Caring for Our Earth, Caring for Each Other
Is this one block on G St. the best choice?

A pedestrian-only area would be neat…let's reactivate G Street!

G Street GuideBelow is a recent letter, shared with the Davisite, to our council members to provide input on the upcoming January 17th meeting, addressing Item 4: G Street Closure Update.

Sent by email on January 14, 2023 

Good day to you council members,

It has been two years and six months since we closed G Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets to vehicular traffic. I helped plan for this closure, as I was staff at the Davis Downtown Business Association (DDBA) at the time. The DDBA worked closely with City staff Ash Feeney and Sarah Worley. I talked to business owners, created infographics (such as the one attached), and monitored this pedestrian-only area frequently when it was considered a part of the City and DDBA's Open Air Davis initiative.

We were all very satisfied with our efforts to support downtown businesses, especially restaurants, and keep them open during COVID-19 shutdowns.

Ever since we converted a portion G Street to a pedestrian-only area, there have been pleas from the business community for one of two things to happen:

1) Open this area of G Street again for parking, or

2) Beautify and activate this area of G Street and take advantage of a rare pedestrian-only conversion

I personally have always been a strong advocate for the latter option; however, I do understand the point of view of those who prefer the former option. In the following sections, I will expand upon these two options; describe the mounting pressure for action; and explain how we can make Davisites happier.

FIRST CONCERN—PARKING: Some business owners have gone on record stating their belief that if certain customers cannot park right outside of their business, or at least drive by and have a view of their business, then those customers may not patronize their business. Some business owners also claim that their own customers have said that they aren't coming downtown as often to patronize the business because of the lost parking spaces.

Additionally, some business owners have explained that getting goods to and from their business is harder without a parking space directly outside of their establishment, because they must carry their goods to and from vehicles parked farther away.

SECOND CONCERN—AESTHETICS/LACK OF ACTIVITY: Another major complaint has come up at several public meetings as well as in private conversations: a lack of aesthetics as well as a lack of customer activity in the pedestrian only space. In fact, this complaint has been voiced by both people who prefer the space for vehicles and those who prefer the space for pedestrians. There is a general consensus that this area of G street can be unwelcoming due to messes, bad aesthetics and the occasional ghost town feeling. Among both groups of people, there is a justified feeling of neglect at what is historically our downtown’s main street.

THE PRESSURE: Although I favor a pedestrian only space, I’m grateful for the loud voices and the growing number of voices that are crying for the street to be opened back up to vehicles and for parking. At least they are being active by attending public meetings, writing letters, and gathering signatures. And I'm certain we'll hear from a number of upset voices at the upcoming council meeting. Some are so angry that they are hurling accusations at the City, even to the degree of claiming there may be a hint of racism in keeping the street closed to vehicles. Their justification surrounding that last notion is a claim that minority owned businesses are hurting in this area of downtown and the street conversion is exacerbating the harm. I know that last claim is a stretch of the imagination, and I do not buy into it, but point it out to show that we are getting to a boiling point.

I do agree with the distress regarding bad aesthetics as well as the lack of patronage many businesses are experiencing. Some businesses in this area have indeed closed from lack of patronage since the street conversion. However, the street conversion is at most just one factor; there are many things needed for our main street to flourish once again.

THE VOID: I am impressed with the fact that the people in favor of opening G Street to vehicles have been taking political actions. Even though there are many people in favor of keeping the pedestrian-only G Street section (e.g., for beautification, activation, and otherwise taking advantage of the opportunities in this area), they do not seem to be speaking up.

Where are the open-space advocates? Where are all our bicycling-friendly organizations? Where are the people who want more tree canopy downtown? What about our CAAP friends? Or our Downtown Specific Plan planners? A plethora of commissions could have taken this opportunity to start conversations. If just one trusted organization would create a committee, then liaisons from the other groups will undoubtedly join.

