Local News

City set to review parking task force suggestions

By From page A1 | March 25, 2014

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Who: Davis City Council

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Community Chambers, City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

Watch it: Live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99; streamed at www.cityofdavis.org

There are 19 recommendations to the City Council from the city’s 12-member parking task force. One will probably get most of the attention Tuesday night:  Establish paid parking in the southeast portion of the downtown.

A city staff report admits the issue will “understandably” be “unsettling to some” but all the recommendations it says were developed with the intention of improving the parking situation as a coordinated package, and will need the money from paid parking to be put into practice.

The recommendations are the next step after the task force reached an end point in a 10-month process studying downtown parking in October 2013. Two months later they gave a presentation to the City Council, and now, three months after that, the council is being asked to adopt its recommendations.

This is not the first time the city tried to solve this issue.

According to the Downtown Parking Management Plan — the 93-page work product of the parking task force — the city launched eight downtown parking studies since 1958. The downtown footprint has stayed relatively the same since the city’s days of being a 7,700 population farm town, according to the plan, while downtown has absorbed the impact of a nearly 10-fold increase in residents. This required some investments:

“For automobiles, this includes several surface parking lots and two parking garages,” the plan reads. “However, the downtown’s emergence as an arts, entertainment and food destination over the past 10 years has resulted in a growing community sentiment that downtown parking conditions are deteriorating and a comprehensive approach to addressing the problem is needed.”

The plan goes on to say that the feeling there is a parking problem in downtown is the by-product of the drive-up-and-shop suburban shopping experience that people have gotten used to.

“Downtowns feel ‘right’ because they are first and foremost walking environments,” the plan reads.

And this is what it says drove decision-making for the parking task force when considering the issue of parking as a whole, including that visitors used to the suburban shopping experience expect parking to be free and within sight of their destination. Further, the plan says free parking places stores outside the downtown at a competitive advantage over downtown businesses where parking is perceived as a problem.

“Upfront costs, maintenance and operations are simply integrated into the cost of all purchases, whether one drives or not,” the plan reads. “But clearly parking costs are not directly internalized by shoppers.”

So how did the task force get to recommending paid parking?

First parking had to be analyzed in the downtown, breaking it into quadrants. The southwest quadrant had the highest average parking occupancy during the week, bounded by E street on the eastern side, B Street on the western side and Third Street on the north with First Street the southern boundary.

Still other quadrants had their peak times. For example, the quadrant that encompasses the Davis Farmer’s Market has its peak time each farmer’s market. The southeast quadrant, where it is recommended parking be paid, was usually the second highest parking occupancy rate during the week for the whole downtown.

While occupancy rates are noted in the explanation of the recommendation, the plan says paid parking in the southeast quadrant will ensure customers get priority over other types of people who need parking there. 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.

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

A secondary benefit of this approach, the report says, is that Davis city staff could focus more on implementing the paid parking approach and educating the public about it.

Paid parking would be $1 per hour if the city staff’s recommendation is put through, meaning it may take four and a half to five years for the city to break even on nearly $1.5 million in upfront costs if all the task force’s recommendations are taken into account.

Other 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, among others.

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

Dave Ryan

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