Join the Conversation on Nishi-Gateway – Part Two

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 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:

Developer Tim Ruff told the Vanguard, “The “Nishi” property refers to the Nishi family who owned the property for several decades. The Nishis are a long time Davis farming family who is still active in farming in Yolo and Solano counties. The Nishi family no longer has any involvement with the property and are a bit puzzled why the property is still referred to as the ‘Nishi’ property.”

He explains, “My involvement with the Nishi property dates to the late 1980s when I was their representative. Many developers came and went over the years. The property was sold to my partnership in 2005 after it was no longer being actively farmed by the Nishi family due to its constraints. The property was the site of the old highway which was relocated in the 1970s to its current location.”

“When the highway was relocated it bifurcated the Nishi home ranch south of I-80 from their well and limited their access to the site.  The old highway was demolished including the road structure under UPRR which connected to campus near old Davis Road where the Schrem Museum is being built,” he added.

“The property had full development entitlements in the late 1990s under a different developer partnership who had an option to purchase the property,” said Mr. Ruff. “It was part of the Gateway Olive Drive Specific Plan, zoned primarily as a business park, but the entitlements expired. The property was subsequently removed from the General Plan and made subject to Measure J when adopted in 2000.  It wasn’t until the focus on sustainable smart growth and benefits of infill began that the grass roots planning of the Nishi property began to build some momentum.”

He added, “This originated perhaps with the SACOG Blueprint for smart growth followed by the adopted City of Davis Housing Element Steering Committee (2008), the Innovation Park Task Force, Studio 30, and most recently the awarding of a planning grant by the State Strategic Growth Council.”

There are 18 FAQs about the proposed development. These came out of two public workshops.

We are publishing the second six of the 18 in this installment and will have three installments.

Frequently Asked Questions

7. What type of retail is anticipated to result from the project?

A key project goal is to support downtown Davis by providing customers for businesses, hotels, arts, and entertainment. Residents and employees from the Nishi property can easily travel to downtown on foot or by bicycle. The Davis Downtown business association has identified approval of the Nishi Gateway project as one of its highest priorities for City efforts to strengthen the downtown and promote economic development for our community. Retail uses will be designed in close consultation with Downtown Davis and will complement and not compete with downtown. Retail uses on the Nishi property may include a café, restaurant, and business-supporting retail (such as a copy shop) but the project will be designed to encourage residents and employees to shop and dine downtown

8. How would the Olive Drive connection affect the Arboretum and the Putah Creek Parkway?

Both the bike path and the Putah Creek Parkway at the northeast end of the Nishi site are on the Nishi property, under an improvement agreement that reserves area for a future roadway connection. The goal of the partners is to carefully plan any roadway connection to maximize pedestrian and bicycle circulation across and through the site. Open Space plans hope to widen the Putah Creek Parkway to take advantage of additional natural resources in the area and expand the tremendous work done to date to improve the corridor.

Proximity to the Arboretum and the Putah Creek Parkway is a major asset of the Downtown University Gateway District. These linear parks provide transportation corridors for bicyclists and pedestrians, while providing open space opportunities for residents, employees, and the whole community. The emerging framework for the University Gateway District Design celebrates these green spaces by preserving signature trees, creating a “green street” in the center of the Nishi site, and adding meaningful connections to the Putah Creek Parkway and Arboretum. The City expects that any improved crossings of the Putah Creek Parkway will include a grade-separated bicycle/pedestrian connection. Plans for connections and crossings for the Arboretum and the Putah Creek Parkway will be developed with the sustainability studies funded by the Strategic Growth Council grant, including public consultation.

9. What would happen to existing businesses on West Olive Drive?

The Nishi Gateway project envisions the potential for West Olive Drive to transition over time to a mixed-use district complementing downtown and the UC Davis campus. The application for a new hotel on the site of the University Park Inn could be the first step to improvements in the Olive Drive area. Any future redevelopment decisions would be made by property owners in consideration of project economics and existing lease relationships.

A few businesses are potentially affected by Olive Drive street improvements. Property owners and tenants have been identified as a key stakeholder group and the City is working to ensure they are included in discussions as the Nishi project evolves.

10. What are the plans for existing trees?

The emerging framework for the University Gateway District Design celebrates the Putah Creek Parkway and the Arboretum by preserving signature trees, creating a “green street” in the center of the Nishi site, and adding meaningful connections to the Putah Creek Parkway and Arboretum. The large signature Oak will be a key component in planning the green space for the Nishi site. Other trees in the Putah Creek Parkway will remain, as well as many perimeter trees. The site of the future UC Davis connection is by the Eucalyptus tree in the center of the property near UPRR. This tree would be removed as part of project construction.

11. How will emergency services and evacuations be accommodated?

The City and property owner will work closely with the Davis Fire Department on emergency access and project phasing to ensure that residents and employees are safe. Emergency access and evacuation for the northern portions of the Nishi site can be accommodated with access from Olive Drive and under UPRR and Interstate 80 through the exiting the Putah Creek Parkway bike path. A new UPRR grade separation to Campus will provide additional evacuation and emergency access, replacing the existing at-grade crossing.

12. Are there air quality and health issues related to I-80 and the railroad?

Measures such as air filters, upgraded ventilation systems, and enhanced landscaping can be effective in reducing dust and particulates – particularly in apartment and condominium dwellings with shared walls and air conditioning systems. The Environmental Impact Report will address air quality and health issues of UPRR and I-80, and recommend appropriate mitigation measures. The City intends to consult with expert consultants during this analysis.

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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  1. Davis Progressive

    “The City of Davis is starting legal actions to force owners of properties along Olive Drive west of Richards (Murder Burger area) to grant the city rights to build and widen Olive Drive for full blown car and truck access.”

    harrington posted this a day or so ago, did we find out anything about it and whether it’s true?

  2. David Greenwald

    Tim Ruff asked me to post this:

    “The City together with property owners and volunteers, as part of the Gateway Arch project, the Hotel Conference Center, and the Nishi property, have been surveying the area to help formulate plans and ideas for public improvements to help circulation in the area and improve the entrance/gateway to downtown. The City owns portions of the road in fee simple and owns easements across other properties for the road right of way. The survey revealed that a portion of a building may have been built in the City owned ROW and the City is in discussions with the affected property owner as the first step in feasibility studies for the projects mentioned above.

    There is no “force” involved- nor is it part of a conspiracy to provide “full blown” truck and car access to the Nishi property. Only the voters can approve that. Even without the development of the Nishi property it is necessary to know where the boundaries are between public and private property as a first step in any responsible planning process. The City also owns the vacant corner property at the northwest corner of Richards and Olive Drive.”

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