Parking — what a great problem to have

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The Ripon grandkids were in town last weekend and we decided to eat out and what a great feeling it was to be downtown on a Saturday night. We looked at all the people standing outside the Putah Creek Café and kept walking. The Palms was expecting a packed house and there were more people standing/sitting outside the Buckhorn.

I thought about Yolo Traders, but the kids voted for Chuy’s. I was thinking about all of the food choices we have in Winters and how nice it is for all of us, residents and visitors. As we were walking into Chuy’s a couple walking by commented that it was an hour and half wait at Preserve. I figured they would find someplace to eat, but they were going to have to be open minded about their food choices.

We parked at my new office, which is as close to downtown as the parking lot at the Community Center. It has been over two years since we moved off Railroad, so I’ll have to stop calling it my new office. There were cars circling Main Street looking for parking, but there was plenty down Railroad and farther down Main Street. I don’t think anyone had to walk more than a block and a half.

There is a parking meeting this week that I plan on attending. The city hired a consultant to help us plan for downtown expansion. If you think Winters has a parking problem, just drive to downtown Davis or downtown Sacramento. If you can find a space within two or three blocks of where you want to be, you feel lucky. If you have to pay you feel ripped off.

As the hotels and other projects get approved and built, parking might become a real problem, not just something to complain about around the coffee table. There are solutions and there is vacant land in the downtown area. The question is who’s going to pay for additional parking?

The existing downtown merchants have had a free ride when it comes to parking. The city has provided off street parking for years and property owners and their tenants have supplied next to zero parking for their customers. The property owners on the edges of the downtown, think Lorenzo’s Market or Tomat’s, have supplied more than enough parking for their customers, but downtown has escaped having to form a parking assessment district to solve future parking demands.

It will be interesting to see what ideas the consultant comes up with to solve our so called parking problem. The idea of a parking assessment district won’t go over with a lot of downtown property owners or their tenants, who ultimately will pay for the assessment in higher rents.

Walking around our downtown on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night is amazing. Where did all those people come from? A few are from Winters but there are a lot of out of towners looking to see what all the fuss is about. No one wanted to go downtown 20 years ago, and as our ex-mayor Woody Fridae likes to say, “20 years ago we had a parking problem, no one wanted to park downtown.” Truer words were never spoken.

I say what parking problem?

Walk a few blocks and have a good week.

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