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Davis, California

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Guest: Petition to stop paid parking in downtown Davis

Paid parking downtown will ruin businesses, deter customers 

There is a battle between the City of Davis and its constituents that many downtown businesses want UC Davis students to know about and take a stand on. City Hall has been trying to install paid parking downtown for decades but with most businesses and the public against it, City Hall has elected to diminish the outrage by implementing it in stages. 

Several locals, who were tired of the city’s intransigence even in the face of mass opposition, drafted an initiative petition. The Freedom to Park Initiative does what the city won’t: It sets a baseline for parking downtown that expands both bike and auto parking by more efficiently using existing space, and bans parking meters throughout Davis.

It may seem like a basic notion to protect and maximize a valuable resource like parking when there is a shortage of spaces, but the city has done just the opposite — in the last 20 years, it has removed over 100 spaces for aesthetics and non-essential purposes. Although demand for parking increased as the city and campus population grew, the city was reducing parking until it caused a so-called parking crisis. It now proposes to “solve” this crisis by making all the parking paid. 

But its plan doesn’t add any parking spaces. It is not increasing parking — just the cost of parking. The only way its plan provides any spaces for those who are willing to pay is by driving away those who aren’t —  namely students, the elderly and other low-income drivers.

More students are driving because they are priced out of living near campus, and now the city will price them out of visiting downtown as well. Many people have gone to great lengths to make Downtown Davis welcoming, inviting and universally accessible. This parking tax will ruin that by driving customers away to malls and out-of-town stores, causing more small businesses downtown to go under. Then the city gets what it appears to want — an empty downtown with parking for people wealthy enough to pay for it.

These problems were so obvious that before the city council vote over 50 small businesses, the Chamber of Commerce and scores of concerned citizens spoke out against the paid parking plan. The council felt the wind’s direction, but all it promised was to install the meters gradually over time rather than all at once. Faced with what they admitted was a vast majority of opposition from its constituents and the businesses that would be affected, the Davis City Council went ahead with paid parking anyway. 

This disregard for democracy and representative government is what prompted the initiative. If the city won’t listen to us in the council chamber, it can listen to us at the voting booth. If we get 4,200+ signatures on our petition, it will go on the ballot in November. Then we can vote on whether we want free parking and more spaces or stick with the city’s plan of charging more and more for less and less space. It’s a pretty safe bet on how that vote will go.

But we have to get the signatures to qualify first, and to do that we need everyone who cares about downtown to come, sign and help us spread the word to others.

UC Davis students, faculty and staff have always been friends of downtown. Now we need your help. If you are registered to vote in Davis you can sign the petition. Lots of students are registered at home, but we also need volunteers to circulate the petition — any adult can do it. Taking the petition to your club, walking it through your dorm or canvassing a bit with us would be huge. 

This is a chance to contribute to permanent positive change in our community. Together we will save ourselves the cost, hassle and fear of tickets that come with paid parking while preserving the relaxed character and casual charm of our downtown. 

If you want to help, call on me at Bizarro World. More information, volunteer sign up and a printable mail-in petition is at freedomtopark.org or you can visit these downtown locations that have the petition on hand to sign:

Farmers Market, Central Park

Akasha Yoga, 140 F St

Avid Reader, 617 2nd St

A Better Place To Bead, 132 E St

Bizarro World, 223 E St

Bohème, 409 3rd St

Cloud Forest Cafe, 222 D St

Creme de la Creme, 222 D St

Crucial Vibes, 204 E St

Hastings Back Porch, 132 E St

John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st St

Kaya Yoga, 612 4th St

Kobe Mini Mart, 213 E St

Luci’s Salon, 222 D St #9a

Sarah’s Alterations, 222 D St

Soccer and Lifestyle, 517 2nd St

Shu Shu’s,  227 E St

Vault Clothing & Board Shop, 227 G St

Yeti Mini Mart, 232 E St

Volley’s Tennis Shop, 231 G St

Written by: Daniel Urazandi 

Daniel Urazandi is the owner of Bizarro World located in downtown Davis. 


  1. The citation in this article to support the claim that “the majority of residents oppose paid parking downtown” actually doesn’t have a valid reference. The link cites a quote from an unattributed source with no reference to source data. I remain unconvinced by this argument.

  2. I agree with the parking situation in down town Davis, however this article is so difficult to read as it continues to pop over and over again. Too many ads!

  3. >> It may seem like a basic notion to protect and maximize a valuable resource like parking… <> Faced with what they admitted was a vast majority of opposition from its constituents… <> scores of concerned citizens spoke out against the paid parking plan… <<
    I believe you mean "many" because "scores" of citizens did not speak against paid parking. And of course there were many who spoke in support of the paid parking plan, including those who have actually studied parking management and want what is best for our town, even if it costs a tiny bit of money.

    Everybody wants free stuff. I get it. But of course nothing is truly free. Public money pays for parking, and that means everybody who pays taxes is footing the bill even if they never park a car in town. A few car parking spaces have been removed in order to make room for 10 spaces to park bikes. That's 10 shoppers instead of one (typically) in a car. And people who arrive in town on a bike spend more time and money in town than those who arrive by car (not making that up, UCD has studied this). Removing one car parking spot in order to create 10 bicycle parking spots is not a loss of parking. It is an order of magnitude net gain in parking. Cars do not equal people. Cars don't make our downtown better. People make downtown better. We should be encouraging people to visit our downtown, not just cars.

  4. Free parking doesn’t exist in big cities for a reason. There’s plenty of space in parking structures downtown that are empty on most days.

    • I fully support making parking paid. It should be if I ride a bike downtown but you drive, my sales taxes are subsidizing your car parking (which is actually very expensive), How is that fair? We need to start building our cities for people instead of cars.

  5. Unfortunately I live outside the city limits, but my address is Davis. I fully support the effort to get this issue on the ballot. The council has been failing our town on numerous issues and this is an important concern.

  6. The shift to elected council members by district will hopefully put some fire under individual council members. We haven’t been living in a representational democracy but soon each council member will need to deal with agitation by constituents that can lead to their replacement by ballot. I’m all in favor of time limits on street parking in the downtown core but the need to ante up for a ten minute shopping trip to ace hardware will increasingly drive me to shop in woodland.


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