Cannery: Bee Focuses on City’s Anti-Growth Reputation, Citizens Concerned About Safety, Connectivity

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Bike-UnderpassThe Sacramento Bee today depicts the Cannery as potentially “the last subdivision built in the university town,” but notes it would have to “overcome the city’s powerful anti-growth streak.”

This continues a long-standing Sacramento Bee string of articles that depicts Davis as the anti-growth town.

The article also quotes regional planners who argue, “The Cannery could serve as a model for future development across the greater Sacramento region.”

“It really hits a lot of the marks in terms of the general principles of our Blueprint,” said Mike McKeever, executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the region’s transportation planning agency.  The Bee notes, “The Blueprint is SACOG’s long-range plan that promotes compact, mixed-use development near jobs and public transportation.”

The article continues, “‘The University of California, Davis, is expected to be one of the region’s main job generators in the coming years – both in terms of direct employment and related businesses such as biotech,’ McKeever said. ‘Davis,’ he said, ‘needs more types of housing to accommodate young professionals, families and seniors.’ “

Ironically, one of the reasons for the controversy among residents is that the site is also one of the last parcels zoned for industrial use that could accommodate a business park.

The Bee notes, “The site of the former Hunt-Wesson cannery, about 2 miles from the main campus, is the last large parcel in Davis not zoned for agriculture or open space. That means it can be developed without a vote by Davis residents who, under the terms of a ballot measure first passed in 2000, must approve the rezoning of farmland for housing.”

They continue, “The ordinance, commonly referred to as Measure J, is unique in the Sacramento region. Only a handful of communities in the state have similar provisions; most of the others are in wealthy, coastal enclaves.”

The article notes that, under Measure J, Davis voters defeated two projects in the last decade.

However, the Bee also correctly notes that Davis residents may still put the project on the ballot.

They write, “Some residents are already vowing a fight at the ballot box, either by persuading council members to put it to a popular vote or by using the initiative process to force an election.

“If the council won’t put it on the ballot, some Davis residents will put it on the ballot,” said lawyer Michael Harrington, “who said he thinks the land should remain zoned for commercial or industrial use.”

On the other hand, others like Eileen Samitz argue that “letting voters decide the fate of The Cannery would undermine the the purpose of Measure J, which was meant to protect farmland, not to require votes on infill development.”

“The point is it shouldn’t go to a vote because it isn’t part of Measure J,” Ms. Samitz, a longtime supporter of the project, told the Bee. “It would be a misuse and could endanger the future of Measure J.”

“The Cannery’s potential to accommodate new housing was used as an argument against both Covell Village and Wildhorse Ranch. Building it would largely fulfill the city’s future growth needs,” she told the paper.

In the meantime, Christal Waters, a member of Davis Bicycles! in a letter to the Enterprise expresses concerns that the Cannery project lacks safe routes to schools.

She notes that a graphic of the plan shows potential bike paths proposed by the adjacent landowner, North Davis Land Company.   However, she argues, “To my knowledge, the developer currently is not planning to implement any of these.”

“Of particular concern is the developer-proposed separated bike path not shown on the graphic but described in the article and draft EIR,” Ms. Waters writes. “That bike path design proceeds from the southwest corner of the project, heads south under the Covell Boulevard overpass, then makes a 90-degree turns and heads east along the boulevard right-of-way to a point where it is at grade with the bike path on the south side of the Covell Boulevard overpass, then makes a hairpin turn to connect with that path.”

“I don’t see how the design is feasible without either digging into the overpass embankment or taking out an outside stairway in the Cranbrook Court apartment complex,” she continues.  “More importantly, this route is a highly discouraging uphill struggle for kids who would attend North Davis Elementary and Davis High School on 14th Street, and three other elementary schools and one junior high school farther west.”

“The city is trying to increase safe bicycling and walking to school and this route simply does not contribute to that goal,” she argues.  “The project design as proposed does not attempt to provide a safe route to school, crossing Covell Boulevard and J Street for those students. Peak-hour morning traffic on J Street is projected to increase by 50 percent, making the Drexel Drive/J Street intersection more difficult to navigate safely, even with the city’s proposed improvements there.”

