Response to Trackside Commentary

Rendering of the proposed Trackside Project
Rendering of the proposed Trackside Project

(Editor’s note: This was submitted to the Vanguard by Alan Miller and sent to the Davis City Council on Tuesday as an “Open Letter” in response to Kemble Pope’s commentary from last week.)

by Alan Miller

Monday night October 19th the Trackside proposal was to be heard by the Davis Historical Resources Management Commission (HRMC or Commission). 23 residents of the Old East Davis neighborhood (Neighborhood) were in attendance and ready to speak, with standees. Approximately 20 letters were received by the HRMC regarding the project, including a powerful letter by Old East Davis Neighborhood Association (OEDNA) President Rhonda Reed outlining numerous deficiencies in the historical report submitted and commissioned by Trackside Partners LLC (applicant).

Residents received the final documents for the meeting on Friday. This allowed three days to digest the reports, one quite large, and respond by Monday at 10am. Despite this, approximately 20 persons, most from Old East Davis, submitted letters. Some of us significantly altered our weekend plans in order to respond.

At the HRMC meeting, not until the last agenda item came up were participants informed that the applicant requested to table the item until next month.   The applicant then claimed that they informed the Commission of this immediately before the meeting started. However, that was rebutted and participants were told that the Commission was only informed that the applicant *might* want to pull the item. The Chair of the Commission was then asked “what now”? The Chair said this has never happened before; items are frequently pulled before meetings, not during; but however unprecedented, it was the applicant’s right. Neighbors insisted they be heard as several, including the OEDNA President, could not make the next meeting. The Chair allowed, but warned that having commenters speaking at two meetings could “muddy the record”.

The applicant claimed they pulled the item because no one had enough chance to digest the materials — that he was doing us a favor because he’d long had a problem with the turnaround times for receiving meeting information.  Old East Residents said they were ready and wanted to speak; why was the applicant ‘suddenly’ not ready, and doing everyone present a supposed favor that no one present wanted? The applicant then said that over 20 letters had come in that day and he wasn’t expecting those and hadn’t had a chance to read all of them, and doubted the Commissioners had either. Old East Neighbors, on the other hand, got our letters in by Monday’s deadline and were ready to speak.

There was a concern raised by a neighbor that the same thing would happen next HRMC meeting. How would participants know what was changed in the report? As well, the applicant now had all our comments, and could change the report based on what was read in our comments, a rather unprecedented advantage. The applicant said they would only make changes based on what the Commissioners’ responded in writing, not the Neighbor’s comments. The chair then said that wasn’t going to happen, the Commission was not going to give comments outside a public forum. Only then did the applicant relent and agree not to change the report at all before the next meeting.

Some public participants were visibly angry. Participants could have been emailed before the meeting, or could have been told as we entered that the item might be tabled. Two dozen members of the public came, consultants, and City staff as well, on City time. Commissioners and staff kept a professional demeanor, but most appeared visibly annoyed.

Mr. Pope then penned a piece in the Vanguard which ran on October 22nd, asking for public participation in the process. That is, at the *next* HRMC meeting. In fact, at the last HRMC meeting, the entire room was packed with the public, ready to participate. Apparently, the public present wasn’t the particular public Mr. Pope wanted; apparently the numerous letters on record weren’t the particular letters Mr. Pope wanted on the record. Apparently Mr. Pople failed to do his own diligence to rally his own allies, despite the fact that is his job.

With this self-created strategic move, Trackside LLC now can hire consultants to refute the Neighbors’ already submitted statements at the next meeting. Mr. Pope now can spend a month rallying allies to appear at the November HRMC meeting, those he failed to gather in October. City staff is so confident of his ability to do so, apparently, that City staff noticed the November HRMC meeting moved to Council Chambers, with about four times the capacity, on the same day Mr. Pope’s piece appeared in the Vanguard.

In his Vanguard piece, Mr. Pope propped himself up as Savior to the City. Calling for documents to be released earlier, he dramatically and metaphorically fell upon his own sword, in print, admitting “mea culpa” Trackside LLC had become part of the very problem he himself had worked so diligently, and over a decade, to solve. I doubt anyone at the HRMC meeting bought it, and this rebuttal is so that you, dear City Council members, won’t buy it either.   It is not Mr. Pope’s job to fix City process, it is the City’s job to fix City process.

Mr. Pope failed in that decade to reform the City process, and he didn’t solve that failure by delaying his item before the HRMC by a month and wasting two hours of two dozen Davis citizens’ time. In fact, we’d all like our Monday evening, October 19th, back, thank you.

More time to digest the documents would have been nice. But we were ready, and Mr. Pope was not.

Alan C. Miller is 36-year resident of Davis, a 30-year resident of Old East Davis and Downtown Davis, and a Board Member of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association.

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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82 Comments

  1. Frankly

    Lesson learned.  When you try to develop in the Davis core area, make sure, in addition to the hours and hours and many dollars you will invest working to meet all the myriad of demands from investors, and municipal/government laws, rules, regulations and political maneuvering… you set aside enough time to deal with the emotional tirades of the reactionary neighbors that would oppose anything and everything that has even the slightest impact to their village lifestyle.

    1. Barack Palin

      Frankly, you know I agree with you 99% of the time, but you’ve got to admit that a 5 1/2 story (I read where it is 80 ft. tall)  building in that area is overkill.  I wouldn’t want it in my backyard, why should the neighbors in that area have to be subjected to it?  I think they have a legitimate gripe and were at that meeting to air their views just to be turned away.  In my view that wasn’t right.

      1. Frankly

        Here is the way I see it BP:

        1. The Mission development project on 1st street is approved five stories.   Now the FAR is just below 2.0, much lower than the Trackside FAR… but I don’t think that is what the neighbors are complaining about.  They haven’t said “if you reduce the FAR and change the elevation design I would be more supportive.”  They would likely still oppose a 3-story project.

        2. A growing city with a population density of 7,200 people per square mile tends to have highrise buildings.

        3. Many of these core area residents that oppose the Trackside project are also the most political active and vocal in opposition to any and all peripheral development.  They like to use the emotive world “sprawl” to back their position.  Well, taller buildings and higher density in the core is a logical consequence of their position to prevent what they deem “sprawl”.  And those that make the case for higher density and car-less-ness really should be taken to task for opposing a project like Trackside… which absolutely supports what they demand.

