Thursday, April 17, 2014

E Street Plaza parking lot still a point of contention

UC Davis student Mary Anderson, a third-year nutrition major, uses a credit card to pay for parking in the west meter at the  E Street Plaza parking lot on Tuesday afternoon. She came downtown to study for a few hours at Peet’s Coffee & Tea on E Street. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | February 15, 2012 | 7 Comments

While Sacramento considers funding a new arena for its beloved Kings by privatizing its parking garages, the city of Davis continues to manage its own parking situation downtown.

The centerpiece of discussion when referring to downtown Davis parking is the E Street Plaza parking lot on the 200 block of E Street, which the city transformed into a paid lot a little more than three years ago.

It was the first of its kind in the downtown core and remains the only metered parking in the city.

According to Bob Bowen, the city’s public relations manager, one of the main reasons for converting the site into a paid parking lot was to give downtown visitors who wanted to park for longer than two hours a place where they could do so.

Janis Lott, parking committee chairwoman for the Davis Downtown Business Association and owner of Newsbeat, 514 Third St., added that the lot also caters to people driving downtown who absolutely need to find a parking spot.

“That lot serves a need in Davis for people who come into town and want to stay longer,” Lott said, “(and) for people who come downtown and want a go-to place where they can just park their car and pay a very nominal fee and just know that there’s probably always going to be a spot available.”

However, merchants in close proximity to the lot worried that the paid parking spaces would negatively affect their business and force customers to swear off the downtown because it eliminated almost 60 free parking spots.

Lott said for some Davis business owners and customers, the unfavorable reaction to the addition of paid parking was understandable.

“For local people, it’s a hard pill to swallow because we’re so accustomed to having it be free,” Lott said.

But because the economy went belly-up soon after the city converted the lot and because Target opened on Second Street in Mace Ranch as well, it’s hard to say exactly what effect the paid lot has had and continues to have on the surrounding downtown shops.

Some business owners, like Dan Urazandi of Bizarro World, a comic book store at 223 E St., say that just because a paid parking lot isn’t the only contributing factor to merchants’ struggles doesn’t mean the issue should be ignored.

“Right now we’re not getting any new retail in the downtown,” Urazandi said Tuesday. “Shops are closing and there are numerous factors. Certainly the economy is a major factor, I consider Target to be a huge factor and you add all these things together.

“But there are some things you can do something about, and some things that you can’t. You’ve got a perfectly good lot that runs about 30 percent full. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I look at the thing and it’s never full except at night, of course, when they turn off the paid parking.”

Jeff Simons, owner of Watermelon Music, 207 E St., has watched some neighboring businesses close. Though he also understands parking isn’t the only contributing factor, he can only put two and two together.

“It was the most convenient parking, the most accessible and full lot right there in our vicinity and it became a paid lot,” Simons said. “If there’s any way to send people away from the downtown and to get them to buy at a box store it’s by making parking downtown as difficult as possible.”

Lott, however, says it’s not that simple. Even when the parking lot was free, the downtown streets still clogged at high traffic times.

“There are challenges in trying to manage parking in downtowns and to make it walkable and nice so people don’t mind parking a little farther away,” Lott said. “Because there are key parts in the day when there’s so much congestion that you don’t have parking spaces available to you, people circle over and over again to get a really close space, which adds to the congestion.”

There may always be a fundamental disagreement about the lot in terms of how it affects downtown businesses, but on the city’s end, things are beginning to look up.

Stacey Winton in the city’s Community Development and Sustainability Department, says the parking lot has seen a steady increase in use since it was converted in 2008.

“I think people are used to it and know how to use it now and are using it more frequently,” Winton said. “It’s becoming more convenient.”

In September, the city took over management of the parking lot and the meters from Central Parking and now collects approximately $2,400 per month in net revenue from the lot. Estimates are that the amount will rise to $3,200 monthly this year.

Katherine Hess, community development administrator, said the city doesn’t have any immediate plans to add more paid parking, but added that it’s up for continual consideration.

“There are strong opinions on all sides of that issue,” Hess said. “And it’s not something that wouldn’t be done without a public process.”

— Reach Tom Sakash at or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.

Discussion | 7 comments

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  • Sharla CheneyFebruary 15, 2012 - 8:38 am

    Almost every time I go downtown and try to use the lot, it seems to be full, so I don't know why they are saying that it isn't well used. I've always seemed to find parking somewhere. I would talk to other merchants than Mr. Urazandi, as he opposes anything that may interfere with parking in front of his store, including special events on Sunday mornings, which actually bring people downtown.

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  • Dan UrazandiFebruary 16, 2012 - 12:07 pm

    I don't know Sharla by name and am surprised that she thinks she knows me and my opinions so well. There was a special event on Sunday 1/29, the Davis Flea Market, which I am quite in favor of and I look forward to its recurrence. So I am not in opposition to special events nor do I succumb to a particularly uncharitable mood on Sundays. I will risk being as much a fool as Sharla by trying to read her mind as she does mine, but at least I have the information of her post, which sounds like the bitter recrimination of one who had her pet project derided by me after she apparently blocked parking on E st. But I am opposed to anything that permanently reduces the parking downtown, just as the city seems to be in favor of the same, most recently evidenced by their moving bike parking to the streets.

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  • BevFebruary 15, 2012 - 2:19 pm

    I think a great contribution to lack of business downtown is that you can only park on street for 2 hours and then must move to a new block, even if a new parking spot opens up in the same block where you have parked. I almost never shop downtown any more because I hate the (fairly) new rule. It's not worth the hassle.

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  • casperFebruary 15, 2012 - 5:54 pm

    1. There needs to be more BICYCLISTS in this town. 2. Davis is turning into a Walnut Creek wannabe. 3. Pay parking is OK, as it supports biking.

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  • JanFebruary 15, 2012 - 11:09 pm

    I can't believe there are still people blaming Target for everything. The fact that parking continues to be a problem is a proof that Davis downtown is doing generally well. There are busy restaurants even in Monday evenings. There are always new businesses coming in to fill vacant spaces. Those complaining business owners are just too lazy to adapt to the changing market.

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  • Dan UrazandiFebruary 16, 2012 - 12:04 pm

    Will people please look at the issue and leave off irrelevancies. I consider it a truism that having a tax on one business area will drive customers away from that area to ones that are not taxed. Therefore, paid parking downtown will send people to shopping malls. The assumption that making it hard for people to drive downtown will make them bike downtown is false; they will just drive further to shop at an untaxed parking area. The busy restaurants are proof not of the success of paid parking but its failure--paid parking is turned off at 6PM, so the fact that downtown "comes alive" in the evening is a clear sign that the paid parking is suffocating that life during the day. The city is planning to put a parking tax on the entire downtown because they fail to acknowledge the failure of the paid parking in the E st lot. If people continue to speak without real data that gives the city reason, or excuse, to move forward with this plan. So be sure of what you want, and know that a paid parking tax in downtown will be another blow to already struggling businesses. If you want to see more "lazy" business owners tire of working 7 days a week for dwindling pay and close their stores, then you should favor a specialized tax on downtown and the people who shop there. As I do not, I will ask Ms Hess at the city for real data on how little the lot is being used, and how much sales tax revenue is being lost to that disuse to compare with claims of "income" from the lot tax.

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  • WowFebruary 16, 2012 - 7:22 pm

    People should not feel entitled to free parking. I say put a meter on every spot to decrease car traffic and increase biking.

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