Trackside – A View from J Street

The neighbors revised proposal for Trackside 3.0

by Tia Will

I am a 30-year resident of Davis, first during my time at UCDMC and subsequently as a resident of North Davis, and for the past six years a downsized resident of Old East Davis. I consider myself to be a progressive liberal (ok, a very far left liberal). The views that I am going to express about the deliberations and vote on Trackside are mine alone. They do not reflect the opinions of any other members of OEDNA nor its board.

The format I have chosen to use to express my views is primary source. I am going to quote members of the City Council and then provide my interpretation of what this meant to me and how I believe it affects our community. Some will accuse me of “cherry picking” comments. Guilty as charged. This article is a reflection of how  these particular comments affected me with no pretense at all of objectivity. I was not at all surprised, but deeply disappointed, and in one instance personally hurt, by the comments of our City Council. Despite my deep disappointment, it is my hope that I will live up to some of our council members’ impression that I am civil in my comments.

Brett Lee

Brett’s was the only vote in favor of the position of OEDNA and so I naturally have much less to say about his comments, except one.

“…so now we are in a subjective area.”

Brett is correct in one way, we have moved outside the objective area (since the zoning and guidelines were clearly not objectively met). What is not subjective will be the outcome for the opposing
groups. The Trackside developers and investors will objectively be gaining whatever profit is generated from this project. The adjacent neighbors will not share in these gains, but will live 24/7 with the adverse consequences of this decision. Now some may think theses adverse consequences are trivial. I disagree and will attempt to demonstrate why with subsequent comments.

Will Arnold

At 4:44:45 Will inquires about the financial viability of Trackside 2.0 vs 3.0  and asks specifically about whether Trackside and the OEDNA have conducted formal assessments of the viability of their proposal. I would have liked to see this as an even-handed question, but am unable to for two reasons.

1. Mr. Greenfield responds in part with the accurate observation that construction costs have increased over the intervening year. What he does not share is that at the very first OEDNA/Trackside meeting, I had requested that a model and estimate of feasibility for a three-story, guideline compliant project be provided. The Trackside partners refused to do so. The reason given was not that they had already assessed feasibility but that the neighbors would like a three-story proposal “even less “ than the four-story presented. No further discussion ensued and they remained steadfast in declining to even consider a compliant project.

3. I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the neighbors to complete the work of the developer. I am also dismayed by Will’s willingness to accept at face value the statement of Mr. Greenfield regarding financing, when he so clearly stands to benefit from acceptance. Further, Will did not apparently understand that the delay was a choice of the developer, not of OEDNA, which would have been ready to proceed at any time with a compliant project. Thus the “wound” of the increased costs on the developers was entirely self inflicted.

At 4:51 Will states that he appreciates the genuine efforts of both sides to negotiate in good faith.

This was true only after the neighbors pushed back very hard on the developers to do so. Further, it lasted only as long as the developers were willing to sit at the table. OEDNA made it clear that we felt there were other areas in which consensus could have been achieved. I had specifically requested that we be given more time to attempt to reach consensus. From Rochelle’s comments, I can only conclude that it was the developers/investors who were unwilling to participate further. More on this under comments by Rochelle Swanson.

4:51:55 Will states that he wants to flatly reject some of the ad hominem attacks against individuals, against investors as a whole, against staff, and against at least one of his colleagues.

While I agree with Will that ad hominem attacks are never appropriate, I believe that his bias is showing. He said not a word about the frequent use of the words Nimby, self centered, greedy, regressive and, in one case directed at me personally, “immoral” which were leveled at members of the OEDNA on the Vanguard and other media. It would seem that Will either was unaware of these attacks (unlikely) or that they did not matter enough to him to be worthy of inclusion in his comments.

4:52:14 Will states “there is a rhetorical gap here” and proceeds to outline some admittedly dramatic statements from a single individual member of OED.

I happen to agree with Will that there was a “rhetorical gap.” However, I believe that he then used that gap to trivialize the very real adverse effects that this project will have on the neighborhood. He seems to have focused on the hyperbole to the exclusion of an objective assessment.

