Commentary: The Art of the Possible

Madrid is one of seven parts of cities that have recently restricted cars
Madrid is one of seven cities that have recently restricted cars

The Nishi project represents an interesting conundrum and opportunity.  It is an opportunity because the land rests in a very unique location, adjacent to the university and within easy walking distance from downtown. The city and university have the opportunity to create a world-class development that can incorporate urban land use principles, innovation park features, and a mixed-use housing development all in one relatively small facility.

On the other hand, nestled between the railroad tracks and I-80, with obvious access issues on the already-impacted Richards Blvd, there are considerable circulation challenges.

As we discussed yesterday, one of the questions will be whether there can even be access to the UC Davis – with many people in the community and on council telling me that, without university access, this project is effectively dead.  While Community Development Director Mike Webb was not able to get back to the Vanguard yesterday, the Vanguard has learned that there is a legitimate concern about putting in planning elements that require the approval of an outside entity like UC Davis.

Nevertheless, the Planning Element Steering Committee rated more highly a UC Davis-only access while the city has not put that forth as even a project alternative.

As I have written earlier this week, it seems to me that we have some very interesting opportunities that we could leap on, based on both the strengths and limitations.  Among the disappointing aspects of the current design is the amount of space devoted to parking.

The challenges of the site, as well as its strengths, allow us to potentially think outside of the box.  Observe that there are a large number of students who do not have a vehicle in Davis with them.  These students either bike, walk, or take the bus to the campus.  We have an influx of overseas students who will be coming to Davis and they will not be bringing a vehicle with them, nor will they be purchasing a car while they are here.

Nishi is perfectly aligned to allow for car-free living.  Is this thinking really so outside of the box?

Nishi-2015-Draft-Site-Plan

Recently I read an article, “7 Cities That Are Starting to Go Car-Free.”  It notes, “Urban planners are finally recognizing that streets should be designed for people, not careening hunks of deadly metal.”

The author writes, “After over a hundred years of living with cars, some cities are slowly starting to realize that the automobile doesn’t make a lot of sense in the urban context. It isn’t just the smog or the traffic deaths; in a city, cars aren’t even a convenient way to get around.”

In fact, at Nishi, a car will probably be the least convenient way to get around.  Jump on your bike and you can be at Mrak Hall in less than five minutes.  You can be at Bistro 33 in five to ten.  To get to campus by car, you would have to drive onto campus, find a parking spot, park and then walk to your destination.  To go into town, you would have to drive out on Olive Drive, make a left under the impacted Richards Underpass, find a place in the downtown to park and walk to your destination.

This is the same thing that is happening in big cities.  The authors write, “Traffic in London today moves slower than an average cyclist (or a horse-drawn carriage). Commuters in L.A. spend 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. A U.K. study found that drivers spend 106 days of their lives looking for parking spots.”

“Now a growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps, and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their car parked at home and take the train instead,” they write.

“Unsurprisingly, the changes are happening fastest in European capitals that were designed hundreds or thousands of years before cars were ever built. In sprawling U.S. suburbs that were designed for driving, the path to eliminating cars is obviously more challenging. (And a few car-loving cities, like Sydney, Australia, are going in the other direction, and taking away pedestrian space on some downtown streets so there’s more room for cars),” they add.

The heart of Davis is really more of an urban environment.

Read the whole article to get a sense, but here are a few snippets.

  • Madrid – “Madrid has already banned most traffic from certain city streets, and this month, the car-free zone will expand even further. Stretching over more than a square mile, the area will still allow neighborhood its own residents to drive, but anyone else who enters will be hit with a fine over $100. It’s one step in a larger plan to completely pedestrianize central Madrid in the next five years.”
  • Paris – “Last year, when smog levels spiked in Paris, the city briefly banned cars with even-numbered plates. Pollution dropped as much as 30% in some areas, and now the city plans to start permanently discouraging cars. In the city center, people who don’t live in local neighborhoods won’t be able to drive in on weekends, and that rule could soon roll out to the whole week. By 2020, the mayor plans to double the number of bike lanes in the city, ban diesel cars, and limit certain high-traffic streets to electric cars and other ultra-low-emission vehicles. The number of drivers in the city is already starting to drop. In 2001, 40% of Parisians didn’t own a car; now that number is 60%.”
  • Hamburg – “Though Hamburg isn’t planning to ban cars from its city center (as has been misreported elsewhere), the city is making it easier and easier not to drive. A new “green network,” which will be completed in the next 15 to 20 years, will connect parks across the city, making it possible to bike or walk anywhere. The network will cover 40% of the city’s space. The city is also covering up sections of the infamously crowded A7 autobahn with parks—so neighborhoods that were once hard to cross on foot will soon be more inviting.”
  • Helsinki – “Helsinki expects a flood of new residents over the next few decades, but the more people come, the fewer cars will be allowed on city streets. In a new plan, the city lays out a design that will transform car-dependent suburbs into dense, walkable communities linked to the city center by fast-moving public transit. The city is also building new mobility-on-demand services to streamline life without a car. A new app in testing now lets citizens instantly call up a shared bike, car, or taxi, or find the nearest bus or train. In a decade, the city hopes to make it completely unnecessary to own a car.”
  • Milan – “The smoggy city of Milan is testing a new way to keep cars out of the city center: If commuters leave their vehicles at home, they’ll get free public transit vouchers. An Internet-connected box on the dashboard keeps track of a car’s location, so no one can cheat and drive to work. Each day someone’s car stays at home, the city sends a voucher with the same value as a ticket on the bus or train.”
  • Copenhagen – “Forty years ago, traffic was as bad in Copenhagen as any other large city. Now, over half of the city’s population bikes to work every day—nine times more bike commuters than in Portland, Oregon, the city with the most bike commuters in the U.S. Copenhagen started introducing pedestrian zones in the 1960s in the city center, and car-free zones slowly spread over the next few decades. The city now has over 200 miles of bike lanes, with new bike superhighways under development to reach surrounding suburbs. The city has one of the lowest rates of car ownership in Europe.”
  • Chengdu – “A new satellite city planned in Southwest China could serve as a model for a modern suburb: Instead of a layout that makes it necessary to drive, the streets are designed so any location can be reached by 15 minutes on foot. The plans, designed by Chicago-based architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, don’t call for completely banning cars, but only half of the road area will allow motorized vehicles. The city will also connect to the larger, nearby city of Chengdu with public transit. Out of an expected population of 80,000 people, most will be able to walk to work in local neighborhoods. The project was originally planned for completion in 2020, but that may be delayed—it’s currently on hold because of zoning issues.”

