My View: Time to Think Beyond the Simple Local Issues

Innovation-Park-example

Council is just about to crank up again – I know some on the council will not like my saying this, but in the nine years on the Vanguard, the period from August 2014 to July 2015 has been the quietest by far in terms of city council issues. That is going to change.

There are a number of huge city-wide issues on the near horizon and those will be bolstered by the arrival of another city council election.

One of the biggest will be the Mace Ranch Innovation Center, which currently has released its draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) with a potential June 2016 vote. The community group Davis Advocates for Responsible Planning is already calling for an extension of the public comment period which will close on September 28, arguing that is inadequate for a project that is larger than the city’s central business district and more than twice the size of the Cannery development. They want another 45 days.

The developers are pushing a mixed-use housing alternative, which may also slow down the project. And there are some who believe that this is by design, a way by the mayor to delay the vote from June 2016, when he faces an Assembly primary, to 2017, when he would be off the council. Most of this is just idle speculation at this point.

There are really a number of important discussions centering around the issue of the innovation parks that bear further and more dispassionate discussion.

There are legitimate reasons to pursue a discussion on housing. First, there are the VMT (vehicle miles traveled) and traffic impact considerations. Even if you do not believe that everyone who would utilize the proposed rental townhouses would work at the innovation center, structuring the homes as rental and not single-family homes makes it more likely.

Given the shortage of housing in Davis and the need for high-density homes, including housing with an innovation park proposal could strengthen the proposal.

The problem, of course, is that many believe that housing is the poison pill – either rationally or irrationally. I would like to see polling on the issue, but I do believe, even if polling shows people reacting favorably to housing, it may not anticipate the campaign dynamics and how that interplay will work itself out during a Measure R vote.

I urge us as a community to start thinking bigger. Bigger than the issue of housing/no housing.  Bigger than the issue of growth/no growth.

As I noted earlier this week, we have a fundraiser/community discussion for September 2 on the benefits that Davis derives from entrepreneurs, startups and tech transfer. Some people have questioned why we are not having the discussion of the need for space – and part of the reason for that is, before we even get to the land use questions, I think we need to understand what the benefit of economic development is to the community.

Clearly, a key driver has to be the budget and finances – the need for the city to derive tax revenue in a model that is unlikely to support peripheral retail. But I think there is more there than that. Part of the problem is that, if you do not work at the university, where do you go to get a high-paying skilled job? The answer is the Bay Area or Sacramento, and so one of the things we see every morning is a huge number of people driving into Davis to work at the university with another group driving out of Davis to work elsewhere in the region.

As we analyze the impacts of things like greenhouse gas emissions and VMT, we need to be cognizant that there is a jobs-work imbalance in Davis that is driving some of this.

On the other hand, I think we need to be mindful that, no matter how much housing we add in Davis, we end up with more expensive housing than neighboring communities. I think we need to start looking at housing and jobs more at the regional level and think in terms of specialization and economies of scale.

Davis cannot compete regionally for low cost housing, but it can dominate in terms of intellectual capital, high quality employee base – in short, the knowledge economy. The university is going to continue to play an increasing role in developing research that it wants to pump out into the private sector and the market. And those jobs could quickly land in Davis and take root. We have already seen many examples of those companies. That is really what Davis can do better than anywhere else in the region.

The nexus between jobs to housing and space is transportation. The EIR analyzes transportation and circulation. In my discussions, one of the issues pointed out to me is the impact on I-80. The view is that, if I-80 is hit with a four to five percent increase in traffic, Caltrans is going to be a critical factor.

The EIR notes that I-80 provides three travel lanes per direction and carries approximately 120,000 vehicles per day, based on information provided by Caltrans. The EIR notes that, for Caltrans, “freeway operations are evaluated based on their mainline volume density. Freeway segments with peak hour volumes that do not exceed capacity (LOS [level of service] E) are generally considered acceptable.”

One of the possibilities is that the developers would have to add vehicle lanes to I-80 in the form of a carpool lane that could mitigate the impact on the freeway. While that seems extreme, I was told that the cost might only be about $1 million per mile, which for a project of this magnitude, even at five to ten miles, would only be about $10 million.

However, there are other possibilities, as well, if we are looking to think big. One would be adding a third rail line. And while there is cost there, imagine UC Davis, the City of Davis, the developers of this project, and other private interests going in on a third rail line with a platform stop at Mace. The costs for such a project might be workable and we might be able to establish a new transportation system.

If the region really wants to double down on economic development, coming up with answers that can resolve the nexus between housing, transportation and the location of jobs is something that should be resolved on a regional level, with this just being one small piece.

If we are looking at a project that has a 25- to 40-year build-out horizon, we don’t have to fix these problems all at once. We can develop a plan over time that is feasible, while still maintaining the critical and essential features of our community.

—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.

Related posts

24 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    David

    I think we need to start looking at housing and jobs more at the regional level and think in terms of specialization and economies of scale.”

