THE CURRENT STATUS OF ADDITIONAL PAID PARKING

Published by DowntownDavis.org
March 17, 2019

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The Davis City Council will continue discussion and is scheduled to make a final decision on downtown parking meter installation on Monday, March 25, at 6:30pm in the community chambers at City Hall.  The public is welcome (and highly encouraged) to attend.

DowntownDavis.org represents 70 businesses and growing who adamantly oppose the city’s paid parking plan. We also speak on behalf of the 90% of our customers who tell us they do not want it. Despite this huge opposition, Council appears poised to pass the plan. We object to this and the process that has brought us here. City staff, Nelson/Nygaard Consulting, and DIXON Consulting are proponents of paid parking and prepared the plan. There is no debate as the opposition (the vast majority) has had no place in the process other than being able to voice concerns during public comments… which seems to have run on deaf ears to the mayor in early March (view Mayor Lee’s message on YouTube here, or view embedded video below). Council are the only people who can directly question the plan, staff and consultants. If they do not investigate fully, then a foolhardy one-sided plan could slip by unchallenged. If Council indeed cares about representing the public will and the public good, they will stop, reconsider and press staff and consultants on the following important questions and not rubber stamp anything until we have complete, honest and transparent answers to them all.

THE MONEY GAME

The stated purpose of the paid parking plan is to help downtown. Yet approximately 90% of downtown businesses, customers and employees are against it. Outside consultants pretend to know more than the generations of accumulated business knowledge in downtown Davis, and what will be good for our downtown. Yet if they are wrong, they pay no penalty – it is local business and residents that will pay the full price. Consultants are paid to make CHANGES – if they were to come in being paid their huge wage and told staff that they didn’t believe in certain changes that the staff is gunning for, then they wouldn’t be hired again! Dare the city gamble with our money and livelihoods against our loud, constant and logical protestations?

The city adamantly states this plan is not a tax being implemented for revenue, yet additional city revenue is the only guaranteed positive outcome. They state the plan is to help ensure there are parking spaces during peak parking times, yet during the planning stage, the proposed paid parking time has changed from 10am-8pm Mon-Sat to 10am-10pm every day. The additional time in the late evening falls outside of peak parking occupancy. Is this not a major inconsistency in the reason this is being proposed? The city seems intent on getting the most money out of a plan that’s supposedly not about the money.

The plan claims its price of metering at 50 cents to $1 an hour is the lowest price that achieves availability targets of 80-85% occupancy. THIS IS MATHEMATICALLY FALSE. The lowest price that achieves 80-85% occupancy at all non-peak times when occupancy is below that level naturally is ZERO. If the only purpose is to achieve 80-85%, no intervention is needed the majority of the time. Yet the proposal collects money from 10am to 10pm each day. Here the plan contradicts its stated purpose and contains a major error, but no one on staff and council has questioned it.

If this plan is solid and the staff and consultants have faith in its success, why have so many points and clauses changed within the plan during its very long planning stage… even very recently as it was going into a final presentation to Council in early March? That does not bode well for confidence in the plan.

How many more parking tickets are expected? Does the revenue expectation presented include this money stream? How many businesses could this potentially push below profitability margins? What will be the losses in sales tax and to the community at large? Is there transparency with any of this in the plan?

The economic impact to downtown would certainly be negative. The plan tries to ignore an economic truism: Taxing one specific area will drive business to other areas that are not taxed. What is the impact on the untaxed areas adjacent that will absorb the cars fleeing the meters? The plan calls for a single downtown quadrant to have meters installed so its parking occupancy rate will fall within a desired range. But by doing this, it is absolutely guaranteed to immediately put more pressure on the surrounding quadrants… and then what is the plan for those quadrants once they meet the undesirable occupancy rate? Is the impact outlined in the plan, and what the next step would be once this occurs? Wouldn’t it mean (per the arguments of the plan) that the remaining quadrants would immediately meet the parking task force’s requirements of taxing those areas by having meters installed in them as well? Is there transparency about this to the public? It actually appears to be a hidden agenda.

