City Council Out of Step on Parking, Roads, Housing, and the Claw: Will it Impact the 2020 Council Race?
Update on Pesticide Use in the City of Davis

Did the Council Listen to Citizens on Parking? Process and Outcome

G-street-and-amtrakYesterday, I wrote an article wondering whether the City Council would listen to citizen’s objections to the downtown parking proposal, drawing attention to a pattern of problematic communication between Davisites and Council.  Last night, they unanimously approved what is being billed as a “compromise” between the proposal and what Davisites wanted (which was, for the most part, no change to what we have currently). 

How did the Council do? 

This being winter grading season at the University, I’ve got grades on my mind.  I give the Council a ‘C+’ for process and a ‘C’ for outcome.

Process first.  The Council rightly backed off from the original idea to hold the meeting on a Friday afternoon, but then persisted in holding it during the middle of spring break for K-12 and UC Davis.  It’s hard to say that you’re engaging the community when you hold a meeting when much of the community is out of town.  (The meeting also conflicted with the Natural Resources Commission meeting, admittedly affecting far fewer people but it did preclude attending all of both meetings).

The Council decided to take more public comment, which it did not have to do considering that this meeting was officially a continuation of the previous one.  This was the right move.

After public comment, which again featured widespread opposition to paid parking, Mayor Lee began the Council’s discussion with an alternate proposal to the one that staff had provided.  On his proposal, there would be: no paid on-street parking (that is, it would remain free), improvements to the X permit system and additional X permit spaces, increased enforcement of current time limits and enforcement extended to 7 PM, no enforcement on Sundays, and paid parking at the “Kinkos lot,” among other suggestions.  Throughout the rest of the night, various other suggestions were added, most notably to add paid parking at the Amtrak station lot and the “south G Street lot” (across from Woodstock’s Pizza). 

Was this good process?

Well, Councilmembers clearly heard opposition to paid on-street parking loud and clear and responded accordingly by taking that off the table.  That is to their credit.

However, what they ended up doing was crafting a rather large and complex set of recommendations.  How does the community feel about this alternative proposal?  Is it likely to achieve the same goals that the original proposal was aimed at addressing, namely reducing circling and frustration at being unable to find a parking space?  No doubt we will find out the answers to those questions in the coming days.  But they voted in the absence of that information – in the absence of exactly the sort of data and analysis that one would need to come to an informed vote.

What could they have done instead?  Well, at the close of the previous meeting, having seen the handwriting on the wall, they could have asked staff for alternative proposals that could have been examined at last night’s meeting (or, better yet, a meeting not during spring break).  Those alternative proposals could have included one without paid on-street parking yet with additional paid parking in several lots.  Then we could have had community discussion about and professional analysis of that option.

Obviously, though, it was too late to do that last night.  But there was still another alternative, urged by Colin Walsh in public comment: don’t craft a new plan on the dais.  Don’t cobble something together.  Send this back to staff; send this back to the public.  Yet they failed to heed Walsh’s wise words.  Cobbling together a host of recommendations on the fly (A paraphrase: “Should we add the south G Street lot?  What do you think?  Yes?  Ok then. What about the Amtrak lot? etc” ) is not good process.

What about the outcome?  Well, as I suggested above, time will tell.  The main planks of the proposal are no metered street parking but paid parking at the four lots mentioned above (E Street Plaza, Amtrak lot, “Kinko’s lot”, south G Street lot).  I’ll say that this does not make a whole lot of sense to me.  Davisites prefer to park on street; thus the opposition to paid on-street parking (in addition to opposition to the meters themselves). 

So essentially what the Council’s decision does is to make even less attractive the spaces that were already less attractive.  It’s unclear to me how that will help free up parking spaces on the street.  Instead, it seems likely that this will increase competition for the on-street parking, not reduce it. 

That the Council’s solution – the outcome of its on the fly decision-making process – is not well-grounded was apparent from the comments made by two Councilmembers.  In defending the inclusion of the south G Street lot among the paid lots, Councilmember Carson said, “I think, looking at the map of downtown, it balances out creating these places where folks could be able to park, while having to pay, but no longer having to worry about the clock.”  To which Councilmember Partida responded, “Yes, I think it’s important because we create an area where there is parking turnover, and that area is a pretty impacted area, so there has to be a tool for turning parking spaces over.”

So, somehow, making patrons pay for parking both allows for longer parking and increases turnover, and, I guess we’re supposed to imagine, does these contradictory things in exactly the right amounts to get exactly the result we want?

Maybe I’m a hard grader; no doubt my students would confirm this.  But the University tells me that ‘B’ means good.  And neither process nor outcome of last night’s meeting seem ‘good’ to me.



Cobbling together a host of recommendations on the fly is exactly how this council handled the claw issue after staff had done the public survey, and council dismissed the results. This seems to be the style under Lee’s leadership. Not only is it poor process, but it also leads to frustrated citizens and an outcome that has no buy-in because the public’s voice and concerns were dismissed out of hand.

Nancy Price

Roberta, thanks for hitting the nail on the head!!!!!

I am sick and tired of sloppy, hasty and poorly justified decisions that are the result of wanting to get some kind of result and move on to the next topic under consideration. And I have lost patience with a process that ignores the wealth of our community's wealth of information and experience that could be used, rather than paying expensive out--of -town expensive consultants.

