Nishi Workshop Draws Questions and Discussion of Proposed Development

nishi-solanoLast night, the city of Davis hosted the first of two community-based planning meetings to discuss planning for the Nishi-Gateway project. Last night’s session began with a presentation about the project similar to the ones that were presented to the city of Davis and the Chamber of Commerce back in February.

Here is a link which has a copy of the PowerPoint and video of the presentation that was similar to the one last night.  Here’s a link to the presentation to city council, which was similar to what was presented on Wednesday evening. Here’s a link to the university’s portion of the presentation given by Bob Segar.

The 45-acre site and the adjacent Solano Park property would house about 1200 housing units and provide 1600-1700 jobs. This would be high density urban housing, for students and recent graduates.

In attendance on Wednesday were at least forty individuals from a broad swatch of the community, including representatives from the university, the county, the business community and the city.

There will be another meeting tonight from 6 to 8 PM at the Clubhouse room at the Veteran’s Memorial Center, which will focus on economic development and housing opportunities for Davis Nishi Gateway.

Last night’s meeting had an impromptu public discussion after several members of the public objected to the format, that would have broken people into groups to examine specific proposals and make comments on note cards.

Former Mayor Sue Greenwald was concerned about the circulation issues on the site which is surrounded by railroad tracks to the north, the I-80 freeway to the south, and only has access to Davis through Richards Blvd. to the east.

Staff reported earlier this year that the applicant has already engaged traffic and archeological consultants for background investigations and conducted preliminary engineering feasibility for a railroad grade-separated crossing, and obtained approval from UPRR (Union Pacific Railroad) in concept.

Sue Greenwald expressed her concern about the circulation, stating “It’s critical to have egress because anyone who’s on the site is going to be trapped between a railroad with fracking cars, trains filled with fracking oil and a big fence and a freeway.”

She continued, “My concern is before we waste a lot of money on consultant fees, deal with the circulation problem. It seems to me the way you have it set up right now, the egress is too close to the middle, it should be more towards the end.” She added, “You don’t want people caught in a parking lot at that end, without having a means of egress.”

Ms. Greenwald added, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to put retail on the site. You mentioned the downtown of Davis, the character of Davis, and the things that are uniquely Davis, what’s uniquely Davis is that we have not spun out the way Berkeley has with a ton of different retail centers and had our downtown suffer. This is close enough to walk downtown so I think that it’s better not to have retail on this site, maybe one coffee shop.”

Perkosh Pinto responded, “I think that’s a very good comment and I wasn’t clear in the presentation, but we’re actually proposing very little retail. It’s really just a café, maybe a dry cleaner.” He said, “It’s really small because we really want people to go to downtown. It’s really about accessibility.”

Mr. Pinto also stated that they are still looking into the circulation issue.

Alan Miller said, at this early stage in planning, that “the key thing here is infrastructure, what is the basic layout going to look like? That’s what important right now.”

“My question is… why do you have the roads laid out the way you do? The reason I’m asking that is that my understanding is that we’re going to have the ability to come to Richards and Olive and instead of everybody going through downtown, they can now turn and go to the campus by going up Richards, through the Nishi property to campus which would greatly improve circulation downtown,” he said. That’s not how it’s laid out, and he suggested putting in a curve.

Rodney Robinson stated that the added traffic “would further congest the already congested Richards Blvd. area. I see that as huge negative that’s not being addressed.”

He added, “I think generally the campus has a lot of athletic space along Russell Drive and elsewhere. There’s a baseball field that’s adjacent to the tracks. I would suggest move all those athletic fields into the Nishi if you want to do that, put all of the campus housing onto the core of the campus.” He would add, “(forget) this development of the Nishi project, I still stand for Plan F which is farmland.”

Eileen Samitz stated that this is being billed as an innovation park idea, “but all I see is housing.” She said only an “iota” of it is an innovation park, the rest is very high-density housing.

She asked, “Who is the housing for, how many units are we talking about, that ties into all of the circulation issues, there are enormous circulation problems in this area that have been known for decades, I don’t see a solution being presented.”

Ms. Samitz added that the university is planning 5000 new students and has been generally resistant to building new housing – “is this supposed to be the housing project for the out-of-state, out-of-country students who are paying higher tuition?”

She added, “This is the worst location in the entire city to handle vehicular traffic.” She added, “Who is going to pay for those solutions?”

The consultant said they are looking at 1200 units on 90 acres. He explained further, “The idea here is not student housing, this is housing for not just students but graduate students, families, but also a segment of the population that doesn’t get housing in Davis which are those newly graduates that don’t want to live in student housing, but can’t afford the higher end housing.”

He added, “The city has a gap in that kind of housing. This project, we’re looking for ways to provide that kind of housing for them.”

Ms. Samitz responded that her point was that this was primarily housing with some commercial.

Mr. Pinto responded, “I have to differ with you strongly, actually.”

At that point, the meeting moved to a more informal nature. Tonight there will be further discussion about the economic development aspect of the project. Again, that begins at 6 pm at the Veterans’ Memorial Center.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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12 Comments

  1. Davis Progressive

    i’d be interested in hearing how the developers plan to deal with the issue of circulation and connectivity. that was clearly a thrus in the community comments.