If our community loses this amazing pedestrian-only area on our downtown’s main street, it will have been because no group took advantage of this rare opportunity—an opportunity that was an unexpected by-product of the COVID-19 shutdowns and the resulting local efforts to support downtown restaurants and businesses. It will be our own fault if parking spaces are deemed more important than an open space for beautification and activation of downtown Davis.

WIN-WIN: I have already stated the need for an organization—or even a City commission—to create a sub-committee that could develop and implement a plan for maintaining G Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets as a pedestrian-only area.

Therefore, I suggest that a City Commission, such as the Bicycling Transportation and Street Safety Commission, should create a subcommittee to take on this effort; in this way, the effort will already be under the umbrella of the City. Next, I suggest that the Davis Downtown Business Association, Bike Davis, Cool Davis, Chamber of Commerce, The Bike Campaign, and Tree Davis (and any commission who wants to weight in) should all send a liaison for this subcommittee.

We need to clean up our main street and then activate it for the public with amenities and events. In fact, we are already taking steps in that direction. For example, the Portland loo, the bench dedicated to Bob Bowen, and the planters and plants have all been recent improvements in the right direction. Perhaps we will even see apartments with downtown residents built in place of the current Ace Hardware building. If we continue the positive development, the small businesses of G Street could experience significant benefits. Upon seeing additional improvements, more G Street business owners may let go of the thought that reclaiming 38 parking spaces is the best solution to increasing patronage downtown.

Our City is taking strides in combating climate change, expanding our urban forest, developing our downtown to reduce car trips, and maintaining our prestige as a platinum-rated bicycle-friendly community. This project for G Street could tie together so many of our community's concerns, hopes, and aspirations.

I am writing this now to bring back a spark of life for the people in our community that prefer to keep this pedestrian-only area of G Street as an exemplification of our deepest values.

A pedestrian-only area would be neat…let's reactivate G Street!


Aaron Wedra, Davis resident and downtown advocate


Ron O

Appreciate that this article presents more than one perspective.

Some people see a "pedestrian mall", while I primarily see streets and parking spaces being privatized for restaurants - which are also not fully reimbursing cities (or other businesses) for doing so.

This is not limited to Davis, and has been occurring in many cities. Ramshackle wooden structures "commandeering" public space for private use. Streets and parking spaces are not intended to be private dining spaces.

You don't see businesses such as ACE Hardware selling items in the street. Instead, they do so on their OWN property.

That's why there's "private" vs. "public" property in the first place.

Sidewalks already exist for pedestrians. And yet, in some places (like San Francisco, and I would argue Winters) - businesses are encroaching on sidewalks, as well! Thereby demonstrating that this was never about "concern for pedestrians".

Streets and sidewalks do not belong to the adjacent businesses, and are (most-often) used to "pass-through" an area. They are not a destination in-and-of themselves, until some businesses effectively "privatize" them.

No doubt, closing off streets to traffic impacts surrounding streets (and parking spaces), as well.

Maybe it's time to label this for what it is - a privatization of public space for select businesses. And one in which the primary user of streets (those passing through) have no say at all.

Donna Lemongello

I love the tone of this let's-really-put-our-thoughts-together communication. I am not strongly wedded to one resolution or another, but what I do strongly believe is that 1) whatever is done should undo the free use by private businesses of public space and 2) aesthetically improve the area in a simple way (not incurring large city expenditures). I do tend to lean toward reopening it as a street as it was always intended to be, so that access to all businesses there feels equal to the businesses on other streets, rather than advantaging eating establishments.

Alan C. Miller

Some business owners have gone on record stating their belief that if certain customers cannot park right outside of their business, or at least drive by and have a view of their business, then those customers may not patronize their business.

CASE in POINT (from some blog's comment section that has initials D.V., I think):

Walter Shwe January 14, 2023 at 5:14 am

I promise to never to visit any business inside the G Street blockade unless it has completely been removed. That includes the Davis Barber Shop and Woodstock’s Pizza. Parking in Downtown has never been worse!


To be clear, the BTSSC unanimously supports the pedestrian priority variant that's on the table. Details of their discussion during last Thursday's meeting appears in the current Davis Enterprise article about the situation.

