Downtown visitors who want to park in the E Street Plaza parking lot across from Chipotle will have to pay for the privilege starting next week.
The Davis City Council voted in April to implement a paid parking system in the E Street Plaza, and parking pay stations are being installed this week.
Starting Sept. 2, visitors will have to pay a dollar an hour to park in the lot, up to a maximum of four hours at a time. Parking can also be purchased in smaller increments, at 25 cents for every 15 minutes. Currently, visitors are allowed to park for free in the lot, but only up to two hours.
Parking will still be free after 6 p.m. and on Sundays.
The Davis Downtown Business Association, which worked with the city to get the paid parking system implemented, is supporting the program. Its members hope it will benefit visitors to the downtown.
“It stems from many, many requests we’ve had from downtown patrons who want to be able to park for longer downtown,” said DDBA administrator Joy Cohan. “They do not want to have to move their car if they want to eat and shop, or go to a movie.“
Cohan said converting the lot to a fee-based system will open up more spaces for people who really need them and are willing to pay.
“With paid parking, they know they have a place they can park, and we think that’s going to bring more visitors,” she said.
Feelings among downtown customers are mixed.
Sacramento resident Cai Thorman, who was downtown earlier this week picking up her toddler from daycare, said she thought the paid parking system would ultimately be bad for business.
“A lot of people are going to get irritated,” she said.
Davis resident Michael Jackson said he wouldn’t mind paying for longer parking downtown because he’s had to pay for several parking tickets already.
“It’s cheaper than a ticket,” said Jackson, who was also shopping downtown.
Nearby businesses are also ambivalent about whether having a paid lot will help or hurt their bottom lines.
“We’re kind of concerned that it’s going to take away business from us,” said Leia Materin, manager of Outdoor Davis on E Street. “A lot of our traffic is people driving by and seeing us in the corner, and if they can’t park for free they might not stop and come in.“
Nonetheless, the management at Outdoor Davis is waiting to see what happens and hoping for the best, Materin said.
Laura Winton, the manager of Pinkadot Boutiques on E Street, said her customers will benefit from the option of longer, paid parking.
“In the long run it will eliminate the parking tickets,” Winton said. “I think it’s going to be better for those who are coming downtown.“
Though customers will only have to pay a dollar an hour, the cost to the city to implement the pay-to-park system is much greater.
The cost of installing the pay stations is roughly $25,000, and the annual operating costs are estimated at $13,000 per year, said Davis senior civil engineer Roxanne Namazi.
“It’s going to pay for itself,” she said.
Revenue estimates prepared by Namazi and other staff members range from just under $20,000 per year to over $100,000 per year.
The 59 standard parking spaces in the lot represent only two percent of total available parking downtown, said DDBA parking committee chair Janis Lott.
“Davis is one of the few downtowns around that does not have any paid parking, other than employer and employee permits,” said Lott, who co-owns downtown newsstand Newsbeat. “This is the most congested and the most centrally located part of downtown.“
Lott said the demand for more convenient paid parking came from business owners in addition to customers. Realtors who need a place for their customers to park while seeing houses in town and hairstylists who scheduled appointments longer than two hours were among those who wanted paid parking, she said.
According to a city staff report, the parking rates were made similar to university parking rates to prevent students and campus staff from parking downtown and walking to campus.
The paid parking system is a pilot program that will last for one year. After six months, city staff and the Davis City Council will evaluate the program’s success and determine whether to continue it in the future. If feedback is positive and the system is working, Downtown Davis Business Association and the city may consider offering paid parking in other downtown lots as well, Cohan said.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.