Rochelle Swanson

I will preface my comments about Rochelle’s deliberation by stating that I admire her consistency and adherence to her stated world view. She has been hard working as a representative of the view that, in her own words, “Davis should grow as fast as we can.” I believe in her complete sincerity in her vision. I just do not share it and do not believe that we can simply grow our way out of our problems by accepting whatever project is put before us.

4:59 Rochelle clarifies that rather than “subjective” she believes that what we have is a “discretionary” issue and states “that is just the way it works.”

While I agree with her that this is the way it usually works, I have clearly stated on multiple occasions, to greater and lesser effect, that I do not believe that a win–lose scenario with winner take all is either necessary or best policy. I see this approach as costly both in time and money (as Mr. Greenfield clearly agreed), but is also needlessly divisive pitting neighbor against neighbor, eroding trust both in our neighbors and our city processes. I have offered on multiple occasions an alternative collaborative approach which has indeed been used by several developers with whom I have worked at their request.

4:59:45 Rochelle asserts that the Trackside project is “next to the parking garage and the railroad tracks.” This is only ½ correct and ordinarily I would not nit pick, but while Trackside is next to the tracks, it is over a block removed from the parking garage. Lest you think “so what,” I have heard this inaccurate statement used by many as a reason that four stories is reasonable in this location.

5:00:11  Rochelle states that she is concerned that no one is looking at the “haves and have nots.” What she neglects to mention is that there has been a great deal of conversation regarding the haves and have nots. The first time I spoke against Trackside at public comment, I stated that I would not be speaking if this project had been geared to the “have nots” in our community, the students, individuals or families in need of affordable housing, special needs populations including the homeless, or families in transition. Addressing the needs of the have nots has been one of my primary points when tabling at Farmer’s Market. Unfortunately, it does not address any real “needs.” Instead it represents three groups which I see only as “haves.” The developers and investors who stand to benefit financially, the businesses who will make a profit from increased people in the downtown area, and those who are already affluent enough to be able to afford luxury apartments. This project does not meet the needs of any of the groups that she accurately notes need the “stewardship” of the city council.

5:02 Rochelle comments on the environmental aspects of the project, emphasizing that we need more people living downtown in order to lessen the impact of more automobile trips.  While this may hold true for the few residents of the Trackside project itself, the deleterious impacts of more car trips from those attracted to the businesses if that aspect of the project is successful as hoped, from other areas of town and/or outside town and from visitors to the residents of Trackside, does not seem to have played a role in her considerations.

She then expresses her lack of confidence that a further collaborative approach would be productive.

What I hear when she says that is the following. She is clearly sending a message that she does intend this to be precedent setting. She does not believe that further collaboration will be useful, and yet OEDNA has repetitively stated that we are willing to continue. So it seems what she is actually saying is that, because the Trackside Partners are unwilling to negotiate further, she is in favor of deferring to the wishes of those who are unwilling to hold further discussions.

My take home from her comments are the following:

  1. Message to developers. Bring us your projects. They can be outside the zoning and guidelines. They do not have to address any critical city needs. They can be of benefit only to the “haves” of our community. We will approve them if we can demonstrate that they increase the population of the core area even by an admittedly insignificant number. I believe that this message will achieve the desired goal of increased infill projects.
  2. Message to the neighborhoods. You can spend as much time as you like researching, discussing, collaborating, presenting you views and alternatives as you like. In the end, we are likely to discount everything that you have said and accept the developer’s proposals even if they are refusing further offered negotiations. I believe that this also sends a perhaps unintended and chilling message to the neighborhoods. If OEDNA, with all their organization,  willingness to collaborate over a two-year period – spending hundreds of hours of their own time for no financial gain, and willingness to present an alternative was unsuccessful, what chance would there be for us to have an impact? I believe that this decision will have effectively silenced many in our community.

Lucas Frerichs

At 5:07:44 Lucas comments that the housing crisis is real, as though there were anyone disputing this point.

