Our View

Spaced out in downtown Davis

By From page A10 | March 23, 2014

The issue: Paid parking will only hurt businesses

It’s a problem as old as the automobile: as long as we’ve had cars, we’ve sought out places to park them. And in a high-traffic, densely built area like downtown Davis, available spaces can vanish in a hurry.

AS EARLY AS 1957, urban planners were “studying” the problem, and we’ve scarcely stopped since. Committees and reports down the years have been confronted with the same arithmetic: more people kept driving more cars to shop at more stores downtown, and all on the same old streets. The latest group, the Downtown Parking Task Force wrestled with the problem for a year before offering its recommendations to the city council in December.

There were 19 of these, but one has everybody’s attention — paid parking in the “Southeast Quadrant.” That’s a square bounded by First, G, Third and D streets; the commercial heart of the downtown. But while the parking squeeze is a real problem, we can’t support the idea of charging downtown customers to free up spaces.

Paid parking would put downtown retailers at a disadvantage when competing for customers with neighborhood shopping centers, University Mall or Target. If it’s already a bit of a drive to get downtown, who wants to pay for the privilege, too?

INSTEAD, WE support a two-pronged solution. First, let’s work harder to get downtown employers to manage their employees’ parking. The Enterprise is among the workplaces that offer on-site parking. Others buy “X” permits for their workers from the city to provide safe and accessible spots. The rest expect their employees to move their cars every two hours or to park on the periphery, which isn’t convenient or safe, for those who work late.

As The Enterprise has reported, there are 275 X-permit spaces available; not nearly enough for the 2,000-3,000 downtown employees, even accounting for staggered shifts. The city must increase the number of X-permit spaces if we’re ever going to get a handle on the problem of employee parking.

Second, we need to raise revenue for a new parking structure, not through paid parking and higher fines, but by having downtown property owners lead an effort to create a parking assessment district and secure financing for a new structure. That’s how the First and F structure was built.

If Ashok Patel can pull together financing for a hotel/conference center/parking structure on Richards Boulevard, maybe creative minds can come up with a similar plan for downtown. There’s no redevelopment money to kick-start things, but Jennifer Anderson is leading the charge to organize property owners.

We urge the City Council to support that effort and give it a chance to work.

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