On Wednesday night, Candidate Robb Davis was asked about the process that led to the commitments for grade-separated crossings for the newly approved Cannery Project. Toward the end of his remarks where he, overall, lamented the process, Mr. Davis stated, “Here even as we are about to break ground, we still have not gotten the firm commitments that we are going to get the grade-separated crossings that we have been discussing for three years.”
The Davis City Council by a 3-2 vote back in November approved the Cannery Project, which included a plan for an easement to the south with the project applicants also agreeing to contribute to funding though the Covell Blvd. Corridor Plan that might lead to a second grade-separated crossing between J and L Street.
At the council’s April 22 meeting, these plans need to be finalized and council at that time will be asked to commit to the next steps.
Bonnie Chiu of the New Home Company spoke with the Vanguard on Friday in order to clarify where the project stands from the developer’s perspective. She said that, while there are two crossings associated with the project, only one is part of the project itself in the sense that it was studied in an EIR. That is the southwest crossing.
The H Street tunnel is the preferred alternative and Ms. Chiu said, “That’s still the one that we’re working with the city to pursue.” She said they continue to work with the city as well as the Cranbrook Apartment owners “in terms of acquiring the necessary easements for that path way.”
Ms. Chiu added, “I would say that that alignment is being studied and we’re still working with the city and the North Land Company on moving forward to acquire easements.”
This is precisely what Robb Davis is most concerned about.
Robb Davis in an email on Friday clarified his concerns to the Vanguard. He stated, “My comment about the connectivity issues related to Cannery at the forum were based on the fact that the applicant has until April (according to the staff presentation at the November 19 meeting when the project was approved) to obtain the necessary easements to create a bike path on the southwest side of the property.”
He continued, “If they do not obtain them from the owners of the Cranbrook Apartments then it comes back to the city to decide what to do. Thus, we still have no guarantees that the easements will be obtained.”
“If the applicant does not obtain them there it is unclear what the City Council will do. Even though the BAC [Bicycle Advisory Commission] rejected the applicant’s preferred route of connecting the community to the existing Covell over crossing because it is inappropriate for many bicyclists, if the easement cannot be obtained then the city may be pushed to accept this option,” Robb Davis said. “Further, though the applicant put money forward for the second grade-separated crossing to the east, specific plans for that option are contained in the Covell Corridor plan which has yet to be finalized and the money could be diverted to other projects around the city.”
Mike Webb, the City’s Community Development director explained, “The Cannery project is responsible for constructing one of two options: 1) a pathway that extends down the edge of the Cranbrook and Pinecrest apartments and connects to the H Street tunnel path, or 2) the ‘loop around’ connection that ties back in to the pathway on the south side of Covell.”
He stated, “The City Council expressed a preference for #1 during the Cannery decisions, though both were evaluated in the EIR. We have been pursuing discussions with the two apartment property owners to gauge their receptiveness to such a pathway. By the April 22nd Council meeting we will have a report prepared with an update on those efforts. We will also have a recommendation to the City Council on the next steps and timing of this connection.”
Bonnie Chiu provided updates on the second crossing as well as a potential over or undercrossing between J Street and L Street, stating, “That project is not a part of our project but there was a funding commitment that came out of our development agreement that was approved in the form of $4 million, $2 million of which were roadway impact fees… we provided the funding towards that commitment.”
That project is being studied as part of the larger East Covell Corridor Plan. This comes back to council on April 22.
Mike Webb explained, “We have been clear all along through the Cannery review process that final direction and decisions on the grade-separated crossings would need to be commensurate with the East Covell Corridor Plan.”
“The Council needs to have a clear understanding of the broader corridor plan to make informed decisions about priorities and next steps for such major infrastructure,” he added.
On April 22 the city council will be presented with the Corridor plan and will be asked to give staff direction on next steps.
At that time, Mr. Webb stated, “If the City Council directs that an ‘east’ grade-separated crossing of Covell be pursued (in the area between J and L) we will have key next steps and milestones mapped out. These steps would include next phases of engineering and design to ascertain feasibility, cost, funding, and construction timing.”
He added, “These efforts will lead to more refined feasibility and cost estimates. The Cannery DA (Developer Agreement) provides us with the funding to undertake these next steps ($465,000 to be provided to the City for engineering and design to be paid within 90 days of the adoption of the Covell Corridor Plan). Once these steps are complete the City Council will be presented with the more refined estimate of costs and feasibility and can make a decision to move forward with construction, or not.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting