What is Missing in Downtown Davis?

by Rob White

As the City of Davis begins moving forward with its next phase of supporting the city-wide innovation center strategy, staff have started doing research on activities by other cities and towns to diversify their downtown economies.

Research has shown that the population in the US is in-migrating to urban cores, largely in part due to the creative class. On the Urban Design Associates webpage about a recent case study in Norfolk, Virginia it was noted that “as residents, businesses, and startups re-enter urban neighborhoods, a thriving and creative economy is returning to our towns and cities.”

Additionally, the case study explains that “in neighborhoods where this transformation is taking place, a dynamic environment emerges with a rich combination of leaders, studio arts, food, technology, craftsmanship, light manufacturing, and performance spaces. Innovative regulation, mix-of-uses, and bottom-up development form a culture of constant tinkering.”

The case study goes on to note that “this has become critical to attracting and retaining talent in cities such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Chattanooga, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Nashville, and Norfolk.” It is noted that one particular focus was on a 15-block area known as the Norfolk Downtown Arts and Design District and that a joint effort has been undertaken by “the Downtown Norfolk Council, major civic institutions, non-profits, property owners, and the City of Norfolk.” Note that the efforts are a strong collaboration between the private, non-profit and public sectors.

What was interesting in the case study was that one aspect of the revitalization effort by these organizations was focused on identifying characteristics that were important to a vital urban core. Creating a diverse economy is sometimes a trial and error activity. Davis has had a lot of success in rejuvenating the downtown, with less than a few percent vacancy of store fronts. But what are the amenities and businesses that are going to help attract the creative class?

In the case of Norfolk, the list includes a comedy theater and restaurant, a park in place of a dilapidated building, artist lofts, co-working spaces and new bike infrastructure.

In another article on the Better Cities & Towns webmagazine, there is a discussion about efforts in Redwood City (or as the article notes, its previous moniker of ‘Deadwood City’) to change the urban core through a from-based code (FBC) for zoning.

The article notes that Redwood City has become the “new Silicon Valley Hot spot” and that “a few years ago the city of 76,000 wasn’t even on the radar screen of tech companies.” And now, a cloud storage company just signed a lease for 334,000 square feet of office space.

The article suggest that the implementation of form-based code “has opened the floodgates to downtown residential and commercial development, most of which will contribute to a sense of place because new projects must adhere to a code that focuses on placemaking.”

It is reported in the article that Google is looking to move some offices to downtown Redwood City and the vacancy rate in downtown is 2-3 percent, as compared to the regional figure of 8-10 percent.

The article notes that “Redwood City went from also-ran to Silicon Valley tech center” through a community visioning process that resulted in the form-based code implementation. “Before [it] adopted a FBC in 2011, the city’s entitlement process was much like other cities in the valley—expensive and time-consuming.

Dan Zack, Redwood City’s previous Downtown Development Coordinator, noted that “Redwood City promises quick approval, no hassle, if they meet the code… It’s a tough code, but the developers would much rather have that certainty. Once a couple of projects went through and the code lived up to its promise, the flood gates opened up.”

And certainty for business is a key driver in attracting new investment. As noted, there are several cities in the South Bay area of San Francisco that are equal to or rival Davis for lengthy and difficult land use planning and development processes. Similar to our city, there is a constrained land resource coupled with high valuation.

But Redwood City (like Davis) saw that in order to meet its fiscal obligations to the citizenry and keep the community vital, it needed to encourage revitalization of its downtown.

Redwood City focused on two primary drivers to create their new land use framework: 1) create great public spaces and bring “activity generators” to enliven the downtown, and 2) reform the zoning to make the entitlement process more transparent, ensuring that whatever is built takes an urban form based on a community vision.

Davis has done some of this community visioning. And as we move in to the next phase of the city-wide innovation center strategy, we need to take a look at what is missing in our downtown… both physical assets that will create a draw and land use policies that will help to diversify the economy.

The Davis community has supported downtown densification for several decades through its planning and visioning efforts. Even though we no longer have the redevelopment dollars to help move projects along, we are a city that has done significant reuse and revitalization in the past 20 years and we have every opportunity to do so in the future.

So let’s start the next phase of the innovation center process now through your suggestions of public amenities, types of businesses and examples of successful downtown models that we can emulate. And thank you in advance for the constructive feedback and exemplars that you will highlight for staff. We will collect this information and use it for forums and roundtable discussions in the coming months.

I look forward to your thoughts and input. My email is rwhite@cityofdavis.org if you choose to email me directly or you can follow me on Twitter @mrobertwhite.