In relation to specific solutions, I'm sure that everyone notices how well used are the seating areas at the E Street plaza as well as at Farmers market when it's open. Such specific business agnostic features are exactly what is needed on G Street so people before and after shopping can just linger without any pressure to do anything else. This is also something that the BTSSC supports.

Ron O

Thought I'd look at the Enterprise article.

Campbell noted that “it doesn’t necessarily have to be either/or… maybe there’s a little space right outside a restaurant that kind of belongs to that restaurant, but then deeper in to (the block), there’s space that’s more broadly public.”

NONE of the public space "belongs" to a restaurant.

Because currently, 100 percent of the street block within the bollard section is available space to use if you’re a pedestrian or cyclist.

NONE of the space blocked-off for restaurants/dining is "open" to pedestrians or cyclists.

And I think we also have to consider concerns related to climate change in terms of keeping this street closed.

Have any studies been done to determine if this actually "reduces" traffic? (Or, makes it flow more efficiently?) If not, then these types of claims hold the same level of credibility as the "racism" argument presented in Aaron's article. (Which he also rejected.)

Also, comparisons to other outside vendor locations (which don't involve closure of a public street/thoroughfare - and with businesses lining both sides of the street) are not applicable.

I just plain don't like it when public streets and sidewalks are privatized for select businesses (while disguising this as something else).

And again, the primary users of streets/sidewalks are those passing through. Why is is that no one seems to advocate for them?

And for that matter, who wouldn't "prefer" to close off the streets in front of their own homes, if allowed to do so? (With exceptions for "themselves", of course.) Maybe the entire city could be a "pedestrian mall", with no one able to arrive or leave the city except by foot.

Aaron Wedra

For the record I don't believe the space should be used in any private manner for businesses in that location. The space should be nearly entirely public. People could just hang out and not eat food, or bring in food from another part of downtown etc. The restaurants received their due support. There's little excuse to give them private outdoor patios any longer.

Aaron Wedra

ALSO—Wow, I had not seen that Enterprise article until this evening. I feel very good that my own thinking was similar to the BTSSC, and already being played out. Thanks to the BTSSC for taking a stance. I felt like I was a lone voice, but now I see my open space, bike friendly, climate aware, tree canopy loving friends are coming out to have a say in the discussion.

I really am confused as to why there's so much advocacy for the street to be open to vehicles and parking spaces. I'm genuinely confused, but will keep an open mind.

Sharla Cheney

I would prefer widening the sidewalks at points to create outdoor eating that is not in the street. The street historically has been filthy with little ownership of sidewalks in front of stores. That has been a complaint of mine about the downtown for decades. I believe having outdoor dining and gathering has helped with this somewhat, but also has had a calming affect on the street. There are fewer drunken brawls happening, etc. with more eyes on the street and therefore a faster response to problems. Restaurant owners should pay for the sidewalk cafe use. I have continued to shop at the Artery and the shoe store on the corner, and each time the stores were busy, so I don’t personally see that the street closure is a primary impact on those businesses.

George Galamba

I agree with Ron O. More and more, the city is allowing restaurants to move into the parking spaces in front of their businesses. (e.g. Burgers and Brew.) The concept of a walkable downtown is appealing, but the current reality is that this is not Manhattan. People come downtown in cars and when they can't park, they go elsewhere. I suppose these restaurants generate a lot of tax revenue for the city, but the current city practice of granting public space to selected restaurants is not fair to other merchants nor even to the people who would patronize those restaurants if only they could find parking. Open G street. Besides, it looks like hell.


As you note: "The DDBA worked closely with City staff Ash Feeney and Sarah Worley. I talked to business owners, created infographics (such as the one attached), and monitored this pedestrian-only area frequently when it was considered a part of the City and DDBA's Open Air Davis initiative.
We were all very satisfied with our efforts to support downtown businesses, especially restaurants, and keep them open during COVID-19 shutdowns."

