My View: Slouching Toward Mediocrity

Proposed USC Village
Proposed USC Village

In my time, observing the Davis community, I see two destructive but countervailing trends at work. There are those who appropriate the aphorism from philosopher Voltaire, “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” and will accept decent proposals for projects without pushing for greatness.

On the other hand, there is a tendency, sometimes interestingly enough within the same population group, to look at proposals and point out their flaws without looking for ways to improve those flaws and fix the potential downfalls. The flaws become a convenient excuse not to attempt a new concept.

We saw this at work yesterday in two separate articles – one submitted by a reader which put forward the concept of food-sharing and the other that looked at examples of car-less communities in other cities and pondered whether Nishi could be conceived of as a car-less community.

Ironically, an article entitled, “The Art of the Possible” became a litany of excuses of why we could not do this. One reader presented a number of challenges prefacing their comments, “I am all for attractive, modern, smart developments that incorporate best-practice planning and design.” And yet, it seemed they opposed these concepts every step of the way.

So the first question they posed was who would live at Nishi if it were car-less. A reasonable question. One of the interesting things is if you make it a car-less housing project, people without cars are more likely to live there. Given that the housing development is going to be next to the university, with relatively small housing units, while it might not be billed as student housing, for the most part it is going to end up as student housing.

So one question we should probably research is how many students even have cars. We know that a high percentage of students who live in Davis are taking alternative transportation means to get to school. Our December 29 article noted that 47 percent bike, 18 percent use the bus and 4.9 percent walk, while 23.9 percent drive alone and 5.3 percent carpool. So there would seem to be a ready-made population.

We also know that UC Davis is expanding its overseas student population and almost all of those students will not have cars on campus.

So when the commenter writes, “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.”

While some of that may be true, there is already a sizable UC Davis population that is figuring out how to make that work without cars. For me that is the real point – these are excuses not to do something new and innovative. We are not talking about Davis going car-less, we are talking about one housing development perhaps not needing to have cars.

We saw the same thing with the reader-submitted article on food sharing. I’ll be honest, I don’t know exactly what I think about food sharing and the concept, but the first comment set the tone – “This is a terrible idea.”

Cited reasons included, “Aesthetics is a large part of the problem.” Then came the liability risk (which is still unclear).

The commenter stated, “When I go to a grocery store, a restaurant or my friend’s house for dinner I have a reasonable assumption of the food being safe, but a set up like this where anyone can put food in a fridge sitting out on the curb is a whole different animal.” True, but perhaps it becomes a calculated risk that, if you engage in food-sharing, you accept the risk that there might not be the quality control you have at grocery stores.

I was impressed that the original author came back to discuss many of these points and look to improve upon them. But I was disappointed that the overall direction of the conversation was to list reasons not to do it, rather than examine ways to make it work.

“From what I understand, this guy has been told numerous times to remove it and he refuses,” one poster wrote. “If they want to give away food, have people knock on the front door and make the exchange.  You know, knocking on the door and asking to borrow a cup of sugar, for example.  This is how it was done in the past.  But that would require face to face meeting with your neighbors and not the anonymous system you are trying to set up.”

But why?

Again, I am not necessarily saying that this is a good idea or that I would want to participate, but our automatic reaction to anything new is to poo-poo it rather than test the possibilities.

And testing the possibilities are really what I want to see us as a community do. I am going to go back to the Nishi example, because I see potential there. There are also clear obstacles such as circulation issues and we do need to examine the air quality issues, as well.

But overriding those concerns is that fact that Nishi is a very confined space, it is close in proximity to downtown and the university, and it does not expand our borders on the periphery of town. So it offers us a range of opportunities that no other parcel of land offers.

I have had several conversations this week with members of council about the potential of Nishi and my disappointment that council, while raising important issues about timing and what the EIR should entail, really wasn’t articulating a vision for the project or publicly pushing the applicant to go further.

I was just reading about the USC Village at the University of Southern California. I don’t think the specific concept is what we want at Nishi, but the innovation is what I think we should be shooting for.

USC-1

The USC Village is only 15 acres, which is roughly one-third the size of Nishi. So we can actually do a lot more than what is even happening at USC.

They are clearly focusing at USC on retail rather than research and innovation, but some of the concepts we could extend to Nishi: “With conveniences that include a full-service grocery store and 100,000-square-feet of additional retail, USC Village will have all the amenities and comforts of a town center for students and neighborhood families, set amid vibrant green spaces for open recreation. The retail planned for the USC Village include places for dining, entertainment, shopping, and evenings out with friends.”