As the article points out, “None of these cities are planning—yet—to go completely car-free. And it’s possible that may never happen; it’s likely that future cities will have at least a small fleet of self-driving electric cars on hand that can eliminate some of the current challenges around parking, congestion and pollution. But it’s also clear that urban planners are finally recognizing that streets should be designed for people, not cars.”

So why can’t we be forward thinking as well – why can’t Nishi look to go car free?  Given its location, people will not need vehicles to do most normal things.  Given the student population in Davis, there is a large contingent that do not have cars anyway – why not cater to them?

Then you solve your connectivity problem and take advantage of the unique location of Nishi.

—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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66 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    I like the idea of small portions of our downtown being only accessible by foot or bike.  If we could come up with something like the Euro look in the pic I think it would be very popular.  That said, just small portions, a street here or there, not most or the major parts of our downtown.

    1. Mont Hubbard

      Nishi is the perfect example of a place where cars really don’t make sense. Access to downtown will be faster and easier by bike. From the center of Nishi to Mrak Hall is about 1500 feet! Another bike tunnel under the RR connecting to Old Davis Road would make it way less than 5 minutes to virtually anywhere in central campus. In fact it would make Nishi a virtual extension of the campus; an exemplification of the academic-industrial complex. Who knows what the Putah creek bike tunnel behind Davis Commons cost? It only took two weekends to install. I watched them do it.

      1. Miwok

        Why not plan to dig up two or three floors of Nishi and put everything under the ground? When I went to a midwest Community College, there were tunnels and even the library was underground. No vehicles above Nishi at all except bikes?

        If you do that, tunnels became the ingress and egress of the place yet you never see them. Why are they wasting solar panels in the diagram in an open area? Put them on top of buildings, and you can put another building there?

        You also get a cooling sink to use for energy efficiency. I don’t see that mentioned.

        1. Matt Williams

          Miwok, the water table is less than two or three floors below ground level. Rather than having an underground garage, you would have an underground swimming pool.

        2. Miwok

          Matt, The Federal Building on I Street in Sacramento had that problem, over 2000 gallons a minute were pouring in during construction. Right by the river, they managed it. They also had to put over 900 posts in the ground for the 11 story building, over 250 feet deep to stabilize the building.

          This article talks about “the developers plan”. Is there one chosen, because no one mentions a name?

          I enjoyed hearing Mont at the Transportation Meeting the other day, but he has a vision that needs help from the citizens. But I have my own opinions, and since I will never afford to live in Davis, I guess my input on that is not worth it.

          1. Matt Williams

            Perfect example Miwok. The Federal Building could afford the significant incremental expense associated with solving that 2,000 gallons per minute problem because the number of units that they were constructing in that single structure dwarfed the number of units that are being proposed for each building proposed for the Nishi property. As a result the per unit impact of those incremental costs was relatively small.

    2. Miwok

      I have seen some streets and areas like Whistler in Canada whose design from the start was to incorporate pedestrians and delivery vehicles. They are all wider than any street in Downtown Davis. They have a convenient parking garage for EVERYONE.

      What if more areas of town were designed like that?

      1. Frankly

        I agree.  It is really kinda’ weird that we have these narrow crowded streets and complain about compatibility bewteen bikes, pedestrians and cars… and we are surrounded by thousands of acers of open land.  It is like we like to complain about things and we create the problems to do so.

        1. Jim Frame

          Narrow?  They’re 80 feet wide, in order to limit the spread of fire.  Many Manhattan streets are only 60 feet wide (though the major boulevards are 100 feet).

      2. Frankly

        Which roads are 80 feet wide?  Maybe Covell and Russel Blvd. where they have are split with a median.  Did you mean to write 40 ft?    And if you are including roads with street parking, the parking is not really part of the road since you cannot drive on it with cars parked there.

        Which brings up the point about constraining the size of the Nishi parking… thus putting more cars on the streets to find parking.

  2. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > Nishi is perfectly aligned to allow for car-free living. 

    > Is this thinking really so outside of the box?

    Yes, since most (but not all) people want a car near their home and to be able to drive to work (and to have clients come to visit their office).

    I’m sure someone (like Robb) would rent a home in a “car-free” community, but most people won’t.  There is an even smaller number of people that will rent office/R&D space (maybe an electric bike co.) in a “car free” tech park.

