City Receives Grant for Rail Relocation Study

There has been a lot of talk in the past year or so about the possibility of relocating the north-south rail line that currently crosses through the city of Davis and runs up to Woodland. Talks have been proceeding and Rob White last spring reported, “We have received positive federal feedback on our efforts and will be submitting a joint grant application with Woodland, West Sacramento, Yolo County and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency at the end of May.”

That effort has now received an enormous boost, as a grant application that was submitted has been approved, the City of Davis announced today in a press release.

“The City of Davis, along with the Cities of West Sacramento and Woodland, Yolo County and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) are excited to announce a grant award from the US Economic Development Administration in the amount of $171,180,” the city announced. “The grant is for technical assistance in preparing a rail line relocation study that will include an economic impact study and strategic implementation plan, including a stakeholder and public outreach component.”

According to the city, the multi-agency, collaborative study will analyze the economic potential of relocating the existing rail line that currently runs through center of the cities of Davis and Woodland and extending rail service to a 900-acre industrial park in the City of Woodland and to the west side of the City of West Sacramento and the Port of West Sacramento.

The study will focus on the opportunities for economic growth related to increased rail access for agribusiness and industry, redevelopment of urban corridors presently impacted by rail lines, and new sustainable employment.

“This is very exciting as our Yolo County communities work together for the betterment of our region,” stated Davis Mayor Dan Wolk. “It enables us to assess the potential economic benefits and redevelopment opportunities that might result from the removal of the rail barriers currently dividing our cities and downtowns. The grant will also allow us to more thoroughly assess impacts from flooding that might be addressed through rail line relocation in several parts of Yolo County. Pursuing a comprehensive analysis of the enhanced economic opportunities that rail realignment may offer will allow us to create solutions that will better our Yolo cities and our region.”


Beyond the potential economic opportunities arising from relocating the rail line, the city indicated, “the relocated line will improve and increase rail safety by eliminating more than a dozen at-grade crossings in Woodland and Davis.”

Furthermore, “the proposed rail relocation alignment will allow for the removal of the short-line rail trestle over the Yolo Bypass providing increased flood protection for the entire Central Valley.”

It was during the 2013 Sacramento Metro Chamber Capital-to-Capital trip that Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA-03) encouraged the City of Davis and its regional partners to apply for this grant and he has been strongly supportive throughout the process.

“This EDA technical assistance grant will allow Davis, West Sacramento, Woodland and Yolo County to move forward with a project that has the potential to generate significant economic development and jobs and provide numerous other benefits, including increased public safety and flood protection,” said Congressman Garamendi. “This project is a great example of regional cooperation – several government entities coming together to tackle a large economic development project that has the potential to lift the economic prospects of the entire county. I commend city and county officials on securing these funds. I look forward to continuing to partner with them as we build a regional economy that creates opportunities for hardworking Yolo County residents.”

The City of Davis and its partner agencies look forward to proceeding with the study and shall be releasing an RFP for relevant professional economic development consulting services shortly, the city added.

At Cap-to-Cap, the Metro Chamber indicated that they had submitted a cost benefit analysis request of $165,000 from the US Department of Commerce.

At the time they described: “The Yolo Freight Rail Relocation Project includes construction of new rail enabling the relocation of short-line rail traffic in downtown Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento. Completion of the project will allow removal of 19 at-grade crossings and open nearly 100 acres of infill redevelopment property in the three cities, allow removal of the Fremont Trestle to improve the floodwater flow capacity of the Yolo Bypass and increase cargo capacity and operational efficiency at the Port of West Sacramento and within Yolo County.”

They continued, “The proposed project’s next phase includes an economic development cost benefit analysis and alignment study establishing the specific route for the new rail. Later stages include an environmental assessment to ensure that the proposed alignment will avoid sensitive areas, complete project design and engineering, full environmental documentation and a comprehensive cost estimate. The project is currently pursuing an Economic Development Administration Grant to fund a cost-benefit analysis for the project.”

—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.

Related posts


  1. SODA

    Naive question: passenger trains would still pass and stop at Davis?
    This would only be freight trains? And all freight trains? Could you describe more fully what which would change and the route from south to Woodland? Thanks!

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      SODA, just to expand on David’s answer to your question: There will still be freight trains and passenger trains arriving, departing and passing through Davis on the route which goes from Fairfield to Sacramento. What is being discussed is the removal of the tracks which run north (from behind Davis Ace) to Woodland. The railroad has a proposal to replace that north-south stretch of track, several miles east of Davis and east of Woodland. The reason for the relocation has to do with an old trestle (sp?) over the Causeway, which needs to be replaced.

      1. Matt Williams

        The old trestle doesn’t need to be replaced. It needs to be removed. Hydrologic studies by MBK Engineering have shown that in a flood event the existing trestle (which can be seen north of I-5 as you drive from Woodland to the Airport) reduces the floodwater carrying capacity of the Yolo Bypass by a depth of one foot all the way across its width. if the Bypass could add that one foot of incremental floodwater carrying capacity to its existing floodwater carrying inventory the water level in the main channel of the Sacramento River to the south of Freemont Weir could be reduced by three feet or more. A three-foot water level reduction in a flood event would substantially reduced the hydrostatic pressure on the East Side Levee of the river all along Natomas and Sacramento, as well as on the West Side Levee at West Sacramento.

