The proponents of development have always argued that change is inevitable, it is certain. In the 19 years that I have lived in Davis, I have seen vast changes. For those who have lived here since the 1960s or 1970s, those changes have been at times overwhelming.
The reality is that there is a common nexus for the major issues that we have been dealing with a lot since school started again – innovation parks, development, Trackside and the Davis Downtown – and that is change.
Mayor Dan Wolk would tell the Sacramento Bee, “(Downtown) has changed in many ways for the good, but in some ways for the not-so-good in the horrific death that occurred… I think things were kind of bubbling, but the murder was the final straw. And it’s a matter of time before it happens again if we don’t do anything.”
Dan Wolk summed up his thoughts: “We shouldn’t be approving another nightclub without having this community conversation… I have to be honest: I don’t think we should have more of these nightclubs downtown. If we’re going to have nightclubs, it can’t be the status quo. You’ve got to have more security. You’ve got to have more limits.”
Many residents are unsettled with the changes that they have seen occur in the last ten years in the downtown. Some people believe the answer is to shut down the late night bar scene. Others believe we should take a more incremental approach to ensure that people can have fun while being safe.
Change can be scary but the idea that we might be able to make things like they used to be in the good old days is probably unrealistic. Change is inevitable. While Davis remains a safer community than most, we have seen in recent years that we are not immune to horrific incidents.
The reality is that there is a segment that believes that Davis ought to remain as it was when they arrived. The late night party scene bleeds into that issue as these tragedies threaten the sensitivities and protective bubble of Davis, but a far greater threat is land use issues, which is where Davisites burn with passion.
The looming battle may be over the Measure R votes on Nishi and Mace Ranch Innovation Center, but, as we have seen, we do not need Measure R for development issues to be contentious.
We have the Trackside development, which in a lot of ways epitomizes this struggle. On one side we have land use policies like Measure R that make it difficult to plan and approve peripheral housing, and as a result, the land use battles have been pushed away from the periphery (with its long history of issues like Mace Ranch, Wildhorse Ranch, Covell Village, etc.) and into the neighborhoods.
We have already seen brush fires. A few years ago it was Mission Residences that angered many who felt betrayed over a lengthy B Street visioning process – that was overturned by a council vote just a few years after the guidelines were agreed to.
Then it was Paso Fino, where the neighbors and many residents questioned the city granting an infill project that would see a swap of a greenbelt coupled with the removal or transfer of Canary Island Pine Trees. But Paso Fino figures to be small time compared to the pitched battle that is likely to be fought over the larger Trackside development.
Not only is Trackside larger, with greater impacts on a larger neighborhood, but, unlike Paso Fino which always seemed unique and local even as broader issues like greenbelts emerged, Trackside figures to be a battle for the future. As many have pointed out, the city has an older General Plan, changing priorities, and no real guidance as to how to proceed on the larger issue of infill – how dense, how high, and where can it occur.
This figures to be a battle between the old General Plan and the newer thoughts about infill and development. It figures to be a battle between the old-style bungalows of the core area and central Davis and a revision of a new mixed-use urbanism.
What the council ultimately decides on Trackside likely has widespread and potentially unanticipated implications.
Finally, we have already seen perhaps the emergence of a new means by which to stop change. A lawsuit filed by former Councilmember Michael Harrington – challenging a mitigated negative declaration by the city on traffic impacts on Richards from the proposed hotel conference center – already has widespread implications.
That such a tactic might bleed onto other projects – like Nishi, Mace Ranch and the like – is already apparent. There have been process concerns raised by some critics like Mr. Harrington and Alan Pryor, but a bigger issue might be over the broader impacts on the Richards Underpass that Mr. Harrington is afraid will become increasingly strained by new development.
In a way, the underpass is the perfect symbol of change or the lack thereof. It was two decades ago that voters rebuffed an effort to widen the underpass.
But the underpass might also represent adaptive change principles. The Vanguard has noted that a good deal of the volume of traffic that flows through the underpass is headed to the university and could be better handled by available alternative routes.
Not only that, but it is increasingly clear that, even if the underpass were widened, the problem with traffic congestion is actually not triggered by the underpass itself. The evidence of that is very obvious – the traffic congestion doesn’t abate at the underpass. Rather, the problem is the traffic light sequencing at 1st and D and 1st and E, along with 1st St. lacking the capacity to handle the throughput of traffic that is headed either for the eastern entrance to campus or up B St. and towards the northern side of campus.
In the end, the argument that change will happen is not the ultimate response to those who question whether certain types of change should happen. It does not counter the notion that the citizens should have control over the issues of how much and what type of change should occur.
By the same token, however, we should not become slaves to the past. We are not going to return to past days – change has already occurred and will occur. The questions should be focused on determining what type of community we wish to live in into the future, and what is the best way to get there.
—David M. Greenwald reporting