There is not a single member of OEDNA that does not recognize a housing shortage crisis in Davis. There is not a single member that does not favor densification and infill, and this has been stated publically repeatedly.

He illustrates by citing the instance of an individual living out of their car near city hall. What he does not stress is that the Trackside proposal will do absolutely nothing to address this individual’s needs nor those of anyone who cannot afford luxury accommodations.

5:12:43 Having laid out his significant experience with regard to infill development, Lucas notes that he believes that he walks the talk with regard to infill. I agree, he both lives in an infill project and has been a strong promoter of infill and could therefore be seen as “walking the talk.”

However, I believe that Lucas had a special responsibility to walk the talk not only as a proponent of infill but also as an impartial representative of all members of our community while sitting on the council.  I think it is fair to say that, as an initial investor in the Trackside project, even in its initial six-story configuration, Lucas had already formed a favorable opinion regarding this project. Although he long ago divested his financial interest and therefor was not legally bound to recuse himself, I do not see him as an impartial judge of the merits of the project. It is my opinion that, even though it would not have affected the outcome, he had a responsibility that he chose not to fulfill. That of walking the talk as an impartial councilmember.

Mayor Davis

I am only going to make one comment regarding Mayor Davis’ presentation. I preface my comments by stating my ongoing belief that Mayor Davis is very meticulous in his evaluation of every issue that comes before him. He attempts to evaluate all views and weigh them carefully prior to arriving at a decision. That is part of the reason that I found one of his statements so surprising and deeply hurtful.

5:34:27 After a very well articulated thought process with examples, Robb asks, “How is it harming the neighborhood ?” He proceeds to state that, because of the existing diversity, which I consider one of the biggest strengths of the neighborhood, he does not believe that the project will hurt it.

While Robb had correctly stated that Trackside will not hurt the historic buildings, and will not hurt the diversity of the neighborhood, I have a different perspective. Neighborhoods are not just the physical structures that are present. First and foremost, neighborhoods are the people that live there.  This is what has been overlooked in the council’s deliberations. I would challenge anyone to tell me in good faith that there will not be any harm to the members of our neighborhood who live immediately adjacent to the project or in close proximity. Can you honestly say that the 86-year-old gentleman who lives in the “little yellow house” will not be harmed by the conversion of Trackside from a daytime-only single-story business building, with activity confined to the 8-5 time frame, to a four-story mixed-use project with the potential for 24/7 comings and goings ? Can you assert that the immediate neighbors will not experience a dramatic change in environment, both within and outside their homes?  For the past two years we have, as members of OEDNA, attempted to work collaboratively with the Trackside partners and the city staff, and have tried to explain multiple times to City Council members just exactly how our neighborhood, not as an abstract concept, but as real people will be adversely affected. In a way, all concerned have admitted through the use of the word “mitigations” that these adverse affects (aka harms) will occur, and yet somehow it would seem that we were either not heard, not understood, or those concerns were not felt to be significant enough to have bearing on these deliberations.

A neighbor had recently expressed the opinion that he did not “feel safe” in Davis and was considering moving. He made it clear that he did not mean physically safe, but rather that he did not feel that his interests were being represented. At the time, I discounted his statement. I had never felt that way as a citizen of Davis. Not prior to Tuesday night. For the first time ever, I am giving serious thought to the possibility of moving from a town I have loved because of a decision that, while not meeting any of the “crisis” needs of our community, signals clearly that the “needs” of the wealthy who can afford luxury accommodations, investors who can afford tens of thousands of dollars to invest, and developers who are clearly, based on their willingness to delay and then walk away from negotiations, interested only in their own profit regardless of where they happen to live.

At one point, Robb expressed his belief that no one would be moving out of OED based on this decision. Robb, I am not so sure.



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About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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29 thoughts on “Trackside – A View from J Street”

  1. John Hobbs

    “. I had never felt that way as a citizen of Davis. Not prior to Tuesday night.”

    Doctor please.  Are you going to leave the country because Your interest isn’t being represented?

  2. Tia Will

    Are you going to leave the country because Your interest isn’t being represented?”