        The challenge in removing that trestle across the Yolo Bypass is that the freight trains which use it (serving businesses like the tomato plant in Woodland) will need an alternative route to Woodland. The best alternative identified is to use the switch at Swingle (the intersection of the railroad and County Road 105 and County Road 32A) and have the line proceed north to the west edge of the Yolo County Landfill and then north to Woodland from there. If that new right of way is created to accommodate the West Sacramento to Woodland freight rail traffic, then co-locating the Davis freight route to that same new route appears to make sense.

        After a discussion with FEMA I feel comfortable in saying that the actuarially calculated risk associated with an East Side Levee overtopping/failure that inundates Natomas and Sacramento is more than $5 billion.

      2. Alan Miller

        “The reason for the relocation has to do with an old trestle (sp?) over the Causeway, which needs to be replaced.”

        Correct on the trestle, which may need to be *removed* if it worsens flood conditions, which I am not going to argue.

        The trestle is on a different line. The rail relocation and all the associated cost is not necessary for flood control.

  2. hpierce

    I strongly hope that if relocation of the line occurs, the right-of-way remains with the public…. maybe 50-100 years from now (perhaps sooner) it could accommodate a rails-to-trails, light rail,or other transportation corridor between Woodland and Davis, and points north. If the public loses that right of way, we’ll never get it back.

    1. David Greenwald

      I thought the whole purpose from the city’s perspective was to be able to have land down the middle of the city to redevelop? Why would the city be so gung-ho on relocation if they kept the right of way?

      1. darelldd

        Not the “whole purpose” but certainly a big part of it. The other part is to stop having trains bring travel (and thus commerce) to a grinding halt on a irregularly, regular basis. AND the danger that crossing represent. AND the horrible situation that the lines constantly creates for bicycle infrastructure connectivity… and on and on. But yet… infill is still a biggie.

      2. Frankly

        I agree. But this debate will rage. There will be those that demand we make the old rail line some bike and pedestrian freeway. But the value of that space in the downtown area for redevelopment and commerce will be hard to ignore.

        If I were Jennifer Anderson I would be thinking about the tremendous potential increase in value of the Davis Ace properties if and when this change would ever occur, and have a plan to exploit it for joint benefit… mine and the city.

        1. Matt Williams

          I agree Frankly. I’ve often wondered whether Davis Ace wouldn’t be an ideal anchor retail business on the southeast corner of the intersection of 5th and L Streets. One wonders how much walk in traffic Davis Ace gets as a result of its current downtown location.

    2. Matt Williams

      Hpierce, based on a conversation I had with Petrea Marchand back when she was with the County, the right of way has already been identified and approved for participation in the rails to trails program.

      To the best of my knowledge, the North-South right of way is owned by Union Pacific. I do not believe it is a public right of way.

      1. hpierce

        Matt… the main R/W is UP’s, but I believe the public has “first right of refusal” if UP were to quitclaim/sell it. There is also public street right-of-way on either side of the main line (there IS an H street!) along portions of the UP R/W.

        I suspect that the City will acquire the R/W, combine it with its R/W. and basically “gift” it to folks like Davis Ace (at pennies on the dollar), AFTER the City pays for all costs in clearing the land from any and all toxics that may have accumulated over the years. I doubt that the City will gain much financially when all is said and done. “Selling” an ‘inheritance’ for a mess of pottage, as it were.

        1. Jim Frame

          There is also public street right-of-way on either side of the main line (there IS an H street!) along portions of the UP R/W.

          hpierce, can you expand on this? My understanding is that the entire 80-foot width of H street from the north end of the “Y” (essentially, at 3rd Street) to 6th Street — the north end of the original city — is UP ROW. From 6th to Sweetbriar Lane there’s no H Street, and the UP ROW drops to 65 feet in that stretch. Then from Sweetbriar to Covell, H Street sits to the west of the RR and the UP ROW is 100′ wide. Do you have information indicating otherwise?

  3. Robert Canning

    Does anyone know what the Union Pacific’s position is on this project? Given that they own all the track and right-of-ways I would be curious what their position is. Also, given that UP owns a small switching yard along 2nd street (which supplies the rail cars for the north-south line), what will happen to those tracks and switches?

    SODA: The trains that run through Davis on the mainline UP tracks (the ones that go through the train station) would not be affected by this. Only the trains that move (slowly) from Woodland to Davis and vice versa.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          I did not know that. I looked online and found confirmation of what you say:

          California Northern Railroad Company CFNR #346

          “CFNR operates freight service in Northern California over 250 miles of leased UP rail lines. CFNR provides freight service over the following lines: Schellville to Napa Junction, to a connection with UP at Suisun-Fairfield (23.6 miles); a branch from Vallejo to Napa Junction to Rocktram (13 miles); between a connection with UP at Davis to Wyo to a connection with UP at Tehama (110.7 miles); a branch from Wyo to Hamilton (19 miles); and Los Banos to a connection with UP at Tracy (54.7 miles). CFNR makes connections with Napa Valley Railroad at Rocktram and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad at Brazos Junction. Traffic includes lumber, wine, beer, food products, steel pipe, agricultural products and construction material.”


