Commentary: If Change Is Inevitable, The Fight Should Be For the Future, Not the Past

Richards Tunnel

Richards_Tunnel

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

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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44 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    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.”

    I do not know anyone who wants to become “a slave to the past”. I do not know anyone who is not a conservative and longing for the “Father Knows Best Days” or who is arguing to “take back our country”….to what never being clearly stated….who wants a “return to past days”. These are merely tired assertions by those who favor demonization over a reasoned conversation about our visions for the city.

    For example, I can envision a lot of change that I would like to see in Davis. I would like a healthier less car dependent future. Not a return to horse and buggy, but not a maintenance of the unhealthy lifestyle that has been in existence for the last 50+ years as the norm. To continue centering our society around the automobile is for me one of the biggest mistakes we have made in terms of our health and well being, and yet, this “old fashioned” mode of transportation is being clung to by those who cannot envision change in this area of transportation.

    The fight is not about whether or not change will occur. It is about the type of change we want. And until we recognize this and stop the name calling, and the accusations that the other side is “lying”  we can guarantee that the future will continue to be contentious.

     

    1. Mark West

      “until…we can guarantee that the future will continue to be contentious..”

      con·ten·tious (of a person) given to arguing or provoking argument.

       

      The discussion will only be contentious if someone insists on starting the argument. Take a look back through the past several weeks (months) of the discussion and see who generally has one of the first, and often times one of the last, comments on the topic (and several in between) and you will begin to understand who is driving the argument.

      Our discussion should be about what is best for the City, but we won’t get there if every commentator’s focus is on ‘what I want or what is best for me.’  I/me really shouldn’t be part of the conversation at all, since the changes we are contemplating will impact the next generation far more than it will any of us.

      Change is what allows the City to evolve with the times and remain a vibrant place to live, but like all forms of evolution, we cannot predict which changes will be viewed as advantageous in retrospect. Our approach then should be to embrace a wide range of diverse changes, and not try to micromanage every step of the process.

      So Tia, if you want the conversation to be less contentious, try listening more and typing less, focus your comments on what the City needs, not on what you want, and start embracing change instead of trying to micromanage it.

      Have a nice day.

       

       

       

       

      1. Tia Will

        start embracing change instead of trying to micromanage it.”

        In other words. Embrace the change that I want and forget about your own values. I don’t see that as likely from either of us.

      2. tribeUSA

        I’m in Tia’s corner on this.

        There may be some who want to smoothly steamroll in a bunch of changes; I certainly support other voices, including those who are for very slow careful change–and often the details can be very important. I would hope the city managers/developers and others behind the scenes will have a tough slog and be stymied in many proposals (who mandates there must be smooth sailing?)–if there are worthy project proposals they are likely to eventually make it thru the protective gauntlet–ah the martyrdom of those who know better!

    2. Topcat

      …and yet, this “old fashioned” mode of transportation is being clung to by those who cannot envision change in this area of transportation.

      Yes, I’d like to see us develop the transporter from Star Trek for a more modern mode of transportation 🙂

  2. Michael Harrington

    I like change, while respecting and honoring our history.

    If the legal case forces the City to develop better ways for traffic and people to move around without jamming the Subway and nearby interactions, then we will have accomplished something nice for everyone.

    I’m still in awe that five CC members, two of them lawyers, totally refused to acknowledge that the CEQA process was subverted by the neg dec in the rush for approval of the project.

    I’m even more shocked that the applicant’s professional team subjected their client to the challenge, all for shaving a few months off the time.

    I showed up on Augest 25, with a professional traffic engineers report, and an even better one three weeks later, hand the CC and Staff and the applicant STILL went crashing 9/15 to a 5/0 vote right into  the legal challenge that was 100% certain.

    I am totally open to settling the case at any time.

    If they don’t act soon, the hotel project will be caught up in the Nishi mess.

    1. Matt Williams

      Mike Harrington said … “I am totally open to settling the case at any time.”

      Have you put a settlement offer on the table Mike?

      Given what you have said above, your problem is with the process. Does replacing the negative declaration with a focused EIR solve that process problem for you? Does such a replacement “settle” the case?

  3. ryankelly

    Mike Harrington: I didn’t ask for this.  I love my little quaint town and don’t want it to change in anyway, unless I say so.  I can make changes to my properties, but no one else can unless they settle with me.  Everyone else is negligent.  I am open to a settlement.  I am always open to a settlement.  It is unfair that this is going to trial. It is unfair that the people I sue have to pay to defend my lawsuits.  The Council approved their requests so the City should pay.   I was the 3rd vote on all the  3/2 votes when I was on the Council.  I’m in awe that the Council can vote 5/0 on anything.  There must be something wrong.  They obviously rushed into this.  I own a cute little bungalow previously owned by a member of an old Davis family.  This makes me important.