        4. The people that block any and all development have also contributed to the escalation in land costs… something else that causes the FAR to have to increase in order for the project to pencil out.  And let’s not even get into the environmental and social justice extremism that drives up development costs.

        5. I would prefer more transition; but it is because of the lack of peripheral expansion and the corresponding brain-dead demand that we continue to densify, that has led us to this point of hyper-competition for how we use our limited core area space.  The downtown area is our only significant commercial center.  Again, these vocal and activist core are residents are primarily responsible for making that so.  As a result, we don’t have the luxury of transition space.  In fact, our zoning map of the core area is out of touch with the reality of what the city needs in consideration of our standards for doing things like giving away nearly 400 acres of peripheral land because the core area residents demanded we do so.

        6. This is a city vision thing.  I certainly have empathy for anyone with a home next to a lot that will be developed with a tall building.  But I have a very large two story home 10 ft away and it blocks views and the sun.  I think the vision of lifestyle owned by these downtown core area residents with their higher percentage of 1-story homes and large lots is a selfish luxury that conflicts with the real vision of what the downtown should be in large part because of their activist demands.  Homes can be sold and people can move.  If a person wants a single-story home on a large lot and surrounded by only low buildings, then advocate that Davis build more it that type of thing and plan to move there.

        1. Don Shor

          They would likely still oppose a 3-story project.

          You have no basis for this supposition.

          ….causes the FAR to have to increase in order for the project to pencil out.

          You also have no basis for this assertion, unless you have been privately shown the financials of this project.

        2. Barack Palin

          Many of these core area residents that oppose the Trackside project are also the most political active 

          From the looks of the Trackside investors list many of them are also politically active.

        3. CalAg

          i’ve heard that a lot of the original group are disinvesting and separating from the project @ DP

          Willing to name names? Is Frerichs one of them? It’s material to the next Council race.

        4. Frankly

          From the looks of the Trackside investors list many of them are also politically active.

          True.

          But I was pointing this out in the context of hypocrisy… as in politically active on things that lead to needing to densify the downtown, and then opposing that.

          Too often we allow activist people to get away with this type of crap.  They demand their way, and then demand they personally should not have to suffer any consequences.

          Who in that list of 20 East Davis Neighbors have been active in working to promote peripheral development?

    2. AJ Sikes

      Let’s try that again. Lesson learned. When you attempt to circumvent guidelines that were put in place specifically to avoid the legitimate challenges, and well-earned brouhaha, that has surrounded the Trackside project, you should expect to have your hat handed to you, which is precisely what Pope got in return for his flagrant dodge out of the hot seat.

    3. Don Shor

      What a sweeping insult to the people affected by this project. This is classic trolling, Frankly.
      Yes, you should make time for public hearings. You should attend those that are scheduled and participate as scheduled. This is a mess-up of epic proportions, part of an ongoing process that is going to slowly kill this project at the rate they are going.

      Another good starting point for any project would be to check the zoning and ask city staff if there are any neighborhood guidelines or planning documents in place that would affect the project. The very first permit I got for my nursery was the zoning permit, because zoning on our side of 5th Street was vague. We didn’t want to bother preparing and submitting plans if it wasn’t clearly appropriately zoned. Planning staff threw a bunch of hurdles up at us, including a list of 19 objections to our project that we received 24 hours before the Design Review Committee meeting. That kind of thing stinks, but we got through it. But we knew from the start that we were, at least, not submitting a project that was going to require variances or that would be in violation of the current standards for that site.

      Most of the problems Trackside is encountering seem to be of their own making.

      1. Frankly

        I could write a book on all the challenges we faced building our office on D street.  Hell, just upgrading our front patio required massive politicing to get it done.

        This was my point… there are already many, many, many hurdles, challenges and costs to build anything in this city.  The Historical Resources Management Commission should not even be in play for Trackside.  We are talking about actions outside the normal process for allowing the neighbors to vent and maybe win at some compromise.  However, if I am one of the managing partners of the Trackside project, I could quickly figure out that this is not a group that will compromise at any reasonable level.  Just read what has been written in the VG by the most vocal of these neighbors.

        Pope might deserve to be criticized for failing to be prepared; but I don’t blame him at all for being strategic about this because he is responsible for helping to protect the feasibility of the project… and the East Davis neighbors have proven by their words that they don’t care about project feasibility.  They might as well come to the meetings with pitchforks and torches.  Compromise requires common ground and shared goals.  To date, the East Davis neighbors have only demonstrated hostility for the project and the project proponents as is apparent in this VG article.

        1. Don Shor

          I could write a book on all the challenges we faced building our office on D street.

          Odd. I knew the people who built your office on D Street. You weren’t one of them. But I was aware of the challenges. Some were related to the neighbors….but it’s certainly true that converting a cottage to an office building in the core area is complex.

          the East Davis neighbors have proven by their words that they don’t care about project feasibility.

          Again, we have no information to judge the project feasibility. Unless you’ve seen the financials privately.

        2. Frankly

          Odd. I knew the people who built your office on D Street. You weren’t one.

          You don’t know nearly as much as you think you know.

          Which is really kinda’ normal.

          1. Don Shor

            Really? You were there in the 1990’s? I consulted on the landscaping and a major tree issue there while it was being built. Maybe I just don’t remember you being in the process.

        3. Frankly

          My wife has worked for the company for 22 years and was directly involved in the construction project as was I trying to keep her from losing her sanity over all the crap that has to be dealt with to actually get something built in this city of copious reactionaries and rules.

          So, as I said, you don’t know what you think you know.

          Again.

          1. Don Shor

            I remember dealing with the street tree issue, and helping to screen some adjacent neighbors. That took some finessing, but seemed to work out ultimately. One well-known neighbor was rather obstructionist throughout the whole process.

            Keep in mind that they were tearing down a cottage and building a much larger building on the site. That is obviously going to be complicated. So I don’t know if you’re addressing near-neighbor issues or building plan issues.