I really like the tone of your letter. You're a good writer but I'd like to ask why you think the other businesses on the street weren't supported during the pandemic?

During business hours G Street is relatively E M P T Y of people. For 2.5 years regular businesses have been handicapped because of the street closure during business hours when the street is empty. And no support from the City. Not even any valid studies.

Another question; can you help us understand how the street closure was arrived at in a democratic way? There was no public election. Seems the emergency actions to "save the restaurants" was very privatized. And save the breweries, too. It's interesting to note the then President of the DDBA, an owner of the Brewery on G St, saw his business boom. Good for them, I imagine it's hard to go back.

Previously the 200 block of G St was one of the busiest downtown streets- for a reason. Now all of downtown has to take up the burden of the traffic congestion. I really don't think the population of Davis is big enough or consistent enough to support the “activated block” of your proposal.

Lastly, you make it sound like a developer has eyes on turning the Ace building in to apartments, wants to up the value (and make sure there's plenty of pizza and beer). Plausible. But at what cost? Alter a dynamic retail and service filled downtown street just to sell a few condos?

On Tuesday only three of the City Council members will be hearing this issue. Since Frerichs left office the Downtown district doesn't have representation. I think maybe this is better put as a vote to the people in a general election rather than our city council without one representing our district.

This is sounding like a typical California story with lofty dealings and a lot of speculation on an imaginary vein of gold down G St.

Aaron Wedra

I believe comments made by one commissioner about catering to the restaurants is causing a misunderstanding of what most advocates of a pedestrian area are getting at. At this point me and other advocates for a pedestrian space aren't interested in serving the restaurants with private outdoor patios. That was the initial intention two and a half years ago during the worst of the pandemic shutdowns. That purpose has been served and is no longer of interest. Advocates for the pedestrian space generally want a completely public space where anyone can hang out leisurely with or without food. Or they can bring food from outside of G street and utilize the space. I'm not in favor of giving special treatment to G street restaurants or granting them private patios. If anyone is saying that they are going to pollute the message. The message should be about open spaces, bicycle friendly community, an opportunity to increase our tree canopy and start in our journey to reduce driving downtown considering climate change.

Lorin Kalisky

I’m a downtown business owner (although my business is not in the section of G Street currently being debated), and I strongly support the continued (or permanent) closure to cars.

Pedestrian-only public spaces make cities more attractive and livable; they promote community-building; and they strengthen our social fabric. They create real, long-term value.

My belief is that—in the long term—making our downtown more pedestrian-friendly (and, in turn, less amenable to cars) will benefit all downtown businesses and our community as a whole, even if the benefits are not equally shared by all, and even if some businesses may be disadvantaged by the change. Progress is not always fair.

Private/commercial use of public space is certainly not unheard of. Go to any European center-city square and you’ll see cafes and restaurants being allowed the right to use sections exclusively for their own outdoor dining, and shops with product displays that pour out of their front doors.

That said, we don’t need to do it that way. We can also decide not to allow exclusivity, and simply designate the full space as general-use, with tables where people can eat whatever they want or just sit. Of course, some entity (like the city or DDBA) would need to take responsibility for its design and maintenance.

I’m no expert on city planning or urban design but in my view, catering to cars is usually short-sighted and misguided—a dynamic that has been shown to be true in so many other cities. I’m surprised that, in a community like Davis, there is not a clear majority of folks who share this view.


Open the street back up. It was temporarily closed for emergency reasons but now it's time to reopen and get back to normal. All it's currently doing is congesting more traffic onto other downtown streets for the benefit of some restaurants and bars.

Alan C. Miller

Everyone is wearing reusable diapers and not changing them in regard to this situation. After 2-1/2 years, time to change diapers. It stinks in downtown Davis.

Ask yourself: How come in all the discussions in the past about a pedestrian mall downtown, G Street was not a chosen location? Because it's a lousy choice. G Street was an emergency situation, set up to save restaurants and bars during the pandemic. The Chosen Ones. During a time without vaccines and images of people en masse dying horrible deaths in hospitals or dying isolated from their families.

