By Lydia Delis-Schlosser
Response to Eileen Samitz’s Op Ed Article last Sunday: Public discussion and vigorous debate are fundamental to the American political process. Analyses from differing perspectives can illuminate a path to reasonable compromises that result in fair, equitable, economically practical solutions. That process becomes subverted, however, when proponents of one view denigrate and disparage others who have legitimate but contrasting ideas.
That, unfortunately, has occurred throughout the past several years of deliberations about The Cannery project proposed for the site of the demolished Hunt-Wesson processing facility on East Covell Boulevard.
The op-ed article titled “A great project for Davis” that Eileen Samitz wrote was filled with misleading assertions about my work and the intentions of the owners of the adjacent land that had been envisioned for Covell Village.
The article falsely stated:
“Covell Village developers have been making such aggressive attempts to derail The Cannery project.”
During the years I have worked with the partners who proposed the Covell Village project, they never did anything to trample The Cannery. We have, however, been critical of the lack of overall planning for the area and the project’s inadequate bike and pedestrian connections. The present design lacks sufficient off-street bike paths and properly located separated grade crossings, giving rise to concerns about bike and pedestrian commuter safety.
From our design experience we presented a bike and pedestrian infrastructure concept that we believed would provide solutions for the residents of The Cannery, the surrounding community and the city. We proposed ideas that would make The Cannery a better project.
“They recently demanded that The Cannery pay $9 million for unnecessary bike paths and roads through their Covell Village agricultural land.”
We have never demanded a monetary amount for anything. That assertion is a fabrication.
“Early on in the planning process, The Cannery asked for an easement to allow a bike path along the edge of the Cranbrook Court apartments, owned by one of the Covell Village developers, but he refused.”
The owners of Cranbrook were always willing to negotiate the easement. ConAgra did not want to coordinate an agreement and never formally or informally asked us to meet to explore possible opportunities.
When ConAgra officials first proposed The Cannery we met with them to offer our assistance in improving their connectivity problems – just as we had with Lewis Homes. ConAgra declined our overture, and stated in writing that “they had allowed for effective circulation and connectivity and were able to stand alone as a new neighborhood.”
“Physical challenges and the persistent easement denial by the Covell Village developers remain significant problems.”
We have been willing to discuss possible solutions all along.
This past Oct. 22, we met at the Cranbrook site with City Council members, city staff and the engineer from ConAgra and walked along the property to examine the feasibility of a bike connection through that area. Participants there that day noted that existing buildings and mature trees challenged the ability to meet minimum width requirements. The bike path would have to pass not only over the Cranbrook property but also through the Pine Crest Apartments land, owned by another independent party, in order to reach the H Street tunnel. As far as we know, neither ConAgra nor the City has approached or negotiated with Pine Crest owners.
There was further concern because such a route would require young children riding to school to pass through a very long corridor in an isolated area hemmed in with chain link fencing on both sides and no escape routes until reaching the tunnel. That route, alongside the railroad tracks, behind the apartments, and past the storage side of Davis Rent All Center, would be dangerously secluded from nearby streets.
“…a bike tunnel to vacant agricultural land in the county is an obvious ‘camel’s nose under the tent’ regarding the development of the Covell Village site.”
To the contrary, if The Cannery is approved and constructed without adequate bicycle transit infrastructure, its future residents, and existing residents in the impaced areas, including Wildhorse, would recognize and demand resolution of the existing deficiencies that endanger cyclists and pedestrians along Covell Boulevard between Pole Line Road and F Street and north on Pole line to Moore. If anything, that demand for infrastructure would encourage development of the adjoining Covell site with incorporation of such infrastructure as a condition of its approval. Inclusion of bike and pedestrian improvements now would, if anything, diminish public pressure for development of the adjoining land.
“Additional opposition by the Covell Village developers has been stirred up by their hired representative Lydia Delis-Schlosser, who is an active member of the local bike organizations… The Covell Village developer’s representative has persisted in trying to motivate the local bike groups and others to support all of the Covell Village developers’ unreasonable demands for excessive bike paths… Apparently influenced by Delis-Schlosser, the Bike Advisory Commission made a late request for yet a second multimillion dollar grade-separated crossing ‘to the east’ of The Cannery.”
Eileen Samitz’s assertions are erroneous and constitute a personal attack on me. I am not a member of any of any local bike organizations.
The separated grade crossing to the east has been a requirement of Mayor Joe Krovoza, and requested by local bike organizations from day one of this project.
Ms. Samitz’s accusations are wildly off the mark. This was anything but a “late request.” Individual members of the of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Commission (BAC) have, for years, had concerns about transportation accessibility and bicycle routes to and from The Cannery project, and have expressed those concerns at multiple venues, only to see the project plans unchanged over the years.
I had absolutely no influence on the BAC’s pursuit of the second separated grade crossing to the east. The concept is not new, but it makes perfect sense, solves some of The Cannery’s bike and pedestrian connectivity problems, and becomes a key component of a comprehensive connectivity plan.
For the past year and a half we have spoken with countless community members, City Council members and planning commissioners. Everyone agreed that The Cannery needed better connectivity than what was initially proposed, prompting us to continue advocating the bike-pedestrian connectivity concept publicly with the hope that the decision makers would encourage the developers to incorporate the infrastructure necessary to provide safe bike and pedestrian connections that would integrate The Cannery with the surrounding community.
And that’s the truth.
Lydia has been a Davis resident for more than 35 years and is a UC Davis graduate. A professional designer and project coordinator, she also has headed countless volunteer activities to improve Davis School environments and sports programs. She has two sons who are graduates of Davis High School. An avid cyclist and believer in using alternative transportation as often as possible, she daily rides the Covell corridor to the Davis Athletic Club, Oak Tree Plaza Shopping Center and into the downtown, and is intimately aware of the shortcomings of these locales for recreational, commuting and avid cyclists.