Todd Edelman

First of all, progressive academics should not be allowed to use the term "paid parking", because all parking is paid.

The only redeeming concrete thing - concrete, meaning not various thoughts expressed by Council members, some of which were good - about the meeting was the allowance for more Public Comment - and I say this even though the "not everyone rides bikes" sentiments and the "don't allow car owner genocide I heart Davis" arguments were virulent. Kudos to Chris Granger for - on her own - defying the Holy Most to Lose Coalition of Anti-Science, i.e. the Chamber - which just announced a new head today - and Downtown Davis, who hired me to re-design their logo without the bicycle, because lying.

So yeah, I agree with the cobbled-together problem partly because of process and partly because it seems to make no sense from a parking science perspective, which in Davis manifests as the current slightly more responsibly costed parking next to the Little E St Patio as it's closest to everything, and the concept for the SE quadrant, because it has the most demand. Did the consultants even suggest something like this? Do other cities use it?

Just one further detail for now: I am curious what it will take to persuade people who live in the Natomas to not use Davis Depot as their Park & Ride. Consider how quick this can be compared to driving into Sac and the huge difference in walking time from parking at Valley Station to the train compared to our situation.

(Was this in the final approved motion?: “Then to add a little sweet treasure, the Council decided to relocate some bike(share) parking as well as spaces for carshare. It would seem that these spaces are where they are most convenient in order to, you know, help people help Davis meet its goals for active transportation and the, um, Climate.”)



I concur with Nancy's sentiment. We have extraordinary and untapped talent in this community that is repeatedly turned away or discouraged from participation. Proper community engagement by the Corporation of Davis would yield vastly superior results.

Greg Rowe

I won't comment on process or outcome, but have some observations. Today we went to Livermore to visit an outdoor specialty store on 1st Street, in the middle of that city's downtown. No parking meters, and lots of "angle" parking. It's a very vibrant downtown (ditto for downtown Sonoma, which we recently visited) .

When meters appear, I hope they are like the kind we recently experienced parking on the 2200 block of J Street in Sacramento. There is one meter for a group of spaces. You key in your license plate, and all forms of payment are accepted (coin, bills, credit card).

Conversely, I hope the new meters don't totally rely on an app, such as we have experienced in downtown Walnut Creek. That's just one more app to have on your phone and another potential way to get hacked.

Ron O

From article: "But there was still another alternative, urged by Colin Walsh in public comment: don’t craft a new plan on the dais. Don’t cobble something together. Send this back to staff; send this back to the public."


As Anya pointed out, this is exactly what happened with the claw, as well.

Seems like the council feels compelled to do "something" (whether or not it's actually been analyzed), rather than just simply backing off in the face of significant opposition.

Todd Edelman

The Claw thing was different and simpler, and also responding to external mandates on water quality as well internal mandates to not get injured.

See the message from the Claw at

Here's something you can do/
To make your neighbors grin/
Gather your leaves and chop chop chop your branches/
And throw them in the green waste bin!

But you scream "I like the Claw!"/
I don't care if soon it'll be against the law/
We vote Democrat/
We know people who bike/
Thus narcissism is tacitly approved/
By everyone's Facebook Likes.

Robert Canning

In case no one notices, the proposal to put paid parking in off-street garages and lots is not new. I was not just "cobbled" together. Another council approved essentially the same proposal on December 20, 2016. But then that same council reversed course on November 7, 2017 and approved paid on-street parking in the SE quadrant - asking staff to return with ordnances, resolutions, etc. It's on slide No. 4 of the staff presentation on March 10.

Roberta L. Millstein

Robert, if you watch the video (not sure if you were at the meeting), you will see that "cobbled together" is a very accurate description of what unfolded. Mayor Lee came with a set of proposals, to which Councilmembers added suggestions one at a time. There was no time to analyze the proposal as a package.

Robert D Canning

Roberta, are you (and others) suggesting that they(we) go back to the drawing board on parking? The drawing board was the Parking Task Force (IMO). And I find it interesting that in the end they went back to the same proposal that the council voted on 2+ years ago (which I believe Brett and Lucas voted for at the time).

Parking in downtown isn’t getting any better. And maybe, as some have suggested, we subsume the parking into the updated downtown plan.

As an extension of this, what do you and others think about more people living downtown? There has been talk in the context of the downtown planning process of building more housing downtown. Obviously there are a lot of issues with this (who will develop the land? What about affordable housing? Do new developments get parking? Etc.) but I think it’s a worthwhile discussion.

Roberta L. Millstein

Robert, I'm not sure what others think, but yes, I thought we should follow the recommendations of the Parking Task Force. The previous staff proposal (now rejected) didn't do that, and I think what was passed doesn't do that either. As I said in my article above, it's just not clear to me how paid parking in the lots specified will help achieve the stated goals of reducing circling and making spaces more available.

I'm not sure what I think about more people living in downtown. In principle, of course, it sounds good. But I think there is some magic thinking going on, that if we just add housing that businesses will obviously benefit. I see the logic there, but that isn't what happened in SF. Then there are the questions of where and who and how many stories, which are challenging. There is a lot to balance between maintaining healthy and independent (not chain) businesses, maintaining the character of downtown, controlling parking, and reducing the number of car trips that people make. I've not been following the downtown planning process (there are only so many hours in a day) so I don't claim to have any answers for all of this.

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