            Building our nursery required design review approval, which we no longer have in Davis. Staff was very unhelpful at first, but eventually became cooperative when they realized we weren’t going to go away. We did find that some of the contractors we contacted in Woodland wouldn’t bother to give us estimates because they didn’t want to work in Davis. We went through four final inspections, including a lot of rather trivial stuff. There was a lot of stuff we didn’t know going into it that staff could have brought to our attention — street tree master plan, parking lot shading percentage, percent of area required for landscaping, etc. That was 1980, so I hope that city staff is more up-front about details and issues when the project applicant walks in the first time. It would have saved them and us a lot of time.

            Changing our signage a few years later was a real hassle. That’s another story.

        4. Frankly

          By the way Don, your swipe at me inferring that I was lying about being involved in the construction of the office building of the company I manage was off topic and a personal attack.  As a moderator you should do better to control yourself.

        5. Frankly

          Keep in mind that they were tearing down a cottage and building a much larger building on the site.

          Actually no.  The cottage burned down.  A young college student lost her life attempting to go back in to save her pet bird.  That is why the building has a stained glass window with a bird… in memory of the young lady and her bird.

          And the guy next door that opposed it because he said it was too big… and caused the most difficulty, stress and expense for the people working to get it built, then built a much larger commercial building on his property.

          1. Don Shor

            Gee, I wonder who that guy was? Surely he’s moved on now, no longer gumming up the works of redevelopment projects?

            I remember the very sad story about the girl who died. You’ve now corrected me on two counts on this thread. Sorry for questioning your veracity. I didn’t know you were an unremunerated consulting spouse on that project. I dealt with the owner (founder?) of the business.

      2. AJ Sikes

        Agreed. It’s entirely their own problem, created by a headstrong “project manager” who seems to think he’s above the rest of us.

        Another good starting point for any project would be to check the zoning and ask city staff if there are any neighborhood guidelines or planning documents in place that would affect the project.

        Pope shouldn’t have to check, given his history with the city. He knew about the guidelines, as did fellow investor and sitting council member, Lucas Frerichs. This steaming pile of “difficulty” Trackside is facing is something they all knowingly stepped into.

        1. Frankly

          Talk about “headstrong”.  Do you actually listen to yourself and Alan Miller?  Do either of you come off as people that would be reasonable?

          You keep bringing up this point about “circumventing guidelines”.  Well, please name a recent project in this town that did not have to work with the city for some exceptions.  Guidelines are guidelines.  There is a city process for vetting and approving projects in consideration of guidelines, zoning and the myriad of other criteria that will be thrown at it.  From my perspective, the process has been complied with to date.

          You and Alan Miller are going personal on this, and it stinks.

      3. Frankly

        You should use “we” more carefully.

        “I could write a book on all the challenges we faced building our office on D street.”

        There is absolutely no problem what-so-ever with that statement.

        Odd. I knew the people who built your office on D Street. You weren’t one of them.

        Technically true, but then did you really know the people that “built” the office… you know, those employees and subcontractors of Ridgebuilders?  I spent some time with them dealing with some of the construction issues.  And then did you really know the names of all the people that actually worked to get the office built?

        I think the “more careful” admonition is all in your court.

    4. Tia Will

      Frankly

      reactionary neighbors that would oppose anything and everything that has even the slightest impact to their village lifestyle.”

      I am going to address the issues you have raised with a presentation regarding the facts of my activities of which I am sure that you are already aware, but that others may not be.

      I was one of the first to make a public comment before the City Council. I opened my remarks with the comment that I was delighted with the idea of a major renovation at the Trackside location due to the appearance and relatively outdated condition of these buildings. I was in favor of redevelopment, but opposed to the size of the project. I made that clear and it is a matter of public record.

      I was one of the individuals present at the initial meeting at which the Trackside proposal was brought to the attention of City Council in response to the article in the Enterprise where most of us learned about the proposal instead of from the representative of the project, as had been falsely represented to at least some of the investors.

      I was present at the meeting between the project representative and the OEDNA and at the abbreviated meeting before the Historical Commission.

      You have made false claims on a number of occasions that I oppose all development. This is in complete contradiction to some inconvenient facts that you choose to repetitively ignore. I have not spoken out against any of the recently refurbished buildings in the actual core area some of which I like, some of which I do not, because I recognize the value of upgrading these buildings whether they meet my aesthetic tastes or not. I have spoken in favor of Nishi with modifications on a number of occasions. I was tentatively in favor of the planned “innovation park” at the location near the hospital, the proposal for which I guarantee you, I had nothing to do with being withdrawn.

      You were in attendance at the Vanguard forum last year in which peripheral business parks were discussed. As you know, I was seated that evening with no preparation time, because of a cancellation by our “slow growth” advocate. While I asked questions, and challenged some of the assumptions of every other panelist who were all pro development, it you are honest, I am sure that you will agree that I made no rash or irrational statements about my desire to change Davis into a small village.

      This is a myth that you have concocted entirely on your own because you see any opposition to growth as a challenge to what you see should be the completely unfettered realm of “business people” with no thought of how their profits will impact others. It does not seem to matter to you whether the design is a good one, or appropriate to location, or in accordance with previous plans. If anyone challenges growth for any reason, in your language, they must be irrational, greedy, utopian…..or all three. On this, we will have to disagree.

      1. Frankly

        Why not embrace that which you advocate for… greater densification and greater car-less-ness?  In fact, you could take your own medicine and sell your single-family home move there instead of wasting all that valuable downtown land you horde for only your own personal use.

        Frankly, (because I am), I don’t like densification.  I don’t like congestion.  I don’t like being packed together.  I like my yardspace.  I don’t like hearing my neighbors on their back patio, and have them hear me on my back patio.  I don’t like tall buildings next door blocking sun and views and with windows looking into my yard.  I like privacy.  I like my open views.  I like copious open space.  I like gardens and greenery.  I would prefer we keep the downtown as “old town” and build commercial and retail on the periphery to complement the growth of the city.  While we are doing that, I would like us to intersperse useable open space between the developments and within the developments so we are not all packed together.  I don’t mind riding a bike a few more blocks or miles.  I don’t mind driving either… I already have to do it.   But I would like there to be more parking spaces, better roads and more bike paths, etc.  things you cannot get with this irrational forced land scarcity twitch that you and others keep demonstrating.

