Analysis: Densification and Infill Can Be Tricky Goals

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Mission Residence as approved in 2013
Mission Residence as approved in 2013

Last week’s presentation by Joe Minicozzi gave us some interesting new ideas for how to evaluate the fiscal impact of projects. But, as we know from the recent discussions on Trackside and, before that, Paso Fino, infill and densification are not straightforward policy objectives in this community.

For all of the talk about Measure R as a barrier to development, infill – while not requiring actual votes of the people – can be just as difficult. In the wake of the Measure J (Measure R’s predecessor) defeats last decade of Covell Village (2005) and Wild Horse Ranch (2009), there was a general belief that large scale Measure R projects will be rare and difficult to pass. We will see if Mace Ranch Innovation Center and Nishi are placed before the voters next year and whether they can win.

In the wake of those defeats, the council shifted gears toward policies they were better able to assess and control. As noted in the staff report on Paso Fino, for instance, “The City policies include encouragement of infill and densification.”

But, as Paso Fino itself demonstrates, the simple goals of infill and densification are tricky. In one staff report, the city notes, “This project is an infill that maximizes the density. However, there are other City goals and policies that encourages the maintenance of ‘an aesthetically pleasing environment and manage a sustainable community forest to optimize environmental, aesthetic, social and economic benefits encourage’; and ‘preserve and protect scenic resources and elements in and around Davis, including natural habitat and scenery and resources reflective of place and history.’ The City Council would have to weigh the benefits of infill and densification policies with the ones cited herein.”

Paso Fino, as it turns out, had some trump cards in favor of residents who were opposed to the increase in density of the initial project. The two critical issues, of the preservation of the eastern greenbelt along with the protection and retention of the trees as publicly owned, were enough to sway even councilmembers who generally favor development and densification toward a smaller project that ultimately the neighbors could support.

This was not the case in the summer of 2013 when the council approved, by a 4-1 vote with Brett Lee in opposition, the Mission Residence project. Part of the objection here was a glaring abuse of process, in that the city went through an extensive visioning process for B Street.  The process included a large amount of community feedback and extensive community buy in – give and take and compromise. And then they abandoned that agreement when a more dense specific project proposal came forward.

It seems easy to argue, as some have, if we are not going to expand beyond our current borders, we need to become dense. The problem is that not everyone supports the notion that we must grow at all. And, even if they do, infill projects are disproportionately impactful on some residents over others.

While the entire Old East Davis Neighborhood Association has been in strong opposition to the Trackside development, it seems clear that those who live on the west side of I Street are going to be far more impacted, even within that neighborhood, than others.

The developers can probably mitigate some of the impacts on a lot of the residents, but putting a six-story building across the alley from certain residents with the accompanying noise from traffic and services is certain to cause a huge impact on a subsection of residents.

The point here is not to weigh in on Trackside itself, but rather to illustrate the tricky nature of this kind of infill development.

A recent letter from a resident bears this out. The resident writes, “We could stick Trackside-style places all over. Sticking a wildly out-of-proportion high-rise on top of some retail is no great feat, all one has to do is ignore proportion, scale, the damage that will be done to the surrounding neighborhood, and the majority of design guidelines we developed as a city.”

They continue, “Densification of the downtown core is only one part of the goals of redevelopment. The Trackside developers consistently gloss over the fact that they are asking the city to ignore the majority of the development guidelines we as a city developed to maintain the character and charm of Davis.”

I think Joe Minicozzi’s ideas for the metrics of development are both interesting and important. On the other hand, in a community like Davis, attempting high-density infill projects is going to be just as contentious as developing peripheral subdivisions.

The one difference is that the council in the end controls the infill process. And so, while Mission Residence and the Cannery were lengthy and challenging processes, the council ultimately approved them on divided votes. Paso Fino, on the other hand, with tree and greenbelt issues, got watered down. And it will be interesting to see how the council handles Trackside.

Even where I think most people would agree we could get densification in the core area, we are likely to run into problems. One critical point that Mr. Minicozzi raises by implication is the large number of single-story units in the core area. There are very inefficient land use practices right in the heart of our most productive zone.

One of the problems with that approach is cost. Developers are going have trouble financing that kind of redevelopment. That is why for years we had the RDAs (redevelopment agencies), which, despite a lot of flaws, at least gave the cities the ability to publicly finance redevelopment and new density. I have been told, by some business people in the core, the costs are often too great to knock down a single-story building and attempt to build a three-story building.

During the Trackside discussion there has been a lot of talk about violating design guidelines for various zones. It seems to be that the first step is to revisit what the guidelines are, figure out if those guidelines are still useful or if they need revision – have a community discussion about what the vision of the community looks like, and then alter the guidelines accordingly.

Doing so in the absence of a specific project is generally the best way to go, because you immediately avoid the pitfall of people with high stakes in the outcome participating in the process.

Again, I think densification and infill are important goals, but the reality on the ground is that these type of projects figure to be just as contentious as peripheral ones, even without the required vote of the people.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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94 thoughts on “Analysis: Densification and Infill Can Be Tricky Goals”

  1. CalAg

    It seems easy to argue, as some have, if we are not going to expand beyond our current borders, we need to become dense. The problem is that not everyone supports the notion that we must grow at all. And, even if they do, infill projects are disproportionately impactful on some residents over others.

    The problem with densification in the core is that it doesn’t make a meaningful dent in our city-wide housing deficit. Sacrificing downtown aesthetics and circulation for an abstract idea that is fundamentally flawed is foolish planning.

    Developers are going have trouble financing that kind of redevelopment. … I have been told, by some business people in the core, the costs are often too great to knock down a single-story building and attempt to build a three-story building.

    Of course they are going to argue that appropriately scaled projects don’t pencil out. The whole point of a private enterprise is to maximize return on investment. To do that the developers are incentivized to push the densification envelop as far as they possibly can.