    > Jump on your bike and you can be at Mrak Hall in less than

    > five minutes.  You can be at Bistro 33 in five to ten.

    According to the Bike setting on Google Maps you can also jump on your bike (with your snowboard in the Burley) and be at Squaw Valley in 13 Hours (a few hours longer than the 8+ hours it took me once using Unitrans, Union Pacific and a Truckee Cab) or be down to see friends at UCSB in less than 2 full days (only 38 hours).  No one is forcing anyone in Davis to get a car (landlords and neighbors are even happy if you don’t own a car), but VERY few people over 25 (that have the money to rent a nice new apartment) actually “decide” to go “car free”…

     

  3. Tia Will

    It will come as no surprise that I am very much in favor of working towards less individual automobile dependence. As someone who does depend on my car ( 10 year old hybrid) to get me to Sacramento to work two days a week, I do not find it desirable or convenient ( it took me over an hour yesterday to get from my house to Roseville Kaiser hospital yesterday from a combination of fog and traffic). But more importantly than what I do or do not find convenient is to look forward to what the next generations may prefer. I would refer anyone interested to the specific numbers cited in the following article with regard to our next generations transport preferences.

    http://www.uspirg.org/news/usp/new-report-shows-mounting-evidence-millennials%E2%80%99-shift-away-driving

    The individual example that I have given repeatedly is that of my 22 year old son who had not yet seen the need for a driver’s license and is only now learning to drive.I believe that this study points out a future trend that we would be very shortsighted to ignore.

    hpierce had pointed out to me previously that we do not yet have the density of population necessary to build truly robust public transportation such as is seen in the Bay area or other major metropolitan areas. I agree with that statement as far as it goes. However, I do believe that we should be willing to consider such options on a smaller scale initially with the goal of incrementally moving towards multimodal transportation as our community grows rather than deliberately building our communities around the individual automobile just because that is the model that we grew up with. I believe that we should be as forward looking with our environment and health consierations as those who are advocating for business development are within their sphere.

    1. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > it took me over an hour yesterday to get from my

      > house to Roseville Kaiser hospital yesterday 

      Google says you can get from Davis to Roseville Kaiser is just under 3 hours each way using public transportation and just over 3 hours on a bike.

      > we do not yet have the density of population necessary to build

      > truly robust public transportation such as is seen in the Bay area 

      When I lived in SF my commute (by car) was 10 -15 minutes.  I just went to Google and is says it would take me just under an hour on my bike and 1 hour 16 minutes each way using public transportation (assuming it actually shows up since in SF not a week goes by for most people when a Muni bus does not show up on time).

      > My partner is one example of this situation.

       

      He is an example of the fact that even in urban areas only a few lucky people have an easy commute using public transportation.

      > His office relocated to Elk Grove …This is neither cost effective nor

      > convenient nor environmentally friendly.

      He can save money and be more “environmentally friendly” (and fitter) if he rides his bike for just under 3 hours each way or be “environmentally friendly” (and meet more people) if he takes just under 4 hours each way and rides public transportation (the Google maps tells me the fastest way to get to Elk Grove on public transportation is via Woodland).

      I’m lucky that I live and work in Davis so I can ride my bike most days (and get a little exercise going to and from work), but it is sad to say that for MOST people a car is going to be the fastest way to get to and from work.

      P.S. To Tia (and anyone else with a 10 year old hybrid) you might want to sell it before the battery (that costs more than a nice used car) dies and needs to be replaced…

       

      1. Miwok

        SOD,

        I have to laugh at each point you tried to refute by Tia. Do you have a family? Then you probably don’t care about a commute of up to 3-4 hours each way. I could never see the logic in Owning a home in Modesto and commuting to San Jose each day. If the commute is longer than the work day, why live there?

        Well, like Davis, they cannot afford it. As Frankly said, you still have to shop and that is all out of town, unless you are a Target fan.If you look at downtown, why is there a great number of food vendors? Not enough people live downtown to support all of them.

        Bus routes need to go more places, as when my aunt traveled to a downtown work place every day, and a bus stop was never more than a two block walk. Profit has taken over, and you suffer the results.

        My situation is maybe different, because I lived in Davis for about ten years, but there was no place I could afford or wanted to live, because I had hobbies or needs that were not compatible with zoning. But then I grew up with a house and a barn, and I want that instead of a cramped apartment where if your belongings are not inside to protect, you are a target for thieves who thrive in Davis and UCD.

  4. Frankly

    the automobile doesn’t make a lot of sense in the urban context

    Madrid

    Paris

    Hamburg

    Helsinki

    Milan

    Copenhagen

    There is a lot of cognitive dissonance on display here.

    I am all for attractive, modern, smart developments that incorporate best-practice planning and design.  But please note that we are not so “urban” and we are absolutely not any 2000-year old space-constrained large European city.   I have said before, and it would seems to be validated time and time again, that so many of our well-off Davis residents have vacationed to these places, or maybe even lived abroad, and now are stricken with irrational old-Europe romanticism that clouds their judgement about what a smallish-sized California city must be.

    Let’s talk cart and horse.

    These places listed above became space constrained over time, and over time accumulated residents attracted to the lifestyle and capable to live it.  The resulting dense and car-constrained design happened out of necessity, not from some top-down, forced vision of a car-less Europa-Disneyland utopia.

