Analysis: Is There a Way Forward on Trackside?

Ray Burdick points to the existing structure across the alleyway from his house
Ray Burdick points to the existing structure across the alleyway from his house

A couple of years ago, there was a proposed project at Paso Fino. The neighbors were alarmed that the density of the project would result in the city either selling off or swapping a publicly owned greenbelt and the potential removal or privatization of Canary Island pine trees.

After a series of public meetings and a huge amount of public pressure, the city council in effect sided with the neighbors on a much smaller “compromise” project that reduced the number of lots and the size of the project while preserving the greenbelt and the trees.

This should serve as a cautionary tale for Kemble Pope and the other investors at Trackside.

My purpose here is not to “litigate” the facts and competing claims that have been made. I think it is clear to all involved that mistakes have been made along the way. The real question is whether there is a way forward, a place where all involved can go and be reasonably content with the process and the outcome.

I think the first step of acknowledgement is that that answer may be no and that the city council, like they did with Paso Fino, will have to make the call.

So let me start from a place where I believe we are. We have an underutilized property just north of Third Street, west of I St and just east of the railroad tracks. The buildings are single-story, old, and past their prime.

In the days of redevelopment, the city might have been able to invest redevelopment money into the project. But that money for now is gone. We are left with a group of local investors who do not appear to have deep pockets. So they are going to have to make the project pencil out and, I will acknowledge at the start here, I have not run through the finances with the applicants, so I’m flying a bit blind on that.

As I have stated previously, the biggest challenge for the city of Davis, going forward, is to reconcile several different conflicting city goals. First, we have growth restrictions on the periphery and, while I have been an advocate for building modest-sized, 200-acre innovation parks, I have been an opponent at this time in continued peripheral housing developments.

But, with the city needing more rental units and more office space in the core, ways that we can densify the core while maintaining our borders are ones we should pursue. However, with densification comes neighborhood concerns.

For me at least, I do in general support the notion of densification. I look around the downtown and see underutilized space – single-story older buildings that are screaming for redevelopment. At the same time, people moved into the areas of I St and eastward with the current landscape.

I walked into the houses and backyards of several of the people on the southwestern corner of I Street and along the alleyway, and I can very much sympathize with their concerns. While my sense is that the impact immediately and quickly declines as you move further from the alleyway, the concerns of those neighbors are legitimate and we have to acknowledge them.

I believe when I first met with Kemble Pope in January of this year, I had suggested three or four stories. I don’t see any way that six stories are going to get the approval of council. The question is whether those neighbors will support three or four.

If the neighbors are really holding out for two stories, then I think that’s a non-starter. I don’t see how it pencils out for the investors and I don’t think it meets the needs of the city. Six is too high, two is too few, and three or four would seem to be a sweet spot where both sides have to give a little.

There are other impacts as well. When I toured the site, there was concern that the alleyway would be converted to the place where cars head down to park, where the garbage trucks come, where delivery trucks come, etc. Again, I can see how that is going to impact just a small number of neighbors, but again, that impact is real.

Are these changes feasible? Right now I see a process that is not working well. Trust has been broken. The city has in the past looked at conflict resolution processes and that may be a good way to go here.

I read the commentary submitted by Kemble Pope on October 22 calling for a public process and explaining why he requested a delay in the hearing of the project at the October 19 Historical Resources Management Commission at the last second. I also read Alan Miller’s response on the part of the Old East Neighborhood Association.

Mr. Pope wrote, “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.’”

Mr. Miller responded, “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.”

At some point, this matter will proceed to the Planning Commission and then the city council. What happened with Paso Fino is that staff worked to revise the proposals but ultimately the council had to rule on the size and scope of the project. That may be where this process is headed unless both sides can carve out their own compromise approach.

In the long term, the council needs to clarify the direction they want to see infill go. How dense is dense enough? How do we handle the legitimate concerns of neighbors? How do we make this process less contentious?

For those who want to argue that this is why we should re-examine peripheral development, that seems a direction in which most in this community do not want to go – which makes it all the more urgent we figure out what infill development should look like and how best to create a fair and open and transparent public process.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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77 Comments

  1. Frankly

    The city needs more rental housing and more commercial space.  Build up or build out. Those are the two choices.  City leaders will probably cave to those few reactionary neighbors because that is what the Davis City Council does.  But then we can again point to the lack of city leadership for doing what Davis needs, instead of what makes us all feel good.

    1. Tia Will

      Frankly

      The city needs more rental housing and commercial space”

      I could not agree more. What I do not believe is that what is needed is more “luxury apartments” for those who can afford “concierge” enabled accommodations. What we need in my opinion is more affordable housing which the Trackside project definitely is not.

      As for the commercial space, you and the project lead have conveniently failed to point out that this project is not at all friendly to the businesses that are currently occupying that space. These merchants have been invited to move back in after completion of the project at several times the amount of rent that they are now paying.  I am well aware that this is standard business practice with those who have enough money to invest displacing those who are not so fortunate. This does not mean that I have to consider it optimal, or even reasonable as a way for neighbors to treat each other.

  2. Michael Harrington

    I like old bungalows.  I like the town history as reflected in its buildings.

    The CC should honor the existing GP and design guidelines, and the views of these neighbors

  3. Michael Harrington

    Frankly and my buildings were built so they blend into  the old neighborhood bungalows

    Frankly has his commercial building while enjoying a very nice historic neighborhood

    Both can be accomplished

  4. Anon

    Are these changes feasible? Right now I see a process that is not working well. Trust has been broken. The city has in the past looked at conflict resolution processes and that may be a good way to go here.