        You (softly) demonize people that want a big yard with space between their neighbor as being selfish and wasteful.  You call it sprawl and demand that we preserve land around the city to prevent it… land that we cannot even set foot on.  You like that Davis farmland moat.  You say that we should be more like those European countries that ride bikes and don’t need cars.  You say we need to get rid of our material possessions and live more modestly.

        And here comes a proposal for a project that does this… it makes the best use of land… that resource that you demand we artificially constrain and make scarce for environmental, social and ???? reasons, and because it impacts you personally, you just shift your opposition.

        I am calling out you and anyone else doing the same.

        If you like living in a single-family home with a yard that is surrounded by other single-family homes then fine… but then you really have no right to oppose that type of development and also no right to demonize those that want the same.   Unless you are a change-averse NIMBY that has no moral qualms about telling others how to live a life you are unwilling to do yourself.

        Either we build up or build out.  Which is it?

        1. Tia Will

          Frankly

          You (softly) demonize people that want a big yard with space between their neighbor as being selfish and wasteful.”

          I most assuredly do not. I lived in a large house on a large lot with space between myself and my neighbors for almost 20 years. I do not feel that I was a “demon” for doing this. We have that choice within our community. Now if you want to talk about densification let’s talk about it.

           You say we need to get rid of our material possessions and live more modestly.”

          This project is not about living more modestly. According to the project team it is intended to be luxury apartments. We have a population that need housing and that are not rich. We have a population of low income people who need housing. If we had a six story building that was being proposed as low rent, affordable housing, I would reconsider my position. That is not what is being proposed here. These development is being billed as luxury apartments. I do not agree that we need to build high cost buildings that  will benefit only a few locals who have enough resources to invest in this project, to help those who have enough resources to live in “luxury accommodations”. Are you going to “call me out on that” ? I am demonizing no one. It is you who is choosing to make this personal.

          Either we build up or build out.  Which is it?”

          Show me the specific project, the exact location, the target inhabitants, and then I will answer that question. Project by project, case by case…..just as I said.

  2. Alan Miller

    A last-minute reminder to all that there will be a Brown-bag lunch in downtown Davis today (Weds.) regarding Trackside Center.   “The meeting will run from noon to 1 p.m. at the Pence Gallery, 212 D St. downtown.  A short presentation by project manager Kemble Pope will be followed by an opportunity to ask questions and give input on the proposal.”
    Please attend if you can, whatever your perspective.

  3. AJ Sikes

    As one of the 20 neighbors who took the time to read the report and write a letter to the HRMC, and to speak to a city planner on the phone in advance of the meeting (his office called me to clarify my intent and concern), I take more than a little issue with Pope’s tactics here. From the start he’s acted as though the Old East Davis Neighborhood were little more than a collection of hovels housing people who, for Trackside purposes, may be inconvenient but, ultimately, are inconsequential.

    Yeah, Pope, et al, met with the OEDNA board. They’ve encountered a few of us at Council meetings. What hasn’t happened is the Trackside folks lending a sincere ear to the neighborhood’s concerns. Not once, since the whole debacle got started.

    So it’ll raise property values all over the neighborhood. We’re supposed to be thrilled at this news? Pope likes to keep on about that point, but I wonder if he’s considered the question he keeps begging:

    Did people buy homes in Old East Davis as a real estate investment that they intended to cash in on within the next year or two or three?

    1. CalAg

      “So it’ll raise property values all over the neighborhood.”

      AJ Sikes: I would not take this talking point at face value – you should check with a good real estate appraiser from out of town. In my opinion, the only way an increase in value might be realized is if the property in question is also redeveloped. It all depends on whether the increase in the speculative value of the land is greater than the decrease in the residential value of the property. In other words, an impacted homeowner might not be able to sell their house at current market value and would remain underwater until another developer comes along and buys the property to tear it down. The mere fact that this application has been filed has probably deceased property values across the board in the neighborhood. Just my semi-informed opinion.

      1. AJ Sikes

        CalAg: Precisely my point. Thanks for adding these critical details. That current homeowners wouldn’t necessarily be able to sell at or above value is the main objection I have to Pope’s repeated flogging of that line. This behemoth they’re proposing may well reduce value of the immediately adjacent properties such that the people who live there are stuck with an unpleasant, unattractive, outsized, unreasonable monstrosity next to them and no feasible way out except to sell for what they can get and hope the next house they buy doesn’t end up on the business end of another “planned development” project.

  4. Davis Progressive

    i have mixed feelings on this.  on the one hand, i think trackside is a clear overreach at six stories.  on the other, i’m concerned about the breakdown of the planning process.

    1. AJ Sikes

      As am I, and pretty much everyone else in the neighborhood. The further along we go, the clearer it becomes that Pope figured Trackside would be a shoo-in and is now back pedaling like mad to cover his tailbone.

      For the record, and in reply to Frankly’s comments above, while I have been vocally hostile to the project as conceived, I am not at all objecting to renovation of the properties at 901-919 Third Street. I and every neighbor I’ve spoken to approve of and want something that

      1) makes better use of the land there,

      2) is more aesthetically appealing, and

      3) helps generate both tax revenue and

      4) better neighborhood atmosphere while respecting the design guidelines.

      Trackside, as proposed, fails miserably on points 2 and 4.

        1. AJ Sikes

          No need to pay that much 🙂 I’ll answer it for free. Yes, if you’re asking me, and yes if you’re asking a few of the folks I’ve spoken to. I do not speak for the whole neighborhood or the board.

          Stand on I Street across from the properties that back onto the alley where Trackside would be built. See what looks good to you. What fits the character? What “transitions” rather than transforms, which is what the current proposed building would do.

          I can see 3, even 3 to 4ish with the set back in the current design. That’s transitional from the single-story neighborhood in place.

        2. Frankly

          Sounds like someone that is ready to work with the developer and city for a reasonable compromise.  Probably should then not complicate that approach by attacking individuals involved in the project… who from my perspective have complied with everything the city requires them to do up to this point.

        3. hpierce

          AJ:  Fair answer to what was intended as a fair question (with a $64k embellishment!).