    The first question (the horse) is what amenities and features does the target/expected resident/customer of this development need?   This is not a development to build exclusive student housing.   But even assuming a high percentage of student residents, what type of students will end up living there, and what will these students need?

    Most of the kids I know that are attending college have to work.  And with the hyper-inflationary cost of college, more and more of them have to work.  And downtown Davis does not have enough jobs to support the job need, so they have to drive somewhere to work.   Also, Davis has limited shopping options and this too requires car travel.

    And what about non-students?  How many people can really support a car-less lifestyle in California?

    If we proceed with artificial constraints as a way to force behavior that is out of sync with the reality of need, it will result in a drop in the utility and value of the property, and it will also cause a mess.

    And frankly, (because I am), constraining parking and roads is a stupid way to achieve car-less nirvana.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “I am all for attractive, modern, smart developments that incorporate best-practice planning and design. ”

      while you say that you settle for crappy developments and you complain about every innovation that comes our way (my perception anyway).

      one thing that might work would be – no cars on part of nishi – car storage at ucd or nearby for those who have cars, but the article is correct, if you cater to a population without cars, you have a sizable one at ucd through students and overseas students and scholars.  if you live at nishi, you don’t need a car 90%.  when you do, you have zipcar and carsharing, etc.

      1. Tia Will

        DP

        Agreed. I think that Nishi because of its unique location, likely young population, and general walkability would make it an ideal place to start moving towards a less car oriented core. For most of the residents of a Nishi development as was already pointed out, it would already be more convenient to access the campus and downtown, as well as some businesses in South Davis on foot, by bike or by bus than it would be by car. Why not acknowledge this reality and build upon its positive aspects for downtown merchants as well as those in other neighboring areas ? We have nothing to lose except traffic congestion and long wait times at the Richards under pass with the current configuration.

  5. Tia Will

    Frankly

    How often do you commute to work out of Davis ?  I believe that you live and work in the same community and therefore may not have a full appreciation for how very inconvenient it is to drive to work, not by choice, but because there is simply no other good way to get there.

    My partner is one example of this situation. His office used to be located one block from the train station in downtown Sacramento. After we downsized to J Street, his commute consisted of a one walk block to the Davis train station and a one block walk to work, same of course in reverse. His office relocated to Elk Grove and with no one in close proximity with whom to ride share, he now has to drive 40 minutes to Elk Grove and another 40 back every day. This is neither cost effective nor convenient nor environmentally friendly. The cause is not choice, but poor planning of public transportation.

    Please notice that I said nothing at all about “Europa Disneyland utopia. My comments centered around the purely material ( time, money and environmental) negative impacts of an outdated reliance on the private automobile usually moving only one individual at a time with negative impacts for all. Instead of making up false assumptions and snide comments about why others favor change, would it not be more  constructive to talk about how we could incrementally move forward to healthier, less wasteful options that may be favored by the younger generations rather than relying on what was preferred and established as the norm by our generation ?

    1. Frankly

      Tia – Ever hear the fable of the sun and the wind competing to disrobe the man?  The wind blew and blew attempting to force  off the clothing from the man, but he only clutched it tighter as he was cold.  The sun then shown brightly and the man removed his clothing out of necessity because we was hot.

      The obvious illustration here is the futility of forcing people to try and behave the way you want them to, and instead you need to establish a situation that allows them to make up their own mind.

      There are not enough jobs in Davis, and there are not enough shopping options in Davis.  You are one that is largely against increases both of these things… preferring Davis stay some sleepy bedroom community (Europa-Disneyland).

      But you and I are two fortunate residents having the luxury of owning one of the scare good jobs located in the city we live in… where we can ride a bike to work.  However, I still need a car to drive to shop and for other business that my sleepy little  hamlet does not provide for.

      Let’s understand and accept the needs of the target resident/customer and the design and build to meet those needs… not push a vision of reduced utility only because it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    2. hpierce

      “… therefore may not have a full appreciation for how very inconvenient it is to drive to work, not by choice, but because there is simply no other good way to get there.”  

      There is a simple way to have “choice” to avoid inconvenient commutes.  Choose to work near to where you live, or, live close to where you work.  Your problem and your partner’s are easily solved.  You may have to accept some trade-offs, but so do we all.  I chose to work and live in such a way that I almost never lived more than a 5 -15 minute bike ride from where I worked.

      1. Miwok

        There is a simple way to have “choice” to avoid inconvenient commutes.

        hpierce, I applaud you. Managing to work near where you live is great. I could be flippant here, but my question is – do you Choose where to live, find a job, or find a job, then buy a house? Where does the schools and family ever enter into your decisions? Do you own a car? Why? Then the question comes to health services, shopping. Do you live close enough to them as well?

        My experience, only a few decades worth, have shown me sometimes jobs are not available to where I want or have to live, or health and shopping services are not as close as they could be. Davis has never been that convenient to me, with the bedroom community mentality they have always had, described as “slow growth”.

        No one has mentioned anything that respects the family in any of this. Carrot or Stick? You got yours, now for the Stick?

        1. hpierce

          Actually, I was responding in context to Tia’s ‘complaints’.  Then spoke of my experience.

          Work vs. where to live.  As the “provider”, chose work location first, keeping in mind did I want to live where work was, so I didn’t have to commute.  Grew up with a Dad who had to commute ~12 miles, and it often took him over 30 minutes (Bay area, old 101).  Will admit, I was fortunate/lucky.  Always found the work I wanted where I wanted to live.  That choice “cost” me in rent/house costs, but I weighed those and felt I chose well.  My skills drew the salaries that allowed me that choice.

