Parking proposal not ready for prime-time: unanswered questions
Does the City Council Listen?

Contentious Paid Parking Hearing Continued to a Friday Afternoon.

Mayor Lee informs commenters they may not affect decision process.

By Colin Walsh

On Tuesday March 5th 2019 The City Council heard from about 50 people in public comment on the City’s plan for paid parking in downtown Davis. Comments ranged from unequivocal support to disgusted opposition with a wide range of complaints between. Few speakers were ready to accept the plan as currently proposed and most opposed the plan altogether.

At midnight everyone was exhausted by the several hours long display of democracy, most especially the City Council. It was then that Mayor Brett Lee gave an unusual speech from the dais that is being called “condescending,” “undemocratic,” “arrogant” and “offensive” by some.

Mayor Lee’s comment that seemed to draw people’s ire is this, “The fact that 50 people email us saying yes on A and 10 may say no on A. It is not that we put our fingers up in the wind and we just do a simple head count who said yes who said no, so apologies to some of the commenters that is not the way to do proper decision making.”

I would like to give Mayor Lee the benefit of the doubt, especially given the late hour, but please watch the video for yourself and tell us what you think in the comments section.

After a long break and a short Council Q and A with the staff. Citing the need for more information and the late hour, Mayor Lee moved to continue the meeting, so they did not need to vote on it Tuesday night. After much back and forth, City Manager Mike web proposed moving the item to the next council meeting and then continuing it again to Friday March 22 at 4pm.

That puts Downtown paid parking on the agenda the Friday that starts Spring break for Davis Joint Unified School District and UC Davis. In my opinion, that time and date guarantees a very low public turnout, though there is a rumor it may change again from there.

Council was very clear at the meeting that they hoped to resume the paid parking topic without hearing any more public comment on the subject.


Roberta L. Millstein

Five to one, baby
One in five
No one here gets out alive, now
You get yours, baby
I'll get mine
Gonna make it, baby
If we try

--The Doors, "Five to One"

That's the first thing I thought of when I heard Mayor Lee's comments.

But hopefully this isn't about "you getting yours and me getting mine." Hopefully this is about doing what is for the common good. And in that light, I would have thought that Mayor Lee would recognize that commenters are often doing more than saying "I agree" or "I disagree" so that they can be counted. They are giving information, raising concerns that staff and Council may not have thought of, given the variation in expertise and experiences among Davisites. I would have thought that Mayor Lee would have more respect for Davisites than to be so dismissive of public comment. When so many people are against an idea, that should be a red flag that something is amiss -- that further exploration is needed.

For the same reasons, I agree with you, Colin -- putting the meeting on a Friday before spring break isn't exactly a show of democratic decision making.


Regarding Mayor Lee's comments, I don't find them particularly offensive, and I would agree with the gist of the message that the council should not necessarily base decisions on what the majority in the audience supports. (Hopefully, Mayor Lee and the council view issues such as student housing the same way, and are not bullied into decisions that are not necessarily in the best interest of the city, overall.)

It would also be unfortunate if any council member "points to" public support for a proposal that they personally agree with, while "downplaying" opposition, for example.

Overall, it would have been better if Mayor Lee also acknowledged that council meetings are a primary way for the public to present concerns to the council, and that the council is there to consider such comments (in addition to the other sources that they rely upon).


I'd like to clarify my comments, further.

In the "other" blog today, there's a suggestion that the Lincoln40 developers were more considerate of the neighbors, than the Trackside developers. And, presumably by extension, this means that Lincoln40 should have been approved, but not a 4-story Trackside.

It certainly is possible that the Lincoln40 developers were more considerate of neighbors than the Trackside developers. (Of course, this ignores the fact that Trackside is IN the neighborhood, while Lincoln40 is separated by the railroad line.)

But, it misses the point. Immediate neighbors aren't the "only ones who matter", regarding proposals. Lincoln40 will have a far larger impact on the city as a whole, vs. a small 3-4 story proposal such as Trackside. (This is not the same thing as saying that one should support Trackside in its current iteration.)

To further illustrate, you might have a bunch of students appearing before the council (e.g., supporting Lincoln40), and a bunch of neighbors appearing to oppose Trackside. But, if the council only listens to those who show up at a hearing, they might very well favor a proposal that has a more harmful impact to the city, as a whole.

The "other" blog also repeatedly suggests that no market-rate rental housing has been approved in recent years, but fails to address how many have actually been proposed. There's also no comparison with the (lack of?) market-rate proposals in other cities, which would likely reflect the impacts of the recession and housing market crash. In other words, any conclusion that the city has been "remiss" in approving market-rate housing is not necessarily accurate.

And of course, the "other" blog fails to mention the lack of commitment to build sufficient housing on campus, in recent years. And, it ignores the fact that students can live on campus, but others cannot. Which begs the question, regarding why the city should approve housing that is essentially designed almost exclusively for students, and why the city should assume the costs and impacts of those decisions without fully considering them. (There's been very little study regarding the fiscal impacts, for example. Or, the impact on non-students who may have benefited from a more traditional design.)

Nor has there been much discussion of the impact of eliminating even more commercial space, to accommodate housing. Or, the impact that this dense housing will likely have on traffic and parking in the city/downtown area.

In any case, these are the type of issues that one might not gauge accurately, based upon who shows up at a given council meeting.

Nancy Price

I am opposed to the paid parking plan of a reason that, as far as I know, has not yet been proposed and therefore not yet discussed in detail. That is: paid parking will simply be pitting Davis residents against visitors. Paid parking is an old fashioned and retro solution. Not very imaginative!

To better accommodate Davis residents, reduce cars in the downtown and, AND reduce the overall carbon footprint of Davis residents (drivers will still circulate round and round the downtown looking for a space), . why not seriously consider the potential for a well-planned city mini-bus shuttle service (could have bike racks) that runs on a frequent schedule to and from the downtown from other areas of the city (for that matter could be to other places: Woodland, Winters?) that run on electricity.

There could be nice mini-shuttle van shelters at stops to protect from rain.

Passengers could buy monthly or yearly passes for rides. In this way.

There would be all kinds of benefits. I don't need to enumerate them here. Le'ts get really creative and change the paradigm. Just take a look at some of the cities cited in the parking study.

Let's do better than a paid parking plan. We can get Davis residents out of their cars, free up parking downtown for visitors, reduce carbon, and clean up the air. And there would be other benefits.....seeing friends and neighbors on the shuttle van and more.

Rick Entrikin

Agree in concept, Nancy. Great points but, again, where's the money? I would prefer that the, roughly $1miilion city staff is recommending for initiating paid parking, be redirected to more creative ideas such as yours and Todd Edelman's.

Cory Tyler

I'd give the mayor and city council a bit more credit if they hadn’t just shown that they are perfectly happy making decisions in a vacuum with the new green waste schedule. This city used to work for and with its residents and is increasingly working at cross purposes with them.

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