          Not in response to AJ, but saw the DE article/letter Alan cited… an interesting “take-away” was J Leonard’s response to it.  The footprint area doesn’t work (much smaller area) but yeah, the DE print shop could be good, but not feasible unless a good portion of the adjacent parking lot was available, and that would create other problems.

          Just “if-ing”, but perhaps redevelopment of the east side of G, from Third, south to the parking could support a 4-5 story residential project, with retail/office on the ground floor.

          Another sidebar… someone referred to the “Chin” Building… yeah, I know spelling shouldn’t count, but I think it should for names… it’s the CHEN building.

        4. Tia Will

          This project is downtown, regardless of how the neighbors want to frame it. “

          This is not how the chair of the historical commission expressed it in his comments at the meeting, which I attended. He made it clear that the location is within Old East Davis. This was presented to me as a “transitional neighborhood” with M-U zoning when I was looking to downsize 5 years ago, and this would seem to be supported by Matt’s comment.

          I know that the proponents of Trackside want to present this as a purely “core development”  but unfortunately that interpretation does not seem to be supported.

        5. Barack Palin

          This was presented to me as a “transitional neighborhood” with M-U zoning when I was looking to downsize 5 years ago

          Is this fair to Tia to try and change the game after she’s invested in a home where she was told the zoning wouldn’t allow such buildings?

          1. Matt Williams

            The M-U rezone went into effect shortly after the July 12, 2005 Council meeting. Tia can tell us if her home purchase was prior to that date.

            With that said, even for those people who did purchase their OED home prior to July 12, 2005, the process that resulted in PA #63-04; Negative Declaration #11-04; General Plan Amendment #6-04; Specific Plan Amendment # 6-04; Rezone #8-04; 912 Fifth Street, 904, 907-911 Fourth Street and 901-919 Third Street; and Zoning Ordinance Amendment #03-04 was open and participative. Unfortunately, when you look at the Minutes for the July 12, 2005 Council meeting you see, “Economic Development Specialist Sarah Worley provided details of the proposal to expand the boundaries of the Core Area Specific Plan to include four properties lo-cated between Third and Fifth Streets, change land use designations from General Plan General Commercial to Core Area Specific Plan Retail with Offices, and rezone from Commercial Service to Mixed Use. Mayor Asmundson opened the public hearing, and hearing no comments from the public, closed the public hearing.”

        6. Tia Will

          hpierce

          Speaking only for myself, I will attempt a fair answer to your fair question. The answer is a firm “it depends”. I would not know without seeing the plans. Had the plans been presented to those of us in OED prior to the article in the Enterprise and had their been any attempt on the part of the representative of the developers and investors to engage those most affected, there might have been some very productive conversations around an appropriate redevelopment for this site. Had the plans been for a well designed two story building, I can virtually guarantee from conversations with upwards of 35 of my neighbors that it would have met with universal approval. Three stories, I think that we may see some who would have approved and some who would not depending on the aesthetics and intended uses.

          This is virtually the opposite of what happened. There was no respect shown to previous zoning, previous design guidelines, to say nothing of the personal preferences and legitimate concerns of those who will be most affected ( of which, by the way, I am not one). On J Street we will probably see very little direct impact, so for me this is not a matter of NIMBY. It is a matter of consideration for those who will be directly impacted.

           

        7. Frankly

          Is this fair to Tia to try and change the game after she’s invested in a home where she was told the zoning wouldn’t allow such buildings?

          Several points.

          1. Life isn’t fair.

          2. Change happens downtown… especially in a growing city without other development options.

          3. Her “investment” has appreciated substantially.  She could liquidate it and move somewhere else.

          4. There is never any 100% assurance that adjacent property or zoning will stay the same…  In my neighborhood, two single-story houses next door to each other burned down several years ago and both rebuilt as 2-stories.  Say you are the neighbor next door used to not having second-story blocking the sun and with windows looking into your backyard.  What are you going to do?

          5. Anybody living RIGHT NEXT to the core area of a growing city that is against peripheral retail is at risk of impacts from adjacent commercial development.

          6. Tia has consistently voiced opposition to peripheral development and demanded greater housing density and a car-less society.  Here is a project that meets those demands.  Is it fair that she gets to make those demands an then oppose them only when they impact her personally?

      1. Mark West

        DP:  “i’m concerned about the breakdown of the planning process.”

        AJSikes: “As am I, and pretty much everyone else in the neighborhood.”

        It was the neighborhood association that attempted to circumvent the planning process by taking this to the City Council prematurely.  The clear goal was to politicize the process from the start.  Perhaps you and your colleagues felt that was your best approach to winning, but I don’t think you can reasonably claim to be concerned about the breakdown in a process when your organization initiated the attack on that very same process.

        1. Mark West

          DP:  I should have been more specific.  I included your quote to provide context for AJS’ response to it, but my comment was not intended to be directed at you.

        2. AJ Sikes

          This action was undertaken because Pope came by and talked to a handful of us. Three people, to be exact. He then went and told Trackside Partners, LLC that he’d spoken to the affected neighbors and got their approval, and the next thing we knew the Enterprise ran a front page article on the project. That was the first any of us really heard about it.

          When you and your neighbors have words of approval put in your mouths, and it gets onto the front page of the paper, see how quick you are to attend a City Council meeting and say your piece.

      1. Mark West

        Why 3?  Is that some arbitrary number you pulled out of your hat, or is there some public benefit you see from a project that is 3 stories tall that is suddenly lost when it gets taller?

        We have historically had a limit at 4 stories in town, primarily because of fire equipment, but that is no longer an issue, so why 3?

        1. Barack Palin

          I feel three fits the area better than anything much taller than that.  I could be open to four with the right setbacks, but absolutely nothing taller.  Just my opinion and I’m allowed that.

          Why all of a sudden are we talking six?

        2. Davis Progressive

          i see three to four.  that’s what surrounding structures are – chin building, parking garage, etc.

          why are we suddenly talking six?  because that is what the applicant proposed.