        2. Matt Williams

          Actually hpierce, based on direct conversations I have had with CA Northern, the lease with UP is relatively short term, and UP puts it up for competitive bid periodically. The most recent iteration of that process happened in 2013.

          1. hpierce

            It was a long-term lease, whose term is due for renewal, as I heard. It would be interesting to see the actual lease, but strongly suspect that the full terms will not see the light of day for quite some time. It would be wise to take representations made by CA Northern with a dollop of sodium cloride.

  4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    In my opinion, the very best use of the land where the tracks run would be as a pedestrian/bicycle path from Davis to Woodland. Ideally, there would be benches and water fountains along the way, and shade trees planted, too. As I envision this foot and bike path, it would look somewhat like the American River bike trail.

    One other great benefit of relocating these tracks to the east would be to the properties proximate to the rail line and for east-west access. I can imagine property values along H Street and J Street from Covell to 8th Street, for example, would go up without the rail line there.

    Additionally, as David points out, it will improve east-west connectivity in Davis. Now that the Cannery is being built, and very likely down the road the whole Covell Village site is developed, it would be much better to have access to F Street from those sites, several blocks north of Covell Blvd.

    1. Frankly

      I think the connectivity is good enough already and using this land for more connectivity would be a mistake in overkill.

      Maybe that would work up until the core area, but once downtown, this space should be redeveloped for tax-revenue-producing commerce.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Say the Covell Village site is eventually developed. And say you own a home north of the Cannery development. You would not favor a connection to F Street, say a four-way intersection with Anderson Road and F Street? That not only would be much better for the future residents and businesses of that section of North Davis, but it would be better for everyone who uses Covell Blvd. It would allow, for example, someone going to Woodland to skip Covell by taking F Street (Road 101) to Road 29 and then to Hwy 113. Or, if someone who lives in the Bird Streets wants to play golf at Wildhorse, she could drive straight through without having to go south to Covell, which is already quite busy at times. I’m surprised you oppose better connectivity.

        1. Frankly

          I don’t oppose better connectivity, it is a land-use valuation thing.

          Selfishly, I would push for the train tracks to be developed into road way since it would potentially make it easier for me to get in and out of town.

          But the the city will be much better served redeveloping the entire section between G and I and 6th through 2nd using the vacated train tracks for business expansion… especially 3rd – 5th.

          Maybe there is room for both. Make it like a Sacramento K Street Mall (bad comparison from the perspective it has grown decrepit… but otherwise makes the point). Allow bikes and pedestrians and no cars, but in a narrow lane that leaves the sides available for outside bistro dining and shops.

          I don’t think we want to extend H street through town.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Your idea is fine. But it is not mutually exclusive from the notion of a bike/pedestrian path to Woodland. It might, appropriately so, look more like an alley or narrow street in the core area. Or, it could simply start at say 8th Street and go north from there.

            The real problems–if this actually happens, which I think is still more unlikely than likely for the next 10 years–are where we get the public money to make a really nice bicycle/pedestrian path (including acquisition costs) and where we get the money to maintain such a nice path. I would not count on development fees for new downtown projects to pay much of the cost. I would, on the other hand, favor using Measure O funds, but perhaps that would not sit well with the no-growth crowd.

    2. South of Davis

      Rich wrote:

      > In my opinion, the very best use of the land where the tracks run would be
      > as a pedestrian/bicycle path from Davis to Woodland

      I agree, but if we want to do this we will need to give a lot of money to UP (every CA rail to trail deal have worked out well for the people that owned the “rail” land).

      As a CA history buff it is amazing how much political power the railroads still have (not as much as when the Bohemian Frank Norris wrote the Octopus in 1901 making members of the Tie Binders Camp mad at him, but they still have a LOT of political power just like they still have a LOT of land)…

    1. Matt Williams

      ryan, the application for just such a rails to trails bike path for the right of way was applied for by Yolo County a number of years ago and the application was approved. Of course with the right of way not available, nothing tangible was done after the application was approved.

  5. Tia Will


    “I think the connectivity is good enough already and using this land for more connectivity would be a mistake in overkill.”

    Current connectivity is certainly good enough for cars, but just as certainly not good for those who would prefer alternative means of travel such as bike and on foot. Not all who would chose bikes are as proficient on them as
    Rich but would be happy to use more often with a safe, pleasant path along which to do so.
    I would consider this a real investment in our health and wellness as a community.

    A combination approach such as you are suggesting with some core business development blending into a path such as described by Rich would be a real enhancement to this area.