One article, from the fall, wrote, “Imagine a bustling, welcoming residential community where Trojans can eat, sleep, study, play, dream, mingle and, above all, discover themselves. Picture inviting residence halls with private courtyards opening onto an inviting town square. A scholarly enclave churning with possibilities—outdoor concerts, poetry readings, street theater. A place where undergraduates can hang out with distinguished faculty outside the classroom.”

They added, “USC Village will bring this vision to life—and revolutionize the landscape of the university. This 1.25-million-square-foot, residential-retail center on the north side of the University Park Campus will feature a cluster of five-story residence halls encircling a grand plaza that will form the pinnacle of student life at USC. For up to 2,700 students each year, USC Village will be home away from home.”

Now USC itself is investing $650 million into the USC Village.

“This is by far the biggest thing USC has ever done, and probably ever will do,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias, who spearheaded the USC Village planning effort. “We are growing to the north in a big way. USC Village will no longer be adjacent to the campus. It will be the campus.”

The article noted, “It’s not only USC’s largest building project; it’s the most expansive development project in the history of South Los Angeles. In their initial reviews, city planners projected it would pump $5.2 billion into the local economy.”

“USC Village will provide the rich, academically focused, living-learning environment our outstanding undergraduates deserve,” President Nikias said.

Stop right there. This is a 15-acre site that USC thinks could pump $5.2 billion into the local economy. We have a 44-acre Nishi property.

Again, I am not suggesting we replicate this in Davis – I think we can do other things. I am suggesting that the current plan is small by comparison and, given the unique nature of the Nishi site and the amount of research and innovation that UC Davis is wanting to bring into our community, we should think big – if we are going to do this.

I believe we can do this as an environmentally sustainable and innovative way that preserves the core values of our community.  Are there challenges? Of course. But instead of using those challenges as a reason to not do something great, let us think of creative ways to address those challenges to make this greater.

—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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53 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    As I posted yesterday, I liked the concept of having some walk and bike only streets in the Nishi Project but I’m not for having our entire downtown go carless as some of your readers have voiced their desire for.  So in that instance I’m willing to look at ways to possibly make that happen.  Now when someone wants the city to change our laws so people can put refrigerators out on their front lawns and let anyone including children exchange food without 24/7 oversight I think that’s a terrible idea and have no interest in coming up with ways to make that or anything close to that happen.

  2. PhilColeman

    Mediocrity in public policy and elsewhere results from two possible dynamics. First, the creativity and planning are skills absent in the planners’ minds. Almost never does that happen in our community. We have a collection of incredibly bright persons.

    The second dynamic is fear and apprehension. The idea is TOO BIG. It is TOO RISKY and has never been done before. Or, it is TOO EXPENSIVE. This fear increases exponentially with the boldness of the idea. Such cynics fail to realize that it is usually the sheer magnitude of an idea that captures the imagination of the masses, and galvanizes them into positive action and support.

    I always like to admonish managers and planners as follows: Instead of thinking of all the things that could go wrong with an idea, try thinking of ways to make this work! It changes the entire group mindset.

    Historically, the Davis community was heralded for its boldness and innovation on several fronts. But Davis has really lost its mojo along the way. Our timidity in proposing new ideas has worsened to the current state– mediocrity (I prefer the term, “complacency”). A lot of this, I feel, is attributable to ready and mass access to social media outlets.

    We’ve also become much too sensitive to public criticism, failing to note that all great ideas began to a vocal audience of skeptics and pundits. Political correctness and caution in any public utterance has been expanded to social cowardice. When was the last time any of our local elected leaders stepped forth with a bold controversial idea to move Davis forward? Think long, think hard.

    The fundamental teachings of Brainstorming Techniques need to be re-introduced to us all. “Every idea is a good idea. We’ll put it on the list and discuss it in the context of all the ideas later on.” “Encourage the ridiculous notion. Often it is offered sarcastically, but also often evolves into a brilliant concept.”

     

     

    1. SODA

      Phil, as usual you offer points to ponder and I thank you!

      As I reflected on your ponderable points, my mind focused on Mace Ranch. It was new when we moved to town about 15 yrs ago so I have only heard about its inception and process, but to me that sort of project of sameness comes to mind when I am faced with new projects. Where was the ‘village homes’ innovation in that? Recently I drove by the Verona project with the mini setbacks. Same impression.

      How can a truly ‘innovative’ project be presented to get Davis’ mojo back??

        1. Davis Progressive

          you mean a development that 50 years ago was considered one of the most innovative developments ever?  i don’t think i agree with your assessment that it looks like a mess, but we are talking about a development that was designed and built in 1964.  what is your point other than it has been half a century since davis has had a really notable development.

        2. Jim Frame

          a development that was designed and built in 1964

          FWIW,  while Village Homes may have been a gleam in Mike Corbett’s eye in 1964, construction didn’t begin until circa 1975, the date the first subdivision map was filed.

        3. Davis Progressive

          1964 seemed a little early.  my broader point was the age of the development (40 rather than 50 years now) and the lack of innovative housing in davis since.

        4. Tia Will

          Housing preferences, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. When my partner sold his Village Homes house around two years ago, the bidding process that ensued led to a significantly higher than asking price sale. Obviously some folks did not agree with your assessment.

          This is a good example of the problem that we are having in terms of what we see as desirable. We do indeed have different preferences. I believe that everyone has the right to advocate as forcefully as they choose in favor of their own values. It would seem that some do not share that perspective.

          I have no problem at all with true innovation that incorporates developing trends and does not merely repeat the same set of problems that we currently have. I simply am not seeing that at this point in time.

          1. Don Shor

            Why is restricting autos the mark of innovation? Why not make sure there are hydrogen fueling stations and EV charging spaces? How about a tiered parking permit system based on the type of vehicle? The future isn’t going to be mass transit in California, it’s going to be more fuel-efficient and reduced-carbon vehicles. How about having an offset cost that pays for a longer-term parking/storage facility further from Nishi? Kill two birds with one stone; have Nishi parking fees help to fund a parking structure further down on Olive Drive.

            Autos aren’t bad, it’s the combustion engine that’s the issue.

        5. Frankly

          This is a marvelous point Tia.  So then why push so much top-down opinion on the design of a development to put it in some narrow box of a minority of activist demands?  Why force hyper-dense housing when even you don’t live this way?

          1. Matt Williams

            Frankly, you need go no further than any typical extended american family to answer your question. I’ll use my family as an example. We were all raised Episcopalian. My only son is married to a practicing Buddhist woman who emigrated to the US from Thailand, and is now an American citizen. The godfather of their child is African American. My brother married a woman of the Jewish faith, and their son actively practices his mother’s faith. My first cousins are married to spouses from places that are all over the world, with equally diverse spiritual practices. Our family got to that heterogenous end through the accumulation of a myriad of individual decisions … almost all of which had to survive a significant amount of “top-down opinion on the design” of the lives involved. Sharing opinions and coming to consensus is part of the human condition. In the US, it is celebrated by the democratic electoral process.

            Since our community has decided in its infinite wisdom that land use decisions of a certain magnitude should be decided/ratified by a democratic vote, the sharing of opinions is simply the process by which we end up with an “informed” electorate … altough lots of voters prefer to make their choices without the benefit of being “informed.”

        6. Mark West

          Village homes was innovative, but it did not express the core values of the community at the time.  That is the point, if you build to fit our preconceived notions of what is right, you will never be innovative.  Innovation occurs at the extremes, finding solutions to problems that the rest of us don’t yet recognize as problems. The way you get innovative solutions is to give people space to operate outside of the constraints of our preconceived notions.  Space to experiment and find new ways of solving problems.  We need to let go of the fear that some business or developer will make a profit from their solution, and instead rejoice in the new approaches (and jobs) that arise when they do.

          If we truly wanted an innovative solution at Nishi, we as a community would approve developing the parcel first, and then challenge the developer to create a truly unique solution to the problem that is Davis.  We won’t do that though. We will stick our collective heads in the sand, each proclaiming that our version of the future is the one that reflects the community’s values.  This community does not want innovative solutions, we are change averse, we want to stay in our comfort zone, we want the banal. That way we will always be able to proclaim that any new project is not innovative enough.

          1. Matt Williams

            If we truly wanted an innovative solution at Nishi, we as a community would approve developing the parcel first, and then challenge the developer to create a truly unique solution to the problem that is Davis.

            Mark, I suspect that if we followed that template, the developer would propose 100% for sale housing for the Nishi site. That is how they would make the most money for themselves.

            With that said, I have been very impressed with the Nishi developer’s willingness to work in collaboration with the University and the City to come up with a “greatest good for the greatest number of people proposal.” It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Rodney Robinson, on Tuesday night, got up and made a very respectful public comment stating that he believes the proposal has “gotten worse and worse and worse” with each iteration during this process. I, for one, would like to hear from Rodney and others about the specific ways they feel the proposed design has “gotten worse.”

        7. Mark West

          We have a planning process for a reason Matt.  Just because the City entitles a parcel for development does not give the developer free reign to do whatever they want.  It is just a matter of political will.

          The real issue however is we haven’t described the problem or problems that development at Nishi is supposed to address. Without a clear set of prioritized, defined needs, how can any development be expected to provide an innovative solution? We have lots of people spouting off about their preconceived demands that have to be included, but nobody is defining the problem we are trying to solve.

          1. Matt Williams

            The real issue however is we haven’t described the problem or problems that development at Nishi is supposed to address.

            You and I appear to have been listening to the same information and hearing it very differently. The problems that have been articulated are (1) that we already have a shortage of student-oriented housing in Davis at the current demand levels, (2) the student-oriented demand for housing in the City is going to incrementally grow because of the 5,000 additional students, 500 additional faculty and 300 additional staff being added to UCD by the 2020 Initiative, (3) we have an under supply of high quality jobs that can keep the intellectual capital produced by the innovation programs at UCD in town, and (4) we have an under supply of available space for startup innovation companies coming out of UCD.

        8. Frankly

           This community does not want innovative solutions, we are change averse, we want to stay in our comfort zone, we want the banal. That way we will always be able to proclaim that any new project is not innovative enough.

          As a previous business application software developer, when asked to describe how they would define a successful end product, my clients would usually say that it had to be simple and intuitive, have all the working features and functions requested, be delivered on time and cheaply.

          I would take notes and nod in agreement… and then say “please pick the most important two of those things.”

          This was an absolutely essential exercise because it brought to the forefront the concept of competing interests and unreasonable expectations.

          We want it perfect gosh darn-it, and we won’t be happy unless we get exactly what we want.

          First there is the point that most of us really don’t know what we want.  We are comfortable in a position of being a professional critic… maybe with a mindset that “we will know it when we see it.”  We can rattle off a nebulous list of demands, but don’t have a clue what it means, what are the problems, how much it will cost, and how long it will take.

          To combat the challenges from this in software development… taking off to design and develop what the customer said he wanted only to have him claim at the end that it missed the mark… new best practices of rapid prototyping, time-boxing, and incremental user-acceptance testing evolved.   We give the client a little bit at a time and make sure each step meets expectations.  If it does not, we can discard it and go back to redo that smaller piece without incurring a large rework cost.

          For a new city development, the problem is that much about the design has to be nailed down before any work begins.  So there needs to be virtual visualization workshops to prototype the design covering all the demanded and suggested features and concepts.

          But the list will undoubtedly be filled with competing interests and unreasonable expectations.  Residents will need to pick from the list and stop demanding the impractical and unfeasible.  And the sideline critics just need to go away… being reminded that they are pretty much just useless cogs.

        9. Frankly

          Since our community has decided in its infinite wisdom that land use decisions of a certain magnitude should be decided/ratified by a democratic vote, the sharing of opinions is simply the process by which we end up with an “informed”

          Matt – Why not have a citizen committee for all the art that people hand in their house, or what type of landscaping they can design and plant?  Why not just have a citywide vote to demand that everyone in town drives a Prius if they must have a car?

          Tia says we should not build single family housing on big lots… we should build only dense and affordable housing.

          Then she makes the point that “Housing preferences, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder.”

          I would never live in Village Homes, but I like having the choice in the city.  Tia lives in a single-family home with a yard so apparently she is not a fan of the hyper-dense residential building that she advocates for, but I assume she likes having it here as a choice.

          I think you live in South Davis in a single-family house on a relatively large lot.  Apparently this was your preference.

          We are all different customers in the housing market.  There are difference customers in the business CRE market.

          I understand that we have turned over the decision for annexation of development projects to the voters.  Unfortunately I think that has given some a power head trip… with them posturing and demanding for a vision of their own head.  First, it is not their land nor their money going toward the development.  Second, they don’t speak for everyone… in fact they speak for few.

          As pointed out, a innovative development in only as innovative as is the vision, materials, methods and practical build-ability at the time.  50 years from now that development might look quite shabby by the current trends.   And that is why this thing called redevelopment exists.

          Not only should we stop trying to make the thing perfect, we should be honest that none of us even know that the hell “perfect” is.

          1. Matt Williams

            Matt – Why not have a citizen committee for all the art that people hand in their house, or what type of landscaping they can design and plant? Why not just have a citywide vote to demand that everyone in town drives a Prius if they must have a car?

            The simple answer to that question is that the Davis citizens have made a collective determination that that is a level of micromanagement that has very, very, very low return on investment. At the same time by their passage of Measure J and subsequent passage of Measure R the Davis citizens have made a collective determination that certain land use decisions merit a level of democratic management, and that that management has a high perceived return on investment.

