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
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 first six of the 18 in this installment and will have three installments.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is the City interested in this project?
The Nishi property is uniquely situated to become a dynamic mixed-use innovation district, with a mix of university-related research businesses complemented by high density urban housing. The site is adjacent to both downtown and the UC Davis core campus, as well as the Arboretum and the Putah Creek Parkway. The collaborative planning effort between the City, Yolo County, and UC Davis is unprecedented.
City Council goals for the project include:
- Jobs for Davis residents, space for Davis businesses, and furtherance of city-wide efforts to position Davis as an innovation hub;
- High-density urban residential development near downtown and employment centers;
- Improved appearance and function of the “front door” to Davis;
- Support for downtown Davis by providing customers for businesses, hotels, arts, and entertainment; and
- Revenue generation to support city services throughout the community.
2. What will this project mean for downtown Davis? Davis as a whole?
The project will be designed to support the City Council’s goal to support downtown Davis by providing customers for businesses, hotels, arts, and entertainment. Customers from the Nishi property can easily get to the downtown by foot or 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.
The innovation park components of the project will provide jobs for Davis residents and space for Davis businesses. The apartments and condominiums can provide housing for people who work or study on campus or elsewhere in the City. Sales and property taxes have the potential to support city and county services throughout the community.
3. Will the project require a Measure J/R vote?
Approval of the voters is required for the City to approve any development on the Nishi property. A Measure J/R election is scheduled after environmental review is completed and the City Council takes action to approve a project changing land from agriculture to urban uses. If the Draft Environmental Impact Report is released in early 2015, the project could be scheduled for a Measure J/R vote as early as fall 2015. Campus approvals for their property will continue to reside with the Regents of the University of California and subject to their long range development planning.
A Measure J/R ballot measure includes the project description and a set of baseline project features that cannot be changed without subsequent voter approval. The baseline project features could include timeline and phasing for development, environmental mitigation, and public contributions.
4. What uses are proposed/envisioned? What does “framework” really mean?
The Nishi Gateway area is envisioned for a mix of university-related research businesses complemented by high density urban housing. The business uses could include research and office space for small- to medium-sized business, including start-ups and UC Davis spin-offs. Housing could include apartments and condominiums for UC Davis graduate students and alumni, tech employees, and others who desire a walkable neighborhood near the amenities of campus and the downtown core and employment centers.
The framework provides the plan for backbone infrastructure, particularly the linkages between the Nishi property, West Olive Drive, and the UC Davis campus. As the framework is refined, it will include principles for the open space, connectivity, and sustainability components that will integrate the whole of the Downtown University Gateway District consistent with community and campus goals.
5. Where is the access onto the Nishi Property?
Currently the Nishi property has four access points: (1) access to downtown for bikes and pedestrians through the tunnel under the railroad tracks; (2) access to South Davis for bikes, pedestrians and emergency vehicles under the freeway; (3) at grade vehicular crossing at UPRR and Arboretum Drive (4) access for bikes and pedestrians, and a road access easement to Olive Drive.
The existing road access easement to Olive Drive is unimproved. The exact location of the road access would be determined if/when the property is developed. In 2000, the Nishi property owner granted an easement to the City for the bike path along the Putah Creek Parkway. As part of that easement, the City agreed to work with the owner to redesign the bike path to accommodate the roadway connection if/when the Nishi property was developed.
The existing at-grade UPRR crossing would be closed and new grade separated crossing planned to connect to UC Davis at Old Davis Road near Hyatt Place. UPRR is cooperating with the planning of the new crossing so that the existing at-grade crossing can be eliminated and safety improved in the area. The decision to build that grade-separated crossing will require concurrence of the UC Davis campus
6. Where will the money for improvements come from?
Infrastructure improvements for the Nishi Gateway site are expected to include enhanced connections to Olive Drive and a grade-separated connection to the UC Davis campus. The project will also require customary public improvements such as streets and utilities. The City is working to evaluate the economics of project alternatives to see what public infrastructure and improvements can be supported with the conceptual development scenarios.
The Nishi Gateway project may be requested to contribute to neighborhood improvements, such as changes to the Richards and Olive Drive corridors. Contributions could come through Development Impact fees paid as construction occurs, or through Development Agreement contributions to City projects. Some of the public improvements, particularly the connections, are expected to be competitive for state or federal grant funding.
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.