    You are kidding, right?  Are you really advocating for development by conflict resolution?  The real problem here is that development is by zoning variance rather than by the General Plan, which is outdated.  We already have the example of the Mission project on B St, which is 4 stories high and a density of 42 units per acre.  That opened the door to more densification/higher buildings.  If the door is cracked open, the foot in the door to push it wider is sure to follow.

    From the Davis Enterprise: “According to the city staff report, the Mission Residences will exceed the maximum density set by that 2007 visioning process with a density rate of 42.4 units per acre compared to the 24 units per acre that’s technically allowed.

    Also, the building will exceed the height guidelines of 38 feet with 45 feet of livable space. Meanwhile, only 21 parking spaces will be built instead of the required 28, based on the number of units.

    For those who want to argue that this is why we should re-examine peripheral development, that seems a direction most in this community do not want to go which makes it all the more urgent we figure out what infill development should look like and how best to create a fair and open and transparent public process.

    How do you know “most” in the community don’t want to re-examine peripheral development?

    1. Don Shor

      How do you know “most” in the community don’t want to re-examine peripheral development?

      Seems like the track record of the voters is pretty clear on that, but maybe it’s time for another ballot test.

      Have there been changes in the makeup of the investment and management group on this project?

    2. David Greenwald

      Why not? We tried conflict resolution on parking? Part of the problem is right now the two sides don’t trust each other and by getting an impart third party involved, maybe that will open the process.

      “How do you know “most” in the community don’t want to re-examine peripheral development?”

      It seems like a fairly safe assumption given polling on Measure R and concerns about housing at MRIC.

  5. Misanthrop

    Why is the project penciling out anybody’s problem other than the investors? Since when is it the responsibility of government to bail out people who make a bad investment by adversely impacting the neighbors?

    For me the real question everyone should be asking is how high our downtown should go? If we put a six story building near downtown that will become the new standard. We should fully expect a rush of applications to redevelop much of downtown and nearby neighborhoods to six stories if this is allowed.

    I don’t think the community has had an honest discussion about going to six stories. To date the discussion has been vague in advocating for increased density and infill. When Mission Residences was before the council two former council members who were strong anti-growth voices over many decades and neighbors of the project turned out to urge the council to turn down the project. It seems that we have now reached the point where our rhetoric is being challenged by the reality of its consequences. What needs to happen is the community must decide whether it is truly interested in becoming what it claimed it wanted to be. I doubt it does if it means a six story downtown.

    1. Frankly

      What needs to happen is the community must decide whether it is truly interested in becoming what it claimed it wanted to be.

      Bingo.

      I have been making that case for years.

      They have demanded no peripheral growth!

      They have demanded a farmland moat around the city.

      They made their case saying that smaller, denser and more bike-friendly is the way to go.  Better for the environment.

      Now they see what their demands result in and they are up in arms against that too.

      I knew this would happen and said so.

      Now they are working desperately to walk a razors edge of irrational nuance that:

      1. They don’t really oppose peripheral development (although they have not come out specifically in support of it.)

      2. They don’t mind densification really as long as the buildings don’t get much taller (which means they are just lying about their support of densification because there is no feasible way to do it without the city growing up.)

      And I called them MIMBY, change-averse, no-growthers, and they said I was calling them names they did not deserve.

      But here is the proof the labels fit perfectly.

      We absolutely know that they would have fought this with four stories, and probably three stories.  They would have the same arguments.

      They have their little village lifestyle with their single-story houses and big yards close to the action downtown… where most of the action is stuck because they also opposed peripheral growth.  And they are not willing to accept any impacts to their little village lifestyle.

      I don’t have much respect or sympathy for most of them.  Their selfish demands are not in the best interests of the community.

      1. CalAg

        They have demanded no peripheral growth! @Frankly

        That’s a pretty broad brush! How do you know that the rank-and-file of the OEDNA are against both densification and peripheral growth? This is not a rhetorical question. I’m truly interested in what guys like Ray Burdick (featured in the picture above from his back yard) think about the issue.

        If you live in Old East Davis or Old North Davis, if you live near Paso Fino, if you live near Chiles Ranch, if you live near Grande, if you live near Nugget Fields, if you live near any of the City-owned properties that are being eyed for residential development and you probably don’t even know about it (like the little league fields), if you live near any one of the dozens of properties city-wide that could be upzoned and redeveloped as high density multifamily – here’s a question for you ….. If you had to chose one or the other, would you prefer (a) Trackside as currently proposed, or (b) the same 48 units in a peripheral development on 5-10 acres of tomato or alfalfa fields on the edge of town?

        Remember, Davis is about 6,400 acres (not including El Macero, Willowbank, UCD, etc.), so 10 acres would represent an expansion of our footprint of approx 0.15%.

  6. Tia Will

    I am going to address only process in this post. I feel that there are two contributors to the poor process that have brought us to the current contentious state of affairs.

    City process

    I believe that we are in need of a new over arching plan for how we want our city to develop. Specifically with regard to the core, we need a plan for how much densification and in what form. This re envisioning should involve all affected and interested members of our community. It is the lack of this agreed upon current vision that sets the stage for the kinds of conflict that we are currently seeing.

    Developer process

    It has been pointed out to me in many conversations that the investors in this project are a group of locals who are deeply involved in the community , not carpetbaggers hoping to make a fast profit and then move on. For me, this is all the more reason that they might have chosen a more mindful process regarding the impacts that their proposal would have on those who would be most impacted by the project, namely, their neighbors.