About The Author

Rob White is the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Davis and was selected as a 2012 White House Champion of Change for Local Innovation. He serves as an ex-officio Board Member for techDAVIS (a local tech entrepreneur industry group), as an executive Board Member for the Innovate North State iHub, and as a Board Member for Hacker Lab and the California Network for Manufacturing Innovation. He is a candidate for the Doctorate in Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California and has a Masters from USC in Planning and Development and a Bachelors of Science in Geology from Chico State.

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72 Comments

  1. Anon

    “Davis has had a lot of success in rejuvenating the downtown, with less than a few percent vacancy of store fronts.”

    One of the downsides to the rejuvenation of the downtown is that it may have contributed to the downfall of peripheral shopping centers.  For instance in West Davis there is a huge vacancy rate where there is a small grocery store.  I say may have contributed to the downfall of peripheral shopping centers because I know there are other contributing factors.  That is why I am particularly interested in the concept of integrating the dispersed innovation parks into the fabric of the community, 1) making them connected to the community via bike trails, public transit; 2) ensuring they have amenities that all the community can use; 3) try to find ways to ensure new businesses do not harm existing businesses; 4) have the innovation parks accommodate existing businesses where possible.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “For instance in West Davis there is a huge vacancy rate where there is a small grocery store.”

      i’m sorry but this one you’re completely wrong on.  the huge vacancy rate there is due to the owners of the property.  they tried to demolish it by neglect and they continue to run a very shoddy operation.  talk to the former owner of the laundromat, tom cross, he’ll give you an earful and you’ll never again make the comment that you did.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        the huge vacancy rate there is due to the owners of the property. 

        I don’t think the property owner deserves blame. All the problems emanate from the lack of a good anchor store, and I think that is due to three issues outside of the owner’s control:

        1. Scale. The anchor supermarket was built when Davis had a strict policy restricting the size of all supermarkets in Davis. The idea was to have food shopping in all parts of town by reducing their scale. This policy effectively ended when the Safeway on West Covell was built. It was twice as big as the city policy allowed; and thereafter all markets either scaled up or lost out; and

        2. Location. Mid-block Westlake is well situated for neighborhood shoppers, but poorly located for a large scale supermarket or one that would attract shoppers from further away. So no store operator would want to build a new 40,000 or 50,000 square foot store at that site, or, if their national model is for a smaller store, like Trader Joe’s, locate on a street which is out of the traffic flow for all but the immediate neighbors; and

        3. Preference. Ever since Safeway on West Covell opened, the majority of people who live west of Hwy 113 have preferred to shop there; and that choice has killed all the subsequent supermarkets at Westlake. They do get some business from people who live in Stonegate. However, it’s mostly for small purchases. The Stonegate neighbors prefer to do their larger shopping at Safeway, if they buy groceries in Davis. (I note the latter because a supermarket analyst told me some 5 years ago that many Davis residents buy groceries at Costco and other places out of town.)

        1. Anon

          To Davis Progressive: I think Rich Rifkin makes some excellent points; but I don’t discount that the owner of that real estate in Westlake is also a problem, as you mention.  But the point is that the larger Safeway on West Covell, more eating places in downtown Davis, etc. certainly did not help the businesses at Westlake.

          So if an innovation park is built, it would be a good idea to try and integrate the innovation park in such a way that it will not be huge competition to existing businesses in town.  This is primarily how the Woodland Mall and their downtown was destroyed.  When the huge mall where Costco is, w Best Buy and Target was built, it took a lot of business away from Woodland Mall, which when it was built took away business from downtown Woodland.  The end result has been the destruction of the downtown business area and Woodland Mall, where there are a huge number of vacancies.  Yet the Costco mall is thriving.

          IMO, whenever doing new business development, it is important to think about existing businesses, to try and minimize damage to what is already available.

        2. Mark West

          Anon:  “So if an innovation park is built, it would be a good idea to try and integrate the innovation park in such a way that it will not be huge competition to existing businesses in town.  This is primarily how the Woodland Mall and their downtown was destroyed.”

          The Innovation Parks are not intended as direct to consumer retail developments so your example and warning about what happened in Woodland regarding Costco, the Mall, and downtown is not really valid. Your example does however demonstrate a common misconception as some posters here (and I am sure some voters around town) have mistakenly equated economic development with big box retail.

          1. Don Shor

            There will be a retail component in each business park. I really don’t know how many square feet we’re talking about, but it’s intended primarily (if I recall) for retail to serve the businesses and employees that are in the park. It’s not intended to be a neighborhood retail site or to draw customers from elsewhere.
            The development agreement for Second Street Crossing was very detailed in this regard. I assume the development agreement will spell out the sizes, types, and limitations on those retail parts, and that Davis Downtown and others will have an opportunity to present their concerns about any direct competition with downtown or neighborhood centers.

        3. South of Davis

          Anon wrote:

          > When the huge mall where Costco is, w Best Buy and Target was built,

          > it took a lot of business away from Woodland Mall, which when it was

          > built took away business from downtown Woodland.  