    No John. I think that if you read the entire article you will see that my discouragement is with all of the following:

    1. Acting to the benefit of the haves vs the have nots for whom Trackside guarantees nothing. While this may not represent the biggest concern of most members of OEDNA, it is certainly my biggest concern and I think my articles and comments over time corroborate that.

    2. Choosing a competitive winner take all model over a collaborative model. My second biggest concern.

    3. Choosing to stress the ad hominem attacks of some while ignoring those of which one is more philosophically aligned.

    4. Choosing to see hyperbole on one side while ignoring equally hyperbolic statements of the other.

    5. Choosing one’s personal preference over an objective analysis of all sides of an issue.

    6. Not clearly understanding all of the issues as witnessed by one council member’s personal communication with me stating that they perhaps “did not understand” the issues being raised by the neighbors.

    7. Making a decision that that will effectively ( in my opinion) likely stifle participation by members of the community who will interpret this decision as meaning that if OEDNA cannot succeed in advocating a collaborative approach, what hope would there ever be for their neighborhood.

    Sorry for the repetition, but gee, I really thought I had made that clear in the article.Since you used the word “country”, yes, I see the same set of objections on the level of the current national administration as I do on the local level, and yes, I have given serious consideration to leaving the country for all of the same reasons. It is my daughter that has convinced me that we need to stay and fight these processes, especially # 1 & 2.

     

    1. John Hobbs

      A pile of tripe, Tia. There are no solid guarantees in life. Any outcome has unintended consequences.

      “2. Choosing a competitive winner take all model over a collaborative model.”

      A collaborative model being that each citizen of Davis gets to veto any choices they disagree with? Lol.

      “5. Choosing one’s personal preference over an objective analysis of all sides of an issue.”

      As you seem to assume that your preferences are best for the community?

      “7. Making a decision that that will effectively ( in my opinion) likely stifle participation by members of the community who will interpret this decision as meaning that if OEDNA cannot succeed in advocating a collaborative approach, what hope would there ever be for their neighborhood.”

      Are Davisites forgetful of all the projects that NAGs have quashed in the ;ast 15 years? One victory for housing and you are having a conniption.

      Repetition, sure, because you have no fresh rationale.

      1. Tia Will

        John

        One victory for housing and you are having a conniption.”

        One victory for housing…really ?  I suggest that you go back and review Lucas summary of the number of projects that have been contested and passed and subsequently built and then repeat that comment.

         

  3. Howard P

    it is over a block removed from the parking garage. Lest you think “so what” I have heard this inaccurate statement used by many as a reason that four stories is reasonable in this location.

    No… it is exactly one block removed… your concern about ‘hyperbole’ by others is noted, and applies equally to you.  I expect you to reply with “so what?”  Talk about inaccurate statements?

    Much else in this follows that line, and while “civil” I see a lot of P-A innuendo/insinuation in it.   Nothing that rises to ‘provable’.

    Hope it gave you a ‘release’ to write it tho’, Tia.

    1. Tia Will

      Howard

      Nothing that rises to ‘provable’.”

      As I believe that I stated repeatedly in noting that it was my opinion with no pretense of objectivity. Just in case anyone missed that disclaimer.

    2. Tia Will

      Howard

      One more point since you have chosen to call out my inaccuracy but not that of Rochelle Swanson, Google maps cites the distance between the parking garage and Trackside as 0.2 miles. I do not know exactly how many city blocks that represents, but I do know that most people would not consider 0.2 miles as “adjacent to”, ok ?  That is all I meant.

  4. Ron

    John Hobbs: “Doctor please.  Are you going to leave the country because Your interest isn’t being represented?

    Still waiting for you to explain your intent interest.  Your nasty accusations aren’t helping your interests.

    [moderator: John posts under his own name. You don’t. Please stop this direction of the discussion and get back to the issues.]

    1. John Hobbs

      Ron, my interest is mostly sporting as the Davis I wanted to retire to was swept away sometime in the 80s apparently. On some issues that affect us regionally, I try to give a little “informed opinion” once in awhile. I was never really anonymous, either as you could google my screen name and find unique information and photos.