    This issue falls squarely in the “not our problem” category.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “The problem with densification in the core is that it doesn’t make a meaningful dent in our city-wide housing deficit. Sacrificing downtown aesthetics and circulation for an abstract idea that is fundamentally flawed is foolish planning.”

      i have two issues with this response.  first, i’m not sure the goal is housing per se.  and second and more importantly, good infill can be aesthetically as good if not better than what we have.

      1. CalAg

        Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that all redevelopment was bad or unaesthetic. It’s seems pretty obvious that the many (most?) of the buildings downtown should be redeveloped … which would create a significant improvement in the overall aesthetics of the core. What I had in mind was specifically Trackside. From my perspective it is so grossly out of scale that it would destroy the aesthetic the old East Davis neighborhood, add to the downtown parking and circulation problems, while having a trivial overall impact on the citywide housing deficit.

        In general, I am strongly opposed to rezoning commercial to residential over retail in the historic core. Each time this happens, it is a lost economic development opportunity. We’re stuck with these mixed use residential buildings for many decades once they get built. If a mixed use commercial building is approved it should be office over retail.

        I have less of a problem densifying existing residential parcels as long as scale is given careful consideration.

        Davis is a small compact city. It does not have a metropolitan urban core where it makes sense to promote high density residential by upzoning commercial land.

      1. CalAg

        Great point. The Ruebner project puts the lie to the argument that redevelopment of commercial buildings “doesn’t pencil” without upzoning to residential.

        The project “pencils” or it wouldn’t have gotten a construction loan.

         

  2. Anon

    I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating.  The city’s current methodology is development by zoning variance (DZV).  In consequence, development does not occur in a cohesive well-planned manner, but haphazardly, with all sorts of special interests groups pushing their particular agenda.  As a result, Davis does not have a cohesive look, development is very contentious, and there is often the suspicion of favoritism in the approval of projects.  It is frustrating for developers, the public and City Council members.

    1. Matt Williams

      Agreed 100% Anon. You have said it before, and it does bear repeating. In fact repeating it once is not enough. We need to go beyond repeating words, we need to update the Davis General Plan to create a different reality.

      Don Shor, to his credit, has said many, many times here in the Vanguard over the years that the Davis General Plan is fundamentally a good document that reflects the Davis community values quite well. A General Plan update does not need to rework the entire plan from the ground up. A first step would be to evaluate the various sections of the current General Plan and determine which portions are good-to-go as they are. Other sections, most notably those covering Land Use need to be updated. A focused look at land use issues, like the 2008-2009 Housing Element Steering Committee process, would allow Davis to update those sections of the General Plan with a maximum of transparency and participation and, ultimately, consensus.

  3. Mark West

    it seems clear that those who live on the west side of I Street are going to be far more impacted, even within that neighborhood, than others.

    There are 8 residents on the west side of I street and these are the only property owners who may reasonably claim to be directly impacted by a new building on the block.  The property is currently zoned commercial, and there are commercial properties across the street to the South, across the railroad tracts to the West, and directly North of the proposed site.

    accompanying noise from traffic and services is certain to cause a huge impact on a subsection of residents.

    More noise than from the existing railroad operations, rock yard, Third Street traffic (and thumpa-thumpa music)?  Probably not.  Even if so however, the subsection is very small.

    “We could stick Trackside-style places all over.

    No we cannot, at least not without drastically changing zoning regulations across town.  There are few places in town that a structure such as this could even be considered.  You will not see a proposal such as this in a strictly residential area so the vast majority of the town is entirely off limits. Downtown, in the transition zones such as this one, and around the neighborhood shopping centers and commercial zones, but not in any strictly residential neighborhoods.

     

    “ignore the majority of the development guidelines”

    Guidelines are not laws that are ‘set in stone.’  They are there to give direction to our development decisions, but are not intended to preclude doing something that no one had previously envisioned.  The only way that Cities ‘evolve’ and adjust to the changing environment is by having forward looking people, either professional planners or interested developers, propose new approaches that have not been considered before.  In essence, to be a vibrant City, we need to consider projects that ‘push the envelop’ of what we have done before or what we have envisioned in the past.

    “During the Trackside discussion there has been a lot of talk about violating design guidelines for various zones. It seems to be that the first step is to revisit what the guidelines are, figure out if those guidelines are still useful or if they need revision – have a community discussion about what the vision of the community looks like, and then alter the guidelines accordingly.”

    Re-evaluating our ‘guidelines’ should be an ongoing process so that we able to adjust with the times. The same could be said for our General Plan, which if not replaced altogether, should be modified on a periodic basis to reflect the changes to the City and the region.  The desire to update these guiding documents however (or the actual effort to do so), should not be used as an excuse to stifle new development in the mean time. We cannot put a moratorium on evolution if we wish to remain (become?) a vibrant and sustainable City.

    1. Frankly

      Very well done.

      From my perspective the issue is simply relative change aversion.  Because all those fantastic small and dense European towns that get mentioned as the models for Davis by the very people active in opposition to both peripheral expansion and core densification have core areas filled with multi-story buildings.  The first-floor retail with 3-6 additional stories for residential building is ubiquitous in these towns and small cities considered vibrant and attractive.  The land is just too expensive and the demand for space too great to waste it on lower density development.

      In these places and other places with high density, it is the elevation and facade that adds to or detracts from the ascetics and general feeling of good versus bad development projects, not so much the number of stories.

      Transition scale really does not come into play so much except as an argument from the enemies of change.   In any city where there are multi-story buildings you will find hard-transitions to single-story buildings.  In any growing city you will find pressure to expand core commercial into near-core residential. it is unreasonable to expect some graduated transition between commercial and residential for a growing city of 76,000 people (during most of the year) that crams everyone in a 10-square mile area and a 8 small-square block downtown core area.

      Let’s use an example of Santa Barbara.  Another UC college town with population of 88,000.  State Street is the main core retail area that runs for several miles with retail and residential integrated.