        3. Mark West

          I’m talking six because 4-6 stories is a more reasonable size for a downtown that is restricted from expanding significantly outward.  This project is downtown, regardless of how the neighbors want to frame it.  The historic restriction at four is arbitrary so comparing this project with the existing buildings in the area is not really relevant, unless of course your goal is to maintain the arbitrariness of the restriction.

          Despite the apparent belief of the neighborhood association (based on their lawn signs anyway), a six story building is not so tall as to block out the sun.

           

        4. Matt Williams

          Mark, in 2005 in a very public process, the zoning for that parcel and the Davis Ace Rock Yard was changed, the General Plan was amended, and the Core Area Specific Plan was amended. That process very consciously changed the zoning to M-U, which has more restrictive limits than the rest of the Core Area, but much less restrictive limits than the zoning it moved from. The limits at the time were no more than 3 stories, which have since been loosened somewhat per the Municipal Code language I posted just a few minutes ago.

        5. Mark West

          Matt:  “Mark, in 2005 in a very public process, the zoning for that parcel and the Davis Ace Rock Yard was changed…”

          In 2005 we didn’t yet know that the City was in fiscal crisis.  A decision made 10 years ago under different financial conditions is not really relevant to our needs today.  Those zoning conditions assumed that the City was earning enough to pay the bills, which was probably not true then, and certainly is not true now.   Consequently, we need make better use of the land we have available to maximize the revenues coming to the City.  We are in this position due to part to poor land use decisions, which includes those zoning requirements that you mention.

          Matt, why would you recommend continuing with the poor land use practices that significantly contributed to our current fiscal crisis?

          1. Matt Williams

            Mark asked . . . “Matt, why would you recommend continuing with the poor land use practices that significantly contributed to our current fiscal crisis?”

            Mark at the risk of repeating my 11:43am comment, here’s what I said then and I say it again now … “As Anon has said in the past we don’t have a planning process, what we have is a process for considering applications for a General Plan Amendment. That is application processing, not planning. All the planning professionals in the Community Development Department are prevented from truly planning because the Land Use portion of our General Plan is legally constrained. We desperately need a General Plan Update.

        6. Mark West

          Matt:  “We desperately need a General Plan Update.”

          Yes, but do we sit around waiting for that to happen, or do we make sound decisions for the future in the mean time. If, as I assume, you favor the latter option, do we look backwards to the standards that have failed us, or forwards to those that will address our current and future fiscal crisis?

        7. C.Forkas

          “Why 3?”

          Because this is a transition zone from a residential neighborhood of 1 & some two-story homes to the taller downtown core.

          The Traditional Neighborhood Design Guidelines aren’t anti-densification– they were developed so that densification could happen in a well-planned way that preserves neighborhood character.

           

      2. Matt Williams

        BP’s statement above prompted me to do some homework on the existing M-U zoning. Here is what the Municipal Code says:

        40.15.060 Height regulations.

        (a) Structures shall not exceed three stories in height except as provided in Section 40.15.080. A building of more than two stories should be carefully designed to avoid appearance of excessive bulk. Development of parcels in the core area, as defined by the core area specific plan, shall incorporate the design principles found in that plan.

        (b) Mixed use and residential structures shall not exceed three stories in height except as provided in Section 40.15.080. A building of more than two stories should be carefully designed to avoid appearance of excessive bulk. (Ord. 924 § 4; Ord. 946 § 4, Ord. 1893 § 9, 10)

        Section 40.15.080’s guidance on structures that exceed three stories in M-U zoning is that

        FAR in the M-U district not to exceed 2.0 with bonuses.

    2. Matt Williams

      dp said … “i’m concerned about the breakdown of the planning process.”

      As Anon has said in the past we don’t have a planning process, what we have is a process for considering applications for a General Plan Amendment. That is application processing, not planning. All the planning professionals in the Community Development Department are prevented from truly planning because the Land Use portion of our General Plan is legally constrained. We desperately need a General Plan Update.

    1. davisresident

      I do not believe that is possible with the current structure.  From what I understand, it’s a two person “board” (2 managing partners) since Bisch’s exile, which is unfortunate.

  5. Eileen Samitz

    I am sorry to say Don that I cannot agree with you. If UCD would build the apartments needed and they were permanently affordable, the students living in mini-dorms and apartments in the City would vacate to live in on-campus housing that was cheaper.

     I have asked a multitude of UCD students over the years on this subject and they are consistent in their answer. They would be happy to live on campus if the housing were available to them (which it is not), and if it was affordable. This, in turn, would free up a huge amount of rental housing in the City, including the “mini dorms’ and apartments in the City and it would also reduce student commuting impacts. It is not hard to understand why the enormous lack of on-campus affordable housing is the major problem for any lack of rental housing in the City.

    1. Don Shor

      You think UCD should provide the entire bed shortage Davis faces? My position is that UCD certainly needs to build dorms and housing, but private apartments are also needed. I don’t remember when the last apartment building was built in Davis, but I think it was about 1993 if we’re talking about units of any size.
      Given local attitudes on all sides of this housing issue, I am becoming very pessimistic about anything being done by any parties, and conclude that the housing situation is going to get even worse. If the voters can’t pass Nishi, we can’t pass anything.

    2. Matt Williams

      Eileen, the principle of what you are arguing for is solid … more than solid. The challenge comes when one looks at the most recent 20 years of history, and projects the likelihood that that principle is going to translate into reality.

  6. Tia Will

    Life isn’t fair.”

    Her “investment” has appreciated substantially.  She could liquidate it and move somewhere else.”

    I would like to address these points since I seem to have garnered a “third person” status in this conversation. First, I do not ever appeal to the concept of “fairness”. To address this, one has to follow up with the questions “Fair to whom and under what circumstances” ? This question always leads to a far more complex conversation and it appears to me that some here want to make this black and white ( either you are for peripheral growth or you are for densification). Well this is simply not true. One can take the position as I have, I believe consistently that what needs to be considered are the relative merits of any proposal regardless of its location. When the perceived benefits have outweighed the perceived downsides, I have advocated. When the perceived downsides have outweighed the perceived benefits, I have opposed. When it is, for me, a close call, I have kept my mouth shut.

    As I have stated previously, I did not purchase this property as an investment. I do not want to liquidate it and move somewhere else. I love my house. I love my lot. I love my neighbors. I love the walkability of the property that I chose with this specifically in mind. I love my proximity to downtown, to the university, to the arboretum, to at least three parks.  It is my intent to live here at least until my children choose to settle elsewhere which given their current job and educational status may be many years, and I may want to live here the rest of my life.

    Now I know that this may be hard, or maybe impossible for someone who values the appreciation of an investment above all else, but my main value is not the accumulation of wealth. My main value is my enjoyment of my life style.

    It is true that I do not want a 6 story building in my neighborhood. But for me, it is not about the money. It is not even about the impact on my individual property if any. I know that many of my neighbors who will be greatly affected feel the same as I do. Many of them have far more years of history within this neighborhood than I do as a five year new comer. I do not want to see our neighborhood converted into something none of us have or would ever choose to meet someone else’s vision of what “our neighborhood could be”( especially since many of us chose it for what it is ) or to enrich a group of investors who frankly did not consider the impacts on our neighborhood at all when designing their profit making project.

    1. Frankly

      If you want to preserve your lifestyle and neighborhood downtown, you better start supporting peripheral development as the alternative.

      The balloon is expanding.  You are constraining one end and opposing what is happening at the other end.

      Either we build out or build up.

      Previously you have pretty strongly opposed building out.  Maybe you have developed some better perspective of the consequences of that position.

      I would really like to support and protect your desired lifestyle because it sounds wonderful.

  7. Eileen Samitz

    My apologies, but my comment posted here on the Trackside article was intended to be posted on the “Housing and UCD article” from yesterday in the Vanguard. My point was that UCD has not provided anywhere near the amount of on-campus student housing that they need to and locate it on campus, particularly since their student population has grown so quickly over the years.  UCD has promised more campus housing for over two decades to address its housing needs but simply did not deliver it. So UCD student housing needs have fallen on our community as a result of this and I wrote an Op-ed piece published here in the Vanguard and the Enterprise this past Sunday talking about this issue and why UCD needs to take action now to build more on-campus housing.

    Basically, UCD has deflected their housing needs onto our community. Over-densification pressures, like the Trackside project, mini-dorms in our neighborhoods and use of a disproportionate amount of our apartments and other rental housing in the City, is the main cause of any lack of rental housing.  Beyond this, UCD has not providing housing for ownership for its faculty and staff as it has promised either. This is creating even more pressures on our community like the Trackside proposal.

    Meanwhile, I am shocked to see how the neighbors are being treated by Trackside in what should be an open and honest process.

  8. Michael Harrington

    In 1998, the proposed building that Frankly now manages was too large, and vertical two story walls.

    The neighborhood opposed it unless it was changed.  We won 5/2 in the Planning Commission, and the applicant won 3/2 before the CC.  It was close … Stan Forbes was the swing.  He made them lose the baby orange stucco, and to inset the second story, and use faux-shiplap siding, to blend into the older neighborhood buildings.

    If you move beyond the concept of busting open a line of residential bungalows on the east side of D St, the new building looks very nice.  It is well built, and the folks who work there have been very pleasant neighbors.

    In 2001, since there was a large office building already next door, I built my buildings in the back, saving the historic bungalow in the front.  So the street view on my lots is nearly the same as 70 years ago.  I designed them to the 1/8th inch of all requirements, and the only commission it had to go to was the HRMC, where it was handily approved.

    The point is, the CC made the 1998 building blend into the neighborhood, and it did not stick out.  I already had a nearby large office building, so this one was kittie-corner across Bill Kopper’s lot.

    In contrast, Trackside is going to jut up like a rocket standing on a pad at Cape Canaveral, far higher than anything in the vicinity.

    It should not exceed 3 stories, and the third story should be set back so the walls are not vertical.

    Finally, my position is that anyone who is a partner with Lucas in Trackside, and has another project come to the CC, leads to Lucas being conflicted on the second project pursuant to the Brown Act.  That would include silent partners. .  An example, say, is if a partner in Trackside has an interest in Nishi … Lucas has to recuse himself from Nishi, and leave the room during those CC meetings, including the votes on the EIR, and putting Nishi on the ballot.

    I have written a letter to the CC about this, and published in the Davis Enterprise.  They are all on notice.

    I haven’t gotten around to running the traps on how these partners may overlap, but I will soon.

    1. Frankly

      Of course Mike we would have been good neighbors even in the original mediterranean design you did not like.

      My entire point was/is that is is hard enough to get anything built downtown without the opposition from neighbors.

  9. Tia Will

    that’s what surrounding structures are – chin building, parking garage, etc.”

    Actually the Chen building, the parking garage, etc. are not surrounding structures. They are nearby structures separated from this proposed structure by the tracks and at least one block. If they were surrounding, this might be less of an issue. The actual surrounding structures are the one story business buildings across the street, the two immediately adjacent one story houses to the east on 3rd street and the one story houses to the north east. The setting immediately around the proposed six story building is comprised of one and two story buildings.

  10. Eileen Samitz

    14.00

    Don and Matt,

    In 1999 the City built 999 units total and included in it included a substantial number of apartments since the apartment complex builders want to build the “more the better” for their profit margin (as the land site size allows) which is  around 250 units. So since then we have had quite a few apartment complexes built including large ones like the University Square, New Harmony, and  Lexington Apartments just to name a few. But here are some other statistics from a recent Staff report on the mini-dorm situation.

    25,365 = total residential units in Davis
    13,418 = single family, duplex and condos, (note: of which 29% or 3,887  of these single family duplex and condos are rentals)
    11,947 of our housing stock are apartments or 47% of our total housing stock is apartments.

    This information is 2014 data from the July 7, 2015 Staff report on mini-dorms in the City.

    So it would seem like we have plenty of apartments (almost half of our housing stock).

    However, the number of UCD students beds (not apartments, beds) is embarrassing comparatively (they claim 8,500 “beds”), given their student population being over 35,000 last fall and particularly given that the 2002 UC system wide plan was for UCD to have built  38% on-campus housing by 2012 but to have a goal of 40%.

    1. Don Shor

      47% of our total housing stock is apartments.