  6. DurantFan

    …….the relocation of short-line rail traffic in downtown Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento ……. will allow removal of 19 at-grade crossings and open nearly 100 acres of infill redevelopment property in the three cities…..”

    Much to the delight of developers, I’m sure! Obviously this project will ultimately make the Cannery Park Project much more attractive (profitable), and will give the dormant “Covell Village” Project a big boost in resolving long-standing east-west traffic access issues. As in “The Wizard of OZ” we are to ” pay no attention to that man behind the screen” as this boondoggle develops!

    1. Matt Williams

      DurantFan, since the driver of this project is the reduction of the $5 billion flood risk FEMA has calculated for an East Side Sacramento River Levee failure, any amount of money associated with an increase in the functionality and safety of the Cannery is not even the tail on the dog, it is the last hair on the tuft of hair on the end of the tail of the dog.

      1. hpierce

        Matt, you are absolutely correct in the benefits of the relocation of the freight line. CA No. is probably counting on reaping a portion of the value of the existing R/W to finance the relocation. Not by ‘right’, but thru politics and ‘deals’, supported by those who stand to gain the most, and that will probably not include the public, altho’ that’s how it will undoubtedly be “spun”.

        1. Matt Williams

          CA Northern is on the outside looking in. They have no position in the ownership of the land asset, and the customers whose freight they carry are actually UP’s not theirs, They are simply a local subcontracor to UP.

      1. hpierce

        Again, you’re thinking in terms of a 10-25 year event horizon. Davis’ reality 30-50 years from now may be as different as it was 50+ years ago. The land is bordered on 3 sides by urban use, and its use as Ag will decline as the Cannery project is built out and those residents demand zero effect from farming operations (dust, pesticide use, noise, etc.).

        1. Barack Palin

          Maybe when people buy in the Cannery they should have to sign CCR’s agreeing that they know they’re buying next to a farm and there will be dust, spraying and some noise to alleviate any future complaints.

          1. Barack Palin

            I would still have them sign CCR’s. I live on a golf course and had to sign several CCR’s acknowledging that I possibly will get golf balls hit on my property and that work/noise will occur on the golf course from golfers and workers.

          2. hpierce

            Right, Barack and Matt… BUT… 20 years from now, with 150 angry residents showing up at the CC meeting, can you truly envision the then-City Attorney and the City Council saying, “I’m sorry, but the CC&R’s placed on your property 15 years ago preclude you from complaining, so go pound sand”? Except for maybe 1% of the folks who buy property, who can tell you what’s in the CC&R’s? Developers are GENERALLY very good explaining these to the first buyers, not so much real estate agents for subsequent transfers. CC&R’s can also be trumped by changes in the law. There are hundreds of homes with CC&R’s in town that preclude Blacks, Asians, or other “coloureds” from living on those premises, except as household servants. This was common (probably ‘standard’) in Davis during the 40’s and even into the 50’s. Believe it was the Unruh Act that forbade writing such CC&R provisions, and invalidated those provisions in existing deed restrictions.

      2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        “I don’t see it having any impact on Covell Village, that brand is shot.”

        If all you are saying is that the brand name “Covell Village” is shot, then perhaps so.

        Some day, perhaps not too long from now, demand for housing will be such that developing that site makes a great deal of sense. We could, forever, prohibit that. However, doing so just means housing growth will pop up elsewhere*. In that respect, housing prohibition is much like drug prohibition–you can stop it in one place, but soon enough it will appear somewhere else, as long as there is demand.

        I don’t think the current idea–for a Senior Village–has much of a chance. When the land owners come to their senses, and when there is a lot of pent up housing demand–something not true right now, other than for market-rate apartment units–a new proposal will emerge on what was Covell Village. It will have a new name. And it will have new, better features. But essentially, it will fill in that portion of the Davis map the way CV attempted to do.

        *Mace Ranch is a good example of this. Davis had a lot of housing demand and rejected most growth for a long period. So what happened? It popped up on what was then our border.

        1. hpierce

          Yes… the Covell Village site is “on our borders”… the zoning could be changed by the Yolo County supervisors. The “pass-through agreement” that guarded against that is basically DOA (no need to send flowers).

          1. hpierce

            BTW, there is little to prevent the BOS, legally, from approving development of that property WITHOUT the need for a vote of Davis citizens. It would HAVE to be annexed.

          2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Even if Yolo County goes along with prohibition there, the housing will pop up somewhere else, if the demand is there and Davis rejects development. For example, UCD could just keep building new subdivisions, all the way out Hutchison Drive west of West Village to Pedrick Road, or south toward Tremont Road along Old Davis Road. Additionally, cities like Winters, Woodland, Dixon and West Sacramento could also build new subdivisions closer to Davis for commuters. That has happened in the past.

            Bottom line: growth restrictions affect individual property owners. They don’t affect growth over the long run. Demand determines growth.

          3. South of Davis

            hpierce wrote:

            > It would HAVE to be annexed.

            Would it “HAVE” to be annexed or could a “Covell Village” be developed today like “El Macero” was in the 1960’s in Yolo County just outside the Davis city limits?

