Join the Conversation on Nishi-Gateway – Part Three

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The discoloration is still where the old highway used to go - between the red lines- and aligned with Old Davis Road on campus.  The Nishi homesite now on South side of interstate.
The discoloration is still where the old highway used to go – between the red lines- and aligned with Old Davis Road on campus. The Nishi homesite is now on South side of interstate.

The City of Davis is asking the public to participate in a community based planning process for the Downtown University Gateway District. From August 1 to September 15, if you join the conversation, you will be entered in a drawing for a $25 Davis Downtown gift card accepted at more than 200 Downtown Davis retailers and restaurants.

The City of Davis would like your participation in this community-based planning process for the Davis Nishi Gateway plan. Early involvement by Davis residents can help instill our community’s values and goals as well as identify the opportunities and barriers to developing a neighborhood that fits within the context of the community. To begin the community dialogue, the City is interested in hearing your thoughts on four key elements to the plan:

Community Character

Economic Development

Housing

Mobility

Log on at: http://nishigateway.org/community-dialogue-series/

There are 18 FAQs about the proposed development. These came out of two public workshops.We are publishing the final six of the 18 in this installment and this is the last of three installments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the city paying consultants for the public outreach process?

Community outreach efforts are essential to the success of the Nishi Gateway effort. Public outreach and consultation will continue throughout the planning, environmental review, decision-making, and public vote. After the vote, the public will have further opportunities for input through design review and other public processes. Community participation is necessary to ensure that the project that is presented to the voters through Measure J/R is one that reflects community goals and values.

The city has contracted with AIM Consulting, Inc., for this phase of the public outreach for the Nishi Gateway proposal, to provide guidance in reaching a broad selection of community members, designing outreach and presentation materials, and coordinating the interactive web-based participation tool.

How will the Nishi project affect traffic?

The Nishi Gateway project will be designed to encourage bicycling, walking, and public transit as alternatives to private vehicles. The site is very near downtown and the UC Davis core campus, as well as the alternative transportation corridors of the Arboretum and the Putah Creek Parkway. Jobs-housing balance is a key component of reducing traffic. Traffic and infill projects are always challenging and Richards Blvd. is the project’s biggest traffic challenge. One of the key components to sustainability is developing locations that reduce vehicles miles traveled. To encourage sustainable infill development, planners have focused more on mobility and less on vehicular levels of service. Nishi provides these mobility options. There has been recent legislation in this regard. The cost of not providing a jobs-housing balance and infill opportunities is more commuter traffic.

The City is evaluating operation of the Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive corridors to identify possible circulation improvements. Future projects could include better circulation on West Olive Drive, reconfiguration of Richards Blvd. on and off ramps, and bicycle/pedestrian crossings that would reduce congestion at the intersections. The proposed new connection to campus would allow drivers and buses to avoid the Richards Blvd. tunnel and use Old Davis Road to reach campus and I-80 at the Old Davis Road intersection.

The Environmental Impact Report will address all modes of transportation and recommend appropriate mitigation measures. Contributions from the Nishi development would be ratified and enforced through a Development Agreement and the baseline project features presented for voter approval.

Will affordable housing be included in the plan?

City policies anticipate a contribution toward affordable housing in new development areas. Type and cost of housing will need to be addressed as part of the economic analysis and evaluation of project feasibility. Providing smaller units, and housing that allows residents to avoid costs of commuting (or even owning) vehicles, are market-based approaches to housing affordability.

What will happen to Solano Park?

The Downtown/University Gateway District includes the Nishi property, campus land, and privately held land on West Olive Drive. The Solano Park neighborhood sits in this district between the Arboretum and the railroad tracks. As part of the Gateway collaboration, the university has been exploring strategies for redeveloping Orchard and Solano Parks and replacing them with new housing. Early studies presumed that Solano Park would be redeveloped in a way that could allow for the roadway/bikeway/pedestrian/open space connections between campus and the Nishi property. These scenarios are still under study. Residents of Orchard and Solano parks have expressed concerns that new housing would not be affordable enough to provide the same kind of benefit that has historically been available at these on-campus locations. The university also will study connection and open space alternatives that would not disrupt the current boundary of the Solano Park neighborhood. City and campus staff are working together to ensure that planning for the Gateway District can move forward as the campus continues to explore options for the East Village / Solano Park area.

Is agricultural mitigation required?

City ordinances require 2:1 mitigation for land converted from agricultural to non-agricultural uses. Mitigation may be located anywhere within the Davis planning area, subject to approval by the city council, with a credit factor based on location of the mitigation property. Mitigation sites for the Nishi property will be identified during the environmental review.

How sustainable would the project be?

The City, County, campus, and property owner have identified sustainability as one of the primary goals for Downtown University Gateway effort. The state Strategic Growth Council has approved a grant of nearly $600,000 for planning efforts for the Downtown University Gateway District Plan. This includes environmental analysis, water and wastewater plans, open space plans, and transportation plans. Specific sustainability components will be identified in the Environmental Impact Report and could become part of the Development Agreement or baseline project features.

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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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10 thoughts on “Join the Conversation on Nishi-Gateway – Part Three”

  1. Michael Harrington

    Again, little or nothing about opening West Olive Drive to general vehicle traffic.

    The problem with leaving that ambiguity is having that open access, versus limited to emergency vehicles and bikes and pedestrians, is that the planners for the structures and interior layout of Nishi lack focus and have to come up with all these different alternatives.

    Meanwhile, the developer is paying huge sums of money to these professional outside and city planners for many months as they play with ideas for the Nishi acreage.