She argues, “The railroad tracks pose a circulation problem for the development and I want the project to succeed in bringing new housing to the city. However, the developer needs to go back to the drawing board.”

She concludes, “The city should not approve a design that does not provide safe routes to schools for its walking and bicycling students.”

—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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50 thoughts on “Cannery: Bee Focuses on City’s Anti-Growth Reputation, Citizens Concerned About Safety, Connectivity”

  1. yeahmyam

    You should post the picture of the Syrian protestors The Bee chose to place next to the article about Davis and it’s rabid no-growthers. Was it intentional by The Bee?

  2. Mr.Toad

    “I’m pretty sure the Bee has supported every development proposal that Davis has ever had.”

    Maybe that is because they understand the chronic shortage of housing that persists. In fairness to the Bee they have not supported all housing projects. There was one development recently, on the east side of Sacramento, that they slammed for being unneeded, poorly designed and rammed through without adequate process.

  3. Frankly

    [i]I’m pretty sure the Bee has supported every development proposal that Davis has ever had[/i]

    Well let’s count those on one hand… maybe two.

    It is not a large number; which might explain why the Bee would support them all.

  4. Don Shor

    No, I’m pretty sure they supported Covell Village, as well as the others that went before the voters before that. And the tunnel widening. And Target.

  5. Don Shor

    Interesting article. It’s in the Real Estate section, doesn’t even mention the business park issue. You’d hardly know the land has to be rezoned, except for an offhand reference to it by Mike Harrington.

  6. Davis Progressive

    “Maybe that is because they understand the chronic shortage of housing that persists.”

    i thought it was because they need new subscribers and were looking to create a ready-made market.

  7. Davis Progressive

    “Why bother with even having a City Council?”

    maybe for the thousands of things that didn’t go on the ballot, rather than the few things that did?

  8. JustSaying

    “…doesn’t even mention the business park issue.”

    Actually, there’s not much of a business park issue with this property since Sue Greenwald left. She constantly promoted a “neighborhood friendly” industrial park, as I remember, but nobody bit.

  9. Davis Progressive

    “Actually, there’s not much of a business park issue with this property since Sue Greenwald left.”

    did you miss like a week of conversation that focused around housing vs. business park. rob white giving a lengthy explanation about why not a business park there.

  10. Silent majority

    Interesting but misleading rhetoric. The Bee supports, but the Citizens are concerned. A more accurate title would read “Some Bicycle Activists and their Covell Village Cheerleaders.”

    The reason the proposed grade separated bike crossing is configured as Christal complains is because the Covell Village partners that own the Cranbrook Court apartment complex to the south of the Cannery will not grant an easement along their property line to the existing H Street tunnel.

    When the Davis Bike Club Board of Directors meets in the Tandem Properties conference room on Sept 7th, perhaps they can take up the issue with John Whitcombe. Better yet, Lydia Delis-Schlosser, a very prominant Davis bike activist, works for Whitcombe. Maybe she has some influence?

    Covell Village (via Lydia) is quoted in the Enterprise as stating that her employeers are no longer interested in developing their property and are only concerned about the quality of their neighbor’s project and getting the best outcome for the city. So maybe the Covell Partners should drop their demand for $10,000,000 in infrastructure improvements on their property in exchange for “cooperation.”

    Better yet, how about some leadership from the City and we just take the right of way by eminent domain.

    That being said, I’m willing to keep an open mind on the proposed undercrossing design until we actually see something from the Cannery.

  11. JustSaying

    “Better yet, how about some leadership from the City and we just take the right of way by eminent domain.”

    A completely logical way to proceed, one that’s pooh-poohed here because it solves the access objections and brings us one big step closer to a “a model for future development across the greater Sacramento region.”