    Instead the strategy chosen by Mr. Pope ( at times unbeknownst to the other investors) has been anything but mindful of anyone not directly benefiting financially from the project.

    1. He was charged with presenting the project to the neighbors. He did indeed tell a few of the immediate neighbors that they were planning an upgrade of the Trackside buildings. He chose to interpret their uninformed ( since he did not describe the project or show them pictures or plans)  acknowledgement of his announcement as agreement and proceeded to have an article with the pictures and description of the plan published in the Enterprise along with a statement that the neighbors were in agreement.

    2. When confronted with the opposition of the OEDNA, he then had drafted a purported MOU, densely written in legalese, with specifications strictly limiting the input of the OEDNA. This memorandum would have limited not only the number of OEDNA members with whom the developers would speak ( with full knowledge that none are lawyers), but also set the time limits for responses, and limited the information that could be shared with other members of the OEDNA. The implication of this agreement was once again the false assertion that the OEDNA would accept the size and scale of the project ( which are the main objections of most of us) and perhaps be allowed to have some nominal input with regard to aesthetics.  This was presented to the OEDNA in a take it or leave manner without room for negotiation of the terms. In short, he drafted it knowing if would be completely unacceptable.

    3. With regard to the Historical Commission meeting. Mr. Pope knew in advance that he was going to pull the item from the agenda. I know this because he said that he “might” to one of the staff prior to the meeting. No one disputes his right to do so. However, if he had the least concern for the time and ability of the members of OEDNA to adequately consider the proposal, he had a better option. He could have informed a member of the OEDNA of his plan and allowed us to decide for ourselves whether we wanted to sit through all of the preceding items on the agenda only to be told that he was pulling the item and that it would not be heard at all.

    I suppose that we should not have been surprised at all by this tactic since it has been the same from the beginning. Mr. Pope, instead of showing any consideration at all for those his profitable enterprise will negatively impact, has finalized his own plan and then presented it to the neighbors in what he hopes will be a manner that will cause confusion, capitulation, or at least entail as much inconvenience as possible. To me this sounds a whole lot more like carpetbagger strategy than it does a neighbor with the best interests of all at heart.

      1. Tia Will

        To me it sounds like you and your neighbors have turned this into a personal attack on Mr. Pope.”

        To me, it sounds like some are deliberately ignoring the role of Mr. Pope in setting up the distrust to begin with.

        1. Tia Will

          To me it sounds like you and your neighbors have turned this into a personal attack on Mr. Pope.”

          One further thought on this comment. While I cannot speak for any of my neighbors, I have nothing personal against Mr. Pope. I do not know Mr. Pope personally and therefore am incapable of mounting a “personal attack”. I admit to being adamantly opposed to the tactics that he has chosen to date in dealing with this issue. If I have said anything that is not factually accurate, I would be open to publicly correcting any statements that I have made that are in factual error.

          I would also point out that several of the other investors in this project have contacted me to apologize for the way in which this project has been pursued. I hold nothing against anyone on a personal basis.

          For me, it is truly about process, exactly as I said.

        2. Mark West

          Mr. Pope’s interactions with his investors is none of your business and not relevant to the discussion, yet that seems to be a central part of your concerns.

          At one point you complained that he didn’t chase you down at work to tell you of his plans, which indicates a rather out sized view of your own importance in this process.

          Any discussion of problems with the process here needs to include the inappropriate efforts by you and the neighborhood association to politicize the planning process. You are as much at fault disrupting the process and anyone.

          You do not need to know someone to mount a personal attack against them, as has been demonstrated numerous times here on the vanguard.

        3. Jim Frame

          Mr. Pope’s interactions with his investors is none of your business and not relevant to the discussion

          BS.  As soon as other investors in this project contacted Tia to apologize for the way in which the project has been pursued, it became her business, and it’s entirely relevant to the discussion.

           

        4. Mark West

          BS.  As soon as other investors in this project contacted Tia to apologize for the way in which the project has been pursued, it became her business, and it’s entirely relevant to the discussion.

          All we have is Tia’s claim that they have called her, which of course is just rumor, but it doesn’t matter whether it is true or not, it has nothing to do with the project or process and is not relevant to the discussion.

        5. Jim Frame

          it has nothing to do with the project or process and is not relevant to the discussion

          The project proponents have been touting the deep community roots of the investors.  The fact that some investors are backpedaling from the PR effort — if not the project itself as currently proposed — renders that information quite relevant to the discussion.

        6. hpierce

          JFrame’s comment:  “The fact that some investors are backpedaling from the PR effort — if not the project itself as currently proposed”   Ok… will be circumspect here, as I may have missed some posts.  “Fact” in evidence in public or social ‘record’?  Meant as an honest question.

        7. Adam Smith

          I don’t think we’ve seen or heard of any evidence that investors are backing away from the project.  That appears to be Jim Frame’s add on to Tia’s assertion regarding apologies from investors.    Unless of course, Jim Frame enlightens us with better information…

  7. Barack Palin

    Three stories, maybe four with a nice setback plan.  IMO six is a nonstarter.  As someone else pointed out a precedent of four stories has possibly already been established in this town by the Mission Project.  Do we dare set another precedent and allow six story buildings?  I say No!

