In an editorial this morning, the local paper has come out favor of the Trackside Center, arguing “transit-oriented infill project is worthy of support.”
They write: “While the development would create much-needed rental units in this stretched-too-thin market, and embodies the design principles that point the way forward in the current anti-sprawl political climate, it has faced staunch opposition from its neighbors for its size.”
It is hard to recall a project that the Enterprise has not supported over the years. And despite the flaws in this one, the paper comes out in support here as well.
“We saw this opportunity, having spent a lot of time on the Climate Action Team and the regional blueprint,” project manager Kemble Pope told the Enterprise. “We heard the need for more infill, more transit-oriented development.”
The paper notes that the original 5½-story-tall proposal, which featured 48 apartments and 11,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, was ultimately rejected and withdrawn due to massive pressure.
So they write that Mr. Pope and his team went back to the drawing board, “seeking community input, and emerged with a four-story design with 27 apartments. That proposal cleared the Planning Commission, putting the decision in the City Council’s hands.”
(That is partially true, although the Planning Commission did not support key provisions of the proposal. By a 6-1 vote with Darryl Rutherford dissenting, the Planning Commission voted not to
recommend that the council adopt the Initial Study. It was with a 7-0 vote that they voted not to recommend approval of the Design Review. But, by a 5-2 vote, the commission supported the Core Area Specific Plan Amendment and Rezone of the Planned Development, along with the demolition of the current site.)
In any case, the Enterprise buys into the rhetoric here, arguing: “We believe Davis needs projects like this one. The city’s rental vacancy rate is a microscopic 0.2 percent, which forces students, young professionals and retirees to live in single-family homes all over town.”
(However, this project does not address student housing at all, and only provides 27 units).
The Enterprise writes: “With Measure R effectively shutting off development on the periphery, there’s no outlet for the pressure this puts on the real estate market. And while 27 more units are hardly going to solve it, densification is the only way forward to relieve these economic forces.”
In addition, “building close to downtown’s jobs and amenities will take pressure off of our overtaxed infrastructure, as the people who live at Trackside will be able to walk or bike to work or shopping.”
The Enterprise acknowledges, however, the neighborhood opposition.
Here they note: “SOME NEIGHBORS have been vocal in opposition to Trackside, insisting that the project violates the general and specific planning guidelines.”
But the paper buys into the city response on design guidelines, arguing that “the guidelines aren’t written in stone. The city has the authority to create exceptions precisely because changing circumstances give rise to needs and opportunities that the plans may not have foreseen.”
(No one disputes that the city has the authority to create exceptions, but they do question the wisdom of doing so).
The paper notes: “In fact, through the years of negotiations this project has spawned, the neighbors and the developers have shown a remarkable ability to compromise. Both sides have made concessions, which we believe have made the proposal better for the city and for the neighborhood. With just a little more good-faith bargaining, we think all parties can arrive at a beneficial solution.”
They conclude: “This is where the City Council comes in. Rather than dogmatically standing on the planning guidelines, the council members have the opportunity to forge a final deal that will benefit all the residents of Davis and set a precedent for productive development in and around the downtown core.”
My quick analysis: The Enterprise hangs its hat on the fact that the city needs new housing. The problem, as they acknowledge, is that Trackside only provides 27 units. As they point out, “27 more units are hardly going to solve it.” I do agree with the Enterprise that “densification is the only way forward to relieve these economic forces.” While true, you end up creating a lot of animosity here with very little upside. I agree with their conclusion that the council has the opportunity to forge a final deal and think that the best way forward at this point is a solution both sides can live with – but at this point that might be easier said than done.
—David M. Greenwald reporting