          2. Matt Williams

            I understand that we have turned over the decision for annexation of development projects to the voters. Unfortunately I think that has given some a power head trip… with them posturing and demanding for a vision of their own head. First, it is not their land nor their money going toward the development. Second, they don’t speak for everyone… in fact they speak for few.

            Couldn’t you say that about every election that we have? Look at the recent Doug Ose vs. Ami Bera election. Was there a single constructive utterance made in that entire election? Lots of posturing. Lots of sound and fury signifying nothing.

            The vast majority of elections start with partisan minorities at the opposite ends of the spectrum of the issue being voted on … and a substantial majority who don’t have enough time and/or don’t have enough interest in the issue being decided … until they either get close to, or actually arrive at Election Day. It is formalized brinksmanship. The posturing and demanding coming from the partisan minorities is an unavoidable reality of democracy practiced by a disinterested voter populace.

        10. Mark West

          You have a laundry list of problems that the development is supposed to address Matt, but no prioritization. No surprise you and others have a list of demands as well. Too bad none of it will be of value since there is no thought into prioritizing the most important items.  This is intended as a 50+1 plan, not a solution.

          1. Matt Williams

            Four problems is a laundry list? You must be taking wardrobe lessons from Jack Reacher.

            The low priority problems (like the conversion of SFRs into mini dorms) have been prioritized off the list. The four problems listed are synergistic, and the partial solutions to them provided from the Nishi Gateway site are complementary. The housing component of the project addresses both the current student-oriented housing shortage and the Initiative 2020 incremental increases to housing demand. The innovation incubation component adds jobs that are a solid match to the personal intellectual capital being created by the University. The innovation incubation component also addresses the under supply of available space for startup innovation companies coming out of UCD.

            Four for Four.

  3. Mark West

    “preserves the core values of our community.”

    USC is located in the middle of an economically distressed community, and USC Village does not ‘preserve the core values of the community,’ rather it is intended to destroy and replace that community.

    The problem I see with Nishi, and most every other attempt at development in this town, is the attempt to create a project that ‘preserves the core values of our community.’  We don’t have a single set of core values, we have a large collection of overlapping ideals expressed by an active community, all of whom believe their interpretation of ‘core values’ is the one that everyone else should use.  As a consequence they don’t express those ideals as something to work for, but rather something to demand, and if they don’t get their list of demands satisfied, they won’t support the project.  The only projects that can be approved are those that are watered down, middle of the road attempts to please everyone.  We don’t innovate, we replicate, and then complain when we are not innovative enough.

    The development proposed at Nishi is no different.  Limited height buildings, limited density, insufficient retail space, and an attempt to be both a space for new and expanding businesses and a student housing project.  We have people who want to limit car access, but at the same time we want it to be a business center with growing businesses that will expect to have car and truck access. As proposed, Nishi will not  be an innovative extension of our downtown, it will be an island separated from the downtown and the rest of the community.

    If we want to be innovative, we need to be willing to upset people’s notions of their ‘core values.’  We need to have developers planners and City leaders who are willing to ignore the loudest busy bodies and have the fortitude to really do something unique.  That will never happen as long as the primary goal is to preserve our ‘core values.’

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think i understand your point, the problem of course is nishi requires a vote which does limit it, but i do think we should go outside the proverbial box because we can have a really neat project.

    2. Anon

      We don’t have a single set of core values, we have a large collection of overlapping ideals expressed by an active community, all of whom believe their interpretation of ‘core values’ is the one that everyone else should use.  As a consequence they don’t express those ideals as something to work for, but rather something to demand, and if they don’t get their list of demands satisfied, they won’t support the project. 

      Spot on!

    3. Matt Williams

      The problem I see with Nishi, and most every other attempt at development in this town, is the attempt to create a project that ‘preserves the core values of our community.’ We don’t have a single set of core values, we have a large collection of overlapping ideals expressed by an active community, all of whom believe their interpretation of ‘core values’ is the one that everyone else should use.

      Excellent point Mark.

      The one thing that I would add is that the prevailing form pf government in Davis is a democracy … and democracies anticipate the very diversity of opinions/values that you describe, and provide a straightforward way to choose between the competing opinions/issues … majority rule at the ballot box.

    4. Matt Williams

      The development proposed at Nishi is no different. Limited height buildings, limited density, insufficient retail space, and an attempt to be both a space for new and expanding businesses and a student housing project. We have people who want to limit car access, but at the same time we want it to be a business center with growing businesses that will expect to have car and truck access.

