Analysis: Trackside Earns the Endorsement of Local Newspaper

Print NewspapersIn 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which featured 48 apartments and 11,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, was ultimately rejected and withdrawn due to massive pressure.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



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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21 thoughts on “Analysis: Trackside Earns the Endorsement of Local Newspaper”

  1. Tia Will

    I inherently dislike a process that essentially means that 3 of 5 votes on the City Council means that an uneven playing field can be created for proposals brought before the city. Today, it is the immediately adjacent neighbors in OED that are affected by the arbitrary nature of this 3 votes approves process. But what about the future ?

    Consider the College Park area. A group of friends and acquaintances of mine decide that adjacent to the  the Chancellor’s home would be a good place to build a large dormitory. After all, there is an agreed upon lack of student housing, its ideal location right across the street from the university and easily walkable to downtown. We manage to pool enough money to buy out the adjacent homes and manage to elect 3 council members whose top priority is student housing and who have less sympathy for the aesthetics and neighborhood preference of the current residents. Would this option be favored by the business community, the city staff and the newspaper ? Something tells me it would not be. And yet, why not ?  It meets a clear community need for housing, would represent significant infill and densification, is in a neighborhood that already has frat/sorority houses in close proximity, would decrease automobile trips….

    How many of you think my project gets approved ?  Equal process ?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      That’s always been the problem with the council – 3 votes can do anything. The old council was far worse, a constant string of 3-2 votes, community sentiment be damned.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        To clarify my comment, mine was not intended to be a criticism of the current council which I think goes out of its way to work more from a consensus model of governing.  The old council – which was the point of my comment – would ram things through on a 3-2 vote without much care about damage to the community.

    2. John Hobbs

      Put some skin in the game, Tia and if you and your friends can run the gauntlet of protections so cleverly voted in over the years you’d have a real answer to your phony question.

      1. Tia Will

        John

        There was zero “phony” about my question. The “skin in the game” argument was raised long ago when the Trackside was first proposed at six stories. One cannot have “skin in the game” in an invitation only game unless one is invited. I would also respond that no one has more “skin in the game” than the immediately adjacent neighbors who were not invited to the investor “club”.

  2. Robb Davis

    For the record, I will make my decision concerning Trackside after the public hearing and listening to the voices of my colleagues on Tuesday night. I write here to describe the deep offense I take at the notion that this is an arbitrary process, relying on three votes, as if we show up, hear a brief report and then decide.  
    Over the past 3 days I have spent nearly 20 hours reading all relevant planning documents, environmental review, questions and answers related to the environmental review, and minutes of various meetings on the subject of Trackside. Before that I attended no less than a dozen meetings with interested community members—both for and against the project–as well as the applicants.  
    If these efforts at listening, analyzing and weighing do not create an “even playing field,” then none can be created. 
    I have pushed for meetings between community members and the applicants in an attempt to open communication channels.  I have met with staff to understand the form and approach to the environmental review. When I make my decision on Tuesday night, it will be a decision informed by all of these steps, to which I have committed significant time and thought.
    If this were an arbitrary process, I would have spent yesterday watching youth soccer, Friday shopping with my wife, today, riding my bike. I would show up on Tuesday and get a feel for things and then vote without a genuine care for the outcome in terms of community goals or neighborhood concerns. None of these will characterize my decision making process.
     
     The citizens of Davis either want a representative democracy or they do not.  It appears to me, based on the City Council meetings of the past year and comments like this one, that the citizens of this city do not want a City Council—they want direct democracy: the ability of citizens to directly vote on everything from infill projects to a complex IPM policy.  Perhaps we should experiment with that and assess people’s satisfaction with the outcome in terms of “arbitrariness” and “level playing fields.”

    1. Tia Will

      Robb

      the deep offense I take at the notion that this is an arbitrary process, relying on three votes, as if we show up, hear a brief report and then decide. “

      I am sorry to have caused you offense, but not sorry about the genuine concerns of my comment. No where in my comments did I intend to suggest that the individual process of decision making is “arbitrary” or that anyone ( currently on the council)  makes their decision based on just showing up and hearing a brief report ( although I believe that could have been justifiably claimed of some council members in the past). The word “arbitrary” was intended to convey the uncertainty of outcome based on 3 votes rather than previously agreed upon guidelines.  I  believe that there are competing processes in our community. There was in the past a defined process by which zoning and design guidelines were sought, on which many in our community spent countless hours investigating, designing and negotiating, only to be discounted entirely by the separate process of a City Council vote of 3. This is not a condemnation of you or any other member or the council or their process of decision making. It is simply a statement of fact as I previously clarified with another council member thereby confirming the accuracy of my statement. And yes, it is true that I find these processes in conflict and that I do not believe that the former should be trivialized or cast aside in order to justify the decision making process of the council as some citizens, staff and the Enterprise have recently done.

      1. Howard P

        Am confused Tia… what is the problem with a 60% decision?  Do you advocate another system?

        What would you propose?  Meant as an honest question…

        Alan and Davis should feel free to chime in on my question to Tia… you both seem to believe 60% is a travesty of representative government.

        For a 5 member body, 60% is closer to 67% (super-majority) than is 80%.

  3. Tia Will

    community sentiment be damned.”

    I agree with you that the current council has made efforts to not use this as a blunt tool to enact a specific agenda.

    It is this part of the 3/2 decision making to which I object. I agree that the council has a more challenging decision on Tuesday given the information from several weeks ago that letters to the council were running approximately 50/50 for and against Trackside. I suspect, but do not know, that this balance might be changed if more citizens perceived their neighborhood to be at risk from this kind of decision making. From many weekends tabling on this issue at Farmer’s Market, I frequently heard the comment, “That doesn’t affect me, I live ….” in an area removed from the core area. Many did not seem to appreciate that while it is OED today, the same kind of 3/2 decision making could set their concerns aside just as easily.

     

    1. Robb Davis

      I will repeat something I made clear at the DD, Chamber, YCVB 2x2x2 several weeks ago: I do NOT and NEVER have made decisions on the basis of how the “email” balances.  That would be a terrible way to govern. I won’t do it.  I will do what I believe is in the best interests of the community and fits with goals and needs of its citizens.  It was I who made the observation to some that my emails were running 50/50.  I said it because I was intrigued by it (usually one “voice” dominates decisions like this one) NOT because I planned to use it to make a decision.  I have made this point many times in the past.

      1. PhilColeman

        Robb, you’re sounding defensive and you need not be. Often, one, or maybe a few more, “elect” themselves as the all-knowing “what’s best for the community.” Their task is much easier than yours. They give no consideration to other interests or council members, who don’t share their insular view, except to belittle or falsely represent them.

        I don’t doubt for a second you often spend 20-hours assessing all points. That’s what an elected voice of all the people is supposed to do. Don’t give too much concern over the whimpers and pouts of the few.

         

         

  4. Ron

    Phil:  “Don’t give too much concern over the whimpers and pouts of the few.”

    I’ve heard a better saying:  “Don’t throw anyone (or any neighborhood) under the bus.”

    1. Howard P

      Really?  Doesn’t the neighborhood extend to L and to Fifth?  How are the majority of folk in ‘the neighborhood’ being “thrown under the bus”?  Meant as an honest question… he cannot confirm nor deny…

      Is not the Core Area a “neighborhood”?

      Would bet Fred Rogers might have opined all of Davis is part of “the neighborhood”… but he is not available for comment…

        1. Ron

          Alan:  Saw your letter in the Enterprise, today.  Sorry that the other Vanguard article overshadowed this (more imminent) article/issue, today (at least, regarding the number of comments).

          Best wishes to you and all the Trackside neighbors, regarding the decision this week.  To be honest, I’m surprised that there’s even a controversy, regarding adhering to guidelines.

        2. Alan Miller

          Sorry that the other Vanguard article overshadowed this (more imminent) article/issue

          The world is not the Vanguard comments section.  Nothing was overshadowed.

        3. Ron

          Alan:  “The world is not the Vanguard comments section.”

          It is, when you get sucked into it.  (At least, for the six or so frequent participants, on a given subject.)  (It’s a pretty miserable world, at times.)

          Anyway, hoping for a good outcome, for you and your neighbors.

           

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