      ” But, John “started it” in the other article.  (Not the first time, either.)”

      What are you, a sixth grader?

      As long as you continue impertinent and inane posts, I will respond, unless dome local makes my point first. Howard is frequently there first. David occasionally gives you a Gibb’s slap and saves me the trouble. Now, go l;ook at the “other thread” and rad my response. Then let’s see if you come clean.(He won’t.)

      1. Ron

        John, the only sixth-grader here is you. Unlike you, my interest is not “sporting”, as I take growth/development issues quite seriously.

        Anytime you (or another troll) feels compelled to “give me a slap”, go for it.  I’ll continue responding as I see fit. Let’s see who ends up with red marks on their face.

        Not sure what you mean by the “Davis you wanted to retire to”.  Does that mean you’re not retired in Davis? (If not, I’ll chalk that up to another “win”.)

        On second thought – I don’t really care to know much more about you.

        Now, if you want to make actual arguments (instead of personal attacks), then it might be more interesting. Until then, not so much.

        1. John Hobbs

          Easy with the pejoratives, Ron. Since you choose to hide behind anonymity, I don’t think you have much standing to make many demands on anyone.

          “Davis you wanted to retire to”

          That would be the one that was populated by working class folks and academics that was welcoming, inclusive and open minded, before the current elitist attitudes came to prevail.

           

    2. Tia Will

      Hi Ron and John,

      Ok, I clearly was too verbose and not specific enough for clarity. Absolutely none of this has anything to do with my personal interests. I will be minimally if at all affected by Trackside. But this is not true for some of my neighbors. I also believe the process by which this proposal was made and ultimately accepted was divisive and ultimately bad for the community as a whole.

      1. Tia Will

        Ron and John,

        I am not going to use moderator discretion, but I am going to make an honest request of both of you. Please stop sniping at least on this article. Central to my having written it is a desire to confront some very important issues I see facing our city. I do not believe that making nasty comments about one another forwards the discussion.

  5. Richard McCann

    Tia, I see the issue as how David described it–to those elsewhere in the city, it appears that the developers compromised substantially from the original proposal, and their new proposal was not far removed from the neighborhoods counterproposal. And it’s not clear why a particular neighborhood should be more protected from change than any other. We are going to face changes in our neighborhoods regardless, even if it’s because our housing stock is aging in the core areas will need replacement and remodeling. And as I’ve posted in the related story, there is evidence elsewhere that increased housing of any kind produces more affordable housing. http://www.davisvanguard.org/2017/11/commentary-emerging-student-voice-housing/#comment-372274

    1. Tia Will

      Richard

      And it’s not clear why a particular neighborhood should be more protected from change than any other. “

      I completely agree with you that no particular neighborhood should be more protected from change than any other. I feel that ultimately ever single neighborhood has the potential for being affected by the process of making exemptions from previous agreements when the city council becomes composed of three members desiring change in that particular area. I would also suggest that no neighborhood should be given less protection than any other, and yet it is the core neighborhoods that are being asked to bear the brunt of changes that will affect no other neighborhood in town at this time. I certainly would not mind if these were within the collaborative designed guidelines, but they are not.

      Also, I do not believe that any individual or group of individuals should receive special treatment in the dispensation of exceptions. And yet this is certainly happening. Many of my OEDNA neighbors have requested exceptions and been denied even very small changes with minimal impact on others, and yet a group of people well connected in the city request exemptions and they are granted.

      1. Howard P

        With all due respect, when such agreements are made with ‘neighborhoods’, there are a small handful of people representing the neighborhood.  The community at large has no seat at the table, except via the CC.  If the CC is adequate to enter into such an agreement, on behalf of the community, perhaps on a 3-2 vote… well you can see where I’m headed… not trying to convince, but am pointing out the logic.

