Trackside Developers Respond to Concerns

Kemble Pope addresses Council on Tuesday evening.
Kemble Pope addresses the council on Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday evening, the Old East Davis Neighbors continued to complain about the process and height of the proposed Trackside project. Two weeks ago, 15 residents came forward during public comment, complaining of the failure by the development team to meet with neighbors prior to submitting their project application to the city, as well as that the proposed five-and-a-half story building was a poor fit for the existing houses directly to the east.

On Tuesday night, Kemble Pope, project representative and a managing member of Trackside Center, responded to the criticism. He told council that he takes seriously the concerns of the neighbors. “We want to have a productive dialogue with each and every one of you,” he said.

While he declined to respond directly to statements made at the previous meeting, he did say, “We are open to talking to anyone about anything.”

He read from the first paragraph of a letter sent earlier in the day to the Old North Davis Neighborhood Association, stating, “We apologize that our preliminary outreach efforts to our neighbors in the winter and spring of 2015 regarding our proposed redevelopment project did not meet your standards for collaboration. It has always been our intention to work together with the entire community to create a project that pursues environmental sustainability, builds and promotes a vibrant downtown, promotes community, improves neighborhood infrastructure, strengthens and diversifies our city’s tax base, drives innovation, and ensures a safe and healthy environment within the context of our property’s unique location. We acknowledge that we have strained the relationship with the neighborhood; we are committed to improving our communications and repairing the relationship with our neighbors.”

The letter went on to state, “Our goal is to create a transformational infill project that is locally-funded and adheres to smart-growth principles with a transit, bicycle and pedestrian orientation.We want our property to enhance the neighborhood, provide unique high-quality, downtown living and retail opportunities and serve as the eastern gateway into Downtown Davis. We look forward to working with our neighbors in Old East Davis, Downtown Davis and the entire community to refine our proposal for a privately-funded redevelopment project at 901-919 Third Street.”

Located at the southwest corner of the city block bounded by 3rd/4th Street and California Northern Railroad’s short-line railroad (RR) and I Street, the quarter-acre property represents “one of the largest infill opportunities in the Core Area of Davis.”

It is currently an underutilized site, with two commercial buildings, each one-story, that take up about half of the lot; the other half is private parking.


It also has a unique approach with a group of local investors, many of whom have deep ties to the community: Sandra & Philip Bachand, Jeremy Brooks, Joy Cohan, Jim Davis & Lori Schilling Davis, Carol & Bill Elms, Lucas & Stacie Frerichs, Steve & Teri Greenfield, Craig & Tracey Long, Bret Hewitt & Deborah Pinkerton, Matt Kowta, Mitch Mysliwiec & Michelle Millet, Justin Owens, Kemble & Katherine Pope, Sandy Paige, Bill Roe, Chuck Roe, Eric & Channa Roe, Jeff & Deb Stromberg, Craig & Michelle Stromberg, Eric & Pat Stromberg, Krista & Carson Wilcox, and Carri & Jay Ziegler.

In their project description, they write, “This project is being created by a collaborative design-build process with ongoing input from the company’s owners, many neighbors in Old East Davis and Downtown Davis, City Staff, community leaders and members of the Davis City Council.”

However, it is here where the project received criticism – not just for the height of the building, but also that many of the neighbors claimed to have never been contacted.

Two weeks ago, Tia Will told the council that she is “absolutely delighted at the thought of an upgrade to these buildings which are very old, clearly past their prime, and needing development.”

However, she was critical of the project as designed. “The proposal is to put in a six-story building in an area in which the maximal height of residences is two stories and many of them are one-story. I see this as a clear departure from the nature of the existing neighborhood.”

Rhonda Reed, President of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association, noted that many of her neighbors have never come to council to speak before. She said she is disappointed at the portrayal that the neighbors had been contacted in this process.

She is concerned that the developers did not engage the community in this process. “The concerns over mass and scale have been well-demonstrated tonight,” she told the council. “The transitional guidelines from the core area to the neighborhood area are very explicit in terms of how that should be done, this project isn’t even close.”

John Douthitt closed the comments and told the council he has talked to people about the scale of the project – “They’re talking about a six-story building up there. Uniform, everybody’s response is ‘you’ve got to be kidding,’ It’s not sort of like ‘maybe.’” He said, “There’s no possible way that anybody would think that made sense.”

At the close of public comment, Mayor Dan Wolk mentioned the possibility that the council look to the long range calendar to see about the city having a role in facilitating dialogue. But several councilmembers told the Vanguard that the two sides simply have to get together and that public comment should not be used for back and forth dialogue between the parties.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

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

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  1. Tia Will

    Our goal is to create a transformational infill project that is locally-funded and adheres to smart-growth principles with a transit, bicycle and pedestrian orientation”

    There is much to agree with in the goals of this project. I am very happy to have a locally funded project emphasizing a transit, bicycle and pedestrian orientation. One illustration of a difference of perspective may be found however in the choice of the word “transformational”.  I only recently moved into my neighborhood four years ago downsizing from North Davis. I chose it specifically for its current character of one to two story homes and apartments, student co-operative housing, restored historic homes, bungalows ( ours which we are in the process of renovating slowly over time, one project per year). I chose it for the mix of neighbors including seniors, students, young families. I knew that it was considered a “transitional neighborhood” being on the edge of downtown. “Transitional” not “transformational”.  What I did not foresee was that without consultation, someone from my own town would decide that my much loved neighborhood should be “transformed” into their view of what Old East Davis should be.

    I completely agree that city council meetings are not the best venue to discuss this issue. I look forward to conversations with Kemble Pope and other representatives of the investors to work on project that will both fulfill the goal of an “ eastern gateway into Downtown Davis” and both maintain and enhance the current character of our neighborhood.

  2. Davis Progressive

    i am in agreement that this should not be negotiated using the public comment session, still kemble pope said very little of substance.  he didn’t acknowledge errors.  he didn’t explain how he could claim to have sought out inpput from stakeholders but didn’t.  he didn’t explain the rationale behind six units.  this seems to be a situation where the public is not opposed to the development, but rather that development, but we have no sence as to how this will play out.

    1. #me

      Pope has spent years making enemies all over town. One of his latest adventures, just last month, was an attempted take-over of the old north davis neighborhood association.

      Not only were his comments Tuesday night short on substance, in my opinion his tone was insincere and somewhat aggressive, with no hint of humility or conciliation. The local investors are likely to lose money on this circus, probably more appropriately named the trainwreck project.

  3. tj

    So locals will get the profits – is that a good reason to approve this project?

    Is it smart to build residential units right next to the railroad tracks?

    Is there any plan for replacement space for those who are using the current buildings?

  4. Frankly

    I see this as a clear departure from the nature of the existing neighborhood.

    And we should expect more of this in the core area and near core area as we are not building enough on the periphery even as the city population has grown and is growing and our local economy is under-developed.

    this seems to be a situation where the public is not opposed to the development, but rather that development

    Let’s be honest about his… the neighbors are opposed to 5-6 floors and probably 4 floors, and maybe 3 floors.  And the more talking goes on the more other things they will oppose.  It always happens this way… give them an inch and they will demand a mile.

    The CC needs to revisit the planning guidelines for the downtown core and near core in light of Measure R and other roadblocks for meeting our city housing and retail space needs.  We should get used to projects like this.  We need them.

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