By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – In the days following the state of emergency in the pandemic, the city closed G Street—utilizing downtown parking spaces and sidewalks for outdoor dining as part of the “Open Air Davis” pandemic response effort “to promptly assist businesses with challenges presented by COVID-19 restrictions and public health protocols.”
By June 2021, many of the business restrictions were lifted, nevertheless, “having outdoor space for dining was still considered important as behavioral change is often slow and many customers were (and perhaps still are) hesitant to dine indoors.”
Three years later, the question is what the city should do, and staff acknowledges that there is no clear community consensus on that issue.
One option would be to simply “[r]e-open the street to automobile traffic. This would restore the street to what existed prior to the closure in 2020 and include two travel lanes and angled parking.”
A second option would be: “Keep the road closed to traffic for outdoor dining and other uses, however with detailed protocols for businesses and the City in terms of physical improvements, maintenance, attractiveness and responsibilities.”
A third option would be to re-open the road, but allow for closures for special events. Staff writes, “This would include moveable bollards to keep motorized traffic off of the street when it is closed.”
A fourth option would be a hybrid: “Re-open the northbound road vehicle lane only and close the southbound lane, so that this portion becomes a one-way street with parallel parking. The closed part of the road could be used for outdoor dining and other uses.”
Staff notes, “This alternative would allow for the restoration of some automobile access and parking along G Street but additional discussion of what road features would be desired is needed.”
Staff notes that while there is no consensus there are several areas of concern that have been raised with the current state of the closure.
The first concern “is the perception that the program was put in place without clear standards for the appearance of the area, leading to some of the outdoor dining areas using materials that are less attractive or are not as well-kept as others.”
The second concern “is that this portion of G Street is not kept clean and frequently there is trash found in the area and no clear responsibility about who cleans the area.”
The third concern is that the current approach “has led some businesses disproportionately benefiting from increased dining space with little or no additional cost, while potentially negatively affecting others along G Street. This has been expressed as businesses being able to essentially rent the public space for little or no cost, thereby receiving a financial benefit.”
A fourth concern is the issue of access to some of the businesses on the street.
There is also a concern that was raised that “cars using the parking between 2nd and the bollards try to turn around on the street to get out or access the parking on the west side of the street. This results in vehicles making multi-point turns blocking access to the South G Parking Lot.”
My View as a Business That Operates on G Street
There are several points not raised in the city staff report that are important.
The first point is G St. prior to COVID was not a well-utilized road. It had narrow travel lanes, was often congested and was frequently used as though it were an arterial with traffic filtering to and from I-80, when it really should not have been used in that manner.
In addition, the parking lot and area between the parking lot and the street were often utilized by homeless people seeking temporary refuge.
Often, G St. was blocked during peak hours by delivery vehicles double-parking and the parking situation was bad, with traffic circling around to attempt to find parking (when a usually part-empty parking garage was located just two blocks to the north).
In short, the pre-COVID situation was not ideal.
On the other hand, I know the retail businesses are struggling. Whether they should be or not, we can debate. One thing I noticed, however, is that with Woodstock’s moving to the far corner, much of the outdoor dining is gone. Granted it’s the middle of a wet winter, but it was pretty noticeable that only the Beer Shop had outdoor dining on one side of the street with the exception of the Temple Coffee area at the corner.
I have generally been in favor of some sort of street closure, but I agree that there needs to be a nicely done, permanent structure and I increasingly think that having one travel lane would be better than no travel lanes.