          True and when the new bigger homes in “Old North Davis” were built wealthy families moved from the smaller Central Davis homes, years later some wealthy families moved to even bigger homes in in Northstar and later even bigger homes in Lake Alhambra.

          We can maximize the profit of current retail business and property owners if we ban the construction of all new retail property and we can also maximize the profit of all current Davis home owners if we ban the construction of all new homes.

           

          1. Don Shor

            True and when the new bigger homes in “Old North Davis” were built wealthy families moved from the smaller Central Davis homes, years later some wealthy families moved to even bigger homes in in Northstar and later even bigger homes in Lake Alhambra.

            True, but they don’t leave vacant neighborhoods behind. I believe the Woodland Mall is at about 40% vacancy now.

        4. WesC

          If the Mace application contains 200,000 sq ft of retail as Don stated, that is the the equivalent of 2 average size Walmart stores.  Is there any way that this can be verified?

          1. Matt Williams

            Don 40,000 plus 150,000 = pretty close to 200,000. I suspect the person who e-mailed you considered the hotel as retail.

    2. Alan Miller

      “One of the downsides to the rejuvenation of the downtown is that it may have contributed to the downfall of peripheral shopping centers.”

      Well, ain’t that a switch.  If it has to be one or the other, I’ll take a vibrant downtown over becoming Vacaville or Sacramento or (same a thousand other towns).

      “1) making them connected to the community via bike trails, public transit;”

      As am I!; my concern is that these transportation features will be given lip-service green-washing or ‘promised’ in a non-binding, unfunded future.  So far the NW group is winning at least in blabbling about intent (referring to the peripherals only; Nishi intent is good);

      “3) try to find ways to ensure new businesses do not harm existing businesses;”

      As any good little town that ever welcomed a WalMart can tell you . . .

       

  2. Davis Progressive

    rob:

    this is probably too dense a piece for a lot of people to react to.

    so here are a few nuggets that might foster more discussion.

    first: “Davis has had a lot of success in rejuvenating the downtown, with less than a few percent vacancy of store fronts. But what are the amenities and businesses that are going to help attract the creative class?”

    davis really hasn’t rejuvenated the downtown so much as transformed it into an entertainment district – movies, bars, restaurants – and away from a retail district.  that is both a strength and a weakness.

    second: “Davis has done some of this community visioning. And as we move in to the next phase of the city-wide innovation center strategy, we need to take a look at what is missing in our downtown… both physical assets that will create a draw and land use policies that will help to diversify the economy.”

    i don’t think this is an accurate statement.  davis has had various entities do visioning, but i would hardly call it community visioning. for instance a few years ago the downtown put out their own vision which looked at densification, mixed use, etc. we need to decide what the downtown is:

    — is it a place for retail?  if so, what does that retail look like?

    — is it a place for entertainment?  if so, what kinds of entertainment are missing?

    — is it a place for housing over retail?

    should we tear down the single-story businesses and build three or four stories with parking underground and residential on the third and fourth stories with offices on the second?

    a lot of ideas here, but every idea engenders opposition.

    1. Matt Williams

      DP and Rob, this article and comments is particularly timely given the discussion of the Nishi-Gateway that Aggie and I are having in the Sustainable Demographics: Challenge and Opportunity for the Davis Economy thread (see http://www.davisvanguard.org/sustainable-demographics-challenge-and-opportunity-for-the-davis-economy/comment-page-1/#comment-256569). Looking at downtown in conjunction with Nishi-Solano Park seems to be imperative.

    2. Anon

      To DP:

      “davis really hasn’t rejuvenated the downtown so much as transformed it into an entertainment district – movies, bars, restaurants – and away from a retail district.  that is both a strength and a weakness.”

      One of the problems with downtown retail is that the merchandise they provide is so much more expensive than what can be had elsewhere.  I suspect that is why retail has not done quite as well as restaurants in the downtown area.  Secondly, students provide a wonderful captive audience for restaurants/bars, bc the downtown is in close proximity to UCD.  And thirdly, there also seems to be an aversion to big box retail in Davis, so that effectively keeps out anything but very small retail businesses in the downtown, which operate on a razor thin profit margin, making it difficult to compete with cheaper prices elsewhere.  It seems like most of the retail that makes in downtown Davis are niche stores, e.g. athletic wear, specialty shoes, specialty jewelry, etc.

  3. Frankly

    The best we are going to do for downtown revitalization, with the exception of the Nishi opportunity, some city-owned property that might be redeveloped, the possibility of the PG&E property and the long-shot rail-relocation, is a single property redevelopment project here and there.

    Related to this, there are several challenges to this desire to see the core area as an equal, or maybe higher priority, component of our economic development “dispersed innovation” strategy.