          4. South of Davis

            David wrote:

            > Where would they get water and sewer hook up?

            They could get water from wells and have their own sewer system (like El Macero did for years) or connect with Woodland.

          5. Matt Williams

            SoD, they can’t connect with Woodland. The uphill pumping costs would be exorbitant, and as hpierce will confirm, the risks associated with a pump failure and the resultant downhill slide of all the sewage in the north/south pipeline would be much higher than anyone would want to take on.

            However, today’s wastewater treatment technology could put a new wastewater treatment plant onsite using less than one acre of footprint for very reasonable dollars.

        2. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > I don’t see it having any impact on Covell Village, that brand is shot.

          Then Rich wrote:

          > If all you are saying is that the brand name “Covell Village” is shot,
          > then perhaps so.

          Just like saying “Mace 391” is a “dog whistle” for people like Don saying “Covell Village” is a “dog whistle” for the anti-development people in town.

          In reality few people (that don’t go to city council meetings or read the Vanguard) in town have any idea what “Covell Village” is and I’m betting that if someone walked down D street today more people would think it was a mall or apartment complex on Covell than a proposed development that was voted down.

          P.S. Most people in town don’t care about what is proposed and just vote against any new residential development since they are “voting their pocketbook” and want “higher home values” that just so happens EVERY time you have a desirable area and restrict residential development…

          1. South of Davis

            David wrote:

            > I disagree with most of that.

            Do you disagree that:

            1. Anti Growth Activists don’t like Covell Village

            2. Most people in D Street right now have no idea what Covell Village is


            3. Homeowners in Davis don’t want high home prices.

            Just like you are free to “disagree” with me when I say the earth is round you can “disagree” with points 1-3 above but they are “facts” (not my opinion)…

          2. Don Shor

            I think your notion that ‘most’ people vote because of the impact on their home values is likely incorrect. And it certainly isn’t a ‘fact’ in any sense of that word.

          3. David Greenwald

            I think you’re analysis is slanted and colors your three points. They key point as Don suggests isn’t that people don’t want high home prices, it’s that their land use decisions are not linked to their desire for high home prices.

          4. South of Davis

            Don wrote:

            > I think your notion that ‘most’ people vote because of the
            > impact on their home values is likely incorrect. And it certainly
            > isn’t a ‘fact’ in any sense of that word.

            My #3 is that “Homeowners in Davis want higher home prices” and unless Don can come up with a study that says MORE than 50% of HomeOWNERS in Davis want LOWER home prices I think we are safe calling that a FACT.

          5. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            I cannot imagine why any homeowner in Davis would not want high home prices in Davis. Suggesting that is not controversial. I am not entirely sure that motivates anti-growth voting here. But it is illogical to think anything but the fact that people who own homes want their assets to be worth a lot of money. I own a lot of stocks, also. I want stock prices to be high. It’s just the very nature of financial self-interest.

          6. Don Shor

            I think most people who own a home do it as a home, not an investment, as their primary motivation. I think most people who own their own home have many other reasons for the voting choices they make than simply what it might do to home values. I think that most people who look at the real estate market locally know that they could have approved both of the housing proposals that have come before the voters and it would have made virtually no difference in the value of their own homes, or the rate at which their homes would appreciate.
            South of Davis tends to ascribe financial motivations to almost everything. I don’t think most people think or vote that way. Voting behavior reflects values more than simple financial considerations.

          7. Jim Frame

            Just like you are free to “disagree” with me when I say the earth is round

            Well, I certainly hope he would disagree on this point. The earth isn’t round, it’s more of an oblate spheroid (an ellipse of rotation), though a bit on the lumpy side.

          8. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            DS: “I think that most people who look at the real estate market locally know that they could have approved both of the housing proposals that have come before the voters and it would have made virtually no difference in the value of their own homes, or the rate at which their homes would appreciate.”

            I am pretty sure this is not true, at least for the near term. Davis suffered very little from the bursting of the bubble compared with nearby cities. We had relatively few homes foreclosed upon.

            But had we approved Covell Village (and I suppose Wild Horse Ranch, too) many of those houses would have been purchased at the top of the market. The owners of those houses would have been killed by the bubble bursting. And as a result prices in Davis likely would have fallen as much as they did in most other towns around us, and we would have had a lot more foreclosures. Consequently, it would have been longer and harder for our housing prices to recover.

            All that said, it might not have made too much of a difference in the longer run; and if that was your point, then it is probably right.

            “I think most people who own a home do it as a home, not an investment, as their primary motivation.”

            Primary motivation, perhaps. But certainly not the sole motivation. Consider the large number of families who live in Davis for 5-7 years and then move on to some other university community. They might not be focused on home values at all. But they have a lot to lose if prices fall (or don’t go up enough) by the time they need to sell and move on. And even for long-time residents who retire here, they will be harmed badly if their home is their nest egg and it is not worth much when they want to sell it to downsize or to move into some sort of senior housing.