  8. Tia Will

    A word about “precedent”. Using the dictionary I am considering “precedent” as “an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances”

    Please note that it says an example or guide. This could mean either a positive or negative example. The successful development of a “flying machine” by the Wright Brothers set a precedent that led to our current airline travel and space exploration by demonstrating what was possible. The Viet Nam war should have served as a negative example of what might happen if we choose a destabilizing action without having a good re stabilization plan already in place.

    It is up to us to interpret whether a “precedent” will serve us well. It should not mean that because we have done something once ( in this case approved a four story building) that we should accept every four, or five, or six story building regardless of the location, plan and fit for the existing community.

    1. Don Shor

      Really, all of this makes you wonder why anyone would bother participating in a ‘visioning’ process, or participate in developing neighborhood guidelines, when they will apparently just be disregarded when projects are planned. And then people who want to adhere to the guidelines which were developed with public input will be called reactionaries and NIMBY’s and insulted in any number of other creative ways.

      1. Matt Williams

        Don makes a very good point; however, I would like to add a substantial caveat. It is also important to periodically revisit the Visioning to acknowledge any changes in macro level realities.

        One such macro level reality affects the way we look at the density of Mission Residences.  Reading Tom Sakash’s article in the Eenterprise (see  LINK) “With a 4-1 vote, the City Council gave the official thumbs up Tuesday to the development of the Mission Residences project, a four-story, 14-unit condominium complex planned for B Street downtown.”  Those 14 units have been designed with downsizing seniors in mind.  The FAR (Floor Area Ratio) is 1.8/1 (without balconies);1.96 (with balconies) and the reason it is so low because all 14 units are two-bedroom flats … very different from the much more customary 3-4 bedroom apartments that the density calculations assume will be designed into most projects.  Each of the 14 flats is only 1,345 square feet of living space.

        Did the density calculation of the B Street Visioning contemplate 1,345 square foot units or 2,375 square foot units as would be typical of projects that are not designed to be senior-friendly, [with] components include elevator access to all units, floor plans with only two bedrooms, external maintenance through the homeowner association, and secured entry through the common courtyard.

        In a city like Davis where the 55 and over population rose from 7,250 residents in 2000 to 11,475 residents in 2010 and from 12% of the Davis population to 17.5% in that same 10 yer period, looking at our Visioning and being sure that our statistical calculations make sense is a wise step.

      2. Alan Miller

         . . . all of this makes you wonder why anyone would bother participating in a ‘visioning’ process, or participate in developing neighborhood guidelines, when they will apparently just be disregarded when projects are planned.

        Thank you Don, you just summed it up perfectly.  Tie that comment with a red bow.

        The Neighborhood has no problem with PD’s, as long as a strong majority of neighbors agree with the plan and developers work collaboratively with neighbors on the initial design; we have three examples in Old East Davis.

        Over 100 neighbors signed the petition against the proposed Trackside development; that isn’t a situation that would blossom such a PD exception.  The City allowing such would be like metaphorically running the neighborhood over with a steamroller.

  9. Anon

    Why not? We tried conflict resolution on parking? Part of the problem is right now the two sides don’t trust each other and by getting an impart third party involved, maybe that will open the process.

    Conflict resolution as a development strategy?  Really?  THINK!  The parking problem downtown has still not been resolved!  Misanthrope said it very well: “For me the real question everyone should be asking is how high our downtown should go? If we put a six story building near downtown that will become the new standard. We should fully expect a rush of applications to redevelop much of downtown and nearby neighborhoods to six stories if this is allowed.

    I don’t think the community has had an honest discussion about going to six stories. To date the discussion has been vague in advocating for increased density and infill. When Mission Residences was before the council two former council members who were strong anti-growth voices over many decades and neighbors of the project turned out to urge the council to turn down the project. It seems that we have now reached the point where our rhetoric is being challenged by the reality of its consequences. What needs to happen is the community must decide whether it is truly interested in becoming what it claimed it wanted to be. I doubt it does if it means a six story downtown.

  10. Tia Will

    Anon

    What needs to happen is the community must decide whether it is truly interested in becoming what it claimed it wanted to be. I doubt it does if it means a six story downtown.

    I agree.  I further do not find it optimal to turn the concept of a “transitional neighborhood” on its head. Meaning that what the developers of this project are attempting to do is to impose a six story structure on a one and two story neighborhood and then present it as a fait accompli to be used as the new standard for what is desirable in Davis.

    Anon is factually correct that descriptions of densification and infill have been vague. I would like to see a frank discussion of what we mean by “densification” including the specifics of height, size and design so as to be respectful of the interests of all, not just those who are affluent or connected enough to push their favorite project through. This, no matter how difficult, as pointed out by Don, should be the operating principle behind further development of the city.

    1. Matt Williams

      Tia said … “Anon is factually correct that descriptions of densification and infill have been vague. I would like to see a frank discussion of what we mean by “densification” including the specifics of height, size and design so as to be respectful of the interests of all, not just those who are affluent or connected enough to push their favorite project through.”

      Actually Tia, I am very confident that Anon is factually incorrect in this specific instance that descriptions of densification and infill have been vague. The July 2005 formal changing of the designation of this specific parcel to Mixed Use (M-U) in the Zoning Code, the City General Plan, and the Core Area Specific Plan applied very specific descriptions of densifications and infill of this parcel. Those descriptions are as follows:

      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.

  11. failsafe

    As far as “process” goes, which everyone always says is on their side, no matter how they feel, is there a process to determine what an “underutilized property” is?     Clearly the property is being utilized, probably by more people than the former Dairy Queen site about one block away.   Or even the Ace Corpyard, which is also “underutilized” by a fair margin.   Has anybody talked to the owners at Ace?