I fully agree with the bicycle advocate community that we need to rethink auto infrastructure in downtown. But G Street is not the answer.

However, I do understand the thinking. We got a place. We may lose a place. Despite all the talking for decades, no actual progress or even agreement on a location has been found. And if it were, the City and businesses would fight over it and it would be delayed and then take years to build, maybe decades (see 3rd Street from B to A). So there's that.

But G Street is not the answer. It's lousy for circulation, parking, access to non-restaurants, isn't particularly suited as a vibrant public space, and has become dirty and ugly despite 2-1/2 years of trying and changes. You can put lipstick on a pig, etc. Yet somehow Winters has created a vibrant space that is closed appropriate hours, is pretty, is free of drug addicts living outside, has no litter, doesn't mess up traffic. Is Winters naturally blessed, or is Davis naturally cursed?

During the downtown Davis planning meetings, someone had proposed a pedestrian-way using natural elements that ran from E-Street Plaza to the Amtrak station. I don't believe it made it in to the plan. I have long advocated for a bicycle-way down 3rd Street from G Street to C Steet (taking advantage of the natural flow as a bike corridor from east Davis to and beyond campus that 3rd Street is -- look at a map!). Others have proposed closing E Street from 2nd to 4th Street. I actually like the idea of doing both, with a grand plaza at 3rd and E Streets.

Details are important: I *do* propose vehicle access a very low speeds for delivery trucks and those needing direct access to businesses such as blue placard and item pickup. As well vehicles should be able to cross the 3rd Street section at both D Street and F Street. This creates a good auto-circulation around the pedestrian area. The full creation is a bicycle corridor and pedestrian mall four-blocks E-W and two-blocks N-S.

I know bicycle and pedestrian advocates and BTSSC or whatever you're called you want a pedestrian/bicycle place. But G Street ain't it. I know it exists and and doesn't have cars, but it was for another reason and it's time to give up this area and recognize it's truly the wrong place. They say the great is the enemy of the good, but there's nothing great nor good about G Street as a pedestrian mall site.

Ron O

I'm curious as to the reason that anyone thinks there's any type of connection whatsoever between bicycling and pedestrian malls.

Are people suddenly "bicycling" to pedestrian malls (and weren't doing so to visit those same businesses before a street is closed-off)? Pedestrian malls aren't one-block "bicycling havens" in the first place. You still have to negotiate vehicular traffic to even reach them.

It's far more likely that people are driving to them, and parking outside of the "car-free" zone. Again, impacting traffic and parking on surrounding streets.

As far as Winters is concerned, some of those businesses interfere with pedestrian traffic on the SIDEWALK, in more than one way. The same is true in San Francisco, with its "parklets". (It's more of a problem in San Francisco, since "pass-through" pedestrian traffic is much greater.)

Alan C. Miller

RO, good point on ped malls and people driving to them.

Wanted to specify that in my proposal (I wish I had drawings! Anyone care to fund a consultant?), 3rd is more a bicycle thruway (from East Davis to Campus and beyond -- it's a natural path -- look at a map!) and less of a pedestrian mall, and it would bring bikes more safely to and through downtown. E-Street 2nd to 4th has been proposed more as a pedestrian mall. I suggest both be built, and G Street be opened back up, at least in one direction if not both.

Then, do some serious studies on these concepts including traffic flow issues with the idea of where best to site both bicycle thruways and ped malls.

Winters: I don't know where that is but I'll look. That is a common problem with these sidewalk spaces. It also goes against all best practices for accommodating persons with sight issues. Sacramento has dozens of these sight-impaired-unfriendly sidewalk obstacles that I've surprised were ever allowed to be built. It doesn't take a genius to walk 16th Street new 'hip' area and realize how difficult it would be to negotiate that metal jungle with a white cane.


IF downtown was a grid of one way streets all would be accomplished- and fairly. Every street would share the benefits and the burdens.