        And please define minor impact, vs, major impact… I ask that, defending adopted guidelines and especially zoning (which is by ordinance, whereas guidelines are not codified)

        1. Tia Will

          Howard,

          I understand and respect your statement. I also do not believe it is accurate. When the Trackside partners did eventually decide to do community out reach, they appropriately did it with inclusion of the entire city. Meeting, or meetings, I honestly do not remember whether it was one or more were posted for general participation for any citizen and at least one meeting there were many participants from other neighborhoods. I personally spoke with a number of folks from outside the core area much as occurred at a number of meetings for the Cannery. Also, OEDNA did not represent a very small number of neighbors. At our first meeting there were upwards of 35 members of the neighborhood present. While it is true that most of these people did not attend the collaborative meetings, there were regular postings on emails and social media in which larger numbers of our neighborhood continued to communicate with the core representative group.

    2. Tia Will

      Richard

      I had one other thought about your comment.

      to those elsewhere in the city, it appears that the developers compromised substantially from the original proposal”

      Yes but sometimes “appearances can be limited by lack of information. For example, Elaine Roberts Musser made an incorrect statement at public comment. She stated that “the developers reached out to the community”. At no time did the developers reach out voluntarily with relevant information about the project which the neighborhood only learned about from the article in the Enterprise. When the developers did reluctantly agree to discussions with the neighbors was when the push back to the six story version was so strong that they knew it would not pass. This issue for me was not 3 stories vs 4 stories, but process. Adversarial processes are not necessary. To date, I have worked with 2 developers on developing a more collaborative process than was adopted by the Trackside group. From these experiences, I know that it is possible to work with, as opposed to against the adjacent neighbors.

        1. Tia Will

          Howard

          I believe it was their perception that a six story building was not going to be approved that was their motivating force. I could be wrong, but that is the impression I got from the early collaborative meetings at all of which I was in attendance.

  6. Ron

    Tia:  “Ok, I clearly was too verbose and not specific enough for clarity.”

    I suspect that you misread my comment to John, regarding the referenced quote above.  Not important, anyway.

    1. Tia Will

      Nah. I just wanted to include both of you in the conversation since you both had posted with regard to the issue. I agree, not important. I was just being inclusive.

  7. Ron

    Tia:  “Nah. I just wanted to include both of you in the conversation since you both had posted with regard to the issue. I agree, not important. I was just being inclusive.”

    There was an issue?  I got “sidetracked”, and apparently forgot about it.  🙂

    On a more serious note, what were you trying to accomplish with this article?  (Given that the decision had already been made.)

  8. Dave Hart

    Tia, I respect your feelings regarding the impact of this development.  In a way, I can understand it from the same perspective as a neighbor of an Airbnb that has provided no end of low to high level irritation over the last two years for us neighbors who live on our small cul-de-sac.  The owner of the house never said “boo” to anyone before converting a 3Bd, 1 bath house into a four bed, two bath Airbnb (garage conversion).  There was no period of review or negotiation.  Done; live with it.  I think I do know how OEDNA members feel.

    But I look at the crappy development along the railroad track and Trackside looks like an improvement to me.  The builders of this project plan on making a profit, just like every house that that every one of us lives in right now.  If your gripe is with capitalism in general, I’m there with you.  It’s a death dealing system that will kill us all in short order without constantly being reigned in by public regulation.  But until the revolution, or the formation of an economic cooperative that can build housing for low income people at an affordable price, I have to ask why not a four story Trackside?

    The city of Davis has done nothing to clean up the rubble strewn crap along the rail line except for an occasional block of landscaping here and there.  I think the City Council actually got this right.  Four or five stories may not be in the General Plan along the rail right of way, but it should be.  And maybe next go round it will be.  It’s fine with me if they move the timeline forward a few years.

    In the meantime, I’m looking for some love out there about clamping down on Airbnb abuses.

    1. Alan Miller

      Let me get this straight . . . you say you know how we feel because you have a completely unrelated issue in your neighborhood, you say something new should be built there on which we completely agree, then you say buildings as high or higher than was apporved should be OK along the railroad tracks, then you ask for love on your air bnb issue.  You have a strange way of asking for love.

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