    Currently we have such a limited supply of commercial real estate in this town, especially in the core area.  The downtown landlords enjoy a worry-free low vacancy rate.  The downtown landlords have really minimal competition and so they have little incentive for redevelopment to improve their space offerings.

    The core area residents don’t want their little retail and entertainment village to significantly change.

    We don’t have a lot of deep-pockets large land-holders in town with motivation to do bigger things.  The people we do have, even if motivated to do bigger things, see the higher costs dealing with a reactionary public and city leadership that has tended to side with the reactionaries.

    Davis has a problem in that it protects its mediocre downtown as some crown jewel.  And as a result, there is little need/motivation for significant redevelopment.

    Look at every other medium-sized city with a modern vibrant core area that includes a strong mix of retail, entertainment, housing and office space, and all of them can point back to a history where that area faced space competition from other areas of peripheral growth.

    My belief is that we need some peripheral development to provide more CRE choice and hence more competition for space for our downtown property owners.  In addition, we bring in more deep-pocket people in the business owners we attract to our peripheral innovation parks… and these people decide that they want to make Davis downtown a real crown jewel.

    1. Anon

      “My belief is that we need some peripheral development to provide more CRE choice and hence more competition for space for our downtown property owners.  In addition, we bring in more deep-pocket people in the business owners we attract to our peripheral innovation parks… and these people decide that they want to make Davis downtown a real crown jewel.”

      I would pretty much agree with this.  I also believe Davis downtown is slowly improving, especially with some of the newer buildings in place of the old junky bungalows that so many in this town seem to favor.  IMO too many of them look tacky.

    2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      The downtown landlords enjoy a worry-free low vacancy rate.  The downtown landlords have really minimal competition and so they have little incentive for redevelopment to improve their space offerings.

      This may seem logical. But empirical evidence suggests it is wrong.

      There is a great amount of investment going on all the time in downtown Davis, and that would not be possible without the higher rents which themselves are the result of high demand and low vacancies. G Street from 5th to 1st is now about 50% new and the changes keep coming. There has been a lot of change around 3rd and C. And elsewhere, here and there, buildings are being upgraded or in a few cases replaced. (I am in tune with all these changes in part because they all come before my Historic Resources Mgt Commission.)

      By contrast, in downtowns in the Valley where they have high vacancy rates–due in most cases to retail moving to peripheral malls and a lack of demand for the kinds of things downtown Davis now has (restaurants, cafes, bars, theaters, offices, bike shops, and retail made possible due to a lack of competition)–there is almost no investment in their spaces.

      1. Frankly

        Rich – it is too little and too slow.  Look at the city.  Look at the need.  Then look and G street between 2nd and 4th and tell me there is plenty of upgrades taking place.

        You comments seem to be based on a current Davis context of change, which when considering the downtown, is literally largely stuck in the 1960s.

        I don’t disagree that peripheral development can kill downtown investment; but let’s get real here.  Davis downtown is over saturated in demand.  The UCD campus provides the walking captive customer.  Same with the downtown residents.  Our downtown is out of balance with respect to competition.  We have a long, long way to get before the teeter-totter would tilt the other way.   but while it is slanted toward the under-supply of CRE, the landlords of downtown have little incentive to redevelop.

        I bring this up all the time… how many high quality sit-down restaurants exist in this city next to the university known as the top in food science and wine and beer art/science?  Next to this city surrounded by some of the best farmland in the world?

        The space options are very limited here.  There are things I would invest in if the space existed.  You cannot easily survive running a high-quality restaurant with 15 tables.

        There are 76 breweries in Portland.  How many does Davis have?

        There are more wine tasting venues in little Winters than there are in Davis… the place were the majority of the great wine-makers in the region got their wine-making education.

        There are so may opportunities being lost and ignored because we think so small.

        And from a small city, small change perspective, you can always make the case that there is something changing and it is enough.    It is not in our case.

        1. Frankly

          I think you are wrong about that (didn’t you just post that one of the proposals includes 200,000 in retail?… last I checked, food service is retail), but even if you are correct, you are missing the point that general competition for space will cause greater motivation to redevelop and within that redevelopment new restaurant space will happen that is more appropriate for a city of 70,000 people than is the existing space that was built for a town of 10,000 people.

          1. Don Shor

            general competition for space will cause greater motivation to redevelop and within that redevelopment new restaurant space will happen

            I agree with your first premise, but doubt that a large sit-down restaurant is in the cards for downtown Davis.
            I should really look at the plans in more detail as to retail and food service percentages.

        2. Frankly

          And related to this, we need to expand the retail footprint of the downtown into the next block of residential.  Building 3-4 stories with retail on the 1st floor and residential upstairs.

