Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

Local community member responds to paid parking petition

To the Editor: 

Re “Guest: Petition to stop paid parking in downtown Davis” by Daniel Urazandi (guest opinion, Nov. 2): 

An article in The California Aggie recently asked UCD students to gather signatures to put an initiative on next November’s ballot for “free” parking in Downtown Davis. It is known as the Freedom to Park Initiative (FTP). The sponsors have pitched this initiative as a “battle between the City of Davis and its constituents.” As a constituent, I would like to offer a different perspective. 

The City of Davis hired a consultant, Opticos Design, Inc. that, along with a 15-member advisory committee, developed a vision for downtown over a two-year period with opportunities for the public to participate. Thousands of public comments were received. Its draft plan, The Davis Downtown Specific Plan, has now been generated, and the public has until Jan. 14 of 2020 to comment.

The FTP Initiative is not compatible with the Specific Plan, so a choice between the two visions for our downtown must be made. How we allocate and use our precious land resources is a large part of the decision.

The FTP Initiative mandates a minimum number of parking spaces — 1,888 to be exact — for both cars and bicycles, which, according to the sponsors, is more than the city has now. The sponsors charge that the city has eroded car parking space through the use of bulb-outs, expanded restaurant seating, E Street Plaza, bicycle parking in the street and more. They are using the FTP Initiative to require the city to “put them back.” Specifically, the FTP Initiative states that “bikes shall not occupy spaces that could be used as auto parking.” Other statements suggest that they would use perpendicular parking to maximize on-street car parking, citing C Street behind the Farmer’s Market as their model. Beyond that, they don’t specify how the parking spaces would be “put back.” 

In stark contrast, the Specific Plan seeks to encourage sustainability, active transportation and beneficial uses of public space to serve the broad population. It tailors each block’s buildings, streets, parking areas and public areas to create a vital, mixed-use downtown. By incorporating more residential space downtown, it would enable more people to live car-free. It suggests some underground parking. Unlike the FTP Initiative, nothing in the Specific Plan is mandatory. 

The two opposing visions require choices to be made. For example: Would you rather have outdoor seating at Burgers and Brew or another parking space? Would you give up a mid-street crosswalk for two more parking spaces? Would you move the heavily used bike parking facility in front of Mishka’s onto a sidewalk area elsewhere? The FTP sponsors are looking for 120 more car spaces. 

A move to perpendicular car parking is not trivial. To accommodate the perpendicular parking behind the Farmer’s Market, the street has been expanded into the sidewalk area. Do we want to shrink our sidewalk area at the same time that the FTP Initiative requires us to move all existing on-street bike parking to the sidewalk area, add 250 more bike racks and use the sidewalk to accommodate the significant expansion of the JUMP bike program? At least nine restaurants already make full use of their sidewalk space for outdoor eating.  

Or do we keep the outdoor restaurant seating intact and sacrifice our historic and essential Third Street bike lane? As the first bike lane in the United States, it is eligible for the National Registry and the Specific Plan suggests ways to commemorate it. With perpendicular parking, not only would the bike lane be eliminated, but we would create conflicts between cars and bikes because cars turn either way to pull into perpendicular spaces. On what street will the business owners or homeowners voluntarily shrink their sidewalk area to accommodate free perpendicular parking? And how do we pay for the curb rearrangement if the beneficiaries are exempt? Would it be through increased parking fines, an increase in business license fees or an additional tax on our citizens? 

If the FTP Initiative were to be adopted, it could only be repealed through another vote by the people. But by then it will be too late, because the FTP Initiative mandates that the minimum number of parking spaces be provided within one year of adoption.  

DIANE SWANN, DAVIS, CA 

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