Last month’s council meeting included a presentation on different options to address public concerns about the continued closure
By ANTHONY W. ZAMMIKIEL — firstname.lastname@example.org
Davis City Council agreed on proposal measures to address ongoing public concerns and suggestions for the G Street closure between Second and Third streets last month. This comes after a presentation made to the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission on Jan. 12, at which the commission voted to keep the closure more permanently car-free and begin discussing ways to utilize the road as a common space for the public to gather outside the dining areas.
“The closure of G Street and use of downtown parking spaces and sidewalks for outdoor dining was initiated as a collaborative ‘Open Air Davis’ pandemic response effort to promptly assist businesses with challenges presented by COVID-19 restrictions and public health protocols,” according to the staff report delivered to city council. “Expedited, no cost, temporary use permits for outdoor dining were approved through the City’s Emergency Operation Center to enable businesses to operate outdoors. These temporary outdoor uses enabled businesses to continue to operate under emergency conditions and greatly contributed to the survival of many businesses that would have potentially faced closure.”
The staff noted that since the state of California elected to “re-open” in June 2021, the city has opted to continue issuing Temporary Use Permits (TUPs) to businesses located on the closed section of G Street to address public hesitancy toward dining indoors. Following meetings with the Downtown Davis Business Association (DDBA) in July of 2021, the city did agree to re-open the section of E Street between Second and Third Street, which was closed during the early pandemic.
In a presentation given to the council by Ryan Chapman, Assistant Director of Public Works, the council received four options to consider for upcoming adjustments to the closed section. The first option includes reopening the section for vehicle usage, which would be how the section between Second and Third streets was before the pandemic closure started in 2020. The second option details how the section would remain off-limits for traffic, and that the section would be available for restaurants and other businesses to expand outwards on the street. However, Chapman notes that there are going to be protocols developed by the City Council to improve maintenance and to beautify the street for outdoor activities.
The options proposed are not limited to re-opening or not re-opening, as Chapman notes. The third option allows for temporary closures, meaning that the street would be reopened to traffic, however, special events would be allowed, and the City Council could also consider whether select times of the week would require closing the section. The fourth and final option includes re-opening the northbound side of the road and keeping the southbound side of the road closed for outdoor dining, and additional room for outdoor activities.
The staff report notes that there has been a lot of debate throughout the community about the options that the council is deciding upon, including concerns about the cleanliness and appearance of the shared space located at the site of the ongoing closure, discrepancies between restaurants’ outside dining spaces and that some businesses do more upkeep than others. The staff report said that there will need to be requirements developed to address these ongoing issues with cleanliness if the street is to remain closed.
The staff report continues, “the current approach to issuing TUPs has led some businesses disproportionately benefiting from increased dining space with little or no additional cost, while potentially negatively affecting others along G Street. This has been expressed as businesses being able to essentially rent the public space for little or no cost, thereby receiving a financial benefit.” Suggestions made by the Davis Public Works Department (DPWD) include creating a fee calendar for advantaged businesses to allow for a more equitable commerce policy.
The report concludes with the DPWD providing resources for both the council and the public to learn more about similar closures throughout the nation, stating that, “In addition, there might be grant funding to assist in the implementation of more permanent changes such as removal of gutters or the installation of at grade planters and other low impact storm control solutions but it would take several years to secure funding and construct a project using these sources. Alternatively, the City Council could direct utilization of alternative sources, such as American Rescue Plan Act funds (potentially including those already allocated for Downtown enhancements).”
As of January 17, city council has tentatively agreed to allow the closure of G Street between Second and Third streets to remain more permanently, with participating Council members voting to uphold the second option for the time being. The City Council will now continue to work on possible improvements and vote on the adjustments that need to be made.
Written By: Anthony W. Zammikiel — email@example.com