          If we are too keep so much of the downtown single-family home residential, we have no choice but to build more retail on the periphery.

        3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          FRANKLY: Then look and G street between 2nd and 4th and tell me there is plenty of upgrades taking place.

          OK. Let’s start at 2nd and G. Perhaps the nicest commercial building we have in Davis is the Chen Building. There was a lot of controversy in tearing down the historic Terminal Hotel, but it’s plain to me that the Chen Building is a big asset for G.

          At the southeast corner of 3rd and C you have the original Davis Lumber building, which was transformed a few years ago into a Thai restaurant. Kitty Korner across 3rd and C you have another Thai restaurant, and while the building (which is historically known as the Bank of Yolo building) has not been changed physically, I think it now looks a lot better with the paint job it got last year.

          You might not know that the building just north of the old Bank of Yolo–which was the circulation office for The Enterprise and was historically the home of The Enterprise from the early 1900s to the 1950s–is going to be torn down soon. (It is structurally unsafe to occupy and its historic facade was lost in the 1970s.) It will become–at least for some time–a new outdoor dining space for the Thai restaurant next door. In addition, one bay of windows on the (now nearly impossible to see north side of the Bank of Yolo building) will be replaced with glass doors, allowing restaurant patrons in and out.

          On the southwest corner of that same intersection, the historic building–one of Davis’s old grocery stores in the 1930s and 40s, if I recall correctly–was just torn down. It will have a new, better and larger retail space and it will have offices on the second floor. (Its owner, Anthony Ruebner, was a classmate of mine at Davis High, but he no longer lives in town.)

          Another block down at 4th and G, the historic Grieve home was transformed a few years ago into the new and very nice Village Pizza, which I think really enlivens that corner.

          In addition to these changes, property owners I have spoken with in private have more plans for changes in that 2 block stretch. You have to keep in mind that, in the wake of the Great Recession, it is very difficult to get bank financing for some projects. And it is also the case–even though rents tend to be somewhat high–that many property owners are presently wary of investing too much money, fearing that the economy is still not very strong.

          I know that what you would really like to see is for the Davis Ace store fronts to be redeveloped into something new. But you should understand that, as private property and private businesses, there is nothing realistic anyone outside the owners can do to make that happen, unless they buy the real estate. But at some point, if the rewards outweigh the risks–which are considerable, given the strong position Davis Ace has in its present situation–Jennifer and Doby will do what you want. But they won’t until it clearly is what they want.

          1. Matt Williams

            Rich, thanks for that update. The Chen Building is a good example of what can be accomplished. It would be ideal if the whole western side of G Street between 2nd and 4th were similar.

        4. Jim Frame

          within that redevelopment new restaurant space will happen that is more appropriate for a city of 70,000 people than is the existing space that was built for a town of 10,000 people

          I don’t know much about the restaurant business except that it’s finicky and you have to know your market.  When I moved to Davis the population was around 30,000 and there were very few “good” restaurants in town.  Even now, with a large student (read “cheap”) population, the market for fine dining seems to be limited.

          1. Don Shor

            According to the Davis Downtown website, there are over 90 eating establishments of one kind or another in the downtown. That includes a few higher-end ones, and a whole lot of lower-cost options. I’d say the people who take the risk of investing in the restaurant business locally know their market pretty well. Frankly is going to have to take his finicky business clients to Sacramento for fancy dining in larger numbers than Davis restaurants can seat.

    3. DT Businessman

      The reasoning in this post is absolutely backwards.  See Woodland and countless other examples.  Conversely, see San Diego, Redwood City and other communities that have successfully redeveloped their downtowns.

      Having no small amount of experience dealing with downtown landlords, I can assure you that peripheral development will not prompt a single square foot of additional downtown redevelopment.  Quite the contrary.  Longtime downtown landlords will reduce rent to compete instead. There is an abundance of evidence of this behavior. Longtime downtown landlords will definitely not invest millions in tearing down buildings owned free and clear because of peripheral downtown. What evidence has been provided to substantiate such an assertion?  None.

      What will prompt redevelopment is political execution of the already completed community visioning and planning processes, providing certainty and incentives to new downtown property owners for their redevelopment plans.  New blood, creating competition within the downtown, and community investment in key infrastructure within the downtown.  There are many, many examples of this around the state, the nation and the globe.

      I’m fairly confident we have a CC, a city staff and a community that will support downtown redevelopment.

      – Michael Bisch

      1. Frankly

        Michael – We need to talk, because your experience and my experience are 180 degrees different.

        You yourself have recommended the Boulder book.  Where in the heck can you find any example of city-lead redevelopment of a downtown lacking public-side redevelopment funding tools?  That city’s transformation was lead by private side deep-pocket movers and shakers… the type of people Davis lacks… but should get with peripheral business parks.