    It seems to me that people in Davis talk nonstop about “process” and “vision” but it always just comes down to the personalities involved, not “lack of process” or “vision” –  i.e. who can get away with what or who is trying to stop what.      Hence the concept of mediation is a good suggestion.

  12. Tia Will

    failsafe

    “is there a process to determine what an “underutilized property” is? “

    Now that is a great question backed by good examples.

    who can get away with what.      Hence the concept of mediation is a good suggestion.”

    And a positive suggestion.

  13. Tia Will

    At one point you complained that he didn’t chase you down at work to tell you of his plans, which indicates a rather out sized view of your own importance in this process.”

    Actually, I said no such thing. I pointed out that if he had truly wanted to find me, as he claimed, that would not have been difficult. It would have been a non issue had he not brought it up since as you state, I have no more importance than any other citizen in the process.

    Mr. Pope’s interactions with his investors is none of your business”

    Agreed, and I have never claimed otherwise.

    not relevant to the discussion, yet that seems to be a central part of your concerns.”

    It seemed relevant enough to the investors for them to seek me out to discuss it. And, it is far from “central to my concerns”. It is one small piece of a pattern of behavior that I do not think has served anyone well. Not the investors, not the neighbors, and not the community as a whole.

     

  14. CalAg

    This article completely misses the bigger issue …. The City of Davis should not upzone commercial property in the core to residential.

    Zero. Zip. Including upzones to residential over ground floor retail/office.

    The applicant has successfully turned this into a war of attrition over the number of stories as if the upzone should be granted by right.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      CalAg said … “The City of Davis should not upzone commercial property in the core to residential.”

      That is an interesting, even intriguing, suggestion/recommendation CalAg. You made that recommendation for a reason. Can you elaborate on your reasons?

      With that asked, the demand for commercial space for retail has declined in Davis over the 10-year period from 2000 to 2010. The demand for commercial space for services (especially restaurant and coffee shop services) has increased markedly, but there is considerable sentiment being expressed questioning whether we want Downtown Davis to become little more than a Food Court. Given that market/statistical backdrop, how do you see the commercial space being used?

      1. CalAg

        “Can you elaborate on your reasons?” Sure.

        There is demand for small low-cost commercial (non-retail) – like the Trackside Center – in the core. This type of space is needed by new/small businesses to get a foothold, especially those that are priced out of downtown. If our efforts to rebuild the Davis economy start to get traction, places like Trackside will be in even higher demand. There is a large cohort of businesses that will not be well served by Nishi or MRIC.

        Agree that this is not a good site for food/coffee/etc., but would not like to see the chocolate guy turned out on the street.

        If the owners are hell-bent on redeveloping the site, the new building on 3rd and G is proof that you don’t need residential and a 5/6 story building to have a redevelopment project that pencils.

        1. Matt Williams

          Now you have really confused me. First you say that “The City of Davis should not upzone commercial property in the core to residential” and now you say above that “there is a demand for small low-cost commercial (non-retail) like Trackside Center.” Given that Trackside Center is very clearly and predominantly an upzoning to residential, your two statements appear to be mutually exclusive.

        2. hpierce

          Let’s see… Konditorei launched from this site… as did Pamela Trokonski… is Young Mortgage still around?  They also occupied this site… maybe others I was unaware of…

        3. Jim Frame

          Given that Trackside Center is very clearly and predominantly an upzoning to residential, your two statements appear to be mutually exclusive.

          The way I read CalAg’s comment, he was referring to the current use of the Trackside site rather than its proposed use.

          1. Matt Williams

            Thanks for that clarification Jim. Given that the proposal has as much commercial square footage as the current configuration, I’m still not understanding CalAg’s point, if your clarification is correct.

            Said in a more generic way, what is the drawback to placing residential in a mixed use building’s floors above that building’s commercial floors? The Chen Building at the corner of Second and G Streets has two floors of residential space above two floors of commercial space. The first floor is streetside retail. The second floor is office space and the third and fourth floors are live-work residential.

        4. CalAg

          MW: The Trackside Center is the name of the commercial complex that is being proposed for redevelopment.

          Replacing the current commercial space (low cost) with new-construction residential over commercial (high cost) is not equivalent. I’m certain you know this, so I don’t understand why you are trying to imply equivalence. You also neglected to mention floors 5 and 6.

          Commercial users are occupying some of the residential in the mixed use buildings downtown, so the market is informing us that there is an unmet need for small commercial (office) in the core. When it’s time to build up at this location, it should be 100% commercial, and the scale should be compliant with the all City’s development guidelines.

          1. Matt Williams

            CalAg, your post promts many, many questions …

            (1) Why would I “mention floors 5 and 6” of the Chen Building?

            (2a) Is your issue the cost of commercial space?

            (2b) If your answer to (2a) is “yes” does that mean you oppose replacement/renovation of “current commercial space”?

            (3a) Does you opposition to this particular mixed-use building extend to all mixed-use buildings entirely?

            (3b) If your answer to (3a) is “no” what features/characteristics of a mixed use building make it acceptabe to you?

            (4) I’m not familiar with any mixed-use buildings where space that was built and used to be residential is now being used by commercial tenants. Can you provide an example or two?

            (5) Do we actually have very many mixed-use buildings in Davis? The Chen Building, the Roe Building, the McCormack (sp?) Building, and the E Street Lofts come to mind, but beyond those, very few come to mind. Are there others?

