of the year these days in Davis, it works well.
You may see a shift to more family catering restaurants as the market shifts in response to the change.
The city could put in permanent features to allow for community space, art, entertainment, and other community related activities.
Basically, as Will Arnold pointed out on Tuesday, about one-third of the public space in a given community is ceded to vehicle traffic. Now we’re taking some of that common space back. The city could put together a plan to do something amazing and make it work not only for the restaurants and bars, but everyone.
This is just step one—a commitment to a car-free space. Now, we have to make this a joint, shared public space that can really do some amazing things. Now that some of the owners know what they have, it will be fascinating to see what they all come up with.