        The existing landlords may not be motivated to redevelop, but they will be motivated to sell for the right price when they don’t have such a lock on rents.  And the right price will come from the deep-pocket movers and shakers that see the opportunity for a redeveloped down-town.  The best the city can do is clear the way for these people to do good things.

        If you don’t focus on the peripheral parks, and best we will get more of the type of thing that Rich is talking about… a redeveloped building here and there… and maybe in 20-30 years half of the old buildings downtown will have been replaced.  But it won’t really jump-start the vision for a newly invigorated down-town that partners in the innovation economy.   It will a little, but I don’t think that is what you are pulling for.

  4. ryankelly

    What is missing in the Davis downtown area is an understanding by drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians on what to do at 4 way stops.  I believe that people are supposed to enter the intersection in a clock-wise order, but people do not do that.  They go out of order or sit there waiting when it is supposed to be their turn.  Bike riders often don’t stop at all.  Pedestrians cross often without even a pause and often are not even looking at what the cars/bikes are doing.   I hate traveling through the downtown in my car or on my bike, because there doesn’t seem to be any rules followed.

    1. Alan Miller

      I think this is not really the topic, but I have to agree.  I noticed the problem quadrupled when the bulb-outs were put in.  A percentage of bikes blow the stop signs, which means not whether stop or not, which almost no one does, but rather some just take the right of way.  With the bulb-outs, the pedestrians walk into the street whether a car is already in the intersection or not, and bikes are squeezed between the bulb-out and traffic.  Nice idea, failure in the reality.  Jack-hammer out the bulb outs!

      1. tj

        Yes, the bulbs are NOT helpful, they ought to go.

        Traffic lights at intersections would help a lot.   I’ve begun to avoid the downtown, and rarely shop there anymore.

         

      2. Jim Frame

        As a cyclist (a little), a pickup driver (some) and a pedestrian (a lot), I love the bulbouts.  I also love the consistent stop signs at every core intersection, and I would hate to see a traffic light return to 3rd & F — it was a major nuisance, and good riddance.

        With regard to Ryan’s trouble with rules, maybe it’s because the rules he’s following aren’t the ones prescribed by law.  It’s not “in clockwise order” at a 4-way stop, it’s whoever gets there first; in the event of a tie, the driver to the right has the right-of-way.  And a pedestrian in a crosswalk always has the right-of-way at a stop sign.

        Bikes blowing stop signs has been a problem since before I arrived here in 1972.  (Anyone remember the Drips “no feet” trial?)  I’d love to see more intense enforcement of that, with tickets instead of warnings.

        1. ryankelly

          Let’s be practical.  In downtown Davis there are cars lined up at every stop sign.  There is no “getting there first.”  If the car to one’s right has the right away, then the cars would proceed clock-wise around the 4 stops.  What people do is cross North and South and then East and West.  If a car is turning left, the car opposite will pull out and proceed after the car makes its turn.  If a pedestrian or bike crosses, then everyone stops where they are in the middle of the intersection.   There are no rules followed by anyone.

          Also, a pedestrian has the right away, but shouldn’t step out and block a car that is already in the intersection, while texting on their phone.  It is a mess and a bigger issue than parking in the downtown area, in my opinion.

          Here’s the printed ruled in the CA driver handbook:

          At intersections without “STOP” or “YIELD” signs, slow down and be ready to stop. Yield to traffic and pedestrians already in the intersection or just entering the intersection. Also, yield to the vehicle or bicycle that arrives first, or to the vehicle or bicycle on your right if it reaches the intersection at the same time as you.

          And for pedestrians:

          Remember, if a pedestrian makes eye contact with you, he or she is ready to cross the street. Yield to the pedestrian.

          It is the eye contact that is not happening.  That is the complaint.

        2. Jim Frame

          At intersections without “STOP” or “YIELD” signs

          None of that pertains to any intersections downtown, since they all have stop signs.

          I agree about pedestrians blindly walking into a crosswalk — it’s not just annoying, it’s very dangerous.  Car-pedestrian contact never works out well for the pedestrian, regardless of which has the right-of-way.

          The eye contact thing is important, though I’ve noticed that it doesn’t work at Russell & University.  There’s a marked crosswalk, but cars — particularly eastbound — ignore pedestrians in it for the most part.  I’m very disappointed that the city didn’t install one of the button-activated warning lights there.

    2. DT Businessman

      I have lived in, worked in and visited many successful downtowns around the globe.  They are not meant to “travel through”.  They are destinations.  That’s why many of these successful downtowns have ring roads and other means to circumvent them for those travelers that have other destinations in mind.

      – Michael Bisch

  5. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    RYAN:

    Pedestrians cross often without even a pause and often are not even looking at what the cars/bikes are doing.