    Some would rather we keep bragging about our outmoded, decades old model development and focus the city council’s time and energy on a meaningless, unneeded plastic bag ban. Joining our coastal cousins by keeping the bags from any chance of blowing into the ocean is seen, somehow, as refreshing our environmental cred.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    So I met with George Phillips of Con Agra today, conducted an interview. Story will be on Monday. I did want to note that we discussed the issue of eminent domain, it’s a possibility. It would require Con Agra to pay the city back for the eminent domain

  13. Wolf

    I am not sure I understand Eileen’s comment. If there is a challenge to the Con Agra project, it would be in the form of a referendum. It has nothing to do with Measure J/R. Measure J/R was meant to curtail sprawl on our borders. In designing it, we considered several ways to accomplish our goal. We consulted with land use attorneys who felt that protecting farm land by requiring a vote of the people whenever ag land on our borders was proposed for development would be the best way. Other communities at that time had done the same thing successfully. A referendum on Con Agra would not undermine Measure J/R in any way. Measure J/R will still stand as a tool for an automatic vote any time ag land on our borders is proposed for development. But what do we do in a situation such as the one we find ourselves in now?

    Many of us do not believe Con Agra should be developed as housing at all; others do not believe the current proposal should move forward. Looking at the two votes on development we have had in the past decade, people do not want more sprawl housing. So, if our electeds vote to okay this project, the people have a right to oppose that position and to circulate a petition for a referendum to vote the project up or down. This does not threaten Measure J/R at all.

  14. SouthofDavis

    Don wrote:

    > I’m pretty sure the Bee has supported every
    > development proposal that Davis has ever had.

    Then Toad wrote:

    > There was one development recently, on the east
    > side of Sacramento, that they slammed for being
    > unneeded, poorly designed and rammed through
    > without adequate process.

    It would be interesting to see if the developer was a guy that does not buy (expensive) newspaper insert new home ads like most developers do.

    In the “most of my friends have already been laid off” world of newspaper publishing we are not going to see a lot of negative stuff about (the shrinking every day) people still buying newspaper ads…

  15. JustSaying

    I thought you meant that “it” is the eminent domain process legal requriements when you meant that the city’s developer agreement is the “it” that would require Con Agra repay the costs. Sorry for the confusion.

    Seems reasonable to me. The city should do it; the developer should pay at least part of it. There would be benefits to many others than the developers, including to the property owner whose land is used.

    Come to think of it where is the city going to get money for anything, including dreams of an industrial park at the site. Nothing comes free. As much as we dislike people with money, they’re pretty important to fulfilling anyone’s dreams to build any big project.

  16. JustSaying

    “…people do not want more sprawl housing….”

    “…a model for future development across the greater Sacramento region.”

    Where one stands depends on….

  17. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > I met with George Phillips of Con Agra today,
    > conducted an interview. Story will be on Monday.

    Any idea if the “George Phillips of Con Agra” is a guy out from Con Agra in Omaha or is the George Phillips that a local (McGeorge-Law) attorney that was involved with developer Steve Gidaro and Conaway Ranch about 10 years ago?

  18. David M. Greenwald

    He’s probably the latter (I didn’t go much into his background), he is an attorney and a consultant and more locally based, not an employee of Con Agra.

  19. Don Shor

    Yes, well, if you look hard enough you will find that George Phillips was counsel for the Conaway Preservation Group, was counsel for Steve Gidaro, and on and on. Including the fact that he donated to Mike Harrington’s city council campaign in 2004.

  20. Robb Davis

    I must admit that when I read comments like this from Silent Majority

    [quote]A more accurate title would read “Some Bicycle Activists and their Covell Village Cheerleaders.” [/quote]

    I cringe.

    The 25-30% of Davis children who bike to school are able to do so because their neighborhoods are connected via on and off street connections to their schools in a way that makes it safe and relatively quick to use that mode. Arguably, riding bikes contributes to their health and the fact that they ride means their parents are not contributing to automobile congestion in front of schools each morning. Therefore, I would argue that making it easy for the children who may one day live in Cannery to get to any one of several schools safely and independently is not merely the dream of a few bike activists but should be something we all want.

    When I moved to Davis (South Davis) in the 90s, my children benefitted directly from the forward thinking leadership of past City Councils that required developers to create connections between neighborhoods and to schools and activity destinations. Why should we not demand the same in this case? Why should we not ask our current City Council to use the same forward looking approach? What in any of this makes it a “bike activist” issue? This concerns us all and, most importantly, those who will someday (perhaps) live in that locale.