          When I chose my main job and first home in Davis, was not thinking children.  Coincidently, our first was on the way shortly after I chose to come to Davis.  Worried more then about where my child would be born, not schools, because in those days you could choose to end a pregnancy in Davis, but not give birth in a hospital in Davis.  Had Davis schools been much poorer in quality than they are, think our children would have fared as well as they did, given the parental education and training.  Spouse was a credentialled teacher and I am a professional as well.

          Hell yes we own cars, but don’t need them daily.  If we lost both of them, it’d be inconvenient, but we’d deal with it.  I’ve always lived reasonably close to reasonably good public transit.  When flying out of SMF, have often taken YoloBus.

          To me, there is a balance… I choose not to be “dependent” on an auto, but I also choose to have one readily available.

          To designate a significant planning area to be “car-free” means you have a much smaller market who would choose to buy into it.  Not sure if I was a developer, spending significant sums to get through the entitlement process, construct infrastructure, buildings, etc., how much I’d want to risk to be able to cover my costs, financing and reasonable profit, HOPING that I could attract a narrow band of folks at the prices I’d need to charge to make development worthwhile.  Particularly if a major component of the land use was non-residential.

          I don’t think that the Nishi proposal should glorify/cater to the automobile, nor do I think we should require that users/residents have to eschew cars.

          There are those who would like to see Nishi be an experiment and/or bold innovation.  But in my view, they don’t have enough expertise or “skin in the game” to foist that on a developer.  If they had the cohones, they’d be pressuring the City to acquire the property, build their experiment out, and live with the results, whatever those might be.

        2. Miwok

           Not sure if I was a developer, spending significant sums to get through the entitlement process, construct infrastructure, buildings, etc., how much I’d want to risk to be able to cover my costs, financing and reasonable profit, HOPING that I could attract a narrow band of folks at the prices I’d need to charge to make development worthwhile.

          What better place to build and be guaranteed a profit except Davis?

          Good answer, thank you, hpierce.

          I commute to Davis, since I lived here about ten years and still could not afford to buy here, and the rental market finally priced me out. Costs went up, salaries did not, then I was laid off. I came back five years later, after gaining more skills and still could not afford to buy in the go-go real estate market, and chose not to chance playing a market.

          There are a whole lot of absentee owners in the town, I refer to them as slumlords, contributing to the problems this city has with traffic and infrastructure. If Code Enforcement would address that, this City might realize more real estate transactions, and more family neighborhoods, instead of single family homes with 8 kids in it. That is the other reason I don’t want to live in Davis.

          I grew up on a farm, with my dad having a construction company concurrently. In our spare time we remodeled houses. So we ALWAYS “commuted”, and I was a constant “kid on a tractor” going to a field somewhere. Then I went to where the work was in construction.

          Many people not only start this way, but live close to their family, in-laws, the school they want for their kids, and more. I hope this may give people pause to think: “are you developing Nishi for Davis, or for UC Davis?” “Will families move in or students and business people?” They claim to want sustainable neighborhoods?

          The thought I have reading all the fine comments on here is that they want to develop Nishi to be customers of existing Downtown or Davis business, but not all the businesses because no one is going to walk or ride a bike to North Davis to shop for groceries, South Davis for cars, and other places because they won’t have a car? Who rides their bicycle to Lake Tahoe? 🙂

  6. Davis Progressive

    “The obvious illustration here is the futility of forcing people to try and behave the way you want them to, and instead you need to establish a situation that allows them to make up their own mind.”

    what you’re missing frankly is that this is exactly what a carless nishi would do.  those who want to have a car will move to places that will accommodate them.  those who do not have a car, will have a convenient place to live where they can get around without one.

    1. Frankly

      Agree.  So then how many students actually need a car, and are you okay with designing this valuable space to eliminate it as a choice for those students that do?

      1. David Greenwald

        When I moved here for graduate school as a student without a car, I would have loved to have lived in a location like that.  It would be interesting to find out how many students don’t have cars.

  7. hpierce

    Funny how all you wise folks ignore the other existing access to Nishi… at the SW apex of the site, under I-80 into Solano County (which Nishi was a part of until relatively recently).  The right of way, along the tracks, was created by CalTrans when they created the Nishi property with the acquisition of the current I-80 alignment.  Wonder why the applicants have not disclosed this to staff.  Almost all of the City staff that were aware of it no longer work for the City.

    1. Jim Frame

      If that ROW still exists — I’ve driven through it, but I was always on the lookout for RR police — I don’t see how it would help the access issue.  It is/was on the southeast side of the RR, which means that access to a the nearest public road and RR crossing would be at Old Davis Road almost 3/4 mile away.  Then traffic would have to go north on Old Davis Road another 0.4 mile or so to get to the freeway, or continue on into campus.  It might serve as a backup emergency vehicle access, but otherwise it doesn’t look very helpful to me.

      1. hpierce

        Jim… the R/W I refer to is NOT UPRR property.  A title search, I believe, will show that the R/W is appurtenant to/in favor of the Nishi property.  I believe that on a cost/benefit basis, it would be at least as useful as West Olive Drive, which I see as only having value for bike/ped/EVA access.