      Look at these images.

      http://static.travel.usnews.com/images/destinations/257/state_street.jpg

      http://lcogt.net/files/SB_StateStreet.jpg

      http://atmneeds.com/cash/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/tourist-map.jpg

      Taller buildings around shorter buildings adjacent to residential neighborhoods with single-story houses.

      I am cool with those that have a vision for Davis that limits the scale (number of stories) of the core area if they then support peripheral growth.

      I am cool with those that have a vision for Davis that supports the core area getting more dense with many more multi-story buildings.

      Those that oppose both should not have a dog in this fight.

        1. Frankly

          They are entitled, but I don’t think we should listen to them unless they come to the table with tangible and reasonable alternative solutions to our housing shortages and lack of tax-revenue-generating business.

          Why would you or anyone else think it is useful or wise to give power to people that oppose everything?

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        Lovely pictures of Santa Barbara. However, what you have failed to point out is that your pictures are of the core, not of transitional or primarily residential areas where folks are hoping to build projects completely out of scale with the surrounding buildings. I know Santa Barbara well having lived there for three years.

        The more apt comparison would be the private Francisco Torres dorms which were 7 stories if they had been built in Isla Vista  adjacent to the one and two story homes which at the time were the highest buildings in Isla Vista. Francisco Torres was built away from other building on a curve leading to the freeway. There was not conflict between it and either the nature, or the privacy of the existing buildings.

        Also, I am going to object yet again to your characterization of individuals as “no growth” when the reality of their objections is that they simply do not agree with the kind of growth that you want, but are fully supportive of other forms. For example, I am firmly in favor of Nishi as a pilot of a car limited development. As many posters have agreed the main problem with Nishi is automobile accessibility and traffic impacts. However, it doesn’t seem to occur to many ( David is an obvious exception) that one solution is not to abandon it because it doesn’t cater to cars, but rather to see what we can do that would be innovative, healthier and more environmentally friendly by explicitly planning for people, not cars.

         

        1. Frankly

          One good way to check out this type of thing is with Google Earth.  It is free to download and install on your table, smart phone or computer.  You can sort of “fly” over any city at an angle that allow you to see all the residential and commercial transitions.

          But, in response to your challenge…

          In looking at Santa Barbara on Google Earth I do see a lot of transitions from the commercial core, to the commercial near-core to the residential near-core.   I can find several area were homes are directly adjacent to buildings that are 4, 5 and even 6 stories.  However, there is a general trend toward shorter commercial development in the near core adjacent to residential near-core.  One has to assume that the demand from near-core residential to not see taller buildings next door is a universal one.

          However, there is a glaring difference.  The city limits of Santa Barbara are within 20 square miles… twice the size of Davis with only a slightly larger population.  The downtown is significantly larger than is Davis’s very tiny downtown.

          It is clear that Santa Barbara’s commercial space in the core has expanded to the near-core with the redevelopment of what used to be near-core residential.

          Davis on the other hand does not have much that could be defined as significant bands of near-core commercial.   We have residential right up to the core.  The Trackside development should really be considered part of core, IMO.

          This gets me back to what Mark West and others have suggested about a vision/plan for Davis’s downtown evolving with growth.  We need to have a plan and related tools that can help us visualize the planned and permitted changing scope and scale of our downtown over a 50-year period.

          But then these points miss another point that I can directly aim at you.  You of all people have been the most vocal on the VG about your opposition to peripheral growth and instead have demanded smaller and denser communities that are car-less.

          Open Google Earth and take a look at Aalborg, Denmark.   Take a look their core area and near core area.  Almost all the buildings are 4 or more stories high.  It is a college town not quite twice the population of Davis.  Even as a bigger city it is reported that 44% of the population use their bicycles several times a week while 27% regularly cycle to school and work.  This is much better than Davis as I understand.

          So how do we do this if we allow all the Tia’s in town to demand one thing and then oppose it when it impacts her?  Do you really support densification and car-lessness, or are you just opposing development in general?  It seems the latter.  I wish you would just admit it.

          Here is my opinion.  People living downtown in the core and near-core in large residential yards with gardens should understand that their days there are numbered to expect they will not be impacted by commercial redevelopment of tall buildings.

          If you want private yard space, move to the periphery.  If you want to live in the core or near-core, begin to understand that you will be giving up private yard-space for greater public space and the advantage of being close to shops and restaurants.

          That is the way it goes in all of those much-loved dense and car-less European cities.

      2. Alan Miller

        Transition scale really does not come into play so much except as an argument from the enemies of change.  

        Actually, transition scale is specifically spelled out in the guidelines.  If you wish to argue they are only guidelines, then what the F— is their purpose at all, and why in the F— did I spend my time in workshops to develop them?  I guess the City lied to me that developing guidelines mattered.  Well, they F—ing matter to me, and a super-F—ing majority of my fellow Old East Davisites.

        In any city where there are multi-story buildings you will find hard-transitions to single-story buildings.

        In poorly planned cities, maybe, or in cities that don’t have planned transitions, or, more to the point, in cities that F— over their residents by giving in to developers who propose Sh– canning the transition guidelines whenever a developer comes along to trash a guideline that would provide a sane and non-hard transition.

        1. Frankly

          You and a very small minority of people have a conflict of interest with what is best for the city.

          For me, it always comes down to what is reasonable.

          I think a somewhat smaller scale Trackside development is a reasonable solution.  However, it is possible that the project lacks financial feasibility at some scope and scale you might find acceptable.

          My guess is that neither you nor your fellow residents in Old East Davis are ready to be reasonable about what size building you would accept.  My guess is that you and others would have jumped to oppose a 3-story building too.

          I might be wrong about this, but my experience is that simply the change is driving 80% of the resistance.  It really does not matter what the change is, some people become obsessed that the change will unfairly impact them.

          I would like to hear from you and others in this group opposed for:

          1. What would you be willing to accept in Trackside scope and scale.

          2. Do you support peripheral development?

          My guess is that neither you nor the other members of your small cadre of activists in opposition will come forward with what you would accept… because of the simple fact that you just oppose change.

          The CC can override planning guidelines at any time for what they deem good for the city.

          1. Matt Williams

            Frankly, one of the numerous things that I found to be of value in the Joe Minicozzi talk was the ability to talk about the financial/fiscal numbers of any individual parcel in objective terms that are accessible to everyone . . . without going through the confrontational “dance” of asking/hoping that the applicant will open up their books to the public. Each parcel has a current value per acre and it really would not be very difficult to come up with a projected value per acre for the proposed project. The difference between those two numbers is the “value gain” which can be a good place to start the conversations. The currently proposed Trackside has a value. A different Trackside project proposed by the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association could be “valued.” Those two values could be the basis for a less confrontational discussion.

            Just a thought.

        2. Mark West

          A different Trackside project proposed by the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association could be “valued.”

          How could such a project have any value at all?  They do not own the property and have basis to insert themselves in the process.

          The Planning Department or Planning Commission might appropriately suggest alternatives after looking at all the zoning regulations and guidelines and after reviewing the public comment. I see no value in artificially inserting the neighborhood association in the process as their appropriate involvement, like that of the rest of the public, is through public comment.

          1. Matt Williams

            Mark, given our past conversations, we may well get to an “agree to disagree” end point, but with that acknowledged … and your point above also acknowledged … here is why I propose what I have proposed. Right now the public comment dialogue in Council Chambers to date has been completely polarized. The Trackside representatives have stuck to their guns and shown no interest in modifying their proposal. As a result the Neighborhood Association has stuck to its guns and argued that the project as proposed is both non-compliant and inappropriate. Neither side has walked in the other side’s shoes. Some of Tia Will’s comments here and some of the letters to the editor in the Enterprise have indicated some willingness to consider a smaller sized project. My proposal takes that willingness “talk” and asks them to show some willingness “walk.” The graphic below from Joe Minicozzi’s talk last week shows that on average nationally the impact of going from 6 stories to 3 stories cuts the value of the project by 65%. I believe that it would be a useful exercise having the neighbors wrestle with both that value reality, as well as what the likely decrease in costs is when a project goes from 6 stories to 3 stories. I think it would also be useful for the applicant to evaluate an identical downsizing. Then both sides could compare their findings. They might actually find some middle ground.

            I’m certainly not proposing that either the neighbors or the applicant do that in a vacuum. The professionals in the Planning Department as well as market professionals like Jim Gray would/should be actively involved. The dialogue needs to be as objective as possible.

        3. Frankly

          A different Trackside project proposed by the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association could be “valued.” Those two values could be the basis for a less confrontational discussion.

          Although I see your point here, this creates a lot of difficulty.  First, you get people on a some ignorant moral opinion of how much investor ROI is needed or acceptable.  Frankly, (because I am) there are a lot of people in Davis that lack understanding for how the real business world works, yet they don’t hesitate to demand it works the way they think it should within their myopic public-sector bubble.

          Another point is the financial risk for capital.  Anyone that has a smidgen of understanding of finance or investing knows that risk is a factor in expected returns.  The greater the risk, the greater the cost of financing and hence the greater expected returns for the investor.

          Ironically with all the public-sector pension beneficiaries in this town and a university that lacks a qualified business degree program, it is likely that Davis has a lower understanding of simple investing principles.  They also seem to lack understanding of leverage from an ownership and money perspective.

          I agree that the city needs to revisit the general plan based on a new 10, 20, 30 and 50-year vision.  Doby Fleeman has been pretty consistent making this point.  So has Mark West.  I think we need it, but I absolutely expect that it would not change a thing for most of the enemies of change.  They will agitate just the same and some of the current CC members will pander to them just the same.

          But I do think just doing a city/community/human condition benefit valuation model could be a useful tool.

          In my corporate planning and development management experience, we had these things called “feasibility studies”.

          There is an operational budget, and then there is a discretionary budget for new products, services and process improvements…. basically new developments.  There is a model for valuing each of the ideas coming from the various divisions and departments within the company.  The first step is to codify the strategy and objectives of the company.  The feasibility study would first need to ensure that the idea fit into the stated strategic direction of the company.  Next would be the valuation model.  It would incorporate costs and benefits as well as risks and opportunities and a valuation of those.  It would include both tangible/quantitative values, and intangible/qualitative values.  The feasibility study would be done as a project with key stakeholders participating.

          In the end there would be a list of all the ideas submitted having a score along with a projected cost budget and schedule, and the expected break-even timeline and ROI.

          The executive management team would pick from the list to authorize budget funding for the year.

          These would become the programs and initiatives that my corporate project office would work on during the year.

          In thinking about how this type of approach could be used by the City, the problem is that we don’t own the land.  We don’t provide the funding for the project (development).  We lack leverage, and frankly, the right to demand this of the developer.  Why should the developer have to submit a list of alternative plans?

          I think we should just make sure we have a robust general plan, zoning and a planning and development process where-by projects are submitted to the city and either accepted or declined on their merit along with the development agreement.

          I think our zoning and process is robust enough.  What we seem to lack is a robust and current general plan and people in City leadership that are working to establish a vision, and also it seems we don’t have qualified people in our City government to sufficiently negotiate and manage development agreements.

          1. Matt Williams

            The trick is to avoid the potholes and maximize the value that the community realizes from the effort. It won’t be easy, but I think it could improve the quality of the dialogue.

            JMHO

        4. Mark West

          Matt;

          I will try to keep this simple.  The owner of the property submits a proposal to the City’s planning department for consideration.  After the professional staff have an opportunity to vet the project, it is considered by the Planning Commission, with an opportunity for public comment.  The only time that the City Council (i.e. the politicians) get involved is after any approval by the City Staff and Commission.  That is the appropriate procedure for the simple reason that we want projects handled professionally, not politically.

          The neighborhood association circumvented that process by going directly to the City Council with the obvious goal of killing the project politically.  The polarization that you describe is directly and completely attributable to this action by the membership of the neighborhood association.  By attacking in this manner they demonstrated that they are not a potential good faith partner, and as such, the appropriate response is to ignore them, not reward their abhorrent behavior and feed their feelings of entitlement.

          What you are proposing in the end is simply a form of appeasement, an approach that has never been successful when dealing with fanatics.

      1. Mark West

        BP:  “Mark West, are you one of the Trackside investors?”

        My dearest BP:

        First, unlike some here, I have signed my name to everything that I have ever posted on this site, making it possible for anyone interested to identify the person behind the comment.  Second, the ownership of the so called “Trackside’ property is a matter of public record, and as it was recently published here, available to all with just a few wee clicks of their mouse.

        Now given those simple facts, any answer that I might give you in response to your question is completely verifiable, something which you for instance, cannot say.  I will therefore be happy to answer your question as soon as you are willing to publicly answer the same question regarding your own ownership interest, while providing the same opportunity for me or any other reader to verify your answer. Until then, it is none of your business.

         

        1. Barack Palin

          Just a simple question, why the snark?

          The name Mark West means nothing to me, and who’s to say that’s your real name?

          And no, obviously from my comments on here I’m not an investor.

          1. Matt Williams

            BP, I both know and have butted heads with Mark. You have even been a close ally with him in holding my feet to the fire, so do us all a favor and don’t plead ignorance for the sake of convenience. You either know who Mark is, or you are suffering from early onset dementia . . . and you are far to sharp for anyone to call you demented.

        2. Barack Palin

          Matt, I’ve seen the name on here but for the life of me I don’t know who Mark West is.

          Matt, please tell me why I should’ve known who he is?

          1. Matt Williams

            BP, approximately a year ago you and Mark participated in a multi-person chastising of me for trying to generate community dialogue on a particular issue. As I remember 91 Octane or LadyNewkBahm was a peripheral participant in that collective thumping that I (probably well deservedly) took around my ears. I’m surprised that you don’t remember that tag team event. Of course it is always possible that my earlier reference to early onset dementia is closer to the mark than I realize.

        3. Mark West

          BP:  “The name Mark West means nothing to me, and who’s to say that’s your real name?”

          The people on here who know me in real life, Matt being one.

          BP:  “Matt, please tell me why I should’ve known who he is?”

          You have no reason to know who I am, and I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are. You asked a question you had no need to know the answer to and I chose not to answer it.

          I  will say however, that I have resided in old East Davis long enough to remember when Pole Line Road was the edge of town, and long before the carpetbaggers arrived to complain about the deterioration of ‘their’ neighborhood.

           

          AM:  “In other words, “Yes”.”

          No reason to guess Alan, unless of course the thumpa-thumpa music has left you too rattled to compare my name with the list of investors.

        4. Barack Palin

          You have no reason to know who I am, and I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are.

          My Dearest Mark West,

          Back atcha, I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are either.  🙂

          Let’s keep it that way.

        5. Barack Palin

          BP, approximately a year ago you and Mark participated in a multi-person chastising of me for trying to generate community dialogue on a particular issue. As I remember 91 Octane or LadyNewkBahm was a peripheral participant in that collective thumping that I (probably well deservedly) took around my ears. I’m surprised that you don’t remember that tag team event. Of course it is always possible that my earlier reference to early onset dementia is closer to the mark than I realize.

          Matt, I don’t doubt that you’re wrong.  Once again, tell me how I’m supposed to know who Mark West is other than that name being a commenter on the Vanguard?

           

          1. Matt Williams

            You have read his words over several years of very consistent postings from him. You know him as well as you know me.

            You and I have never met, which is your choice. However, that physical reality that we both share doesn’t change the fact that you know me very well. Over the past year I suspect that Mark’s posting volume on the vanguard has exceeded mine . . . probably significantly exceeded mine. Further, he is one of the most consistent posters on the Vanguard with respect to the content of his posts. Bottom-line, you know him.

        6. Barack Palin

          Hpierce, first of all where’s the snark that came from me?  Secondly, what does anything about this have to do with you?  Why do you feel you have to interject yourself in this?

          1. Matt Williams

            LOL BP. If I were to list the Vanguard posters who most actively interject themselves into conversations, your screen name would be very near the top of the list. Now with that said, I enjoy (most of the time) hearing your perspective on a lot of issues. You can be shrill, and those who interact with you need to have a thick skin, but if you suddenly stopped posting here in the Vanguard, the change would be very noticeable.

            BTW, it really is pot and kettle territory when you and hpierce butt heads.

          1. Matt Williams

            Regarding the first part of your post, up to the comma. Thanks.

            Regarding the part after the comma, you pretty much made it everyone’s business when you chose to post the question here rather than simply Googling one or more combination(s) of “Mark West” “Davis CA” and “Trackside Center.”

            JMHO

      2. Frankly

        I was approached to be an investor and thought it was worth considering if I wasn’t already committed to other projects… but not in Davis where it is next to impossible to get anything done.

    2. Matt Williams

      Mark West said . . .
      “Re-evaluating our ‘guidelines’ should be an ongoing process so that we able to adjust with the times. The same could be said for our General Plan, which if not replaced altogether, should be modified on a periodic basis to reflect the changes to the City and the region.”

      Agreed Mark (no surprise given my comment above). One thing to note about neighborhood guidelines, they are only as good as the process through which they were established. A couple years ago I had the opportunity/reason to get to know one of Davis’ neighborhood guidelines up close and personal. In that particular neighborhood there was one property owner whom the others did not trust or like. That person chose not to be involved in the neighborhood guideline developmwent process, and if you look at the final guidelines it is very easy to see some objective examples of where that person (and property) was “penalized” because of that distrust and dislike. The legal restrictions on that person’s property are significantly more onerous and more restrictive than those that are on the adjacent and neighboring properties.

      Neighborhood guidelines have been used to legislate “taste” as they were in the rejection of Maria Ogrydziak’s proposal for her property at the corner of 3rd and B Streets. Mark is correct. Guidelines should be just that, guidelines.

  4. TrueBlueDevil

    In the previous articles about these Joe Minicozzi talks, there were several comments made about Walmart putting up “cheap” buildings.

    That made no sense to me, so I pinged a friend who is a professional in construction management for feedback. Here is his feedback.

    “Anyone who thinks you can construct something cheap with today’s over regulated state and Federal codes  is dreaming. Everything must meet seismic codes, fire, structural from foundations walls, building shell and roof structures.”

    “The shell of a Walmart is the same shell for any retailer all driven by uniform building, HVAC, Title 24 etc.. codes NFPA and title 24 there is no way around it period. Now the interior of a Walmart can be cheap cosmetically, but that has nothing to do with the structural integrity of the building. Owners design everything to be cyclic for the next tenant. The buildings shell are all the same.”

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      are there leed certified walmarts?  if so to what standard?  minicozzi made the case that they are able to drie down the costs as well, your friends comment makes no mention of any of that

      1. Frankly

        Minicozzi is a designer.  Designers tend to be highly critical of products or development that they feel lack adequate design.

        Read Devil in the White City for a very good historical perspective of this during the time architecture was being challenged and transformed.  Criticisms were flying all over the place.

        Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but I think we can get a majority of people to say that they like or don’t like certain building designs.

        But I agree that the word “cheap” did not resonate with me.

    2. Tia Will

      In the previous articles about these Joe Minicozzi talks, there were several comments made about Walmart putting up “cheap” buildings.”

      To be fair to Mr. Minicozzzi, this was not his assertion. He stated that these were the assertions of a WalMart senior executive speaking at a large business conference. The difference here may be one of definition rather than substance. He specified that the executive said that they make the buildings “as cheap as possible” since they only plan to occupy them for 15-20 years. This certainly does not mean that they don’t have to meet code, but rather they are not shooting for quality buildings for long duration but are rather building in accordance with our current short term, disposable societal ethic.

       

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        Your reply doesn’t make logical sense. The professional person I wrote to specifically addressed these issues. Buildings are not built “cheap”, they are built to meet “over regulated” state and Federal codes in numerous areas (see above post).

        They are quality buildings that may be “cheap cosmetically”.

        It’s as if you have a patient with perfect cardiovascular, lung, vision, digestion, and brain functions. They are virtually Jack Lalane (who was amazing). But they need a haircut, new clothes, and can use a bath.

  5. Tia Will

    Frankly

    They are entitled, but I don’t think we should listen to them unless they come to the table with tangible and reasonable alternative solutions to our housing shortages and lack of tax-revenue-generating business.”

    Well then I am greatly reassured that you are not running for city council. Anyone who is unwilling to listen to the ideas of others should not be involved in decision making. “Tangible and reasonable” are also in the eye of the beholder. Over time, I have proposed a number of innovations, some of which work very well in Canadian and European cities and yet you have told me repeatedly, despite the fact that other humans seem to use them quite successfully, that these ideas are utopian and/or fanciful.

    The people who are using them do not seem to see them that way, which leads me to believe that you are simply unwilling to consider any change that deviates from your version of “progress”.

    1. Frankly

      It is my corporate experience for getting things done.  You begin to recognize people that are just there to block anything and everything.

      However, I do have a clarifying point.  In the art and science of getting things done, there is a time to be open to any and all criticisms, issues, concerns… etc.  I am not running for council and never plan to, but I would always listen to anyone and everyone in the initial discovery and analysis phases leading to a decision.  But at some milestone in that process there is an absolute need to weed out the noise of those that will never be happy with significant change, and will always oppose every effort to get something significant done if they have the slightest sense that it would impact them.

      I can have empathy, I can understand… but at some point it is a big waste of time and effort to keep engaging the enemies of change.

      1. hpierce

        I truly get your empathy.  I get your desire to understand…and your ability to.., I get your frustration with those spout off, without knowledge, reasoning, understanding, morals, empathy for those who have those attributes.  I think I get where you come from.  I may disagree with you on several matters, but I consider you a ‘good person’.  Sometimes reactive, ill-informed, but I’ve been there, done that.  Might again. Even now.

        Peace and best wishes to you, yours.

        Yeah, had some experiences, conversations today that were reminding me, “we are family… my brothers my sisters and me”  and I say that as an only child.

         

        1. hpierce

          It was a “weird day”… guess I was reacting to a bunch of recent ‘trash talk’.  And with a background of life-events that make most of the debated items seem trivial.  Sorry.  Sorta’.

        2. Frankly

          I did not think it was weird.  Deep, but not weird.

          Now, Alan Miller, talk about “weird” posts…  You are sorta’ the king of that tendency on the VG.  But please keep it up because it adds great value to my reading and responding.

        3. Alan Miller

          That was a weird post.

          Was meant as a compliment; I very much appreciate the art of the weird post, and the heartfelt basis.  No apology sought nor needed.

  6. Tia Will

    Frankly

    You begin to recognize people that are just there to block anything and everything.”

    there is an absolute need to weed out the noise of those that will never be happy with significant change”

    The problem is that despite your own assessment of your abilities, you do not seem to be able to discern those that will accept a lot of change that just doesn’t happen to appeal to you from those who do not desire any change at all.

    As a doctor, I have developed a sense for when a person is consistently resisting any suggestion made to help them. I have a fine tuned sense of when someone is actively resisting my suggestions and an equally fined tuned sense of when they are passively resisting my suggestions by ignoring that I have said anything at all.

    Does this sound familiar to you with regard to the multiple changes that I have said that I would like to see and that you  have chosen to belittle or ignore ?

    1. hpierce

      “Does this sound familiar to you with regard to the multiple changes that I have said that I would like to see and that you  have chosen to belittle or ignore ?”  Mirror time.

      and yes Tia, I hear your, but often disagree..

  7. Tia Will

    hpierce

    Mirror time.”

    Doubtful. When I have been accused on the Vanguard it has not been for not responding to posts, but for posting too much.

      1. Tia Will

        I am fully open to factual correction as I am sure that Anon can attest as she has corrected me several times, and I have responded with admission of my error. “Correction” when it is a matter of opinion or speculation with someone insisting they are right because they say so…..not so much. I say let the data speak for itself. If there is no data, we are presenting opinion and should be willing to say so as you usually do. I have taken the opposite approach, if I do not present my sources or data, you can assume that all of my posts are my opinion. I just happen to dislike the continuous use of IMHO or some variant thereof. Just a personal quirk that has led to my approach.

        1. hpierce

          “I have taken the opposite approach, if I do not present my sources or data, you can assume that all of my posts are my opinion. I just happen to dislike the continuous use of IMHO or some variant thereof.”  Ok… you can opinionate, without making it clear that is ‘just’ your opinion, but it bothers you when others make it clear that it is only their opinion.  Got it.  Don’t understand, but I got it.

  8. Alan Miller

     . . .  there has been a lot of talk about violating design guidelines for various zones.

    Probably because it’s true.

     . . . alter[ing] the guidelines . . .  in the absence of a specific project is generally the best way to go, because you immediately avoid the pitfall of people with high stakes in the outcome participating in the process.

    Ya THINK?!?!?!?!???!!!!!!!!!    Of course, that is exactly what NEVER happens.  These “constitutional conventions” to change City documents are ALWAYS driven by specific projects backed by developers with an agenda to change zoning in their favor.  ALWAYS.  That is why they are always a sham.  The so-called visioning process that allowed the change in B Street zoning that you mentioned above was a sham, the process pre-loaded with bad-to-worse options and the meetings crammed full with developers and property owners and their compatriots, and the City Council process to allow Mission was a late-term abortion of the already scammed process. Of course, the General Plan is mandated to be changed every 10 years and has not been; it is ripe for an update.  The Core Area & Traditional Neighborhood Design Guidelines, on the other hand, are about HOW infill is to occur in the core area.  Our neighborhood has accommodated and supported many infill projects.   The infill that is supported in the Design Guidelines for the core area hasn’t even begun to be realized.  Old East Davis supports mixed use multi-story buildings in the core area of downtown, NOT in the transition zones, but we do, on yet a third hand, support a much denser (several times bigger) redevelopment than what current exists. Trackside as proposed is on a scale that is simply OBSCENE and only 40-feet from a residential area.  Where a “constitutional convention” opened up for changes in the Design Guidelines, the changes proposed would be 100% to change the guidelines to accommodate the specific developers of ALREADY PROPOSED and ready-to-be-proposed developments where guidelines are but an inconvenience standing in the way of insane profits.  Just you watch.

          1. Matt Williams

            Mark, you need to buy me a new keyboard for my computer. The current one just died when the mouthfull of coffee was sprayed all over it when I read your comment.

        1. Alan Miller

          Mark, you need to buy me a new keyboard for my computer. The current one just died when the mouthfull of coffee was sprayed all over it when I read your comment.

          Said by a man incapable of seeing the incredible irony of his own comment.

  9. Tia Will

    Our neighborhood has accommodated and supported many infill projects.”

    I would like to add to what Alan said. Not only have our neighbors supported other infill projects, our neighbors support an upgrade of the buildings currently located at the site of the proposed Trackside development. I was one of the first from our neighborhood to speak in public comment when this issue was first discussed at the City Council. My comment, which is visible on the tape, was that I was delighted with a project to redevelop these particular buildings which are clearly well past their prime.

    So much for those who claim that I, or any of my neighbors, are against any change.

    What I then made clear, was that I did not favor the size of the proposed development which is clearly antithetical to the current guidelines, clearly not in the “core” but rather in  a transitional neighborhood, and clearly not harmonious with the existing homes.

    I am fine with densification of the core. I am fine with the kinds of buildings that have been upgraded within the core. I am fine with building six story buildings within the core as those sites become available. What I am not fine with is deciding that because there is money to be made it is fine to totally ignore the previous work of many folks in envisioning how best to transition from the core to the surrounding residential neighbors and just skip over the re envisioning process to make a “transformation” that has not been agreed to by either those who will be most impacted or the community as a whole. I am not fine with it in my neighborhood, and I would not be fine with this process wherever it might occur in Davis. Yes, it is my neighborhood now. But it could as easily be in anyone else’s backyard (NIMBY anyone ?) and I would oppose it there too. Bad process is bad process regardless of whose backyard it is occurring in.

    1. Alan Miller

      Yes, exactly what Tia said.

      As the membership coordinator and 20 year Board member of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association, I have walked every door in our neighborhood numerous times.  I have not met a single person in our neighborhood who is against core area infill, nor a single person who is against a redevelopment of the Trackside site a few times the size of what is there.  Not one.  The thing about our neighborhood is that we decided long ago that the planning process was out of control, patchwork, piecemeal, so we got together with the other traditional neighborhoods, downtown interests and the City, and came up with a plan for how infill would occur when it came.  That document is called the Core Area and Traditional Neighborhood Design Guidelines. People are calling for the City to come up with a plan, but that is bullshit, there already is a plan.  The plan has simply become inconvenient to a certain group of developers and their investors.

  10. Barack Palin

    But it could as easily be in anyone else’s backyard (NIMBY anyone ?) and I would oppose it there too. Bad process is bad process regardless of whose backyard it is occurring in.

    Yes Tia, it’s not in my backyard but I oppose it.  As I have stated I would never want a six story building popping up in my neighborhood and I feel I should fight the same thing happening in a fellow Davis neighbor’s community.

  11. hpierce

    Mark West’s post of 5:56 is absolutely correct as to the process of reviewing a development proposal.  Some citizens decided to try an “end-run” on Trackside.  On the other hand (Covell Village, and some others) did a developer end-run, vetting their project with citizens (at least the ones they thought they could sell it to) BEFORE staff even saw it.  I personally don’t think either type of ‘end-run’ is appropriate.

    In either case, the process becomes fully political, and staff is pressured to evaluate the proposal not by objective standards, but by which way the wind is blowing.  The most ‘professional’ staff resist this, but are sometimes pushed back by the less ‘professional’ staff, particularly those who are “at-will employees” (department heads and some division heads).  Has happened.  This is not theoretical.

    Will not weigh in on Mark’s specific comments.  The ones with adjectives.

    1. Don Shor

      The view was expressed to me the other day that it will be difficult for this project to get an objective hearing before any local commission or the city council because of the nature of the investment group.

      1. hpierce

        Thinking more… staff should be (have to be) the professionals (the “adults”)… over the years, CC and their appointees (commissions) have morphed from ‘public servants’, into political entities.

        There have been exceptions on CC. Think Robb Davis, and Brett Lee are getting back towards true public servants..

        1. Matt Williams

          hpierce, here’s a hypothetical for you to weigh in on. Cannery was reviewed in public meetings of all the Commissions as well as several NGO groups like Cool Davis and Valley Climate Action Center and the Chamber of Commerce. Each of those meetings dealt with issues within the domain of the Commission, the Committee or the NGO. Do you think that was inappropriate, and the Cannery plan should have gone straight to the Planning Commission? Similarly, the current Innovation Park EIR review is being in focused meetings with a substantial portion of the City’s Commissions. Do you think that is also an unnecessary set of steps, with a direct path to the Planning Commission being the more appropriate route?

          In a more limited manner in another recent project, it has been argued by some people that the traffic and safety issues and findings of the traffic engineers should have been heard by the Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission, and the energy sustainability issues should have been heard by the Natural Resources Commission, prior to the project review by the Planning Commission. What do you think about those arguments?

        2. hpierce

          Matt… can be more specific “off-line” (and you know I will), but for all, you ask a fair question.  I believe that all of the commissions need to be informed about the projects you refer to, have all the information given/pointed out (via City web-site, or other e-information), but to have to schedule a PH at each that might be involved, NO.  I do not ascribe to that approach.  Ted Puntillo (who was a mediocre CC member) made an insightful call that Davis’ devrev review process was (is?) a “spanking machine”.

          I believe that if the commissions are informed, they should feel free to agendize and discuss projects, take public testimony (which they are obligated to do if they consider a project), and report their collective and individual comments/recommendations to PC and CC.  But requiring every project to go thru every commission, or have staff choose who does or doesn’t get a formal referral?  No.  I can’t get there.  I’m funny that way.  I believe in the statutes.  I believe in information being made available to all in as transparent way as possible.  I respect the function of most commissions, but unless there is an issue that a particular Commission is specifically called on to comment on (by City Code, or CC direction, which is more expansive than State law), I believe that the PC and CC should be the only ‘default’ reviewing bodies.

          Have I answered your questions, Matt?

          1. Matt Williams

            “Have I answered your questions, Matt?”

            Sort of. I agree with your statement “I believe that the PC and CC should be the only ‘default’ reviewing bodies” with an emphasis on default. It seems that the Historical Resources Management Commission gets a heavier workout than other commission with respect to applications that ultimately go to the Planning Commission. That has always seemed strange to me. On the other hand, if a project has enough traffic safety issues to mandate a third-party professional traffic and safety study (like the hotel convention center did) then it seems like common sense to have the study reviewed by the Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission before the Planning Commission schedules its hearing on the application. What I have asked for in public comment before the Planning Commission (PC) is that when the long range calendar portion of the PC agenda takes place that the Planning Commissioners ask staff whether the proposed application is going to generate mandated studies, and if it is, then the PC could (should?) request staff to get an advisory report from the appropriate commission/committee about the content of the study as it applies to the application. Bottom-line, I would much prefer to see us be proactively planning ahead and dealing with objective information/evidence rather than reactively dealing with subjective political opinions.

    2. Alan Miller

      staff is pressured to evaluate the proposal not by objective standards, but by which way the wind is blowing. 

      . . . or they could follow the Design Guidelines.

      1. hpierce

        Duh, Alan, the Design Guidelines (pretty much) are the types of objective standards I refer to.  My point was/is staff is pressured, too frequently, to “follow the wind”.  The staff with the most integrity (and/or most ‘job rights’) ‘buck the wind’, but sometimes it has come down to “is this a sword you want to fall on?”.  It’s not ‘right’, but understand, it “IS”.

        I sense a more than a little animosity towards me, from you.  Not sure it’s warranted.

  12. hpierce

    bp wrote:  “where’s the snark that came from me?”  Fair question,  think it was, “The name Mark West means nothing to me, and who’s to say that’s your real name?  And no, obviously from my comments on here I’m not an investor.”  Maybe I need to look up the term “snarky”.

    Oh, and you wrote, “Secondly, what does anything about this have to do with you?  Why do you feel you have to interject yourself in this?”  Back at you.  Oh, sorry, that wasn’t a ‘snarky’ comment you made towards me, right?  I apologize.  I was clearly wrong and you are clearly right.(?)  Have a good evening.

     

  13. Anon

    hpierce: “Thinking more… staff should be (have to be) the professionals (the “adults”)… over the years, CC and their appointees (commissions) have morphed from ‘public servants’, into political entities.

    Some commissions/committees are better than others, but all not necessarily “political entities”.  I won’t put you on the spot to name which commissions/committees you believe are “political entities”, or do you believe all of them are?  I think you would be surprised at just how independent and conscientious many of the commissions/committees are. JMO

    1. hpierce

      To clarify… many commissioners, on most of the commissions, are NOT minions of the CC… that being said, anyone familiar with City commissions, over the years, would recognize that many commissioners, are SO independent, that they strongly bring their own biases/politics into their discussions/votes, instead of representing the best interests of the community.  Over the years, HumRelC, PC, HistResC, NRC, and others have had either a majority/strong minority where it’s more about their ‘world view’ than the community’s.

      1. Matt Williams

        Fair enough hpierce. Barack Palin and I have had quite a few discussions here in the Vanguard about the zealous nature of at least one of the commissions you have listed.

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