THE ROOT OF THE AVAILABILITY ISSUE

What is the number of spaces that have been removed from downtown in recent years, beginning with E Street Plaza? The city refuses to release this number, but it is fundamental to understanding the problem. The estimate is that 100 spaces have been removed to put in bulb outs, planters, the plaza, bicycle parking in the street, giveaways to Zip Car and Uber, restaurant seating, etc. Returning a fraction of these spaces would reach the stated goal of 80-85% occupancy without one parking meter. The city is hiding the fact that they caused the parking shortage by removing spaces by piecemeal and that they have not returned even one public parking space to its much needed and intended use. Why aren’t these spaces being reclaimed before doing anything else?

No new space is being added in the current plan. Not only that, several more spaces will be REMOVED per ADA requirements. So the only way paid parking makes space available is by driving automobiles away. Who is likely to be driven away? The consultants present a massive assumption that only downtown employees and UCD students will be driven off. This is unsupportable. It is highly probable that more customers than employees will leave. After all, an employee has to come to work, but a customer has options. What other types are likely to leave downtown or visit less frequently if the streets are metered? The city likes to use the terms “price resistant” and “price sensitive” – euphemisms for rich and poor. The report admits poor people will be driven away from downtown, citing it as an advantage. Downtown sees it as discriminatory and against the inclusive environment we are trying to create.

THE ATTEMPT TO FORCE CHANGED BEHAVIOR & HELP THE ENVIRONMENT

The city wants to use paid parking to change people’s behavior. But which people, and what behavior? And if they are driven off, what are the impacts? Another unchallenged assumption is that making it more difficult and less affordable to drive downtown via paid parking will encourage people to bike and take public transport. Unfortunately, it is more likely that drivers will go to Target or Woodland or get items online that they used to buy downtown. Will the vast majority of people be biking from their homes to downtown in the rain? In 100+ degree heat during the summer months? Taking their entire family on bike rides to shop downtown? Will a person take public transportation if in a rush or heading out of town after stopping downtown? These are just a few of the many questions that need to be asked.

Another argument of the city’s is that less vehicle traffic will help in their low emissions goals. However, mayor Brett Lee came out highly encouraging downtown Davis to be a FOOD DESTINATION for tourists… basically stating that the goal is for as many vehicles as possible to be drawn from I-80 to eat in Davis as they pass by (view Davis Enterprise article featuring Brett Lee here).  Does this support the downtown paid parking plan’s lower vehicle emissions initiative?  Does it help congestion? Or does it help support higher paid parking revenues?

The environmental impact of paid parking is more likely to be NEGATIVE than positive. Many locals and tourists will drive further away to not have to pay for parking. Vehicles are not just “going away”, and population is not decreasing. Making clean air vehicles affordable to the vast majority of the general public is not an issue that the city of Davis is going to solve… and installing parking meters does not produce clean air or help the environment!

How will Davisites reduce the number of driving trips downtown? How many people from adjoining towns will stop visiting downtown? These numbers are not zero, yet the plan has no projections for them. Where is the transparency from the city?

Is occupancy the only standard? The theoretical ideal for a parking system would be 100% occupancy with perfect 1:1 turnover, like a conveyor belt in which every space was utilized and someone left every time someone wanted in. Does the plan serve to move toward that perfect goal? Isn’t turnover as important as occupancy? Extending the time limit from 2 to 5 hours goes AGAINST turnover. Doesn’t it make it ATTRACTIVE to park downtown while attending class (the majority of students would be able to park downtown for their entire school day instead of just one class)? And is paid parking going to definitely drive employees to the outskirts of downtown or X permit lots up to half a dozen blocks away from where they work (wouldn’t it make more sense for them to pay a few dollars to not have to worry about moving their car every 90 minutes or 2 hours, or feel safe going to and from their car at night)? What is a real cost comparison for full and part time students between the UCD lots and taking up a space for 3-5 hours downtown, or the risk of an employee getting a $50 ticket if not able to find a window to run from their job to move their car in time in a free 2 hour parking space? The consultants and city staff have made assumptions that employees and students are the true “problem”, but where is the data to COME ANYWHERE CLOSE TO PROVING that the plan will change their habits if they are such a problem?

