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Council Member Will Arnold On Downtown Parking

Sordid history of paid parking coming to head at 3/5 council meeting

PaytoparkBy Daniel Urazandi

Paid parking has been brought before council dozens of times, always with false urgency. Until now, it has always been voted down because the public is overwhelmingly against it and it would hurt business. Since this is still inarguably true, how did we get to the point that the City is about to install parking meters on all streets and lots in the heart of downtown?

In 2014 the Council voted unanimously against paid parking yet in 2017 the same members voted unanimously for it. What happened in the interim is a sad lesson in politics. What casual observers didn't know was that the 2014 Council really wanted paid parking but were waiting for the right political moment to pass it. So they appointed a Parking Task force to study the issue and stacked it with enough obvious proponents of paid parking, even the private owner of the G St parking garage, that they knew the Task force would do the expected and return a report favoring paid parking.

With that report in hand the Council could install meters without taking full responsibility for implementing such a regressive tax that would be paid by grudging citizens and drive customers and eventually businesses out of downtown. But Council went one further. The Parking Task force report gave a thorough overview of the problem, including mention of how Council had been systematically removing spaces thus causing the shortage, and listed several solutions such as increased supply and better management of existing space which all were to be addressed BEFORE paid parking went in.

Council or someone on city staff reversed these recommendations so that parking meters are now the first thing being done and the sensible and easier solutions (but ones that don't make the city money) are back burnered or, in the case of recovering the 100 spaces the city removed piecemeal for aesthetics or other unnecessaries, ignored altogether.

So with the parking meters we have a Council that systematically created a problem by removing spaces from downtown then promoted their "solution" to the problem in the form of a tax on parking downtown. When that met opposition they used back door shenanigans to get the same thing presented to them by a rubber stamp committee they appointed and then even ignored the real solutions the same committee brought up.

We have a mayor and council who are willing to work long term AGAINST the interests and will of the majority of the population and expend much resources and energy doing what 90% of Davis does not want. When downtown businesses, customers, employees and friends rallied against paid parking, the city ignored or bureaucratically buried  their concerns and forged ahead with their own agenda.

If I sound cynical sadly I was not cynical enough. When I heard in Nov 2017 that Council would vote on paid parking, I thought that matter had been discussed and that the Council would vote against it like the dozens of other times and like it had just two years previously. I didn't see any reason to show up again and point out how horrible paid parking would be for businesses downtown. I expected Council to have heard us the last times and to do what was right, consistent, and democratic.

I did not know that Council and their co-conspirators on city staff and DDBA had spent the last two years in Machiavellian manipulations against downtown and the will of the people. But now I do. Council has used House of Cards tactics to force hurtful measures they know we do not want through the back door. What we don't know is if they will dare to do the same thing out in the open and to our face. Let's all show up this Tuesday 3/5 at the meeting when paid parking is on the agenda again and see.


Jim Frame

I don't know what sources the author uses to draw his conclusions about the public being "overwhelmingly against" paid parking, but this member of the public is in favor of it.

Is the author also one of those downtown "advocates" who railed against the Fifth Street road diet because it "wouldn't work"?

Colin Walsh

Sadly I hear similar outrage brewing from a several parts of the City around several issues.

How much money has the City already spent researching and advocating for paid parking? What will the cost be of enforcement? It seems clear implementing paid parking will cost the city far more than it will bring in. If this passes, you can expect to hear that argument next year for why the fees will need to be raised.

The greater cost though is what could happen to our downtown businesses. A time when empty store fronts have become a feature of nearly every block downtown, is not the time to impose a new regressive tax on people who want to go downtown.

Davis business owners are justifiably concerned for their future livelihoods.

Colin Walsh

I don't recall Dan taking a position regarding the 5th street road diet, but the above comment begs the question, is the 5th street road narrowing working?
I have certainly heard serious complaints and don't recall traffic ever being as backed up on eighth street as it has been since.

Paid parking, brought to you by the same clever people who narrowed 5th street is not going to be a winning slogan.

Elisabeth Dubin

For what it’s worth, most of the people I’ve spoken with (including me) are for it, as long as it doesn’t involve quarters and is easy to use via credit card or app. As time goes by, downtown is about purchasing experiences and services (food, coffee, beer, yoga, Pilates) and less about purchasing stuff (Outdoor Davis, Watermelon Music, Alphabet Moon, Teach Your Children, the Gap, etc. having left). This means that now, you can’t replace a coffee date by ordering from Amazon, so what you really need is to be able to park and get there at the time you said you’d be there to meet your friend or client.

Colin Walsh

The only way charging for parking increases access to parking so you can meet people for your "coffee date" is to discourage people from parking downtown. That is not a winning proposition for any kind of local business.


Make no mistake about it - as the city becomes more and more crowded, there will be increased pressure to implement paid parking. That will especially be true if efforts to "residentialize" downtown come to pass.

No doubt, implementing paid parking will impact nearby neighborhoods where one can park for free, at this point.

I personally avoid the G street garage as if it were the plague. It's dark, inconvenient to get in-and-out, and I'd rather not experience more door dings.

I don't believe that employees are taking up prime spots (in mass), and moving their cars every two hours. This assumption does not seem realistic.

Rick Entrikin

A 97-page attachment to the March 5 Council meeting agenda on paid parking indicates that the cost of the"trial-run" for paid parking in the SE "quadrant" of the core will be over $700,00 for meters and $280,000 for new, parking management personnel, including a director. These would initially be contract employees, but eventually would become city staff, thereby adding to our already underfunded personnel expense liabilities.

The "paid" issue aside, another staff recommendation for the March 5 Council meeting is potentially much more harmful to downtown businesses. Namely, part of the plan is to REDUCE the on-street, parking time limit to 90 minutes for all areas of the core outside the paid parking quadrant. AND, further, to enforce that 90-minute limit from 10AM-10PM, SEVEN days a week. Now, THAT will discourage people from going downtown to eat or see a movie!

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