  4. Alan Miller

    Change can be scary

    Scary is the wrong word.  Change can drastically affect people in a negative way if it is done wrong.  You look at a City like Portland and you see change can be done majority right.  You look at a City like Sacramento and you see change can be done majority wrong.

    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.

    No, it isn’t.  There are already Downtown and Traditional Neighborhood Design Guidelines in place that guide how infill is to occur in central Davis.  These guidelines allow for infill in the neighborhoods and intense infill in the downtown.  The population increase downtown that these Guidelines allow for hasn’t even begun to be realized.  Lack of intense redevelopment is mostly limited by tax laws and the lack of willingness of downtown land owners.

    To be clear: The Trackside location is in a transition zone that has specific zoning laws and guidelines and is neither “all core” or “all neighborhood” — thus “transition”. Lack of significant progress downtown isn’t an open door to flush the zoning laws and Design Guidelines as they pertain to the Neighborhoods and transition zones.  This is not an “either/or” situation. 

    The Old East Davis neighborhood fully supports “new mixed-use urbanism” at the Trackside location, as specified in the Design Guidelines.  The Old East Davis neighborhood fully supports much denser yet in the actual core of downtown, especially at numerous locations now sporting 1-story plain, non-historic, commercial buildings and ground-level parking lots, again, as specified.

    There is “change”, and there is “YUCK!”.  Big difference.

     

    1. Frankly

      You look at a City like Portland and you see change can be done majority right.  You look at a City like Sacramento and you see change can be done majority wrong.

      This means nothing unless you explain it.

      I have spent time in both places, and both have a lot of six story and taller buildings in their downtown core area.

       

    2. Biddlin

      As a Sacramentan, I must say Portland sucks dog’s behinds. The lack of culture in Portland makes Sacramento look like Vienna, Austria. People drive five to ten miles per hour under the posted limit, even on improved multi-lane highways, being inconvenienced to the point of rudeness, if you flash your lights to ask them to move over so you can pass, they are likely to shout “Slow down” or “What’s your hurry?”, for traveling at the posted limit. There, bicyclists are regularly hassled by pedestrians and climbers, even on the main road (the only place riding is allowed) of Forest Park, told to “Slow it the F down,” on uphill sections. The government is almost as anti-business as Davis and the drizzle………..35″/year, in a constant slow drizzle. But maybe Alan would be happier there…

      Yes, Sacotomatoes is in a twist, due to the corruption and greed of past city managers and department heads feathering their own nest at the people’s expense, including the North Natomas land deals and  waste container schemes that have turned failing bureaucrats into millionaires, but we are also opening new university and industrial campuses and growing jobs.

      ;>)/

  5. Frankly

    This is a thoughtful piece that does a pretty good job of capturing the general conflict.  However, the important bit missing is the community tendency to ignore or deny the change that has already occurred or is already occurring.

    Denial is a very destructive force.  It is that thing that causes a community to disregard the cracks in the damn, then the leaks… until the thing breaks and floods the community.  Of course after that there is a call for action… a reactionary demand that we take the heads of the all the people that failed to do the right things… even though everyone clearly had their heads deeply buried in the sand.

    If THAT thing is disliked, or if THAT thing upsets the views of the world as we demand them to be, we will just sweep it under the rug and pretend it does not exist.

    Armchair quarterbacks abound.  We have no shortage of brilliant Einsteins in hindsight.  Postmortem critics are a dime a dozen.  What we lack is front-facing leadership.  There is no shortage of conflicting vision for the future, but we don’t have enough people with the right stuff to facilitate the decision for what is real and what is needed… and then to make it so.  We don’t have the Nike stuff to “just do it”.  We even lack the leadership to handle the change that is already upon us or clearly only one step away… let alone the setting of and navigation of a future destination.

    Our standard call to action is “THAT IS UPSETTING!”

    We are good at endlessly debating, good at gathering information, good at becoming the smartest people in the room about the subjects… and really, really good at emotional, reactionary opposition.  Mike Harrington is the king of this… using his talents as an attorney to oppose everything and anything except for that on the property he owns.  Guys like Mike are like kids in a candy store in Davis because he is supported by many others that like to react strongly, criticize and block.   We are risk-averse paper-thinkers without much experience or talent for actually leveraging the power of dynamism to make real substantial and sustainable progress.

    We don’t have enough of the right stuff in this town.   Our lack of ability to recognize, accept and leverage change threatens to result in the mess that we deserve.

