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City backs out of paid parking downtown

By From page A1 | March 26, 2014

The City Council unanimously opted to run with a majority of 19 recommendations from its Downtown Parking Task Force Tuesday night, but turned down those related to the most controversial one: establishing paid parking in part of downtown.

It was a vote less notable for what it did than what it did not do.

Councilman Brett Lee steadfastly supported paid parking until almost the bitter end — after a failed motion, he relented to vote unanimously with the council to give the thumbs up to recommendations he could also support that were unrelated to paid parking.

Mayor Joe Krovoza supported a motion for paid parking by Lee, but when it was clear there were three votes against paid parking and the motion was going nowhere, he sided with the rest of the council.

Lee repeatedly urged the council to accept the 19 recommendations as a whole.

The recommendations include re-assessing the city’s in-lieu fee structure, shifting parking enforcement hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., upgrading parking enforcement technology, streetscape improvements, elimination of on-street green waste for a portion of the downtown and collection of more parking data, as well as streamlining employee parking permits, or X permits.

“There’s a variety of things that nest together,” Lee said, adding it was a “blend” that was best kept intact.

Lee wanted to do a block-by-block rollout of paid parking, in phases, studying its effects along the way. He urged a validation program to generate money for downtown businesses.

“I think if we’re careful, thoughtful and incremental and we don’t do it in a ham-handed way we can do something beneficial,” he said.

Paid-parking skeptics on the council worried that parking meters would kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Councilman Lucas Frerichs noted that 10 of the 19 recommendations could be done in short order — just not paid parking.

“I want to do the absolute right thing and I have a fear that adding paid parking downtown will have adverse effects,” he said.

Councilman Dan Wolk couldn’t support paid parking.

“The parking problem that we have is the result of something positive and that is our downtown is a destination,” he said. “… A lot of the issue downtown is employee parking.”

Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson laid out that theme earlier in the night, saying she wanted more information on a variety of parking issues, including employee X permits, pricing and having many of the recommendations explained better.

“I feel like I have more questions than answers,” she said.

The recommendations from the task force were the next step after the task force reached the end of a 10-month process studying downtown parking in October 2013. They gave a presentation to the City Council in December 2013, and on Tuesday the council was being asked to adopt its recommendations as a whole.

The task force recommended paid parking in the southeast quadrant of the city. The southeast quadrant is bounded by Third Street to the north, E Street to the west and the railroad tracks to the east, but including the Amtrak Station.

Paid parking was suggested at $1 per hour. It would take four and a half to five years for the parking budget to break even on nearly $1.5 million in upfront costs if all the task force’s recommendations are taken into account. Parking meters on their own would have cost roughly $740,000, according to a presentation Tuesday night.

A city staff report recommending paid parking in the southeast quadrant admits the city has no recent experience with managing on-street paid parking. Still, the city has a good connection that does. The city of Sacramento offered Davis the opportunity to “piggyback” on its contract with a parking meter vendor in order to take advantage of that city’s ability to buy cheaper meters at volume with good warranties and potentially low meter repair costs.

One thorny issue Tuesday night were X permits, paid permits that allowed employees to park on the periphery of the downtown core and not have to worry about moving their cars.

Brian Abbanat, Davis transportation planner, said only 38 percent of downtown businesses use the X permit program.

One recommendation the council did enact was a reconfiguring of the X permit program, with an expansion into the Fourth and G streets garage and potentially make use of the Old North Davis neighborhood for lower cost employee permits.

Although a majority of task force members approved paid parking recommendations, they seemed at odds with each other in public comment Tuesday.

Robb Davis, a task force member and City Council candidate, urged the recommendations be accepted as a package.

“We sent you a comprehensive plan,” he said, “… we didn’t discuss phasing and I urge you to approve it in its entirety.”

Jennifer Anderson, a task force member and co-owner of the Davis Ace downtown, presented a survey she offered to her customers on the parking issue. Roughly 600 responded, including 38 pages of comments. She said 57 percent of the respondents said they would not shop downtown if there was paid parking. In a separate question, only a little more than 20 percent supported parking meters.

“That’s not enough to take this huge step,” Anderson told the council.

— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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