Nishi getting National Attention
“Watch out Sacramento – Davis, Calif., is growing,” Govtech warns in a recent article on Davis and the Nishi Gateway project. Government Technology is a magazine covering information technology’s role in state and local governments.
The article quotes Mayor Dan Wolk and Chief Innovation Officer Rob White.
They write, “Mayor Dan Wolk said the project, which can be traced back to a 2010 housing development steering committee report, would assist the development of local startups.”
They add, “The logistics and business relationships aren’t all sorted out, not everyone in the community is in favor of the project, but the most recent city council meeting was more of an update than a moment of truth for the project, said Davis Chief Innovation Officer Rob White.”
“Ultimately the city will get three big benefits out of the project, White said. Those benefits are the economic fruit of $500,000 to $700,000 in commercial real estate, 15 acres of which would be deeded to the city, an increase in housing availability for students and young technologists, and a mechanism for university research projects to spin out of academia and into the private sector.”
“This creates energy and new development and interest,” Rob White said. “As we know from the past, if you do a good catalyst project, things around it change. The sense here is that there would be other things in close proximity, including downtown, that would see additional investment. … It’s exciting times.”
According to Rob White, the council will make a decision on the project by the end of the year with a public vote in 2016 and construction beginning in 2017.
“In the meantime, the public is responding well to the project, White said, and many seem to be excited, along with the detractors,” they write.
“A gathering of public comments on various aspects of the project can be found online at nishigateway.org, where users were able to submit comments, see the project’s timeline and current status,” they continue. “Some remark favorably on the project, citing the benefit of new businesses and housing within walking distance of the university, while others find fault with the many of the project’s yet unresolved logistical, regulatory or financial issues. White said the project bodes well not just for Davis, but also for the entire Sacramento region.”
Traffic and Circulation Issues
We have spent a lot of time talking about the idea of a carless Nishi project. While there has been some blowback, I have gotten interesting feedback in the community from some perhaps surprising sources.
There are two key problems that a carless Nishi seeks to solve. The first are circulation concerns especially on Richards Blvd. The second is the seeming large footprint that the planned parking lot is expected to take up that could go to additional housing or innovation park space.
Some have expressed concern that you might not be able to have an innovation park without cars. That leads me to the idea of a segmented development. The idea would be that the innovation/business portion of the development would have vehicular access from Richards – preferably a left turn onto Olive Drive from Richards but only a right turn out of Richards or perhaps a right turn only during peak traffic times.
The housing portion of the development would remain carless or an alternative would be to have university-only vehicular access with more limited parking onsite (and perhaps more extensive parking off-site). There are a number of different possible configurations under this scheme if the university is willing to work with the city.
As we have noted, the Housing Element Steering Committee recommended a UC Davis only-access for Nishi more highly than an Olive Drive-UC Davis dual access project.
One concern is the impact that even a tech park-only vehicular access would have on the already-impacted intersection. During the peak hours of travel as it is, especially in the morning, traffic is backed up often to the top of the freeway overpass. Adding additional traffic even to make left turns is problematic.
While they are now studying plans potentially to fix the freeway interchange, that planning is not presently scheduled to begin for perhaps five more years with a possible 2022 completion.
Even granting that construction would not begin on Nishi until 2017 and perhaps it would take 3 to 5 years of build out before real traffic impacts happen, a 2022 fix for Richards seems an unnecessarily long time horizon.
Remember, Nishi is only part of the process. We are also looking at a Hotel Conference Center where Caffé Italia and University Park Inn reside presently, which would greatly increase traffic impacts.
We are pushing for out-of-the-box thinking here because there is potential with the development, and limiting traffic would reduce impacts on the area.
—David M. Greenwald reporting