            Again, I don’t say that most voters or even most single family home-owners in Davis vote on growth questions with the consideration of what the new competition will do to their own home’s market price. I doubt many at all do that. But it is sheer folly to think that most homeowners are very interested in what their home might sell for, even if they have no plans on selling. It is, after all, the most important asset in the portfolio of almost all families.

          9. Don Shor

            Edit noted: ‘folly to think that most homeowners are NOT very interested in what their home might sell for’.
            They’re interested, I assume, but I can only think of that one interval when Davis home prices weren’t appreciating pretty steadily. True, if you bought your home in 2008, then got a great job offer elsewhere and decided to move in 2010 — you took a bath on that!
            Obviously, there is some number of new homes that might bend the curve of home prices downward. Hard to say what that number is.

          10. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            “… it is sheer folly to think that most homeowners are very interested in what their home might sell for”

            That should read, “it is sheer folly to think that most homeowners are NOT very interested in what their home might sell for.”

    1. South of Davis

      Matt wrote:

      > How many acres of land within the Davis City Limits does the UP right of way take up?

      Length of the right of way x width of the right of way / 43,560 = right of way total acres

      P.S. Are you asking for just the N-S line or the N-S Line + the E-W Main line?

          1. Matt Williams

            Even at 15 acres (up from your original 7 acre estimate) you are low. Anyone else care to take a guess?

          2. Frankly

            My calculator was broken.

            I figure three miles of 100 ft wide track easement.

            That is 5280 x 3 x 100 = 1,584,000 square feet.

            Divide by 43,560 = 36 acres.

          3. Jim Frame

            As a trivia matter, the right-of-way width varies some in town. It’s 80 feet wide from the “Y” up to 6th Street, then 65 feet wide to 8th Street, then 100 feet all the way to (I think) Woodland.

  7. Matt Williams

    Another question for Vanguard readers … first some background.

    According to the information presented to the Housing Element Steering Committee in 2008 our 2005 population was approximately 64,606, with 53,768 being of voting age. Some slicing and dicing of that 53,768 yields the following:

    22,715 — Owner-occupied SFR Residents eligible to vote
    8,195 — Renter-occupied SFR Residents eligible to vote
    7,813 — Non-student MFR Residents eligible to vote
    15,045 — Student MFR Residents eligible to vote

    If we assume a 3% SFR annual resale rate, then in 2014 we have

    17,269 — Owner-occupied SFR Residents eligible to vote who were here for the Measure X vote

    If we assume that the 15,045 Student MFR Residents eligible to vote break down as follows

    0 — Freshman
    3,761 — Sophomores
    3,761 — Juniors
    3,761 — Seniors
    3,761 — Grad Students

    Virtually all the Freshmen in 2005 will have finished their Undergrad education and left Davis, or become Grad Students by 2010 (possibly even 2009). Let’s assume the Grad Students who have completed their program and left are replaced by Undegrads, so we have 3,761 Student MFR Residents eligibler to vote who were here for the Measure X vote.

    If we apply the 3% SFR turnover ratio to the Non-student MFR Residents, then we get:

    5,940 — Non-student MFR Residents eligible to vote who were here for the Measure X vote

    Add 17, 269 together with 3,761 and 5,940 and you get 26,790 Davis residents in 2014 who were here and eligible to vote for the Measure X vote in 2005. That is just over 50%.

    Bottom-line, the numbers say the community memory about the Covell Village brand appears to be at least 50% depleted. Does that seem about right to you?

    1. Frankly

      Works for me.

      Question, does the 55,786 population include the on-campus residents? As I understand UCD is not considered part of the Davis city limits and hence those addresses would not be counted in our population.

      This does not change your registered voter calculation, but under-counting our REAL population would mean we are also under-counting our population density as those campus-residing people would also spend much time within the city limits.

      Said another way… is our current Davis population 66,000 and the campus another 12,000… bringing our total number of people traveling and shopping in town to 78,000 when school is in session?

      1. Matt Williams

        No it does not count the on-campus residents. Since the issue at hand was “community memory” about the Covell Village “brand,” the on-campus population is extraneous because they can’t vote in a Measure J/R election.

        1. Frankly

          Got it. Makes sense.

          It does bring up a couple of interesting points. One – there are significantly more stakeholders to the question of peripheral development than there are voters.

          Also, in terms of population density… if you think about all 78,000 people converging on our little core retail center… it makes sense that parking is a problem and we have a lot of noise complaints.

          With 78,000 people and our tiny and constrained retail footprint, we are talking Berkeley-esk population density. But unlike Berkeley, we are surrounded by copious brown fields.

          1. Don Shor

            “… we are surrounded by copious brown fields” some of the most productive agricultural land in the world.

          2. Don Shor

            if you think about all 78,000 people converging on our little core retail center

            That is why neighborhood shopping centers are an integral part of the Davis planning process and the General Plan, and why so much effort is given to trying to protect them as viable retail locations.

          3. Frankly

            Didn’t I just hear that the state is going to require farmers to meter their pumped irrigation water?

            Methinks those fields that are not already brown will certainly be brown.