    (And BTW–even if houses are never built at Cannery and it becomes a light industry/commercial zone, we will STILL need the kind of connectivity that people like me have been calling for to encourage employees to train, bus and bike to work (probably using mixed modes). Bike/ped connectivity to the city will be critical no matter what use that land is put to.)

  21. Don Shor

    [quote]Don, which of these connections puts Phillips on the wrong side and which on the right side?[/quote]
    As Mike can tell you, the developer contributions to his campaign were of, shall we say, dubious intent.

  22. yeahmyam

    Thanks Robb for those comments. We need to provide parents every reason to encourage their kids to bike. My understanding is the adjacent landowner is offering the land for free for bike improvements and could reimburse costs if they ever develop. North of Covell and Poleline Road are not bike friendly. No agriculture mitigation- OK, no space for business- OK, cookie cutter housing- OK, skimpy bike improvements- NO WAY. 500+ houses should provide much more- for the benefit of the project- and the community as a whole.

  23. Silent majority

    Robb: You seem to assume I am not in favor of bikes, high mode share, or safe routes to schools. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    You are on record against the proposed bike underpass at the southwest corner of the project. I am on record in favor of waiting to see what the Cannery proposal actually looks like.

    We’re both on record as frustrated with the uncooperative games being played by Covell Village regarding an easement on their property line.

    I’m also on record as opposed to irresponsible gratuitous spending on excessive bike infrastructure at this one site while there are numerous unresolved problems with our bike infrastructure (some major) throughout the city. It’s fiscally irresponsible, it’s bad planning, and its fundamentally unfair to the rest of the city that is struggling with poor bike infrastructure because a large portion of the city was built before bikes became fashionable.

  24. JustSaying

    “(And BTW–even if houses are never built at Cannery and it becomes a light industry/commercial zone, we will STILL need the kind of connectivity that people like me have been calling for to encourage employees to train, bus and bike to work (probably using mixed modes). Bike/ped connectivity to the city will be critical no matter what use that land is put to.)”

    Things were even better before you got here, Robb. I cringe when I see some of the routes that today’s elementary students have to take on their bikes. And every time we close another neighborhood school, it gets worse. (If we weren’t grabbing 500 or so students from other cities, we’d have to close yet another school.)

    I agree that all new subdivisions, even if they are quite a distance out, should have safe connectivity. I think the city needs to assure this, which might involve government eminent domain action in this case. And, I agree that it shouldn’t matter whether it’s housing or light industry.

  25. Silent majority

    yeahmyam: A grade separated crossing of Covell Blvd, a major redesign of the Covell and J intersection, a two mile bike loop, and an extensive internal network is not skimpy bike infrastructure.

    Adding additional grade separated crossings to serve the future Covell Village site, and duplicating the Covell bike path on the vacant north side of the street is a waste of finite dollars that should go to other community benefits.

  26. Frankly

    “We” only dislike people with money that don’t frog-step to the drumbeat of liberal ideology.

    That is the way you can fly under the wealth-demonizing radar… just be a good liberal as defined by the current leftist gospel.

  27. Robb Davis

    SM–I’m don’t think I was assuming anything about your views on bicycles or your views on this particular project. I was just responding to one comment about bike activists. Actually the rest of your Initial comment resonated well with me. The Cannery project folks have already laid out their preferred option. All I’m saying is I don’t think that it’s a practical option. Especially for children. I don’t think I have to wait any longer. They’ve already said what they prefer.

    I think we’re actually on the same page on a lot of this. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on infrastructure that is not needed. I really do want to focus on the areas where we have the biggest challenges. So I don’t think we’re in huge disagreement over this issue. This site is unique only because it is really isolated and has only one way in and out. Otherwise I would not be making a big deal out of this. We’ve got to solve these problems if the site is going to become well connected to the city.

    And yes I am frustrated by the tactics of the Covel Village people. And I’ve told them so. As for the rest of the city… That’s one reason I am on the BAC. I’m committed to trying to find solutions to deal with all the areas that still have challenges. I am sure you are too.

    Thanks for your comments. I do appreciate it.