        1. Jim Frame

          I assume you’re talking about the 55′ strip between the RR ROW and the haul road easement, which is the way I’ve driven into the Nishi property from the south.  What I don’t know is if it still exists all the way out to Old Davis Road, or ever did.  There’s no physical road that far, and the UCD WWTP fence goes right up to the RR ROW.  The easement may have only gone far enough to get under the freeway and connect to the other Nishi holdings, in which case there’d be no public road connection all the way out.

          (I tried to post an image of a portion of the Caltrans ROW map, but was unsuccessful. You can use the link above if desired.)(P.S. Can anyone clue me in on the formatting for inline images? I tried using a document that Matt sent awhile back, but those tags don’t seem to work.)

    2. Topcat

      The right of way, along the tracks, was created by CalTrans when they created the Nishi property with the acquisition of the current I-80 alignment.

      I’ve looked at the bridge where I80 goes over the railroad tracks.  It does not look like there is much room for a road under the bridge alongside the railroad.  I seriously doubt that this is any sort of realistic access to the Nishi property.

  8. Tia Will

    Frankly

    The obvious illustration here is the futility of forcing people to try and behave the way you want them to, and instead you need to establish a situation that allows them to make up their own mind.”

    And I agree with this. I specifically provided you with the example of my partner who is not in a position to “make up his own mind” in the situation that we currently have. He would much rather use public transit, but cannot because of the dictates of the “car dominant” culture that our generation has imposed. My son also wants the ability to “make up his own mind” and would strongly favor a robust public transportation system to Sac State. But he doesn’t have that choice either because of the lack of public transport. Many millennials seem to share this desire for public transport over the privately owned automobile, but they don’t have that choice in the system you prefer. We are so automobile dependent that many have had their preferred choices denied to them by default and poor planning.

    From my point of view, it is you, not I that is insisting on a lack of choice.  You have solidly defended the continuance of our costly, inconvenient, unhealthy and choice reducing reliance on the private automobile for as long as we have been having this conversation.

     

    1. Frankly

      I support increasing public transportation.  We need to work on that first so that people can make the choice to go car-less.

      Since we are on this Euro-Disneyland concept, why not build a monorail between the apartments and the campus?

        1. Mark West

          All the amenities? The entire City of Davis cannot claim to have all the amenities readily available which is why we all drive out of town to buy what we need. How will a business at Nishi compete with similar businesses around town if their customers are not allowed to bring their cars? There won’t be enough people living on site to support the businesses supplying the necessary amenities.  Just look at all the successful small grocery stores located in our neighborhood shopping centers for an example.

          It is certainly possible to live in Davis without a car, but it requires an investment in time, effort and money on the part of the individual, who frankly should have the option to choose that lifestyle, not have it forced upon them by some busybody who thinks it will be a good idea.

        2. Davis Progressive

          it’s certainly possible?  thousands of students do it every year.  ucd is talking about 5000 overseas kids – all them are not going to have a car.  when you, you have zip car, buses, trains, bikes, etc.

    2. Topcat

      My son also wants the ability to “make up his own mind” and would strongly favor a robust public transportation system to Sac State. But he doesn’t have that choice either because of the lack of public transport. Many millennials seem to share this desire for public transport over the privately owned automobile, but they don’t have that choice in the system you prefer. We are so automobile dependent that many have had their preferred choices denied to them by default and poor planning.

      My experience with my two stepchildren is completely different. My stepdaughter was in a position to use a public bus system. but she resisted  it and did everything in her power to obtain and use her own car.  As best I can figure out, her objections were walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus that she felt was undependable and often late, and having to deal with an assortment of “creepy” people who rode the bus (that’s her impression, not mine).

      In the case of my stepson, he is in a position to use public transit, but also prefers to drive.  He objects to the inconvenience of walking to a transit stop, sometimes in the rain or very hot weather and then waiting at an ugly and dirty transit stop.  Once on the transit system he is surrounded by a collection of unsavory characters.  Some who smell, others that look and act like gang bangers, drug addicts, derelicts, or people with severe mental illnesses.

      I do use Unitrans myself and find it to be a very nice system, but I don’t think that we can just discount the problems that often cause public transit to be a major turn off for people.

      1. Tia Will

        Topcat

        I agree with you that each mode of transport has its problems and none should be discounted. However, we have become so acclimated to those inconveniences associated with the automobile ( any one who has ever been stuck in an hour long traffic jam can relate) that we just accept that as the norm and a necessity of living our lives. I do not believe that we should “discount” any of the pros and cons of either system, and should be working continuously to provide a better system with more options for all.

      2. Miwok

        I do use Unitrans myself and find it to be a very nice system, but I don’t think that we can just discount the problems that often cause public transit to be a major turn off for people.

        The people who used to use a bus are different now, Unitrans notwithstanding. Unitrans is set up to be staffed and maintained for students, and we get to ride as a bonus. It is not reality.

        RT and maybe Yolobus has problems trying to make money with their services, and to stand around in the open in Sacramento is a risk. Bus stops are a risk, and a target, regardless of the security forces they have to monitor them. Like most areas of the city, cops are not there to prevent crime. Your daughter has a real fear, and is aware of threats you may not be.

        Just as when you travel, your radar needs to be on the people who hang around airports who never fly, people standing around parking lots who don’t have a car, etc.. Apply that to local transportation, it might give a different idea?

        1. Alan Miller

          “your radar needs to be on the people who hang around airports who never fly, people standing around parking lots who don’t have a car”

          People who hang around bars and don’t drink . . .