          4. Frankly


            SACRAMENTO — For centuries, California’s groundwater has been freely available to anyone who could siphon the coveted natural resource from the earth. But that changed Tuesday with the stroke of a pen.

            Seeking to replenish a depleted water table and catch up with the rest of the West, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of bills sought by environmentalists that will regulate groundwater pumping for the first time in state history.

            Three years into a devastating drought, thirsty Californians are draining about 800 billion gallons of water annually from precious Central Valley aquifers beneath the nation’s most productive farmland. As the water table drops, so does the land. Some parts of the valley are subsiding almost a foot each year, damaging bridges and vital canals.

            The new laws will require local government officials to bring groundwater basins up to sustainable levels and ensure that only as much water as is taken out is naturally replenished. Farmers will likely eventually be forced to meter the water they pump. Some may be told to stop pumping entirely.

            Brown and Democratic legislative leaders who worked together on the package said the changes are long overdue and will ease the pain of future droughts. But for Central Valley lawmakers and the farmers they represent, the assurances ring hollow. Many call the new rules “draconian” and envision an army of faceless bureaucrats controlling their lives.

            Hey, but you keep telling me we have plenty of water for farming.

          5. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Don, not that it contradicts your statement, but I just drove north to Chico a few days ago, taking 113 and 99, and it was quite apparent that there is much less rice planted this year in Yolo County as well as the counties to the north along the Sacramento River. In fact, outside of the plentiful orchards along that route, everything looked very parched, with many old rice farms laying fallow. I suspect there is probably some kind of subsidy paid to rice farmers who take their fields out of production in a year like this one.

  8. Alan Miller

    There are governments throughout the country with significant issues of rail-auto conflict – some with 50-100 trains per day. If any town should get federal dollars for a rail relocation there should be a significant need. Some towns have requested such federal dollars for this for decades. The City of Fresno has been trying to move what is now the BNSF rail line out of its downtown for 70 years. That is the BNSF main line, with 12 Amtrak trains and at least a couple of dozen daily mainline freight trains that pass within hundreds of feet of their City Hall and main hospital. There are towns throughout California in need of grade separations or grade crossing improvements that have crossing gates that are down almost as much as they are up.

    What does Davis’ north-south line have? One or two freight trains each direction on the north-south line and some light engine movements. The Woodland line east over the Fremont Trestle has much less traffic than that. West Sacramento’s line that they want moved is a rail lead to an industrial switching park. West Sacramento’s project isn’t even connected to the Davis and Woodland projects. West Sacramento is attempting to lump all these projects together and get everyone on board to make their long-time dream of removing the rails from the east side of town a reality for their redevelopment plans.

    Solving the rail portion of the flood control issue can be accomplished with a $4-5 million dollar rail connection and a haulage agreement. So-called Yolo Rail Relocation, in its entirety, is an incredibly expensive project, easily over the nine-figure line (hundreds of millions). That means federal dollars. Federal dollars mean strings, and usually a local match. This is an incredibly complex project, with three railroads and several land owners. That means lots of money, and lots of staff time, for a probable failure.

    Garamendi is telling local politicians in the County what they want to hear. This wastes your tax dollars by encouraging the spending of large sums on consultants to study this project, a project that almost certainly will be denied by congress. Yolo Rail Relocation is the poster child for boondoggle. What was announced today was a grant, for a study, a study on economic development. You can bet, just like the original study West Sac study that ignored low cost alternatives, this study will also tell everyone what they want to hear, and give them what they want to tell everyone. The BSers are BSing the BSers in a cluster of BS.

    West Sacramento has a valid project. That is a valid project to open up east-side land by moving the rail connection to the west side of town. The proposed removal of the Fremont Trestle for flood control is a separate project, solved by a relative simple and cheap rail connection. Moving the rail line from Woodland to Davis is entirely unnecessary and massively expensive. Hitching these projects together into a giant Yolo gift boondoggle basket is nonsensical. West Sacramento has been trying to get their rail lead access moved to connect from the west side of town for twenty years with no success. Keep trying West Sacramento, on your own, and good luck. I mean that.

    Garamendi, Yolo County, and the City of Davis are doing jigs and telling us of all the joys of moving multiple rail lines that carry only one to two round-trip trains, six-days-a-week, on a line that carries very little flammable or hazardous cargo. Instead our politicians should be pounding the halls of Sacramento demanding that a rail bypass be built around Davis for all oil trains. Why are they supporting a grant and study and talks on a N/S rail bypass instead? Additional hazardous and flammable cargo that runs through Davis now could all be diverted southeast of Davis. Such a bypass route would be about the same length as the N/S line but could remove the threat of an oil train derailment/spill/explosion that is a very real threat to the people of Davis.

    Have we lost our minds, and our priorities? If our politicians are going to do our town good, instead of having Davis playing the puppet to West Sacramento’s and mega-developer’s schemes, by moving an lightly used grain/lumber/line, instead demand that they build a bypass that will move all hazardous/flammable freight outside the Davis City limits. That’s a bypass I can get behind.