    I could not agree more with this statement. I also believe that we need to look to strengthening the region, not just Davis. I believe that this will best be accomplished by each community in our region building on their own particular strengths.

    Davis has the University in close physical proximity. Woodland has space, peripheral shopping and less expensive housing. Sacramento has the seat of government and areas that are available for upgrades as are currently occurring with the stadium, the recent Sutter upgrade and planned Kaiser new downtown MOB strengthening the medical and research aspects of the university ( given the collaboration of all three medical groups in training and research).

    Instead of focusing on what will solely economically benefit one community, I would like to see us focusing on improving transportation and other means of connectivity and collaboration between communities.

  2. Frankly

    Good job on this article.

    The developers are pushing a mixed-use housing alternative, which may also slow down the project. And there are some who believe that this is by design, a way by the mayor to delay the vote from June 2016, when he faces an Assembly primary, to 2017, when he would be off the council. Most of this is just idle speculation at this point.

    This does not make complete sense.  Why is the developer pushing something that will risk a Measure R failure for the benefit of the Mayor’s political ambition?

    With respect to the I-80 traffic… there should be five lanes through Davis and the causeway to the 80-50 split.

     

    1. Topcat

      With respect to the I-80 traffic… there should be five lanes through Davis and the causeway to the 80-50 split.

      Traffic on I-80 has grown to the point that it is now way beyond the capacity to handle the needs at peak times.  Regional population growth, including growth in the Bay Area is the main reason for this.

      It is highly unlikely that much will be done to increase the freeway capacity along the corridor.  I am not aware of any plans to increase lanes.  Construction of more lanes across the Yolo Causeway would be fantastically expensive and more lanes through Davis is probably not very feasible due to right of way constraints.

      1. Alan Miller

        there should be five lanes through Davis and the causeway to the 80-50 split.

        There also should be flying cars, actually starting in 1970 according to the 1967 press releases.  But go check out Moller’s back lot for empty almond butter jars, weeds in the pavement and an old tether.
         
        Rebuilding the bypass AGAIN to increase highway capacity from point P to point Q, and not point A to Z1, Z2 and Z3, is a horrifically expensive, unrealistic, simplistic and naive solution to traffic issues.

  3. Tia Will

    With respect to the I-80 traffic… there should be five lanes through Davis and the causeway to the 80-50 split.”

    On this, we disagree. “Build it and they will come”

    I believe that we need to be encouraging people to move away from the model of the internal combustion engine, not empowering them to use it more and more. I would encourage us to focus on developing transportation systems within our region that advantage those who choose not to make single occupant, private automobile trips.

  4. Tia Will

    From retired and near retired that does not have to ride it to and from work.”

    My partner took the train to work daily in Sacramento for about 3 years until transferring. If I am still working two years from now I will be taking the train daily to the new downtown facility. In my adult life I have used my bike, my feet, and buses to work. I only resorted to my car when my then husband insisted on a home in Davis when all the positions I was offered were in Sacramento. There are a number of people in my neighborhood who take the train to work daily and have done so for years.

    The insistence that the automobile is the only means that one can get to work becomes a self fulfilling prophecy which leads us not to pursue other means of transportation available in other communities and regions. It is high time that we started planning more efficient means of transportation in our area as well.

     

     

      1. Tia Will

        Don

        Is there an insufficiency of trains to meet this demand you’re describing?”

        At present, I would say no. However, if we were to build one or more of these business parks, then I do not know the answer. Also, I am not limiting my considerations to trains. I think that buses such as are used by Google and others in the Bay area might be another way to address the problems created by the current dominance of the single occupant vehicle.

        I make no pretense to expertise in transportation issues. It is clear to me however, that we should be considering options outside our current paradigm for the future.

        1. Don Shor

          Solano Express has slowly but steadily been increasing its schedule over the years. I presume that is in response to demand, and that they will continue to provide commute services along I-80. http://www.solanoexpress.com One issue we have in Davis is that local transportation has historically been provided by Unitrans, which is campus-centric.

  5. Don Shor

    coming up with answers that can resolve the nexus between housing, transportation and the location of jobs

    The problem is, there really isn’t a voting constituency locally for regional transit issues. If there’s a problem with bike access, you can bet that dozens of articulate voting Davisites, most of them on a first-name basis with the mayor and the mayor pro-tem, will make their views known. But other than a theoretical concern about vehicle usage, you don’t have a lot of people pressing for new transit links between Davis and Dixon or Woodland. If you did, Solano Express would expand their offerings (and probably will do so). By the standards of almost anywhere in California, the 10 – 15 mile drive between Davis and its neighbors is insignificant, hardly a bother to those who do it.

     

    1. Topcat

      But other than a theoretical concern about vehicle usage, you don’t have a lot of people pressing for new transit links between Davis and Dixon or Woodland.

      Yes, I see this all the time from people I know in Davis.  They say that we need more public transit, but they don’t use the transit systems we already have and they don’t support the additional funding that would be required to build transit capacity.