      The problem is that about 57% of our housing stock is renter-occupied (2010 figures, but probably not much changed as a percentage). Compare that to 44% renter-occupied in Woodland.
      We have not built enough apartments privately to cover the city’s share of the increased enrollment at UCD. Even if the campus ever gets to the 38 – 40% ‘goal’, that still leaves 60% + that is to be housed in private rental housing. I don’t think Lexington or University Square get us close to the 5 – 6,000 beds that would be needed in private units, and New Harmony has significant restrictions (another pet peeve of mine).

      Basically the starting point for my math on this was the 8,000 student enrollment over a 10 – 15 year period when almost no new housing was built. Then add to that the 5,000 from the 2020 Initiative. I didn’t even factor in the added staff and faculty, or any actual population growth in Davis for any other reasons. So we have 13,000 beds needed, 3,000 promised (not delivered) from West Village, and a handful of apartment complexes built. How many do those add? Plus a few hundred increased units squeezed in by UCD as they replaced Tercero.

      There are advocates for low-income/affordable housing in Davis and on the Council, reflected in New Harmony. There are advocates for housing for families and young home-buyers, reflected in The Cannery. But there are no advocates for working renters who don’t happen to be students.

      How many units were slated for Nishi on the HESC recommendations? Where did it rank as to green light, yellow light, etc.?

    2. Matt Williams

      Looking at your housing supply-side numbers Eileen, nothing jumps out at me as incorrect, especially given they are from the July 7, 2015 Staff Report to Council. Can you provide a link to the UCD source for the 8,500 “beds” claim?

      The question we have to wrestle with is what do those housing supply-side numbers tell us when they are put together with the demand-side changes that we are going to see in the next 5 years.

  11. Eileen Samitz

    Don and Matt

     According  to the July 7, 2015 Staff report on the mini -dorm situation stated that 62% of our total housing in Davis is rental (apartments and non-apartments) which is an astonishing amount of rental residential. This means that 38% of the housing is owner occupied units. This is the opposite of what the goal should be.

    So Don, I think we just need to agree to disagree on the issue that I think that UCD needs to build their 38% student housing on campus to relive the many impacts on the City including using up a disproportionate amount of our rental housing for UCD students.  We should not get drawn into the University’s unrealistic goals of adding another 5,000 student by 2020, 4,500 of which would be from out of the county or out of the state (for UCD to gain revenue from higher tuitions), and 500 would be from in state, and admitting at the same time that they have no real plan as to where these students will live. UCD has not even provided sufficient housing for the existing student population as promised in there 1989 MOU, yet they declare they will continue with this overly ambitious course.

    Meanwhile, also mentioned in Nishi Draft EIR, the information about the LRDP planning for another 7,000 students between 2025 and 2030 is buried. So are we really talking about 12,000 new UCD students?  And where are all of these students supposed to live? The University needs to have these answers before embarking on moving towards their desire for massive student population growth in a small college town like Davis.

    My point here is that UCD on-campus student housing for 40% or more, is the ultimate solution for dedicated, affordable housing which also reduces the commuting impacts on the students and the Davis community and is green and sustainable planning that the University claims it want to achieve. All of their lack of action on building on-campus student housing is causing havoc with our City planning and UCD needs to stop talking and get moving on all of their empty promises of providing their own housing needs on campus.

    On the Nishi site from the HESC it is as yellow  #25 option if access was from Oliver Drive , and a green #17 if access was though UCD, however the committee was very divided on this site . I and other Committee members did not support housing there for significant problems with the site such as poor access, noise from I-80 and railroad, safety concerns from railroad and using prime ag land. Everyone acknowledged that the site had many significant problems to try to overcome to develop, plus significant impacts.

    And Matt, I got that 8,500 bed number at the first LRDP meeting last week from UCD planner Bob Seger.

    1. Matt Williams

      Eileen Samitz said … “And Matt, I got that 8,500 bed number at the first LRDP meeting last week from UCD planner Bob Seger.”

      Thank you Eileen.

      You are right that the voting was very divided. The following table from the HESC Staff Report to Council (see Pages 9-4 and 9-5) shows that dividedness. The Nishi UCD Access Only with 730 Residential Units average ranking was 17.93 with low scores of 5, 7, 7 add 8 (Frerichs, Shields, Watkins and Wolf) and high scores of 33, 28, 28 and 27 (Harrington, Lott, Skinner and Gunnell). You scored it with a 25. The Olive Drive Access alternative with 616 Residential Units was much less divided. Only Luke Watkins and Kevin Wolf scored that one in their Top 10 (ironically they scored it higher than the UCD Access alternative).



  12. Anon

    Eileen Samitz: “According  to the July 7, 2015 Staff report on the mini -dorm situation stated that 62% of our total housing in Davis is rental (apartments and non-apartments) which is an astonishing amount of rental residential. This means that 38% of the housing is owner occupied units. This is the opposite of what the goal should be.

    So Don, I think we just need to agree to disagree on the issue that I think that UCD needs to build their 38% student housing on campus to relive the many impacts on the City including using up a disproportionate amount of our rental housing for UCD students.  We should not get drawn into the University’s unrealistic goals of adding another 5,000 student by 2020, 4,500 of which would be from out of the county or out of the state (for UCD to gain revenue from higher tuitions), and 500 would be from in state, and admitting at the same time that they have no real plan as to where these students will live. UCD has not even provided sufficient housing for the existing student population as promised in there 1989 MOU, yet they declare they will continue with this overly ambitious course.

    Meanwhile, also mentioned in Nishi Draft EIR, the information about the LRDP planning for another 7,000 students between 2025 and 2030 is buried. So are we really talking about 12,000 new UCD students?  And where are all of these students supposed to live? The University needs to have these answers before embarking on moving towards their desire for massive student population growth in a small college town like Davis.”

    Very, very well said.

    1. Don Shor

      We should not get drawn into the University’s unrealistic goals of adding another 5,000 student by 2020

      Since announcing that goal in 2010, UCD has added about 600 students per year, average. The goal is not only realistic, it is being realized. Eileen and I are in full agreement as to UCD’s dereliction with regard to providing student housing. Where we disagree is that I believe additional rental housing is also necessary in the city.

      where are all of these students supposed to live?

      So, since they’re already here and more are coming, where do you think they’re living?

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