  28. Mr.Toad

    When the current Mayor announced his run for Council over three years ago he did so at a bike rally at the train depot. I saw the Mayor Pro Tem riding his bike home from the train depot after work the other day. When i see another member of the Council he is often on his bike. These people get the bike thing and I think its wrong to jump the gun on assuming how the final plan will address the bike issue. My guess is the council will negotiate the best possible outcome on this aspect of the plan. Barring the demand that the perfect be the enemy of the good my guess is that in the end this gets worked out to the satisfaction of the City Council on behalf of the community.

    By the way it seems that the City Council is being underestimated by opponents of the project who claim without serious study that there has been little change to the project since it was first introduced. Where Covell Village got the City Council at that time to go along with the developer plans without demanding many changes the current council and staff, under the direction of Pinkerton, has had a much greater role in shaping the final project that is now in the final stages of design.

  29. Silent majority

    Robb: Thanks for the thoughtful reply. My intent was not to impugn bike activists. In fact, I have been what you would describe as a bike activist in the past. My point was that David Greenwald routinely conflates the position of a few people with that of the “community” or the “citizens” – presumably to stir up controversy and drive traffic to his blog. My strong language stems from frustration with the Covell Village partners attempting to exploit legitimate concerns about connectivity (hence the cheerleading rhetoric) to try and extort $10,000,000 in infrastructure improvements on their property to serve a phantom housing development that may be a decade or two away.

    Where we may disagree is that I have reached the conclusion that a grade separated crossing at the southwest corner is the only practical option. Unfortunately, there is no way to put in state of the art infrastructure given the constrained built environment on the south side of Covell. The Covell Village partners could remediate part of the problem with an easement, but in the absence of this good will gesture to the community that made them rich, I think the proposed connection to the existing east-west bike path south of Covell Boulevard is an adequate solution. Is it perfect? No. But in some respects it may be better than going down to the H Street tunnel. The primary goal of this infrastructure needs to be moving bike traffic directly towards downtown, while providing safe routes to the three schools that serve the project. The SW corner option accomplishes this goal and we need to find some way to make it work.

  30. Matt Williams

    One factor that should not be ignored in looking at the bicycle connectivity issues is the fact that the Yolo Freight Rail Relocation continues to get more and more traction, and if that traction results in relocation of the California Northern freight line out of Davis, the railroad right of way no longer is an impediment to bicycle traffic crossing from H Street to F Street.

    There are lots of issues that could derail the rail relocation in the coming months, but failing to take it into consideration as we plan bicycle connectivity for The Cannery would be a major oversight.

  31. Robb Davis

    Mr Toad wrote: of the CC “These people get the bike thing and I think its wrong to jump the gun on assuming how the final plan will address the bike issue.” I am merely trying to inform their decision by 1) pointing out what options I believe will help achieve broader City goals and 2) challenging them to consider the very real limitations of the option that Con Agra has put forward most recently.

    SM–I started engaging with Con Agra-hired engineers over 2 years ago about the SW corner and we all recognized the multiple challenges. I believed then and still believe that the best option runs to the H Street tunnel along the apartments’ properties. indeed, that option WAS the preferred Con Agra option in the DEIR. And the motion I put forward at the BAC meeting in April was to require Con Agra (as part of the development agreement) to make improvements to the H Street tunnel to make it safer–changes that Con Agra itself says would be under $200K.

    If it were not for the intransigence of the owners of the apartments, we could be spending our time focusing on the details of how best to design that corridor for the safety of users.

  32. Matt Williams

    David M. Greenwald said . . .

    [i]”But no one thinks that happens in the next decade even.”[/i]

    “no one” is a bit of an overstatement, but I acknowledge your point. With diligence and hard work “every one” will be surprised when it happens sooner than that.

  33. Ginger

    Mark West
    [quote]
    08/23/13 – 08:31 PM

    Silent majority: “I am on record in favor of…”

    You have to sign your name to be ‘on record.’

    Michael Harrington

    08/23/13 – 09:06 PM

    Mark: Exactly.[/quote] Lots of hostility in this site’s comment section towards people who elect to remain anonymous.

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