      With gas prices as low as they are now, there is little incentive for people to look at using public transit.  When I have looked at trying to use public transit to go to and from Woodland, Dixon, and Vacaville, and Sacramento, I have found that it is usually either impossible to find a schedule that gets me where I want to go, or it takes so much time and planning that it’s just easier to get in the car and go, even if I have to spend part of the time going 10 miles per hour in a traffic jam on I-80.

      And don’t even get me started on one of my pet peeves…. The parents that insist on driving their kids to and from school in Davis.  As if Davis children are too disabled to walk or ride their bikes to school.

      1. Davis Progressive

        people are not going to use public transit unless it’s more convenient than jumping in their cars.  go to places like new york or washington dc, and people use public transit because it’s a pain to drive.  capitol corridor is tremendously successful in davis and if we could expand a rail service along the i-80 corridor, we might all benefit.

      2. sisterhood

        I won’t get you started if you don’t get me started on parents (maybe the same ones, in a few years?) who insist on pushing their three and four year olds (and one Mom, with a slightly obese five year old) in  strollers.

        I do wish that Harper had been built in a more residential setting. Covell cars drive too fast and don’t slow down as they approach the school. I saw a few near misses with kids on bikes vs. hurried parents in cars. Or, as an alternative, the parents should park a few blocks away, and the kids should have to walk the rest of the way.

        1. hpierce

          You hit a big nerve with me… “I do wish that Harper had been built in a more residential setting. Covell cars drive too fast and don’t slow down as they approach the school. I saw a few near misses with kids on bikes vs. hurried parents in cars. Or, as an alternative, the parents should park a few blocks away, and the kids should have to walk the rest of the way.”

          What could be more residential than Holmes, Emerson?  What could be more City supportive  to Harper han the City building (or causing to have built, with no contributions from the schools) the bike/ped OC of I-80, the bike/ped UC of Covell, the bike/ped UC of Fifth, Loyola, Alhambra, the bike/ped path goingt from near Alhambra to Covell. The bike paths on both sides of Covell going to Harper?  [not counting bike lanes on Covell/Mace].  The DJUSD opposed connections of the links to the N/S bike/ped path other than @ Covell, due to “residents” concerns.  Totally F-U (technical term , meaning Functionally Underutilized [yeah, right])  The fence still exists.

          The greatest safety issue for students going to schools is parents who insist on taking their children to school, by car, to keep them safe from cars.

          Walt Kelly had it right… Pogo said “we have met the enemy, and it is us”.

          Don’t look to the City, but DJUSD for the answers.  And the parents.

          “Covell cars drive too fast”.  That is BS (Beyond Science), 

           

        2. Topcat

          The greatest safety issue for students going to schools is parents who insist on taking their children to school, by car, to keep them safe from cars.

          Yes!  And I wonder how many of those parents would say they support the “Cool Davis” philosophy of reducing carbon emissions?

    2. Tia Will

      Don

      “the 10 – 15 mile drive between Davis and its neighbors is insignificant, hardly a bother to those who do it.”

      Except for those of us who do it frequently and are increasingly impacted by the slow downs of the current commute and are bothered by it. I agree that there does not appear to be a ground swell yet for alternative means of transportation, but that does not mean that we should remain mired in our current situation until it does become untenable for the majority. That is the essence of planning. To prevent problems before they are endemic in nature.

      1. Don Shor

        There are slowdowns between Davis and Sacramento, largely at the bottleneck caused by the Yolo Causeway. That’s not easily resolved. But the commute between Davis and Dixon or Woodland is not congested, and there are alternative back roads in both cases.

  6. Gunrocik

    Any project which includes housing is dead on arrival.  Any bookie in Vegas would take 100-1 odds on a housing vote passing.

    We need the jobs and we need the revenue.  The higher paying jobs in the park will buy their way into Davis.  Some of the middle paying jobbers will hold their nose and overpay for a house in East Davis.

    The balance of the employees will live in  Dixon, Woodland and West Sacramento.  The Woodland commuters will encounter very little traffic and not tap out capacity  on Pole Line or Covell.  The other commuters will likely clog up the freeway a little bit more–but my guess is that EIR will be requiring a very creative transit management plan for the Park.

    Many of the employees will work non-standard hours to avoid the 8am and 5pm crunch caused by UCD and downtown Sac workers.  And someday, there may be other alternatives such as an HOV lane or rail line — and at some point CalTrans will fix the 50/80 mess.

    This is one tiny project, with a lot of potential to bring real money and jobs to our medium sized community.  It will barely cause a blip on a messy commuting situation it didn’t create.

    1. Anon

      This is one tiny project, with a lot of potential to bring real money and jobs to our medium sized community.  It will barely cause a blip on a messy commuting situation it didn’t create.

      Well said!

  7. Tia Will

    Gunrocik

    This is one tiny project”

    Thanks for the smile.  It would appear that “tiny” is also in the eye of the beholder. I would hardly characterize a project with roughly the same acreage as downtown Davis ( as expressed in one article) as “tiny”.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for