        5. CalAg

          MW: You were making an equivalency argument comparing the 6 story proposed Trackside building to the existing 4 story Chen Building (which is great for its actual location but would be too big adjacent to residential).

          I’ve been very clear that I oppose any residential densification in the core that involves upzoning of commercial. If we’re going to have that discussion, it needs to be in the context of a larger discussion of the infrastructure deficiencies in the core, including parking, circulation, and the Richards tunnel.

          On the rest, you’re going to have to do your own homework.

          Trackside is proposing residential on the second floor and Chen has offices on the third floor … so right now I can’t give you better than a C minus.

          http://38.106.5.235/home/showdocument?id=3424

           

          1. Matt Williams

            No I was not making any such equivalency CalAg. Go back and reread my words. I provided the Chen Building as an existing example of a mixed use building.

            Your unwillingness to answer my questions about your position on the other questions is an illustration of your commitment to political calculation as opposed to evidence-based dialogue.

        6. CalAg

          Like I said, no time to do your homework for you. I’ve told you my position. If you want to track down the data, go for it. Maybe you can change my mind with more analysis.

          “your commitment to political calculation as opposed to evidence-based dialogue” @ Matt Williams

          You really one to go there? You’re the one running for City Council flying the false-flag of “evidence-based dialog.”

          1. Matt Williams

            False flag? You are willing to jump to conclusions based on incomplete and/or inaccurate information. Like Brett Lee, I’m reserving judgment until we get all the evidence/details on the table … and am fighting hard to make sure the evidence gathering processes continue. I’m not willing to rush to judgment the way you are. Said another way, I am in very active listening mode … listening to all of the people living in Davis.

            There are two choices … political calculation or evidence-based decision making. This City has done far too much of the former over the past 20 years, and far too little of the latter. There comes a time when you have to stand up and say enough is enough. If listening to Davis’ residents is your definition of a false flag, then you and I will have to agree to disagree on that definition.

    1. Matt Williams

      Would you please copy and paste those DTTN Design Guidelines here so that everyone can see them?

      EDIT: Having found those Guidelines on the City website, they are clearly too volumnous to copy and paste. So, for those who what to see what the Davis Downtown and Traditional Residential Neighborhoods (DDTRN) Design Guidelines are, please click on the link.

      http://community-development.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CDD/Planning/Plans-Documents/DDTRN-Design-Guidelines-2007.pdf

      The following passage on page 10 of the Design Guidelines is particularly germane.

      Guidelines vs. Standards – Language in the Guidelines

      Guidelines are generally descriptive statements that explain or illustrate a principal or preferred course of action. Where as standards prescribe minimum acceptable limits. Guidelines, typically adopted through resolution, describe a preferred policy direction of the City. Standards, adopted through ordinance, state required action or implementation. Language utilized for standards is unequivocal and often quantifiable.

      Given the nature of this document, that it is designed primarily to provide guidance toward preserving and enhancing the character and flavor of neighborhoods within the 1917 district, descriptive rather than quantitative statements are most often used. In some cases, such as in Old North, recommended limits are in fact stated. This is particularly important for those instances where flexibility is necessary given the variability of the special character areas. It is through zoning that appropriate minimum standards can be set. It is anticipated that further implementation of the guidelines will be realized once anticipated zoning revisions have been completed. In those cases where it is anticipated that future zoning changes will be made to implement guidelines, quantitative limits are provided.

      In addition, the following language from Principle 4 of the Guidelines is particularly relevant because the parcel in question is identified as one of the Opportunity Sites.

      PRINCIPLE 4: OPPORTUNITY SITES

      Encourage the development of opportunity sites in the Core and expansion and transition areas as mixed-use residential projects supporting sustainable development patterns

      The General Plan calls for absorbing the majority of residential growth needs through 2010 with infill development. The Core Area Specific Plan encourages the development of residential uses on upper floors of cur- rently under-utilized properties in the Downtown. This policy is further encouraged in the 2000 Downtown Strategy report, as it calls for incentives for housing on second and third floors of buildings in the Downtown. In response, the Planning Department has identified over 30 under-utilized downtown sites that could be redeveloped privately or through joint public/ private partnerships.

      Approximately 20 acres of opportunity sites exist in the downtown that could accommodate uses that would support traditional Davis at large and the downtown specifically. Developed as mixed-use projects at an average density of 40 units per acre, this represents 800 additional units and 1,600 more downtown residents. These residents would give downtown a 24-hour life and social dimension that office and commercial uses cannot provide. This new downtown housing also would reduce the need for development of 163 acres of rural agricultural land at suburban densities.

      Proactive partnerships and incentives are required to achieve the policies identified by the 2000 Core Area Strategy Report. The projects assume that the City will use its land to actively pursue the implementation of housing and retail uses for downtown and it should leverage its assets by engaging in partnerships with the private sector. (This concept is described in the following principle map.)

      1. Matt Williams

        Thanks again Alan.

        For those who don’t want to click on the link, here is what Pages 74 ad 75 contain:

        Mixed-Use Character Areas:

        Core Transition East

        Key Features

        • Commercial warehouse style buildings predominate.
        • Existing lots are relatively large (0.5 acres).
        • Properties are served by an alley shared with the residential uses to the east.