    1. Matt Williams

      Alan, this is the most thorough explanation of your position that you have ever provided. It is orders of magnitude better than anything you have said before. Thank you for taking the time to do it.

      It also illuminates some clear areas for further dialogue. 95% of what you have covered has to do with the transportation rationale for proposing this project. The problem with that approach is that improvements in rail transportation are not the driving force behind this project. For that matter, development interests are not behind this project either, whether in West Sacramento, or Woodland or Davis. The driving force behind this project is (A) the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, a State of California and US Army Corps of Engineers initiative that kicked into gear after Hurricane Katrina wreaked massive destruction in New Orleans. All the rail benefits and all the development opportunities are a tiny drop in the bucket when compared to FEMA’s actuarial calculation of the $5 billion risk associated with a flood event that overtops the East Side Sacramento Levee.

      But the actuarial flood risk is only part of the story. Wood Rogers has modeled the inundation caused by a 25 year flood, and that would result in a three-month shutdown of I-5 from the Sacramento Airport to the Colusa County Line. Can you imagine what the impact of such a shutdown would be to the Northern California economy?

      You have verbally said in the past that “solving the rail portion of the flood control issue can be accomplished with a $4-5 million dollar rail connection and a haulage agreement.” I have asked you to flesh out that inexpensive solution in past comment threads, but to-date you haven’t done so. Could you do so now? I am sure that there are lots of Davis, Yolo County and Northern California residents who would love to know how a $5 billion risk can be permanently eliminated for $4-$5 million.

      1. Alan Miller

        I will do so one of these days when I have time. Most of my spare time the last several weeks has been working on the bypass proposal and my comment letter on the City of Benicia EIR regarding the proposed oil train shipments, and though that deadline passed, I have followup work for that. My priority is the oil trains, as those could start running in a matter of several months to years, while the so-called rail relocation is on the scale of decades to never. I haven’t even had a chance to read the comments on this subject yet, just skimmed the article and quickly tapped out the above mini-essay, and then saw my name in your comment below while eating lunch today.

        I disagree that it’s not developer driven. If it were flood-driven, the simplest, fastest and least-costly solution would be employed. It makes no sense to tie the flood solution to two vastly more expensive, unrelated (except in the made-up, big-lie of the creators of the so-called rail relocation), and much-much-much longer time-frame projects. The big flood might come while we are waiting for all the parts to come together for the so-called rail relocation; in fact the odds are that it will. In that case, the creators of this scheme could be “responsible” for the increased devastation of the flood you describe above. Instead, if indeed the Fremont Trestle needs to be removed in case of a 25-year flood as you describe above, then that should be done as soon as physically possible. That means not waiting for a long-term development scam to be hatched.

        My main hope in the short term (the next few years) is to educate the people of Yolo County on the truth behind the so-called rail relocation, and to stop the wasteful spending on associated studies. The money on studies is being spent, so that battle is over; consultants enjoy your profits on the taxpayer dime (as you so often do – and have a nice company picnic). I will get to your request one of these days, but when I do it I want to put the time into it to explain this thoroughly so that everyone can understand it. It is a complex truth up against simple-minded propaganda. However, if I get to it within the next few years, in time to refute this wasteful so-called economic development study, I will be right on time.


        1. South of Davis

          Alan, thanks for the detailed posts on this subject (and look forward to others).

          P.S. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that areas going from being in a 99 year flood zone to a 25 year flood zone has more to do with if the person giving the number wants money spent on flood prevention more than the actual flood risk.

          P.P.S. I think the Russian River has had close to a dozen “99 Year Floods” in just my lifetime…

          1. Alan Miller

            What until you see my “Debunking the Yolo Rail Relocation Myth” booth at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

        2. Matt Williams

          Alan, thank you for the response. It illuminates a few things that help me understand your perspective. First, the simplest, fastest and least-costly solution is being pursued. The challenge that exists is that the Fremont Trestle is privately owned and is part of the infrastructure of an ongoing business, the Sierra Northern Railroad, which supports a whole series of Woodland businesses, including the tomato processing plant on the north side of Main Street. So, the public agencies involved have a number of steps to plan and complete, which include (A) condemning the trestle, (B) taking ownership of that private property prior to (C) destroying the trestle, and (D) removing the trestle debris from the Bypass. However, before those steps are undertaken, the businesses served by the Sierra Northern Railroad need to be assured that they will continue to experience uninterrupted rail service, otherwise in many cases they would need to cease operations. In addition, the condemnation of the trestle would deprive Sierra Northern Railroad of its ability to continue to operate its business, so in effect the public agencies would have to not only purchase the physical asset, the trestle, but also the ongoing business itself.

    1. Matt Williams

      Durant Fan, the major problem with that map is that it doesn’t include any of the flood control components that currently create the $5 billion flood risk to Natomas and Sacramento, nor the flood control components that would mitigate (you can never completely eliminate flood risk, just ask the residents of Tucson) that $5 billion risk down to incredibly low numbers.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for