A public forum to discuss Picnic Day was held last Wednesday for the city, university and local community to discuss options to bring Picnic Day back to its roots. The meeting, prompted by the events of Picnic Day 2010, was held at the Davis Senior Center.
Mayor Don Saylor, ASUCD President Jack Zwald, UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza and Deputy City Manager Kelly Stachowicz were in attendance, along with residents of the community.
“We are here to talk about Picnic Day and how our community can respond to it,” said Saylor during the forum’s opening speech. “Picnic Day is a wonderful Davis experience, I see people from all over who come back to show their children the campus, but last year we had some very bad experiences.”
Saylor discussed the instances of violence, vandalism and public intoxication in the downtown area that resulted in 39 arrests and over 500 calls for service to the City of Davis Police Department.
“It’s one thing to handle 15 or 20 intoxicated students on typical Thursday or Friday nights in downtown Davis,” said Sergeant John Wilson from the City of Davis Police Department, “but on Picnic Day 2010 we had to stop arresting people simply because we didn’t have anywhere to put them. We don’t have the resources to deal with that.”
Picnic Day is a university sponsored event and is entirely student run. Following the events of last year, however, the community voiced concern about what Picnic Day has become and in response, the city dispelled myths about what they can and cannot do.
“We can’t just shut down all the parties,” said Stachowicz. “People have a right to have a party on their private property.”
Stachowicz said that hiring more police officers is also not an option financially and banning alcohol on Picnic Day is not a feasible solution because the city does not have jurisdiction to do so.
Forum participants were broken into small groups and determined that the main problems associated with the event included the sheer number of people coming to Davis on Picnic Day, the disconnect between students and the community in terms of responsible behavior and the availability of alcohol.
Discussion came up about increasing the fine for citations issued on Picnic Day for open containers, underage drinking and vandalism.
“This forum was designed so we can try and bring Picnic Day back to being a family event, not whether we should cancel it or not,” said Stachowicz. “We want it to continue, but we need to make it safe and memorable to everyone who comes to enjoy it.”
The Downtown Davis Business Association (DDBA) recently introduced the Picnic Day Community Covenant, in an effort to encourage local establishments to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages on Picnic Day weekend. DDBA plans to implement the covenant for the first time at Picnic Day 2011, being held on April 16.
A voluntary contract, the covenant asks the hospitality industry to refrain from selling or serving alcoholic beverages before 11 a.m. and to “encourage the creation of an atmosphere that facilitates positive group social interaction and provides activities other than drinking alcohol.”
“We plan to publicize the names of those local businesses that do sign the covenant,” said DDBA Director Joy Cohan. “Hopefully they receive patronage from the community on the other 364 days of the year because of their efforts to be a good neighbor and try and control alcohol availability on Picnic Day.”
The city council will present the topics discussed at the forum in a formal report in early December.
CARLY HAASE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.