      Engaging your bolded words in the quoted passage above, I share your concern about limited height buildings, and wondered, “Why stop at six stories?” I took the time to seek out an answer to that question, and the answer proved to be very simple … building codes. As it was explained to me, a wood frame building can have the floor plate of its first unbuilt floor no higher than seventy-two above ground level (assuming it is built on a slab whose elevation is equal to the ambient ground level). If you want to build a full story at a height that exceeds 72 feet you have to convert from a wood frame construction method to a steel frame construction method. In San Francisco where per square foot values frequently exceed $1,000.00, the incrementally higher costs of steel frame construction can be recouped in the monthly rental revenue stream. However, in the Central Valley (including Sacramento) the per square foot values are more often than not less than half of comparable San Francisco values, and because of that the rental revenue streams generated are not sufficient to cover the costs of steel frame construction.

      For me, limited density is a very different issue … but it brings us full circle back to cars/parking. If the site footprint is consumed by providing a minimum of one parking space for each unit, then the remaining land area for housing after providing the parking is significantly diminished.

      Which brings me to your “insufficient retail space” point/concern. I have to admit that that one puzzles me. With the current bicycle/pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks that opens into the Whole Foods parking lot, why wouldn’t you want to have the Nishi residents be incremental demand for the Downtown retail establishments?

      As proposed, Nishi will not be an innovative extension of our downtown, it will be an island separated from the downtown and the rest of the community. If we want to be innovative, we need to be willing to upset people’s notions of their ‘core values.’ We need to have developers planners and City leaders who are willing to ignore the loudest busy bodies and have the fortitude to really do something unique.

      To date, Nishi has been planned by a tripartite collaboration of the developer, the University, and the City government. Those three collaborating agencies have certainly solicited input from the “busy bodies,” but I can’t help but wonder what features of the current plan are ones that you feel have been “busy body dictated”? I don’t see any, but my mind is open to hearing your thoughts.

      1. Mark West

        I look at the proposal Matt and am bored.  There is nothing about the project that elicits anything beyond a yawn. Probably because it is being designed by committee to appease the 50%+1.

        1. Mark West

          “In your opinion Mark, how would you change it?”

          Have you read a single thing that I have written today Matt?

          Identify and prioritize the problems you want the developer to address, then get out of the way and let them do their job. If you don’t like their final plan, reject it and move on.  What I, or you, or Tia and any other individual in town ‘want’ is of no importance.  For the developer to try to please you or me just guarantees mediocrity.  50%+1 mediocrity.

          1. Matt Williams

            That has all been done Mark, and the rendering that we currently are seeing in Tuesday’s Staff Report is precisely that.

            What you and Tia ‘want’ is very, very important to the developer because (A) each of you has a vote when the time comes for the Measure R/J election, and (B) because 80% of Davis voters (the ones who who are currently not paying attention because they have other more pressing issues that fill up both their available time and available interest) will be turning to their friends in the days leading up to the Measure R/J election day in order to guide/inform the vote they cast … and you and Tia are going to be two of the “interested” and “informed” members of the community who others will turn to. The developer knows that if you and Tia get behind the project (each for your individual reasons) that means dozens of “yes” votes on election day.

            Now, with that said, what is it about the current proposed project that causes you to label it “mediocre”?

  4. Tia Will

    How many times have posters on this blog complained about the lack of parking downtown ?

    How many times has someone written that they do not come downtown to shop because they do not like dealing with the traffic issues ?

    How many times have people talked about congestion and the inadequacy of the Richards underpass ?

    Yet the solution proposed over and over is yet more parking for yet more cars. No one seems to be willing to deal with the root cause which is not inadequate parking nor street inadequacy. The root problem is too many cars. When the cars are not present, there is no problem with access to downtown businesses. Since having chosen to live within walking distance, I rarely drive downtown. There is no congestion problem that is not due to the presence of too many people insisting on parking on the same block as their destination.and circling until they are able to do so.  While this makes sense for the limited number of people who are coming in with small children, or have mobility issues, or are making that one large purchase that they cannot carry a long distance, this is not true for the majority of people who are downtown. I know, because I spend a lot of time there. These “problems” are almost entirely of our own making because we value convenience over all else.

    The solution is simple. We could choose to rely less on our cars. I am certainly not advocating a car ban. I am arguing for the realization that our current degree of reliance on our cars is not safe, not environmentally sound, and not good for our health as individuals and yet we cling to this out dated model instead of being willing to at least try something different. It would seem that those who insist that every individual must have free access to a space for their own car are equally as wedded to their “values” of convenience and instantaneous mobility as those they accuse of wanting to impose an arbitrary set of “core values”. Here we are seeing real resistance to change.