THE EXPERTS AND THEIR EXAMPLES

Are the consultants being allowed to sell the plan and, like good sellers, maximize the positives and minimize the negatives of their product? The presentation by the consultants is an obvious sales pitch for paid parking – there was a goal in mind, and smart people can easily create a pretty presentation to help them achieve that goal. We can’t be expected to buy on their word. Every one of their promises should be scrutinized far more than it has been. They claim “science” is on their side because they can cite an expert and cities like San Francisco where paid parking was deemed necessary. But how many experts say the opposite? How many cities like Palo Alto and Carmel have healthy downtowns without paid parking? Is Davis like the examples in the plan, and if so, why does it need to be? If you already have a purpose you can then pick your experts and examples to suit that purpose. That’s not science, it’s political manipulation. And before you can do science, you have to know logic and math, two things the plan has major failings in. Last time checked, Davis did not just build anything near the equivalent of a Golden 1 Center in the heart of its downtown.

The E Street lot is the only real example of how paid parking works or fails in Davis, not some other city or fantasyland. This truly SIGNIFICANT example should be studied fully and accurately. Its lesson has been perverted by the consultants who present a glaring contradiction: The lot is currently at $1 per hour AND near 100% occupancy during peak hours. Yet their claim is that paid parking achieves 80-85% occupancy during peak, which is the only time there is a parking shortage. So in this example, paid parking does NOTHING to help occupancy at peak times. Before anyone says the lot’s 100% occupancy while paid also refutes opponents’ claims that paid parking drives customers away, refer to our featured graph at right.  It shows a few things: 1.) That paid parking met huge resistance when implemented and that it took years for the lot to get back to being full at peak hours (downtown businesses cannot survive such an exodus made full scale, especially with the added stresses in recent years), and 2.) It is only at peak hours today that occupancy is high with or without paid parking. The paid lot is still UNDERUSED compared to pre-meter at non-peak times. So the lot proves that paid parking does not work at controlling parking when it is needed AND it proves that paid parking drives people away upon implementation and at other times. Has Council examined this, and what is their thought on these numbers with the example in OUR city?

These examples are just the most glaring ways the plan does not hold up to scrutiny and cannot be called “science”. Invoking that term is an insulting manipulation by the less than 10% to make their opinion appear irrefutable and superior to the opinion of the 90%.

THE PARKING TASK FORCE’S RECOMMENDATIONS

Why are their own recommendations upside down? The parking task force returned with 18 recommendations to improve parking downtown. The city then chose how to prioritize them – it put paid parking at #1 and back-burnered the rest. What is at the bottom of the list with no action at all? The answer is “Increase parking supply and improve public transportation”. The two best, most obvious and universally sound suggestions are #17 and #18, and paid parking, the most expensive, hated and potentially damaging suggestion is at #1. Why? This is at the core of the problem. The ONLY reason not to implement proven solutions to the problem BEFORE taking the drastic plunge into paid parking is an obsession with meters and its flashy new technology… and fear that proven solutions will alleviate the problem and alleviate the need for the city to implement meters.

There are a number of easier solutions that could be completely implemented BEFORE even considering meters. Treat downtown parking like the scarce and valuable resource the city says it is when it stands to make money off it. Paid parking zealot Brian Abbanat has said the city shouldn’t spend money on other solutions, but he is eager to spend a million dollars installing meters. Where is the cost/benefit analysis on which options are cheaper and more effective (especially if one of his biggest arguments is that additional revenue is not a goal or supposed reality)?

NEW TECHOLOGY AND… CONVENIENCE?

Has the city considered how change and new technology are exclusionary to the majority of senior citizens? How about the complications that are being presented as convenience (real time app pay, specific space availability, etc.), and that meters in general are “buggy” as very recently proven in Sacramento’s massive smart meter ticketing error rate?  Watch/read a few of the following articles recently published through major Sacramento news outlets:
Audit reveals issues with Sacramento parking meters” – KCRA (NBC)
Investigation results show how often parking meter payments fail” – KXTV (ABC)

One of the most prevalent arguments proponents of the plan has made is that installing parking meters will alleviate frustration for drivers downtown in metered zones. Can it be certain there would be no bugs in the planned system? Is it proven that the complexities of newly implemented technologies such as “smart meters” and their apps help alleviate frustration? In addition to potential software glitches, hardware failures, and system hacks, what if there is simply a weak wireless signal? Will any of this help alleviate frustration? And will getting tickets for parking in which they thought they paid for make people want to continue to visit downtown Davis? It will almost certainly frustrate and anger people, and cost them a lot of additional hassle and time than current issues. Advanced technology can make things a lot more convenient, but it can also make everything go haywire and create much larger problems than before – at any given moment.

