City council divided over the closure of G Street


The closure of a section of G Street downtown to expand outdoor dining options will remain in place, but the city will beautify the neighborhood to make it more aesthetic.

At the top of the municipal staff’s list of tasks will be the installation of removable bollards on the street replacing the large temporary – and for many, unsightly – barriers that are currently there, as well as working with current licensees to make outdoor dining spaces more uniform. and attractive and creating a lane in the middle of the street for cycling and walking.

But the city council was divided on Tuesday on the issue of reopening the block to one or more lanes of vehicle traffic.

Mayor Gloria Partida and City Councilor Will Arnold preferred to keep the block between Second and Third Streets closed to vehicular traffic while Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs and City Councilor Dan Carson favored restoration of at least part of automobile traffic. (City Councilor Josh Chapman stepped down from the discussion because he owns a downtown business, Armadillo Music).

Frerichs said he supported staff’s recommendation to reopen a northbound lane on G Street between Second and Third, allowing vehicle and bicycle traffic and re-establishing additional parking. Carson suggested using the removable bollards to close the street to traffic on weekends or for special events while opening the street to automobiles during the week.

The Davis Downtown Business Association had recommended reopening the street to two-way traffic, in part because of complaints from non-restaurant members of the DDBA who said the street closure had hurt their business by reducing street parking spaces.

The closure of G Street in May 2020 was aimed at supporting restaurants during a time when indoor dining was banned. City staff said the ability of restaurants to continue serving customers in outdoor sidewalk and street dining spaces has kept many in business.

But with indoor dining now allowed at full capacity, non-restaurant retailers were among those urging the city to reopen G Street.

Addressing the board in public comments Tuesday night, Adele Shaw, one of the artists / owners of The Artery, said she approved of the DDBA’s recommendation to reopen G Street to two-way traffic.

Shaw said that although the closure has saved restaurants during the closure, and some of those restaurants are “taking advantage of increased seating,” retail and local businesses are still on the verge of closure. .

“We were never asked about the street closure in the first place,” Shaw said. “I hope the city will try to help all businesses downtown from the economic effects of the pandemic to maintain a diverse culture and serve the whole community.” “

However, many members of the community have come to enjoy the experience of downtown alfresco dining, including those who are wary of indoor dining.

“A lot of people in the community have told us that people really appreciate this space,” Deputy City Manager Ash Feeney said. “What we’ve learned is that it’s a space that works.

“We had a lot of people who came and spent money there,” he added, and “it has certainly been a significant contribution to the recovery.”

Arnold is one of those who enjoyed the space.

He said he agreed that cosmetic improvements were needed, as was “increased attention to cleanliness and waste disposal.”

However, said Arnold, “in terms of user comfort, I would say there is no other downtown block where, as a parent of young children, I am more at home. ‘comfortable walking around than this closed block of G Street. “

As a former owner of a downtown business, Arnold said he understood concerns about parking at retailers, “but I have to say that a starting point for me is the idea that these three-quarters of a block of G Street must return to traffic for our downtown to survive and prosper.

“All the other streets have two-way traffic. There is parking everywhere, ”he said.

“I agree that we should increase… the number of parking spaces we have downtown… but I’m not convinced that this small section of our downtown needs to get back to traffic for us to do our part to support. businesses.

Partida said she agreed with Arnold, in part because opening G Street to one lane of traffic wouldn’t necessarily increase street parking if the alfresco dining area still occupied those spaces. .

“If we continue to have outdoor spaces in front of these businesses and we open up a traffic lane, the only thing that does is open up space for vehicles to get off, not necessarily give us more parking spaces. So I don’t know if this really solves the problem that businesses that aren’t restaurants are complaining about, ”Partida said.

Making the area more attractive and uniform, adding a lane in the middle for cyclists and making the area more wheelchair accessible would all help, Partida said.

“If we worked on the aesthetics and kept the street closed, people would feel better about it. “

“We started this because of the pandemic,” the mayor said, “but it goes beyond that at this point.

“It’s about creating a community and creating a place where people can come downtown. It has become a destination and if it was improved it would definitely become more of a destination and attract more people to The Artery and all the businesses there.

“Honestly, I don’t think opening a lane for motor traffic will solve the problem that companies say bothers them the most,” Partida said.

Carson said he occupied middle ground.

“What makes sense to me is the staff’s proposal for a route that crosses it but with the possibility … of closing it perhaps on weekends with bollards or whatever,” he said. declared.

Cleaning up the area and making it more attractive “would make a big positive impression,” Carson added. “If you look at it from a merchant’s point of view, making a place to be attractive and appealing will do everyone the most good and I don’t see it as restaurants versus retail.”

He cited his own family’s pre-pandemic habit of going downtown for dinner and then heading to The Artery or other retailers.

“There is a symbiotic relationship here and I hope people will work together and respect each other.”

Frerichs agreed that “aesthetic issues are very important because… downtown is kind of the jewel of our community and we want to make sure it’s inviting.”

He preferred to install removable bollards “so you can take a street that would normally have vehicular traffic and turn it into something for pedestrian use during certain hours.”

He said he would be okay with restoring one or two lanes of traffic on G Street, but said “maybe there is a middle ground where we have G Street closed. from Thursday evening to Sunday or something like that and the rest of the working days the street is open. “

City staff initially suggested that council consider three alternatives on Tuesday night – reestablishing two-way traffic on G Street; restore a northbound lane; or by keeping complete closure.

“Two of us are in favor of keeping it closed and it seems the two of us prefer to open at least one lane,” Partida noted, but all of us preferred to set up bollards and work with companies to clean up the area.

The installation of bollards, said Feeney, “is something we could definitely move on quickly and the benefit of installing these bollards is that they do away with (current barriers) and that’s an immediate aesthetic improvement. “.

Working with current licensees to move their outdoor spaces back a bit to make way for a central lane for cyclists and pedestrians is also an option.

The pandemic is not over, said City Manager Mike Webb, “and there is a segment of the population that is uncomfortable going inside to dine at restaurants.

“I think we could maybe see this as a point of transition, away from the immediate, very temporary nature of what we originally did and take it to the next level of aesthetic enhancement, investment, and really find something that everyone can be proud of. “

– Contact Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy.

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