    1. Frankly

      The root problem is too many cars.

      That is not the root problem, that is just your opinion.  I have the opinion that we have too limited shopping choices, and too much concentration of UCD-related traffic and retail business for a town our size in a very small downtown footprint.   I think this then conveniently sets up you and others being able to claim that the problem is cars.

      Constrain the use of space and then you can make those famous urban uber-liberal and environmental-extremist worldview arguments.

      You yourself said that you wanted Davis to stay a small rural city true to its roots in agriculture.  So please point me to another Ag-focused small rural city that has so constrained cars in the primary retail location?

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        So please point me to another Ag-focused small rural city that has so constrained cars in the primary retail location?”

        “Why are you so wedded to copying something that someone else has done ?

        Where is your innovative entrepreneurial spirit ?

      2. Tia Will

        Frankly

        I would agree with you if the only shopping area we had were downtown. It isn’t. We have University Mall, The Marketplace, the Nugget Shopping Center, the shopping centers on Eighth Street, the former Lucky shopping center, in West Davis , South Davis and now the Target/TJ Max.

        Long before I made any comment about cars on this blog, other posters had identified too many cars as the problem with their complaints about not being able to park within the same block as their destination. I am merely agreeing that if your goal is to park immediately outside the shop you are going to, the problem is not lack of shopping opportunities, it is other cars taking the spot you want. What does not seem to occur to those who value convenience most highly  is the once they have secured their spot, it is their car posing the problem for the next individual trying to park in the same block.

        There are two ways to see the problem of “too little parking”. You can see it as too few parking spaces within a given area. Or you can see it as too many cars within the given area. Notice I didn’t say too many people or too many shoppers, I said too many cars. This is the perspective that has been the least considered, in my opinion to the detriment of our  over all well being.

         

  5. Bill

    “An article entitled, “The Art of the Possible” became a litany of excuses of why we could not do this.”

    I  think that is hilarious and sad at the same time.   Whether you agree with the merits of the refrigerator  proposal or not, the more important issue (at least for me) is that someone is trying to innovate and come up with a solution to a societal problem. If anything, we need to support such outside the box thinking. I applaud the author of that article for not only daring to try something new, but for his/her openness to feedback. They seemed open to constructive criticism and dialogue to see if this idea could work in some way.

  6. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    I’m not sure anyone beside me was curious. But this story’s headline, “Slouching toward mediocrity” got me thinking where the “slouching toward(s)” meme originally came from.

    I was aware that Robert Bork, who had been nominated to serve on the SCOTUS but was not approved by the Senate, wrote a book called “Slouching toward Gamorrah.” I never read it, but I presume his worry was that the American culture was becoming more sinful than he would prefer, where Gamorrah represents sinfulness itself.

    Bork got his title from Joan Didion (who grew up in Sacramento, FWIW). She published a collection of essays in 1968 called “Slouching towards Bethlehem.” The title of that book, which I’ve also never read, refers to San Francisco and the Summer of Love. The Haight-Ashbury was the Bethlehem drawing in people like Didion. However, the drug culture there apparently disgusted her.

    What I never knew is that Didion borrowed her title from a poem by William Butler Yeats called “The Second Coming.” It includes this final stanza:

    The darkness drops again but now I know   
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep   
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    Obviously it is a reference to Christ. However, I have no idea why Yeats used the word “slouches” in his ultimate line.

    1. KSmith

      I think the “slouches” is just meant to emphasize the animalistic and ominous feel of this beast (tying it back to lines 14-17 and the sphinx figure with its “slow thighs”)–which has been looked at as either an Antichrist-like figure, or the second coming in the form of a “pitiless” and harsh Jesus who is going to punish humankind (which, in Yeats’s estimation, had become even more decadent, violent, and horrific after World War I).

      This has always been one of my favorite poems, and the “slouches” has always struck me as quite creepy and unsettling.

      I think “slouching” works in a less ominous way in the context of “mediocrity,” meaning less polished, not as upright as it could be, and slightly slacker-ish.

  7. David Greenwald

    Don: “Why is restricting autos the mark of innovation?”

    While there are other ways to do it, as Matt explained, as long as we have cars, we have the need to take up valuable space with parking.  We also have road impacts on Richards.  Eliminate those two problems, as I think the chances of Nishi passing go up immeasurably and then we can do something much more interesting with the space that was designated for parking.  You’ve often talked about the need for student rental housing – I see eliminating cars as a way to address that need.