        .
        Design Objectives

        • This area should improve the visual and land use transition from the Commercial Core to the Old East residential neighborhood.
        • New mixed-use buildings should be built to the sidewalk edge with landscape courtyards incorporated to vary the building setbacks along the street.
        • Building architecture should respect the traditional residential character of the neighborhood.
        • Parking should be incorporated off the alleys in private parking courts.

        .

        Guidelines
        A The majority of a building should align at the sidewalk edge.

        • A minimum of 50% of the building front shall have a zero foot setback.
        • Other portions of the building front may be setback to provide a plaza or yard.

        B Sloping roof forms shall predominate.

        • The primary roof of a structure should be hip or gable.
        • Larger developments may include a mix of roof forms including horizontal or flat.
        • Consider the screening of roof mounted mechanical equipment when designing

        C Locate parking away from the street frontage.

        • Parking should be located at the rear of the property.
        • Parking access shall be provided from the existing alley.

        D Residential uses are encouraged.

        • Flexible live-work units that can be used as office, studio, and/or residential space are preferred.
        • Townhouse or condominium units for ownership should be encouraged.
        • Large three and four bedroom apartment type units are inappropriate.
  15. markbraly

    David :  Trackside implements current city policies of densification within city limits and no sprawl outside. I don’t think the way forward for Trackside is two or three stories.   This is arbitrary, won’t satisfy anyone and could kill the project.  After eight years on the Planning Commission, I came to the conclusion that  the idea of a general plan is impractical and outdated.  Our general plan is the broad principles of densification in the city limits, especially the core, no urban sprawl, vital downtown, and sustainability.   Trackside is the future of Davis development, the bungalows are the past.

    1. Robert Canning

      This may be your opinion but the General Plan still stands. The use of Planned Developments and conditional use permits that violate agreed-upon planning guidelines is not good planning. Let’s move the planning process forward by bringing it into the 21st century rather than simply say the GP is “impractical and outdated.” And drawing a false dichotomy (Trackside vs. bungalows) doesn’t really advance the process much. Old East Davis is far from a bunch of single family homes – it has full blocks of student apartments and many small businesses. Mixed use developments are good for Davis and multistory buildings are definitely in the future. But, the way that the transition from the core to peripheral neighborhoods is developed is important for neighborhood residents and commercial tenants.  (And for the residents of the rest of Davis too.)

      1. Alan Miller

        The really scary thing is, Robert, that that guy was on the Planning Commission for eight years.  Despite City documents stating the value to the City of the Neighborhood and the bungalows, this guy just says they are a thing of the past.

        1. hpierce

          Most of the appointments to PC over the last 15-20 years IS truly scary… folk that are more interested in their personal “visions” than policy, ordinances, professional staff input and/or true community benefit (rather than special interest groups of various kinds).  Happy belated Halloween 2015.

    2. Don Shor

      I came to the conclusion that the idea of a general plan is impractical and outdated.

      As you know, a general plan is required by state law, it has to have certain elements, needs to be internally consistent, and has to be developed in a particular manner.

      IMO the mandate of a public hearing for changes or amendments is a crucial element.

      1. hpierce

        Don, “IMO the mandate of a public hearing for changes or amendments is a crucial element.”  Like gravity, what you said is not just a good idea/crucial element, it is the LAW.

      1. Matt Williams

        Mark and members of the Board of the Valley Climate Action Center have sought out the Trackside partnership team and met with them on the very subject of achieving NZE for the project. Some of the same technology deployments were discussed that have been successful in achieving NZE at Parkview Place at 4th and D Streets.

        The certification bureaucracy associated with getting the LEED label is very expensive (see for a graphic of all the component fees and charges in the formal LEED certification process). Putting an additional $100,000 into actual energy efficiency measures and/or solar energy generation or geo-thermal heating and cooling may well be a better use of money than getting a piece of paper (or bronze plaque) to hang on the wall. The goal is reduced carbon footprint.

      2. hpierce

        Are we getting to the point where a project needs to be NZE, platinum LEED, fit with all State/Fed/local codes, and satisfy 67% of all abutting owners/residents within a 1500 foot (or meter?) radius? Oh and provide a positive revenue stream to Davis? You want fries with that?

        [general rant, not aimed at any one person, but many…]

  16. Tia Will

    Trackside is the future of Davis development, the bungalows are the past.”

    Is it your position that the past must be destroyed in order to accommodate some hypothetical future ? Cannot there be coexistence between the past and envisioned future ?

    1. Mark West

      “Cannot there be coexistence between the past and envisioned future ?”

      Isn’t that exactly what the Trackside developers have proposed? Coexistence.  I don’t recall a single bungalow or other residence being altered or harmed by the proposed project.

  17. Tia Will

     it has nothing to do with the project or process and is not relevant to the discussion.”

    I disagree. As an investor myself ( although not in any projects in our community) it matters a great deal to me whether or not the communications regarding  the activity of the public relations representatives are an accurate reflection of how they present both their own activities to the investors and the project and activities of the group to those who will be affected.

    1. hpierce

      Interesting comment, given mis-information being given out by one of the OEDNA folk trying to get signatures on their petition @ Farmers’ Market yesterday.  When confronted on the mis-info, the individual tried to spin her way out of it.  Fortunately there was another who was truthful and rational, and ‘took over’.

      The mis-information was saying that the petition was to have the CC reconsider its action on the project.  The CC has not acted on the project.  It was pointed out that the PC hasn’t reviewed it, much less the CC, and it was not fully reviewed by City staff at this point.  She then said a Commission acted on it (presumably HRMC).  I told her THAT was also untrue.  She asked if I was one of the investors.  I honestly told her NO. She “disengaged”.