SAFETY CONCERNS

It was stated by the proponents of the plan that vehicles circling blocks while looking for an open parking space is hazardous to bikers and pedestrians, and that this plan will help solve that problem. Granted, all traffic is potentially dangerous to bikers and pedestrians. However, is it safer for drivers to be alertly looking for a parking space with eyes up on the road and on their surroundings… or for drivers to be fiddling with their smart phones and tablets while trying to find an open spot through an app? Is it always simple and easy to use an app and to not be majorly distracted by it… especially while driving? And if it’s possibly the answer to be given, we all know that “voice recognition” is often far from an easy and reliable solution!

What if this smart new system lets a driver know there’s only 1 or 2 parking spots available in their most desirable block face as they roll into downtown… couldn’t it lead to them RACING to secure that spot before somebody else snags it? Is that safer to bikers and pedestrians than drivers scanning the block they are on (typically quite slowly) for an open space?

THE DDBA & CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

The Downtown Davis Business Association (DDBA) was initially in favor of the paid parking plan, but when they finally were pressured to ask/poll their membership, they found them OVERWHELMINGLY OPPOSED. DDBA leadership initially misinformed Council when giving its support. Thus, the whole plan merits reconsideration, unless the DDBA opinion is said to carry no weight and it didn’t matter one bit to Council that they got that wrong.

The Davis Chamber of Commerce is against paid parking because they understand that small businesses run on a narrow margin. Frustrating people and adding more expense for patrons to shop downtown is detrimental to assisting small business survival. Does their strong opinion matter to Council? (Read the Chamber of Commerce’s official statement opposing paid parking here.)

THE END GAME

The promise within the plan to reinvest the net gain from paid parking (although not parking ticket revenue, as the city retains that!) in downtown improvements is misleading, since the city defines what is a downtown improvement. It was an “improvement” every time they removed one of those 100 spaces, eroding parking availability and causing the shortage they now want a tax to supposedly solve. They are calling the meters an improvement, so MORE METERS, more enforcement and MORE TICKETS will be even more “improvements” that they could spend the money on. The whole process of taking money and business away from downtown and then reinvesting it minus huge overhead costs is convoluted bureaucracy. Isn’t this a tax that pays primarily for its own implementation and maintenance and not much else? The city is not “giving back” to downtown, just taxing downtown to pay for whatever the city wants to do there… and not what the public or businesses that helps it run wants… which frees up the money the city is investing in downtown now. Downtown would certainly refuse this largesse if it could!

OUR TOWN!

Lastly, and most definitely just as important as any other point made herein: What about the character of downtown and of Davis in general? Besides what will be ugly and space-consuming robotic poles that will litter our sidewalks and streets, parking meter installation is the real language equivalent of “reducing occupancy through price models while increasing turnover with enforcement”. What is the psychological deterrent of ticket fear if you can be ticketed from 10am to 10pm any time you are downtown, and not just after 2 hours as it is now? What does that mean to the culture and environment downtown? Should our police department focus its energy on more ticketing? Is that what we are about? Today, downtown Davis is an inviting destination where visitors can relax, stroll, converse, window shop, and browse other places after visiting planned destinations. If everyone is “on the meter”, that all changes. Once the meters are in, they aren’t coming out.

The biggest question every member of Council needs to ask is: “Is this really who we are and what we want?” They already know the answer that the overwhelming majority of the people will give. So there is one final question: “Who does Davis City Council represent?”

PLEASE SHARE OUR MESSAGE, AND CONTACT CITY COUNCIL TO VOICE YOUR OPINION!

City Council Email Address:  [email protected]

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