G Street is not the best choice. It’s along the outside edge of downtown. The best location for a pedestrian mall is in the center of the downtown grid.

The population of Davis isn’t sufficient to support all these great plans and ideas. On the average-how many times a week/month/year do people go to G St? Not many are out there due the day. How about these weeks with the rain. Parking’s pretty convenient, huh?

For Arnold to want to hold the space for his daughter to do cartwheels, (CC meeting 11/21) should we loose downtown businesses to hold the space for her? That’s a big ask.

In most cities diligent research/studies on the area affected on business, sanitation, homeless, accessibility for the older generation (who mostly don’t ride bicycles anymore) and traffic flow - (sorry, we’re still years away from a car-less society) would be required. I had hoped this new City staff was on the trail of seeking data. Alas, their new report misses the mark. It’s all looking forward and few facts. Sorry to say I think I t’s embarrassing.

Alan C. Miller

Very well said "Adele". I agree with everything you said, especially about a central location in the grid being the ideal spot for a pedestrian mall. One thing I'd bend, we are DECADES away from a carless society (unless a nuke hits Sacramento).


“Advocates for the pedestrian space generally want a completely public space where anyone can hang out leisurely with or without food. “ (Aaron’s comment). We have that. It’s the City park. 3rd/4th streets and C street. It’s pleasant there, with seating, grass, trees, a garden, benches, bike parking, car parking, and walking distance to all the restaurants and more to get food or not.

Please reopen G street and “do the serious studies on traffic flow issues” as Alan and others have suggested. By the way, the park down the street is open for cartwheels.


Also I find it very disturbing that there is no input from the Planning Commission in this new City Staff report. The only “commission input” is from the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission!

Maybe because in 12/20 the Planning Commission discussed Parking Management. The Commissioners comments are: Suggest principal that says “no loss of city parking facilities “. Lots, garages, and street parking. (Page 2 - PC Meeting Minutes 12/9/2020)

Well, that’s interesting!


G Street is not closed.
G Street is also not a “pedestrian area.”

There is no way to “reopen G Street” since it has never been closed. It has been CAR FREE, and of course we could change that by allowing cars back on, which would then eliminate the current, popular use and enjoyment by those people who are not driving through in cars. Until we can stop pretending that allowing cars back on the street makes it “open,” we can’t really have a relevant discussion. If I were a business owner, I would be distressed at having the street closed too! I’m glad that it has never been closed.

Alan C. Miller

Darell DD, took me a minute to understand what you were saying, so I guess that makes me guilty of equating "open" with only "for cars". That is a pretty fine pine, as I think most people understood what it was closed to, and having a street "car free" as you put it is pretty damn rare so it is closed in most minds. Closed minds?

Reminds me of a related 'incident' in Sacramento. As part of my daily non-downpour commute, I ride my bike through the 5th Street tunnel under K Street that has a pretty questionable bike-lane in it and goes past the Golden1 Center. On concert/game nights, they block off the tunnel with barricades and a sign says 'Road Closed'. So I asked the cops the first time if it was open for bikes and they said "yes" so I went through.

I repeated this many, many times and finally decided the cops all got it. So one day I ride past the cops and into the tunnel and policeman starts screaming at me. At first I thought he was screaming at someone else as I was doing the same thing, and there are people everywhere on concert/game nights. He was clearly pissed and said didn't I see the sign? And I said yes, but on past nights the cops there always let me go through.

After some back and forth it turned out there was no concert, there was a large protest on the other side of the tunnel. Davis people may not realize how intense these protests can be in Sac -- so yeah I shouldn't have been let through. But, they used the exact same barriers and "Road Closed" sign as for concerts, with no added sign anytime to indicate if bikes can or can't go through the tunnel. I doubt the cop I ran into was normally on concert/game-night duty and probably thought I was running from him. This is, I'm afraid, how a lot of bad confrontations get started. Anyway, they should specify what vehicles are allowed and what vehicles are not. Until then, I just always ask!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)