City Council candidates had an opportunity last Thursday to speak to the public about issues affecting downtown Davis and the economy’s effect on businesses.
This year, the Downtown Davis Business Association hosted the event at Davis Odd Fellows Hall, one of the six forums.
Candidate Joe Krovoza said the focus should be on cultivating downtown business to allow social and cultural activity to follow. Publicizing available parking and making downtown as bike friendly as possible will attract more patrons. Bike and car rentals are another options, while consistent live music events are a way to connect with the student population.
He is concerned about the development of the Second Street curve.
“I think this city council should look at the types of businesses that are out there and make sure that that doesn’t turn into a substantial shopping district that takes away from downtown,” Krovoza said.
He does not want “one-stop places,” such as Target, and expressed a need to focus on developing the E Street side. He is supportive of the downtown restaurants, but worries about diversity in the area.
“We have to do everything to encourage [more diversity],” Krovoza said.
Sydney Vergis believes the city must become aggressive and creative to maintain state funding and attract business. The downtown area must become more of a region hub, she said, to showcase what it is like to live in a sustainable community. Davis should be presented as a destination and explore agra-tourism.
“Getting together to figure out what our resources are and how to leverage those to maintain existing businesses to help increase job diversity, education and just promote economic development overall is really important,” Vergis said.
The city should not be scared about stores growing in stories, she said, and sees a lot of unrealized potential.
The permit process for businesses must be changed as well.
“Other jurisdictions have utilized the zoning code to streamline permitting processes and enact land use and other policy incentives to get those businesses to locate here,” Vergis said. “If we do that, it will allow us to create those jobs to support our existing businesses, existing retail, existing shops and the existing commercial buildings.”
Rochelle Swanson believes Davis must secure low cost measures to fix the parking system, include more parking closer to Amtrak and work on the permitting process to encourage people to utilize downtown. Ninety-minute and 2-hour parking must be examined.
“That really doesn’t invite someone to spend an afternoon downtown,” Swanson said.
There should be a design review process for downtown building expansion, she said, and believes there has not been enough marketing to Sacramento, Dixon and Woodland. There is a need for businesses to target students through discounts and affordability. The city needs to rethink the budget, looking at working toward multi-year budgets, Swanson said.
Jon Li said the city’s first priority when it comes to business should be self-sufficiency, which he does not think has been accomplished. While it is a great idea to have little places, the city should have medium-sized places as well. He is open to the idea of downtown businesses expanding to more stories, while communication between the city and schools should improve. The city needs more administrative technology, Li said. He prefers planning rather than reacting.
After supporting entertainment and retail, which needs more improvement, Li sees other weaknesses.
“Unfortunately, by and large, people go other places to get their discretionary, particularly their clothing and household goods, needs met,” he said.
The city must adapt to the changing needs of the university community, he said.
Daniel Watts does not want to restrict the use of historical properties. He believes in changes to manage downtown business. Credit surcharges violate civil code, which he said some businesses are in violation of.
In addition, more large scale events will bring people to downtown.
If the city wants density, it should start building up, with retail on bottom and apartments on top to make the city more sustainable, he said. There should be more 20-minute parking; otherwise people should park near Fifth Street.
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