    I agree with all of your points. But the one about pedestrians, which I fully agree with, is something relatively new. The other observations, unfortunately, have been true all my life in Davis. Bike riders in Davis have been running stop signs since I was a wee tot. It’s only in the last 5-6 years–perhaps driven by earbuds and iPhones–that I’ve noticed that most people on foot pay no attention to cars or bikes and don’t seem to realize they are putting themselves in danger as they boldly walk into traffic without looking. Although I find that most Davis young people (under 25) are very nice and polite on a person-to-person level, another part of the equation may be a cultural shift which brings on an “I am the only one who counts” attitude. I think the same thing has caused a lot more drivers to not use their turn signals, because they don’t see any personal benefit in doing so. And they don’t seem to care (or know) that makes life worse for others around them.

    1. Alan Miller

      While agree what ya’ll say about dumb-asses on foot/bike/car, none of us are going to change human behavior and people who act like dumb-asses don’t read letters to the editor or blog comment sections.  And, Davis will never have enough money for more than a single, part time bike cop and that will put but a small, tiny dent in behavior itself.

      What does change behavior is intelligent design.  Accommodate for dumb-asses.  People didn’t step off the curbs so blindly when they had further pavement to cover.  Jack hammer the bulb outs!  Failure!

  6. Don Shor

    My feeling, when I read an essay like this one, is that a number of people want Davis to be much more of a metropolitan area than it is or ever will be. All of the cities in the first list are at least 150,000 population. Most are well over 200,000. When you get to Redwood City, it compares a bit to Davis in population — until you realize that it is basically part of a metroplex that runs unbroken across the peninsula, where one city simply abuts and runs into the next. Redwood City wouldn’t have drawn anyone to a revitalized downtown if it wasn’t part of that metropolitan area.

    Davis is not part of a metropolitan area in any geographic or cultural sense. It is a small rural city surrounded by farms, fields, and floodplain. I don’t think the residents of Davis want to grow it to the critical mass that seems to be necessary — 150,000 or so people — to create the ‘vital vibrant cutting edge’ (choose your adjectives) downtown that those bigger cities have achieved.

    It won’t be that hard to get a good innovation park with some housing approved at Nishi. It shouldn’t be that hard to get a nicely designed business park at Mace, in order to help our homegrown businesses expand locally. It could be possible to get a nicely designed business park approved in northwest Davis. Those things can happen, in part because none of those projects are big or flashy. But I don’t think you’re going to turn Davis into a tech hub.

     

    1. Alan Miller

      Agree w/DS comments.  Ditto, etc.

      I am fine with slowly hightening downtown w/retail bottom/office 2nd/housing 3rd&4th style in core; am fine with business parks; am fine with Nishi;

      Mistake some towns make, however, is trying to be what they will never be. Why would we want to be like other towns, and something we will never be?

      Redwood City? Please! Grew up near there, they are in middle of Metro and went from seedy district to decent downtown nightlife. But sure ain’t nothing like any vision of Davis.

      1. Aggie

        To be clear, I was not suggesting we become like Redwood City. In fact, I prefer our downtown to Redwood City. Just wish we had a few better owners and tenants.

        What I was suggesting is that we should take a look at the form-based code approach that White highlighted. FBC appears to be a strategy to make redevelopment much more efficient.

        FBC is just a process – the vision would obviously be whatever we decide … and uniquely Davis.

    2. Aggie

      DS:

      (1) Davis is already emerging as the center of a tech hub (focused on agriculture).

      (2) See my reply to AM. I’m not suggesting we try to turn downtown Davis into something like downtown Redwood City (or any other metroplex). Just suggesting we look at the FBC process highlighted by White as a potential mechanism to make downtown Davis redevelopment more efficient. I personally don’t like the enormous effort required to get any little thing done in Davis.

      (3) I completely disagree with your statement that it “won’t be that hard to get a good innovation park with some housing approved at Nishi.”

      It will be extremely difficult to annex any land that includes a Whitcombe student housing project. The voters may support annexing land as part of a coherent dispersed innovation strategy. They almost certainly won’t support annexing land to provide housing for Katehi’s 5,000 new foreign students, particularly on the false pretense that it is part of a “innovation hub.” You’ve said so yourself … “Most of the ones I’ve actually discussed housing issues with feel that the university should build a lot more housing before anything gets annexed for development, at least for housing.” DS 10/29/14

      1. Don Shor

        Any particular reason you keep referring to it as a “Whitcombe student housing project?”
        The only opposition I’ve heard from anybody about Nishi is Mike Harrington discussing the access issues on Olive Drive, and Sue Greenwald (many months ago) arguing that people shouldn’t live that close to the freeway.

        1. Aggie

          Post from Gunrocik that Whitcombe would build the proposed housing component. Sorry – looked but can’t find right now.