          People who hang out in hospitals who aren’t sick . . .

          People who go to City Council meetings  who . . . . . well, people who go to City Council meetings . . .

  9. Tia Will

    Frankly

    I support increasing public transportation.  We need to work on that first so that people can make the choice to go car-less.”

    I do not see why both could not go forth in tandem. I see Nishi as the “low hanging fruit” in a model for enhanced public transportation and less individual reliance on the private automobile. My reasons ( all material) not one Disney style fantasy amongst them.

    1. It is not already built. Therefore we have the potential to try something new and better suited to this particular location. On Nishi, we have not yet locked ourself into the traditional automobile as preferred mode of transportation and so have the ability to create something new for those who would prefer a different model. This would allow for the choice of something that does not yet exist in Davis, an environment which is not built with the automobile as the automatic default. Why would we pass up this opportunity for a truly different choice ?

    2. The location is ideal with excellent walkability to end destinations and already existing public transportation.

    3. The predominance of students among those who would live there thus targeting a population most likely to not be in need of a private vehicle on a regular basis.

    4. Decongestion of the downtown which would be likely to be favorable to those who now state that their trips to downtown are limited by parking considerations. Won’t bring back the folks who have already abandoned downtown, but might prevent more attrition. And would be very likely to generate more foot traffic to local businesses.

    4. Prevention of a worse bottle neck than already exists for those of us whose work/living situations pushes us to this intersection. ( Olive and Richards)

    5. You say that you favor public transportation. But then you say there is no demand for it. Why would we ever change if our current convention demands that we have perfect access before anyone would even consider using public transportation. I think that this is you using the “perfect as the enemy of the good” argument that you so frequently attribute to others.

     

  10. South of Davis

    Tia wrote:

    > my partner who is not in a position to “make up his own

    > mind” in the situation that we currently have. 

    If you guys moved to Fair Oaks you would have a shorter commute to Roseville and he would have a shorter commute to Elk Grove.  No one is forcing you to live in Davis and complain that we don’t have a subway that connects us to the Sac suburbs.

    > My son also wants the ability to “make up his own mind” and

    > would strongly favor a robust public transportation system to

    > Sac State. But he doesn’t have that choice either because of

    > the lack of public transport.

    Why not move close to Sac State?  It seems like it would be a lot easier to have kids who want to take the bus to Sac State move a couple blocks away from the school than to build a billion dollar subway to North Davis (or out to Esparto) to help out a few kids who for some reason think that they do not have the ability to  “make up their own mind” and move to avoid a long commute…

  11. Topcat

    One thing that has been completely ignored in this discussion is the big difference in the price of gasoline between Europe and the US.  Gas is MUCH more expensive in Europe which provides a big disincentive to individual automobile use.  In addition, European countries have high taxes on automobiles.  If Americans really wanted to move away from individual automobile use towards public transit, then they would be looking at an increase in the gas tax.

    Given the current state of political affairs in this country I think that the chance of increasing gas taxes to fund public transit is essentially zero.

    1. South of Davis

      Topcat wrote:

      > One thing that has been completely ignored in this discussion is

      > the big difference in the price of gasoline between Europe and the US.

      Don’t forget the high Europena road tolls!  A few years back we decided to rent a little Fiat and drive from Paris to Barcelona over two days (about the same distance as driving from Davis to Portland, OR).  Flying would have been about $70 for two people on Ryanair, driving we spent about double that  (almost $140) on just road tolls! (+ the cost to rent the car + ~$6 gallon diesel + insurance + road taxes (that are different than road “tolls”) + high secure parking fees (since we were told the local thieves can spot a rental and like to steal from tourists)…

          1. Don Shor

            Evidently in Frankly’s world, all of Europe is the same, and it’s all unsustainable. I assume that he believes that the US is sustainable. Or some states in the US, but not California, and probably not Kansas either. Maybe North Dakota. That’s it. Europe should be more like North Dakota.

  12. Tia Will

    If Americans really wanted to move away from individual automobile use towards public transit, then they would be looking at an increase in the gas tax.”

    I absolutely agree. Between and increased gas tax and toll roads, which in my mind are nothing more than choosing to pay responsibly for what we use, I believe that we could eliminate or at least make a huge dent in many of our transportation problems. Unfortunately I also agree that this is so politically unfeasible that I will not see it in my lifetime.

  13. Tia Will

    The idea that anyone would be forced to live in a “car free” Nishi is simply not true. Nishi has not even been started. Those who want to live an automobile dependent lifestyle have many, many opportunities in our community and in surrounding communities to do so. Our entire living structure in this area is built around the construct of the private automobile.

    Why do we choose not to make the same accommodations for those who would choose an automobile-less lifestyle as we have done for the past 70 or so years for those who choose an automobile based lifestyle ?  Is that not also forcing people into the dominant model ?

    1. Mark West

      Dr. Will:  You are the one advocating for no cars on Nishi.  If your desires came to pass, anyone choosing to live at Nishi will have to do so without a car.  If there were an excess of housing options in Davis, then people coming to town may truly have a choice between living at a car-less Nishi, or elsewhere. Since you are also a strong advocate for limiting housing choices in town, what you are doing in effect is forcing people to live without a car because you think it is a neat idea.

