The city’s Downtown Parking Task Force meeting earlier this month took an unexpected turn when Michael Bisch, Davis Downtown president, made a motion to recommend that the city consider building a new parking garage in the Boy Scout Cabin lot at First and F streets.
The task force had been asked by city staff to make a recommendation to the City Council about whether to implement paid parking or to reduce the time limits of two-hour parking spots to 90 minutes to better manage the existing on-street parking supply.
Discussion of parking expansion didn’t appear to be in the cards.
But Bisch told The Enterprise last week that the council was specific in its direction to identify short-, medium- and long-term solutions to downtown parking congestion and, though there’s value managing the existing spaces, the only long-term solution is to create more spaces for visitors to park.
Bisch fears that if the group doesn’t give specific guidance about a garage, the council will lose sight of the issue of increasing the parking supply.
“Let’s temporarily focus on this space, see what can be done there and if the initial feasibility says ‘Yeah, this can be done,’ put a funding scheme together and then let’s do it,” Bisch said. “If that initial feasibility study says that site is configured all wrong … let’s strike it off the list and look at a new site.”
The Boy Scout Cabin lot sits on the south side of First Street where F Street dead-ends into First.
While Bisch isn’t sure whether the space can accommodate a parking structure — that assurance would come through the feasibility study for which he’s aiming to gather support — he believes it’s the most logical space for a new garage.
“All the research that we had been given said that the greatest demand for parking is in that part of the downtown,” Bisch said Friday. “That’s the most impacted area, that’s where the consumer wants to park … (and) we want people to park in the periphery of the downtown.”
Bisch’s plan would require a bridge that would connect the new parking structure to the existing garage attached to the Regal Cinemas movie theater, 101 F St., on the northwest corner of that same T-intersection.
The downtown business association president added that the expansion could be financed with parking-in-lieu fees; development impact fees, especially from the forthcoming Cannery project; parking fee revenue or a property assessment from either a property-based business improvement district or a downtown parking district. Any budgetary shortfall would be covered by the city.
Regardless of how the task force decides to handle the parking structure debate, which will continue at its next meeting Wednesday, Aug. 7, it also must hash out a plan to manage the existing parking supply.
Encompassed in his motion, Bisch included the implementation of paid parking in the heart of the downtown — rather than the 90-minute spot strategy — to free up more on-street parking spaces during peak times.
The group was split, voting 5-4 to approve the motion, however some task force members who voted against it do in fact support paid parking.
Several members dissented because they didn’t support focusing primarily on one site for a parking structure. Though, according to Bisch, the task force almost unanimously supports the idea of parking expansion.
“Three of the four ‘no’ votes were people who were in favor of the paid parking option,” said task force member Amanda Kimball. “I’m working with other people on the task force to take actions at the next meeting to provide some clarity and demonstrate the consensus that we have.”
If the group chooses to recommend paid parking, it also likely will have to decide where the metered spaces would be located and for how long visitors would be able to park. Many task force members have said they often receive complaints from consumers about the limited time they have to park in some spots downtown.
Staff’s proposal was to convert about 470 spaces in the center of the Core Area into metered parking, potentially with four-hour time limits, but that could change based on the will of the task force.
Meanwhile, the task force appears to be unanimous in recommending a set of baseline changes that will, among other things, attempt to rein in the problem of downtown workers parking in priority visitor parking spots.
The changes likely would expand and transplant employee X permit spaces out of the center of the downtown to free up prime spots. The baseline changes also call for working with residents of the Old North Davis neighborhood, north of Fifth Street, for use of their curb space to stock up on more employee parking options.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash