Public Participation is Desired for Trackside Center Proposal

Trackside-1By Kemble Pope

For over a decade, I have consistently voiced my opinion that our local government should release documents for public review much earlier than mandated by the state. As a concerned citizen, I often wrote on my blog about the need for regular folks to have more than the weekend to digest massive staff reports prior to a public meeting.

As a former member of the City of Davis Open Space & Habitat Commission and Climate Action Team, I was able to see first hand that it is very challenging to achieve our community’s desired level of transparency, research and input with the City’s limited financial and personnel resources.

As the former CEO of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, I formally requested that the City Council establish a formal 10 Day Rule to disallow any agenda items whose supporting documents were not publicly available for at least 10 days prior to the meeting… ah, the dreams of good governance nerds.

There have been no major changes on this matter since I first started adding my voice to the chorus calling for more time. Yet, our community, private interests and government struggle on to study and analyze issues of public concern so that the community has a chance to better understand the issues and then offer their voices and opinions to our decision makers.

There will always be room for improvement in this arena, and it should be noted that in the past year or so, the City has, for the most part, done a better job of releasing staff reports and analysis in advance of public hearings. We have a very active and involved citizenry, and for all of the bureaucratic and procedural challenges that presents, Davis is a better place because of our high level of public engagement.

In my new role as Managing Member of the Trackside Center redevelopment proposal, I am now privy to yet another perspective on this topic. I am now the applicant; I represent the group that is commissioning (and paying for) studies, reports and analysis that help the community to better understand the potential impacts and benefits of a mixed-use building that calls the question on many of our community’s conflicting priorities.

On September 29th, 2015, I submitted the Historical Resource Analysis Study (prepared by a 3rd party professional) for our proposed project to the City. On Friday, October 16th, the City Staff report was completed and both documents were made public. By the way, the applicant does not see the City Staff report prior to the public. Notice to the public and our neighbors was then given above and beyond legal requirements for the public meeting on Monday, October 19th at the City’s Historic Resources Management Commission (HRMC).

The public had the weekend to digest and respond to two thorough and thoughtful documents about a sensitive issue: a 92-page historical analysis and a 16-page staff report. It did not occur to me, until the afternoon of the public meeting, that this situation, over which I finally had some control, flew in the face of my beliefs about good governance.

Mea culpa. I was “too close” to the process or just too overwhelmed with other details to take notice that my project was part of the problem that I’ve been worrying about for over a decade. Please note that I am not laying blame on city staff. I could have ensured that the City had our report earlier or I could have just asked for a later hearing once I realized that the public review time wouldn’t meet MY standards. Thankfully, a solution was close at hand.

On behalf of the local investors that I represent, at the October 19th HRMC meeting, I requested that the consideration of the item be delayed until the next meeting to allow for a longer period of public review and comment. I should note that a large group of our neighbors had already sacrificed their weekend to review and comment on those documents and cleared their calendar to show up that night. We are grateful for their time and input and apologize that they were inconvenienced and made to “hurry up and wait”.

At the request of the President of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association, we have agreed that the submitted report will not change or be modified in any way during the intervening time. The public comment period will remain open until the November 16th meeting of the HRMC. Our goal is increased public awareness, transparency and community input.

All of the official documents related to the Trackside Center redevelopment proposal can be found at bit.ly/trackside_application , and we encourage the public to review the documents there and make comments as necessary. Please note that as new studies and analysis (transportation, energy, shadow etc etc) are completed and City Staff has included their report, they will be uploaded to this page.

We also invite the public to stay involved by visiting our website at www.tracksidecenter.com. As we continue to move through this process, I will work diligently to ensure that our project meets the high standards for public review and input for which I have advocated.

Kemble K. Pope is a Davis resident and the Managing Member of Trackside Center, LLC and the Project Manager for the proposed redevelopment of 901-919 Third Street in Downtown Davis.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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14 Comments

  1. Misanthrop

    I’ve not liked the project from the moment it was announced but setting my personal feelings aside and simply focusing on what as a community is the way forward for this project it seems that if the project can pay for its externalities and still pencil out then there might be a way forward. For me the  first significant externality that must be addressed is the loss of sunlight and if the developers are willing to address that they might consider offer either financial compensation to the effected neighbors that would mitigate their loss. For certain heavily impacted neighbors this might entail an outright sale of the property to the developers at the current market rate. If such a deal could be reached the acquired parcel could be used for parking to offset the seemingly limited amount of parking envisioned in the original proposal.

    I don’t know if it works financially but it seems the loss of sunlight is a real impact on the neighbors. I know if I lived in the shadow of Trackside I would either want to be compensated for my loss or else get paid off to move. Otherwise I would be left bitter and angry and fight like hell to defeat this proposal.

    While the moral character of the members of the community who are the partners and its project manager try to defend their actions during the process by weight of their commitment to community, its environment and transparency, in my mind the real test will be how they treat the real tangible impact of loss of sunlight upon their neighbors. At present I will reserve my judgement.

  2. Davis Progressive

    part of the problem is that there are a lot of irreconciliable differences about what is in the best interest of the community.  there are those who want to grow and believe we need to grow up or grow out.  there are those who like davis as it is.  and those somewhere in the middle.  i’m not sure how we reconcile that.

    1. Mark West

      “i’m not sure how we reconcile that.”

      I think the only hope for reconciling these views is to use numbers, with the critical number being, how much more net revenue is required for the City to become fiscally sustainable (keeping everything as it is new). Once we have that number (or at least a reasonable estimate), then we can decide if we want to cut services, pay more in taxes, or increase business activity to meet that requirement. I suspect that it will be far easier to reach a level of consensus on development projects once everyone knows the extent our taxes will need to rise in order to maintain our current standard of service.

  3. failsafe

    “we encourage the public to review the documents there and make comments as necessary”

    What would really be helpful is to provide a link or let us know how or where to comment.

    1. MrsW

      I looked at the “Meeting Notice” on the City of Davis web-site (link provided above) and scrolled down to the second page.  At least at the time of the meeting, we were to contact Eric Lee at the City of Davis [elee@cityofdavis.org ; 530-757-5610 ext 7237] or Robert Smith at MIG rsmith@migcom.com

      1. failsafe

        Thanks for pointing that out.   So the meeting is for the Historical Resources Commission.     Is public participation limited to comment regarding the impact on “nearby historical resources” (are there any)?

        I guess I’m confused by this article.   As a student, I would like to participate.    Usually when an article is posted that asks for participation, it is made clear by the person asking (the author) what kind of participation would help, and how to do so.

        1. hpierce

          My recommendation… observe (and learn from your observation).  Suggest you only participate beyond that if your knowledge is helpful to the discussion, or if you are following your informed “gut”.  “Participation”, for the sake of ‘participation’  is not particularly valued, at least by me.

        2. MrsW

          I agree that the article doesn’t tell you explicitly how to engage.  The developers have a web-site http://www.tracksidecenter.com, also provided above, where they’ve outlined the process.  That’s a good place to see, where you can engage in the process.   Also, on their web-site, they have a “contact us” feature, where they appear to be offering to notify you of meetings and so forth.

          Due to my own personality/issues/etc., on issues of importance to me, as a rule of thumb, I usually keep and eye on the Vanguard and Enterprise, check the City’s web-site for new and/or updated documents, and then send comments to the planning department and not the developer.

      2. Barack Palin

        Eric Lee at the City of Davis [elee@cityofdavis.org 

        I’ve sent comments to Eric Lee in the past and it seemed like he passed them on to the right dept.

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