  8. Tia Will

    Don

    “Why is restricting autos the mark of innovation?””

    In the sense of human history, it is not. As David has pointed out, there are a number of car restricted areas in Europe, and a few in various areas of some Canadian cities that I have visited mostly in terms of expanded outdoor plazas and promenades. Since these areas are already in existence they are not truly “innovative”. But they are innovative within the context of Davis in that there are no car restricted neighborhoods here. All of our neighborhoods have been built around the presumption that the automobile will be the main means of transportation to and from the neighborhood. Thus, designing an area that is not automobile dependent would be novel, or innovative, within the context of our city.

  9. Barack Palin

    A thought….if Nishi was designed as a bike and walking only community might it just add to the traffic and parking problems of our close by downtown as people end up driving to and parking on the periphery of the Nishi development when they are shopping or doing whatever there?

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      No. All of the parking in downtown is time restricted, private or requires a neighborhood permit.

      I think the anti-cyclists, who use cars and need parking for themselves, cannot accept that not everyone is like they are. If a person really needs a car, (which is most of us) he simply would choose to not live in a no-car or low-car neighborhood. It would not fit in with his lifestyle and preference. And that is perfectly fine, as long as he has good choices elsewhere. But the objections to this sort of an idea are strange, in that no one who does not like the idea for himself has to live there. It’s funny to hear right-wingers object to allowing choice. Instead, they want to force low-density and hefty parking requirements down the throats of everyone else through regulatory planning.

      1. Barack Palin

        What does any of this have to do with being a liberal or conservative?  Why do you choose to make it political?  I think people who love to ride bikes can’t except that not everyone is like they are.  I thought this is all about finding ways to make it work, why not make it work for bikes and cars?  You talk about allowing choice then in turn think it’s okay to take the choice away from people who might want to drive their cars into Nishi.

        1. Tia Will

          BP

          For me, the whole issue of cars in Nishi came to my attention by the numbers. Going back to the distribution of space on the graph posted by David, 13.1 acres ( almost twice as much space) was being devoted to parking as to any other purpose. This does not seem to me to be the wisest choice for land usage.

          I never considered the possibility of a complete car ban, but rather the idea that perhaps as a change from the predominant car based model, it might be nice to have at least one neighborhood within our city that was not designed primarily for those whose preference is the individual automobile.

          Our society has been over the past 60-70 years so dominated by those who choose the car over other means of transportation that no other model is felt feasible. I would like to see more, not less choice, but am consistently being told that my choice is not economically or structurally or socially feasible because others have already determined the nature of our infrastructure. For substantiation, see the comments of Anon and Frankly. To me, it is this insistence on the maintenance of the supremacy of the status quo that is limiting choice.

        2. darelldd

          BP wrote:

          What does any of this have to do with being a liberal or conservative?

          I’m not sure, but it may have started here.

          you can make those famous urban uber-liberal and environmental-extremist worldview arguments.

          BP Wrote

          why not make it work for bikes and cars?

          Because we’re all talking about “choice” now… this option takes the choice away of having a car-free neighborhood. I’m mystified to find where choice starts and stops with some people. Allowing all options removes the “choice” of not having one of those  options in play.

        1. Anon

          This possibility was thought of many years ago and never acted upon.  The idea was to have all of downtown restricted to no cars, and have shuttles from outlying parking lots take customers into Downtown.

    2. Matt Williams

      BP, my personal opinion on your question is that having Nishi as a “bike and walking only community” is swinging the pendulum too far. If the site were housing only (with a strong emphasis on students who can easily walk to their classes on the UCD campus, then bike and walking only would be less problematic, but even then the realities of delivery vehicle access is going to make some non-bike vehicular traffic pretty much a necessity.

      With that said, back in 2008, when I first began thinking about Nishi as a bi-product of the Housing Element Steering Committee deliberations, I strongly supported providing the access to Nishi as a railroad overpass rather than as a railroad underpass. The overpass right of way (the orange portion of the graphic below) would be integrated into the northern edge of a multi-story parking structure (the green portion of the graphic below) that would provide (A) offsite parking for the Nishi site residents, (B) free remote parking for the employees of Downtown businesses, and (C) parking for the University’s to-be-determined future of Solano Park.

      I believed the advantage of this concept was that (1) the air space above the UP rail right of way would become productive parking, (2) eliminating the need to use valuable square footage of either the Nishi or Solano Park sites for parking, (3) with shuttle service, would provide an effective way to substantially reduce the number of Downtown parking spaces used by the employees working at the Downtown businesses, and (4) would substantially reduce the number of cars that actually entered the Nishi site.

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