By Glen Holstein
Lately Davis has been lurching from one fiasco, paid parking, to another, Mace gridlock, like a drunk staggering home from a dive bar. Kudos to the Davis Enterprise for connecting the dots that these and many other fiascos are related elements of a campaign that’s strangling vehicle traffic while increasing greenhouse gas release and reducing safety. And kudos to Ellie Fairclough for pointing out the similarity between the Mace and Paradise fiascos. As at Mace, the exit road from Paradise was reduced from four to two lanes and traffic “calmed” so much that 88 people were incinerated trying to escape the Camp Fire.
And in the paid parking fiasco parking enforcement staff were cheerleaded so much that they started behaving more like an occupying army than public servants. Recently when a downtown business owner tried going to lunch she was forcibly detained by a parking enforcer who yelled “You can’t leave – I haven’t written you a ticket yet.”
One thing that’s not been said yet is that virtually all these fiascos result from the same individual, Brian Abbanat, Davis’ Senior Transportation Planner. I know from personal observation and experience that Brian Abbanat has used his city position to engage in a personal crusade for paid parking since at least 2013. On February 7 of that year he engineered my exclusion from the Davis Parking Task Force because I was a vocal opponent of paid parking. Then in 2014 he presented the Davis City Council with a proposal to make all downtown parking paid. At that time Dan Wolk was mayor, and this proposal was rejected unanimously by the Council. Then in 2019 Abbanat presented essentially the same paid parking proposal to a Davis City Council with mostly different membership at a time when Brett Lee was Mayor. In 2014 Lee had been the councilmember most reluctant to reject Abbanat's proposal, but in the face of massive public opposition he and the other councilmembers also somewhat reluctantly rejected the parking meter element of this new proposal. They did however accept an element that needlessly made all downtown lots paid and called it a "compromise".
Subsequently in 2019 Abbanat was described in the Davis Enterprise as the designer of a Mace Boulevard "traffic calming" project that caused massive and hazardous gridlock, widespread public opposition, and a pledge by the City Council to fix what they acknowledge was a fiasco.
Davis is one of the few towns where you can't move across town without waiting at numerous multi-minute traffic lights that cause us to emit greenhouse gasses to no purpose while idling and wasting time. Lights are now so long that drivers often get too absorbed in work to notice signal changes and thus cause themselves and those behind them to wait through another cycle. As Davis traffic czar Abbanat is also responsible for this.
But instead of being fired for gross malfeasance as he should be, he keeps getting more work from a city council that seems more comfortable cloistered with him than with the kind of outreach to Davis citizens that happened when Dan Wolk, Don Saylor, and Rochelle Swanson were on the council. If the current council listened to Mr. Abbanat less and the public more they might be exposed to a more holistic and less siloed view of the city they’re responsible for and avoid floods of fiascos like the one now inundating us.