    I saw this uncertain play out to huge expense to developers in the 2001 General Plan process, where there were several large “options” for exterior development that were left in the mix until the very end of the process. If I had been on the Partansky CC in 1999, I would have made the decision to include one or more of those projects, or not, but I would not have left the applicants spinning and writing huge checks until the last minute.

    In the Nishi project, “studying” a full blown opening of Olive Drive is going to do that to Tim Ruff’s team. They will pay City Planners enormous sums to “study” opening Olive, and at the last minute the CC will decide what specific features go into the Nishi Project. Olive open, or not, produces very large swings in the planning, and the open option guarantees a very uncertain public election outcome.

    Leaving it uncertain to the end also means that the interested public (such as myself, and many of those who were involved in the 60/40 vote against Covell Village, and the Measure E vote that stopped the widening of the Richards Subway from 2 to 9 lanes) will be VERY focused on Nishi, and ready to pounce if Olive is left open.

    If the developer states, in writing, now, that he will NOT open Olive Drive, then my sense of it is the community opposition to some development at Nishi will be significantly less.

    One additional comment: I ask that the developer also insist that there be a sentence inserted into the Measure R package stating that any general opening of Olive Drive to vehicle traffic must be put to a citywide Measure R style vote.

    If Tim Ruff will take these two public positions, in writing, I think he could be far less concerned about making a huge planning investment in Nishi only to see it crash and burn like what happened to Covell Village.

    Opening Olive full access is an unnecessary gamble for Tim and his investors, and as basically a group working on contingency, I would think the risk of a loss of the R vote would be an unacceptable trade off to making sure all access is through UCD, as was stated years ago.

  2. Michael Harrington

    Everyone: I refer you to Professor Rob Thayer’s excellent analysis of the access challenges to developing Nishi, published in the Sunday edition of the Davis Enterprise. His view is that nothing should happen at Nishi without the Olive access fixed first. I think any general opening of Olive is a disaster for many reasons. Just limit Olive to emergency and non-vehicle traffic, and that nips the technical and political problems in the bud.

  3. Ryan Kelly

    Why only have access through 1st and A Street from the City? That forces the traffic through the tunnel and down First Street.

    The project should have many ways to access it. More the better. I don’t see the purpose of walling it off.

  4. Michael Harrington

    Ryan, the problem of Olive being a main general access is it would completely jam the Richards-Olice Diamond Intersection, and back up traffic in and out of the Richards Subway, and the overcrossing connecting downtown with South Davis. This has been studied to death: it would be a nightmare.

    Also, for planning purposes, what the inner circle people at the city, and in the development community, and in the leadership of community concerned residents, all know is that unless you completely re-do the overpass, Richards, and the Subway and upgrade and widen it all, a new development proposal for significant new housing in SOuth Davis would never pass the EIR test for traffic and connections to downtown.

    So if you widen Olive, it sets off a chain reaction of horribles, and could open up South Davis for major new sprawl.

    For these reasons, I am putting my views out clearly and early, with the hopes we can all avoid this nightmare and just plan Nishi with a level of intensity of development that lives with no general access via Olive Drive.

    The water plant won because there was a split amongst the careful planning activists in town; I dont see a split on the issue of limiting Olive access to emergency vehicles and peds and bikes only.

    1. Don Shor

      a new development proposal for significant new housing in SOuth Davis would never pass the EIR test for traffic and connections to downtown.

      Are you aware of any plans for a new development proposal for significant new housing in South Davis? And if there was one, why wouldn’t they just use the other two overpasses for entrance and exit to the main part of town? Mace has been widened, and the PoleLine overpass has been built, both providing plenty of access. I think the ‘Richards = housing’ argument is a stretch.

    2. Ryan Kelly

      The water project won because it was the right thing to do. Olive Drive could be better with careful planning. I don’t see this as a make-break point for the project. The difficulty of that intersection alone would drive people toward other easier access points. It may allow people another way to access UCD without having to drive down 1st Street. It would also allow access to Olive Drive businesses without having to drive through the Richards Blvd tunnel. It is worth looking at. That this would result in explosive growth in South Davis is far fetched.

  5. Michael Harrington

    Tim: please head this off. You’ll have a far better chance of getting your money and profits out of Nishi in a reasonable time frame.

    Planning Staff: please dont use Tim’s project to try and pay for the redvelopment of West Olive Drive. You will cost him and his colleagues a fortune, create an enormous controversy in the community, and most likely the R vote will go down to defeat. And POOF, there goes 3 years of planning and millions of dollars of Tim’s money. And there will be yet more damage to the City’s relationships with the voters, building on the surface plant and rates debacle.

    Keep it simple.

  6. Davis Progressive

    this seems like your complaint about the innovation parks rehashed. there you asked the city to provide information about mitigation when you know full well (because you freaking wrote the damn thing) that measure r requires 2 to 1 mitigation.

    now you are complaining about olive drive when you know full well that in order for it to get to a measure r vote it has to do an eir, and they will have to deal with olive drive.

    so why are putting the cart before the horse?

  7. dlemongello

    I’m no expert but here are my current thoughts. Any more car traffic on Olive Drive/Richards is a huge problem so bikes only, the path is already in place to W Olive Drive. That leaves all access via UCD and no matter how you do it you have to get under the tracks or I-80, its conducive to 2 access points, each one very expensive of course since they need to be undercrossings. One from either side makes sense to me to avoid more N/S crossover on the already impacted Richard’s, since I am sure it will be a struggle to direct traffic via Old Davis Road.

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