  2. Frankly

    This is close enough to walk downtown so I think that it’s better not to have retail on this site

    So let me get this straight. It is close enough to walk to, so let’s protect the existing merchants by not adding more retail. Is that Ms. Greewald’s point?

    But peripheral retail is out because it is away from the downtown and people have to drive there… and even though we already have copious sales tax leakage from the lack of retail, we still need to protect those downtown merchants. Right?

    And there is no more open land to develop downtown, so we cannot expand retail there.

    Can someone help me here… is the argument that Davis does not any more retail? And that it a respectable position to be against any and all retail even as Davis heads to financial insolvency due to the lack of business tax revenue?

    Do people in this town have anti-retail worms in their brains?

    I really don’t get it.

    1. Don Shor

      I don’t understand her comments at all. And since we’ve debated retail before, you and I, I certainly don’t wish to be seen as agreeing with them. I don’t even think any of the downtown retailers would particularly object to a retail component at Nishi, though Michael Bisch would be better able to discuss that.
      This plan looks excellent overall. I certainly understand the connectivity/egress issues, and hope those can be resolved. But it’s the type of housing we need, the site can also host some business development, and it would be overall an asset to the community.

    2. Davis Progressive

      strangely find myself agreeing with frankly. it’s one thing not to want peripheral retail, but it seems to me that having some retail on nishi itself would enhance it without impacting the downtown (which hardly has any retail left anyway).

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    Some incomplete thinking here, and I’m not sure what’s driving the horse.

    What exactly defines dense housing? Three stories? Five stories? Just out of college graduates would probably more likely choose older apartments out on Covell or throughout town if they are on a budget. Yes, access will be a huge issue. I do like the idea of the new hotel already being discussed close by, that should generate some business activity.

    New Third Campus?

    Is this not fancy enough for the new World Food Center that the chancellor discussed today with the Sacramento Bee?

    She has offered the ideal of creating a “third campus” in the Sacramento rail yards, West Sac, or next to the med center. Will there really be enough density and activity on such a “third campus” to make it real? I get that she probably wants to strengthen our ties to the state capital, but such a 3rd campus could also turn out to be a white elephant.

    1. South of Davis

      TBD wrote:

      > such a 3rd campus could also turn out to be a white elephant.

      There is a huge run for colleges to build new campuses as so many young people are still out of work and/or working at a job that does not even need a college degree think that borrowing more (taxpayer guaranteed) money and going back to school (say spending $75K+ for a UCD MBA last time I looked) is a good idea. When you are making close to $40K/year PER KID (or adult) and only need to pay someone to teach part time a few days a week it is easy to cover the cost of a new campus…

  4. Alan Miller

    To clarify my comments, I was concerned about having a right-angel turn from the extension of Olive to the road that will go under the railroad tracks to the campus. During peak hours, campus traffic that now goes on 1st Street could also go thru Nishi and actually decrease traffic through the tunnel. This would require huge improvements at Olive/Richards, which, as the worst intersection in Davis (see Davis Wiki) needs mass improvement. The idea is that during peak traffic, and we must design for peak, the traffic should keep flowing, not stop at a right angle turn. A roundabout was suggested and could work. A basic grid could still be kept, with the modification for a smooth curve down into the tunnel. Bike traffic should come from the east through the tunnel under the freeway, have a dedicated right-of-way through Nishi and be kept always east and then south of the main auto artery through the tunnel so the auto and bike artery (through) traffic need not cross or conflict. This has the potential to help greatly with both auto and bike traffic and separation of the two, if done right!

    1. South of Davis

      Alan wrote:

      > This would require huge improvements at Olive/Richards, which,
      > as the worst intersection in Davis (see Davis Wiki)

      You didn’t need to write (see Davis Wiki) EVERYONE knows that Olive/Richards is the worst intersection in Davis (especially the people that try to make a left from Olive to go to South Davis after climbing at Rocknasium and have to sit through three full signal cycles on a regular basis)…

  5. Davis Progressive

    i’d like to understand still how the city plans to deal with circulation issues and why the specific objections that were registered a few days ago.

  6. TrueBlueDevil

    If there will be 1200 housing units here, what percentage low-income or Section 8 housing will be drafted into the proposal. 120 units, or 240 units?

    Why not consider something revolutionary like a limited-car or no-car community with great bike and bus access to campus and downtown? Increase the amenities, and drop the rents 10-20% because cars would play less of a role. Couldn’t the campus portion include mid-rise buildings like UCSB? (Not 3 story.) Bike or walk to campus and downtown. Makes perfect sense.

  7. Davis Progressive

    “If there will be 1200 housing units here, what percentage low-income or Section 8 housing will be drafted into the proposal. 120 units, or 240 units?”

    there are affordable housing requirements (which have been watered down) but the high density housing might qualify by itself.

    “Why not consider something revolutionary like a limited-car or no-car community with great bike and bus access to campus and downtown?”

    not a bad idea in my view. you could go very dense if you had no cars.

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