By Alan C. Miller
This is the big one: Trackside Center. Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the City Council Chambers. The one that determines who determines the direction of infill Davis.
There is nothing more sacred in human interaction than the agreement. The Design Guidelines are the traditional neighborhoods’ agreement with the city of Davis. When we the residents helped craft the Design Guidelines, we believed that future councils would respect that agreement.
Instead, a past council conducted a B Street “visioning” process to alter the agreement. Another proposal on B Street didn’t fit the new vision. Rather than conduct another process, that council simply voted by majority for the noncompliant project.
A destructive precedent was set by this decision: spot zoning by council majority. It’s a wrongly accepted specter that says at its core, zoning doesn’t matter, neighborhoods don’t matter and agreements don’t matter.
Gambling isn’t legal in our neighborhood
On Nov. 3, The Enterprise ran an article profiling Trackside investors. It characterized them as locals investing to better their community. It then told us about their lives, as if these
individuals with $50,000 to $100,000 to spare needed to be made to look human.
Trackside Partners, LLC, insists anything smaller than the proposal before the council won’t “pencil out.” (I don’t believe that for a moment — the Paso Fino developers made the same initial claim.) So if we take Trackside LLC at their word, these locals invested knowing that the project would fail if they couldn’t convince the council to break the Design Guidelines and change the zoning.
That makes them speculators, not investors.
The real investors
We, the residents, are the real investors in Old East Davis. We don’t need to be made to look human, we are Davis neighborhood residents, just like you.
For decades, all residents who invested in the neighborhood were required to follow the Design Guidelines, and did so willingly. We believed in investing in a neighborhood vision that we, along with our partners in downtown and the city, cooperatively agreed on.
It rarely goes well for those being told what’s best for them
In an Enterprise submission on Nov. 5, Nicole Bourne, Dan Wolk and Dan Fuchs made the incredibly patronizing statement, “All of these things (re: a larger Trackside) enrich our community — including the Old East Davis neighborhood.”
Who defines what is good for a group of people living in a place? Is it those who live there, or those with the power to change that place? Ask most indigenous peoples how that dynamic went down for them. It rarely goes well for those being told what is best for them.
Whose neighborhood? Our neighborhood!
Were Old East a no-growth group trying to stop Trackside, I’d be calling for our own heads. But that’s not the case. The Old East Neighbors agree that a large, mixed-use building should be built on that site. We are only asking that the Trackside Partners follow the same rules as those citizens who invested in the neighborhood did.
We are the reasonable middle ground
There has been a lot of criticism of the philosophy of extreme no-growth and the harm it brings to Davis. There also has been criticism of the philosophy of extreme development and the harm it brings to Davis. We believe most Davis residents are reasonable people and that we speak for those who don’t favor either extreme.
The changes that will occur in zoning and policy haven’t happened yet and may play out quite differently than the speculators hope. The utopians and the speculators want you to believe a vastly denser zoning obviously will occur, so they want their vision built now, to shoehorn in a towering physical precedent before the rules are written.
There are places in our neighborhood that are suitable for more densification and that won’t destroy our neighborhood character. Let’s have those conversations.
In a healthy community, zoning will lead, not follow, specific proposals. If you agree, fellow citizen, we ask for your attendance and support on Tuesday evening.
To the City Council
City Council, the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association is ready and willing to avoid what otherwise may come next, and meet somewhere about halfway between Trackside 2.0 and Trackside 3.0. We ask that you send a clear message to the developers to go back and negotiate in good faith so that we all can truly move on.
My vision is giving a thumbs-up to a mutually agreeable building. It can be done!
— Alan C. Miller is a 30-year resident of Old East Davis. He has served on the board of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association periodically since the late 1980s.