Belated Monday Morning Thoughts: Refining the Nishi Proposal


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, 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

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Davis Progressive

    interesting idea to segment the development, i think that would get at matt williams’ concern about traffic to the innovation park.  has anyone figured out why ucd’s opposition to entrance on the ucd side?

    1. Alan Miller

      “has anyone figured out why ucd’s opposition to entrance on the ucd side?”

      I know there is the idea of “Olive only”, but I didn’t catch that it was due to UCD opposition . . . is this a “thing”?

  2. hpierce

    Wow… Rob White’s spin?

    “… commercial real estate, 15 acres of which would be deeded to the city“?  15 acres of fully improved commercial real estate…”  To what end?  Will the City develop it, and find tenants?  Will Mr White guarantee his ‘place’ by managing this?  Did I parse this wrong and the 15 acres represent the public right-of-way, and drainage facilities that the City would then operate/maintain/repair in perpetuity?  Funding source, other than general fund revenues?


      1. hpierce

        Government-owned property generates zero property tax.  The City would have to have lease provisions that would generate revenue equal to or in excess of the City AND County share of property tax that would be generated, plus probably what the School district would get, and those “fees” might not be deductible from taxes by the tenants.

        Why would you think, politically, that the County LAFCO would approve an annexation to Davis that would leave them worse off than privately owned land, or that DJUSD wouldn’t demand at least an arrangement that would keep THEM ‘whole’, or better?

        No idea on the ‘sales tax’ part of your question.

    1. Aggie

      “15 acres of fully improved commercial real estate…”

      hpierce: My understanding is that the original agreement was that the dedication would be unimproved land. Has this changed? The quote in the article does not include the word “improved.” You’re one of the few people on this blog that understands what a critical distinction this is.

      Keep asking the hard questions. If you drill down into the details, the “innovation” component (as it currently stands) appears to be bogus … just like the UCD connectivity.

  3. South of Davis

    Rob wrote:

    > 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

    I’m not clear what the city is getting???

    Commercial zoned real estate in the city is worth at least $500K PER acre so if “15 acres was deeded to the city” it would be $7-$10 MILLION of “commercial real estate”…

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