      You on the other hand, have a choice about whether or not you have a car at your ‘little bungalow near the tracks.’  If you were to say, my partner and I are going to sell our houses and cars so we can move to Nishi and live a car-less lifestyle, then I believe you would be justified in arguing for a car-less Nishi.  Otherwise, you are just forcing your own ideals  on others (including those ideals that you refuse to follow yourself). Hypocrisy is a term that comes to mind.

      1. Matt Williams

        Mark, in the process of arguing that Dr. Will is swinging the pendulum too far in advocating for no cars in Nishi, I would argue that you are swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. The property owners have every right to go forward with the configuration of Nishi that they think will A) maximize the effectiveness of their three-way collaboration with UCD and the citizens of Davis (as represented by the City government), (B) maximizes the chances of success of the citizens’ direct voice in a Measure R/J vote, and (C) produces an optimal return on their investment, both short-term and long-term. If they feel that using a market-based approach to cars that provides the residents of their 650 units with a financial incentive to live in their unit car-free, then it is their right to do precisely that, because they are the owners of the property.

        Would you have any objection if they made a decision that the renting (and/or purchase) of a residential unit came at a recurring (or one-time) cost equal to West Village’s rents, and then charge an incremental monthly amount for the rental of each parking space … let’s say for discussion purposes $200-300 per month. The market will then operate freely. The students who “have to have” a car will see that the residence rental costs in West Village include a parking space for their car, and if they want a car at Nishi their costs will be incrementally higher. Free market forces will prevail.

    2. Anon

      To Tia: Advocating for more public transportation is easy.  Paying for it is not, since the cost of constructing public transportation is astronomical.  To increase taxes on gas to pay for more public transit is an extremely regressive tax and puts an unfair burden on the lower income, who usually are the very ones who cannot afford to live close to where they work.

      As for Nishi being made “car free”, I agree with Mark West’s comment.  IMO such a restriction would make Nishi a less desirable place to live for most, placing an unfair burden on the developer to sell units within the complex.  I would think most would prefer the flexibility of being able to own a car and be able to park it next to their home.  How many of you would want that type of flexibility taken away?

      1. Davis Progressive

        according to the site plan these are five and six story buildings, i don’t think they are planning condos, these are going to be primarily student housing.

      2. Matt Williams

        … placing an unfair burden on the developer to sell units within the complex.

        Anon, since over two thirds of the 650 units currently proposed for Nishi are rental units rather than for sale units, is the “unfair burden” that you posit real or imaginary?

        As I noted in a prior comment, the developer has the option of renting (and/or selling) a residential unit with a recurring (or one-time) cost equal to West Village’s rents, and then charging an incremental monthly amount for the rental of each parking space … let’s say for discussion purposes $200-300 per month. The market will then operate freely with those people who prize the closer proximity of Nishi to the remoteness of West Village paying for the convenience of that closeness. Those students who “have to have a car” (even though it spends most of its time parked gathering a patina of dust) will see that the residence rental costs in West Village include a parking space for their car, and conversely if they want a car at Nishi their monthly costs will be incrementally higher. Free market forces will prevail and the developer will get an incremental revenue stream from those people who want both convenient location and automobile transportation.

    3. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > Is that not also forcing people into the dominant model ?

      No one is “forced” to own a car but for some reason a lot of people that work in Roseville WANT a car and despite many nice homes and apartments in town live in Davis or Placerville…

      1. Tia Will

        Anon When Village Homes was built, it was built without garages and with very limited guest parking. Despite these “restrictions”, Village Homes has remained a highly desirable place to live in Davis. Not everyone is completely wedded to the idea that they must have both a car and a separate room in which to house it. I believe that we have become complacent with our current car dominated culture and cannot conceive of the possibility of even trying for something more creative. You are right, building public transportation is a very expensive proposition. However, I would state that this is also true for the maintenance of our roads as can be seen by our current financially based infrastructure maintenance deficit. We are planning to spend vast amounts of money repairing out potholes but cannot envision spending money on something that might suit some segments of our population better.

      2. Matt Williams

        No one is “forced” to own a car but for some reason a lot of people that work in Roseville WANT a car and despite many nice homes and apartments in town live in Davis or Placerville

        SoD, do you think that people who work in Roseville will find Nishi to be a more attractive location than Mace Ranch or Wildhorse or Far East Davis (east of Mace and either side of Cowell)?

        1. Miwok

          SoD, do you think that people who work in Roseville will find Nishi to be a more attractive location than Mace Ranch or Wildhorse or Far East Davis (east of Mace and either side of Cowell)?

          Matt, The only thing none of you address about auto ownership is the aspect of enforcing it. If people live here and work in Roseville, you all ask why,  like it is free to move? On the other hand you think a few hours in a car commuting is a benefit to your family of growing children, then advocate for tripling it on a bicycle?

          Tia, in your opinion, Village Homes is desirable. The very desirable “high density” Cities advocate for, reduces the quality of life on so many levels, unless you grew up in a big city. Kids are more at risk, suck up more pollution, and suffer from lack of free space, which this development is going to be tight with.

          Citizens have to tell the cities what they will stand for, and toss the elected out when they violate your trust. “Consultants and  developers” are salesmen. Write your contracts carefully, and hold their feet to the fire.

           

          1. Don Shor

            I don’t think Village Homes is actually all that high-density. It was noted for the unique configuration of the homes and streets, the common areas and orchards and gardens, and the passive solar homes. They’ve certainly grown in value and I gather they sell quickly. But while Village Homes can provide some interesting urban planning ideas for residential neighborhoods, not that much applies to high-density apartment developments.

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