          I hear opposition to high density student housing and impacts on Richards.

          1. Don Shor

            Whitcombe probably will, but you’re the one who keeps mentioning it.
            IMO, if Nishi can’t pass a Measure R vote, then nothing can.

      2. Don Shor

        (1) Davis is already emerging as the center of a tech hub (focused on agriculture).

        Excellent. Then apparently the downtown is fine and isn’t “missing” anything.

    3. Frankly

      My feeling when I read replies like this are that the writer has…

      1. A bit of a disconnect from the realities of inertia… that UCD is a tremendously successful university despite of its inability to provide a reasonably affordable product to the majority of its customers.

      2. That UCDs specialties are such that land is required to develop and partner with the business that it would develop and partner with.

      3. That the region is growing… especially around the I-80 corridor and Davis is part of that.

      4. An inability to accept the “if it seems too good to be true, it is” principle… namely the lack of cities to identify that Davis should aspire to be like, and a long list of cities that we are told Davis should not become.

      But having written this, I don’t really know why DS puts out this 150,000 population.  What is the population of Palo Alto?  What is the population of Boulder?  Why the 150,000 number when we are so far away from that number that we would be dead and our kids would likely be dead before there would even be the risk that it would occur.

      A 80,000 to 85,000 population 15-20 years from now with Nishi and at least two other peripheral business parks mostly populated would make us a fine vibrant vital cutting edge city that can pay its bills… now that sounds perfect to me.  Remember that 10,000 of those new residents are coming from UCD expansion anyway.

      1. Don Shor

        The combined population of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, and Mountain View is 280,000. There is nothing whatsoever separating those five cities. Nothing. They are one long urban part of the peninsula metroplex. My point is that all of these tech centers that are being discussed seem to have a critical mass of population about 150,000 or up.

        2. That UCDs specialties are such that land is required to develop and partner with the business that it would develop and partner with.

        UC Davis has plenty of land. Add to that a couple of peripheral business parks here, and a nice innovation center adjacent to downtown, and there’s land available.
        I’m not the one with the disconnect.
        To answer your question, the population of Boulder is 103,000.

        namely the lack of cities to identify that Davis should aspire to be like,

        Davis should be like Davis.

        1. Frankly

          Davis should be like Davis and no other city on the planet because we are much smarter than everyone else and have figured out how we can deliver top-shelf amenities with 1/3 the economy of cities having far fewer amenities.  I get it.  Rainbows and unicorns are walking around town… apparently.

          1. Don Shor

            We agree on the current policies for going forward. So I don’t see why you’re so derisive all the time.

  7. Tia Will

    Don

    I don’t think you’re going to turn Davis into a tech hub.”

    I sincerely hope not. We have plenty of those as these posts have demonstrated.

    However, I have noted a distinct lack of Ethiopian restaurants.

     

  8. DT Businessman

    “Davis has done some of this community visioning.”

    Thanks to Rob for writing an article that has the potential to prompt some really insightful community input.  My input pertains to the quote above. I find the quote as well as the post from DP somewhat surprising.  There has been an ungodly amount of community visioning pertaining to the “shared space” aka “the social gathering place of the community”. For instance:

    -The General Plan

    -The Core Area Specific Plan

    -The Davis Downtown Strategy Report

    -The Davis Downtown and Traditional Neighborhood Residential Design Guidelines

    And countless other planning documents involving community outreach and input. We have no end of visioning and planning documents.  What has been lacking is the will to execute, a number of previous CC members hostile to the community vision, no small amount of NIMBYism, a hostility to innovation/exploration/curiosity, etc.

    The result of all this has been ongoing growth on the periphery.

    – Michael Bisch

    1. Anon

      To Michael Bisch: I agree with everything you’ve said except the very last sentence!  We have certainly had a plethora of community “visioning”, but very little in the way of execution of that “visioning”.

  9. DT Businessman

    Not to worry, Anon.  Despite the disagreement over the very last sentence, there’s plenty of common ground between the two of use to get something done!

    At DP, most of the economic development ideas being touted today are regurgitated ideas from plans devised, talked to death many years ago, and then ultimately politically ignored.  The difference is some of them now look like they’re moving forward.  The last thing we need right now is for the politicos to say, “Hey, hold on there!  We need to go through another community visioning process!”  How many goddamn visioning processes do we need to go through before we’re comfortable actually doing something?

    – Michael Bisch

  10. Tia Will

    How many goddamn visioning processes do we need to go through before we’re comfortable actually doing something?”

    Enough to get a favorable Measure R vote ?

  11. Don Shor

    So let’s start the next phase of the innovation center process now through your suggestions of public amenities, types of businesses and examples of successful downtown models that we can emulate.

    If I might ask, what is staff planning to do with this information?

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