A letter from back in August from DJUSD Superintendent Winfred Roberson to the neighbors let them know that the school district is considering the redevelopment of the school district’s administrative offices, which extend from 5th to 6th Streets between B and C Streets in Davis.
DJUSD is “partnering with the Urban Sustainability Accelerator program at Portland State University to hold a series of upcoming community brainstorming discussions to discuss potential redevelopment uses” for the property. The project is being funded by a SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) Grant, in partnership with the City of Davis.
The Vanguard met last week with Judy Walton and Robert Liberty of the Urban Sustainability Accelerator (USA) at Portland State. The program helps “cities implement sustainability projects, to move their proposals from a concept, a plan, a policy or action item, to reality.”
They explained that right now the school district, now that it has dispensed with the Grande Property, lacks surplus property. However, they can take advantage of the SACOG Grant without having a specific deadline.
They stressed that it is very early in the process. For one thing, even if they went forward, the school district would have to relocate all of its current uses on the property, and no one knows where they would move and whether it is worth doing.
Instead, what the USA project does is they are meeting with all of the stakeholders, the people who live in the neighborhood – in this case Old North Davis Neighborhood Association, people in the development community and people with a broad perspective.
So far they have arranged to meet with about 20 people and they hope that the number will grow. People, they said, seem open to the possibility, but they emphasized again that this project is very early.
They walked around the property a number of times. They would like to have things done by the new year, at which point they would issue a report going forward.
As Superintendent Roberson explained in the letter from August, “The facility that holds the school district offices was built as a junior high school in 1949. The buildings are aging and out of date for current and projected administrative needs.”
Any redevelopment of the property would be subject to review and approval from the city. However, he also stressed that “the school district and the City of Davis have not made any decisions, even preliminary ones, about the use of this property. Rather, the school district is taking a slow and deliberative approach to exploring options. We will be collecting input from local residents and other groups through brainstorming sessions which will be used to inform the decision making process.”
Mr. Roberson explained, “We know that Davis residents care deeply about their city and neighborhoods and we want to do everything possible to ensure that any potential new development will be an asset to the community and not just a benefit to the property owner.”
He added, “We recognize that neighbors have strong opinions about the height, bulk and design of any new development in their area as well as concerns about the impact on surrounding properties and traffic patterns. We want to hear your concerns and ideas and that is how the Urban Sustainability Accelerator can help us.”
The superintendent laid out the tentative plan. It begins, as the folks from USA explained, with informal discussions with Davis residents.
“The school district has asked the Director of the Urban Sustainability Accelerator, Robert Liberty, to begin by having some informal one-on-one meetings with residents of the neighborhood that live near our facility. He will also meet with other people in Davis with experience and background that can be helpful,” he explained.
“By meeting individually with you and others, Mr. Liberty will be educated about community circumstances, concerns and hopes. These individual meetings will help him develop an outline for subsequent brainstorming and consultation sessions, sessions that will not resemble public hearings,” the letter continued.
He added, “They will be informal, faster-moving and more improvisational. We also hope they will be fun. Mr. Liberty will be coming to Davis in September and/or October for these preliminary meetings. We hope you are willing and available to meet with him.”
Mr. Liberty explained to the Vanguard that right now this is not a city process. They are simply hoping to have an open discussion. He said that so far people seem open to the idea of redevelopment but opposed to the use of the site for retail.
The Vanguard attempted to reach Winfred Roberson for further comment, but was unable to do so immediately. The Vanguard was not able to speak with Steve Tracy of the Old North Davis Neighborhood Association for their preliminary thoughts either.
The Urban Sustainability Accelerator website explains that the program “was created to help urban areas implement their sustainability projects. Our focus is on implementation of adopted sustainability policies, plans, and goals. The assistance we provide is of every type: technical, strategic, administrative, legal and political.”
The program “offers a year of tailored implementation assistance, in a variety of forms, to a cohort of project teams from different cities working on similar projects. Members of project teams not only receive assistance from our expert advisers but from each other.”
Once again, this process is in the very early stages and no decision has been made about whether to pursue redevelopment at this location.
—David M. Greenwald reporting