      Both the applicant and the neighborhood would be best served by “truth-telling”, and that’s the truth.  Fortunately there was another there who engaged in a truthful discussion.

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

        I agree with you that all of the information conveyed should be truthful. I would like to point out however, the difference between being mistaken and being dishonest. When one has a large volunteer activity going on such as tabling, it is to be expected that some participants will be more knowledgeable than others and it is easy to mis-speak without intending to deceive.

        We have talked about the importance of being accurate and not making unsupported statements in response to questions. Hopefully this will be taken to heart by all participants.

  18. Tia Will

     I don’t recall a single bungalow or other residence being altered or harmed by the proposed project.”

    An interesting comment from someone whose opinion is that there are probably not more than 10 homes in Old East Davis worth preserving.

    And my comment refers to lifestyle, not merely the existence of the physical buildings.

    1. Frankly

      “Lifestyle?”  You mean low density residential living?  Single-family homes with good-sized yards and wide separation between neighbors?  No views blocked?  No sunlight blocked?   So where were you when others were opining for this in peripheral development?  I seem to recall that you have been very critical of the Cannery for building single-family homes with yards instead of high density rental housing.

       

    2. Mark West

      Tia, you were the one asking for coexistence while at the same time demanding that the project change to fit your selfish needs. Doesn’t sound like coexistence to me…

      And my comment refers to lifestyle, not merely the existence of the physical buildings.

      I cannot see how your lifestyle will be changed one iota with this new project.  It does not directly impact your property and you cannot claim that it will block out your access to the sun.  The only thing I can think of is that you are worried that your new neighbors won’t share your fear of the future or your determination to keep your neighborhood encased in amber.

      “An interesting comment from someone whose opinion is that there are probably not more than 10 homes in Old East Davis worth preserving.”

      I just walked the neighborhood again recently and I think 10 is an overestimate.  That doesn’t mean I think everything else should be bulldozed, it just means that there are few structures that are so unique that they should be preserved as part of our historical record. Included in the list of houses not worth preserving is the one that my Dad and Uncle built while students at UCD (built, not paid to have built). I consider it a novelty but not historic, and I wouldn’t mind a bit if the next owner knocked it down to create something more fitting the future.

       

       

  19. Tia Will

    Frankly

    “I seem to recall that you have been very critical of the Cannery for building single-family homes with yards instead of high density rental housing.”

    We have been down this road before. I have favored some development projects and not others. There were very specific reasons that I did not and do not favor The Cannery. As I have said previously, I neither favor all development as you seem to, nor oppose all development as you like to repeatedly state. I have very specific reasons for not favoring Trackside which I have already stated. Again unlike you , I do not see develoment as either you are for us or again us but rather on a case by case basis.

    1. Frankly

      Well that is a convenient position.  You favor low-density, single-family homes with big yards in your neighborhood, but demand that everyone else rent in high-density condos and apartments.

      Maybe you can explain this different… that we should build only high-density residential on the periphery and keep the downtown core and near core residential areas mostly low density bungalows… especially when you demand that we pursue greater city density, no significant peripheral retail (you were against Target, right?) and a car-less society.

      Frankly, (because I am), I think you are backed into a corner here and are shoveling BS as fast as you can to prevent from having to admit your clear pursuit of self-interest.  I don’t have a problem with the pursuit of self-interest.  In fact, I much more respect the rantings of Alan Miller on this because at least he admits that he wants it the way he wants it and he isn’t attempting to maintain a false facade of soft social caring and political and environmental correctness.  Trackside meets all the criteria that you have demanded of other developments.  My guess is that you would celebrate this project as proposed in another part of town far away from where it would impact your lifestyle.

      Too bad that you had not been more an advocate of peripheral development.  The chickens have certainly come back to roost on your previous platform.

  20. Tia Will

    hpierce

    Fact” in evidence in public or social ‘record’?  Meant as an honest question.”

    Attempted honest answer to honest question. I don’t know because I do not have a current list of investors to compare with the original list and I do not know where to obtain one. I have only rumors to go on which are doubtless no more substantial than anyone else’s.

  21. Anon

    Robert Canning: “This may be your opinion but the General Plan still stands. The use of Planned Developments and conditional use permits that violate agreed-upon planning guidelines is not good planning. Let’s move the planning process forward by bringing it into the 21st century rather than simply say the GP is “impractical and outdated.” And drawing a false dichotomy (Trackside vs. bungalows) doesn’t really advance the process much. Old East Davis is far from a bunch of single family homes – it has full blocks of student apartments and many small businesses. Mixed use developments are good for Davis and multistory buildings are definitely in the future. But, the way that the transition from the core to peripheral neighborhoods is developed is important for neighborhood residents and commercial tenants.  (And for the residents of the rest of Davis too.)

    Spot on, Robert! This gets to the essence of the issue.  We have an outdated General Plan.  Instead, development is by ZONING VARIANCE, where the process seems arbitrary and unfair.  It also results, IMO, in poor hodgepodge planning at times.  The Downtown has become an Arts & Entertainment District, but is that all it wants to be?  How about commercial retail? Residential units incorporated into retail (mixed use)? How high and how dense is appropriate for any one project, and does it depend on where it is located or other factors – what are the criteria?  And do we really want to locate everything in the Downtown core area?  At what point is the city going to start grappling with these basic questions in a holistic process, rather than piecemeal through zoning variances?

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