    1. Anon

      I think MRIC may be a game changer… 🙂

      Call me the eternal optimist.  People who oppose any change are, I suspect, in the minority.  Yes, democracy is a messy process, but a vocal minority can be overcome with perseverance and patience of the majority.  This town got Target, the Cannery, the surface water project, the sewer plant upgrade – despite all sorts of noisy opposition… something to think about…

    2. Tia Will

      If THAT thing is disliked, or if THAT thing upsets the views of the world as we demand them to be, we will just sweep it under the rug and pretend it does not exist.”

      You mean kind of like the existing design guidelines for the transitional zone that is Old East Davis ?You mean like ignoring the fact that Trackside is in the transitional zone, not in the core ?

      You mean like ignoring the previous General Plan because it has not been updated and some do not like the previous provisions ?

       

      1. Matt Williams

        Tia Will said … “You mean kind of like the existing design guidelines for the transitional zone that is Old East Davis ?You mean like ignoring the fact that Trackside is in the transitional zone, not in the core?”

        Tia, for the purposes of better understanding, can we drill down into where the Trackside proposal fails to adequately align with the existing design guidelines for the Core Area’s East Transition Zone? To facilitate that drill down, the following are those guidelines from pages 74 ad 75 of the Guidelines document.

        Mixed-Use Character Areas: Core Transition East

        Design Objectives

        “This area should improve the visual and land use transition from the Commercial Core to the Old East residential neighborhood.”

        Your argument, and the argument of many others is that six stories is not consistent with this design objective. Are there other aspects of the proposed project that are also not consistent with this design objective?

        New mixed-use buildings should be built to the sidewalk edge with landscape courtyards incorporated to vary the building setbacks along the street.

        Are there any aspects of the proposed project that are not consistent with this design objective?

        Building architecture should respect the traditional residential character of the neighborhood.

        Here too your argument, and the argument of many others is that six stories is not consistent with this design objective. Are there other aspects of the proposed project that are also not consistent with this design objective?

        Parking should be incorporated off the alleys in private parking courts.

        Are there any aspects of the proposed project that are not consistent with this design objective?

        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.

        Are there any aspects of the proposed project that are not consistent with this guideline?

        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.

        Are there any aspects of the proposed project that are not consistent with this guideline?

        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.

        Are there any aspects of the proposed project that are not consistent with this guideline?

        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.

        Are there any aspects of the proposed project that are not consistent with this guideline?

        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.)

        Are there any aspects of the proposed project that are not consistent with this guideline?

        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)

        Your argument, and the argument of many others is that six stories is not consistent with this M-U zoning regulation portion of the Municipal Code. Do you believe the project needs to be consistent with this M-U zoning regulation portion of the Municipal Code?

        1. Tia Will

          Matt

          We could actually have a very long discussion about the fine points of the project however, I think it best that I stick with the facts rather than my interpretation.

          This area should improve the visual and land use transition from the Commercial Core to the Old East residential neighborhood.”

          The height of the building at 77 feet ll inches is much taller than any other building in the neighborhood. and substantially taller than any other building in town. I do not consider the parking structure, located in the core on the other side of the tracks to be a “surrounding building” although some posters have apparently felt that it was. Thus this building is not consistent with the guidelines as it does not represent a transition.

          Building architecture should respect the traditional residential character of the neighborhood.”

          This building does not “respect the traditional residential character of the neighborhood” since the neighborhood is largely composed of one and two story Victorians, one story bungalows and two story apartment buildings and thus is not consistent with the guidelines.

          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.”

          As proposed there are 51 parking spaces for the residents and a lack of dedicated parking for the businesses to be located on the first floor. Patrons of the first floor buildings and visitors to the inhabitants of the building are going to have no option other to park on 3rd street and the surrounding streets and thus in not consistent with the guidelines.

          1. Matt Williams

            Tia, based on your answer it is evident that I wasn’t clear in asking my questions. Specifically I said, “Your argument, and the argument of many others is that six stories is not consistent with [the “This area should improve the visual and land use transition from the Commercial Core to the Old East residential neighborhood.” design guideline.” My intent was to acknowledge that building height issue, and with that issue acknowledged, and ask you whether there are additional aspects (other than the height) of the proposed project that are also not consistent with this first design objective in the guidelines.

            Similarly my statement with respect to the “Building architecture should respect the traditional residential character of the neighborhood.” guideline I agin tried to acknowledge that the building height as proposed is an issue, and with that issue acknowledged, and ask you whether there are additional aspects (other than the height) of the proposed project that are also not consistent with this second design objective in the guidelines.

            Regarding parking the points you make are acknowledged and recognized to be very important. With that said, the design guidelines for the number of parking spaces are found elsewhere in Core Transition Area portions of the document on pages 72 and 74, and those guidelines are:

            Parking should be considered and incorporated as part of an overall parking plan for the downtown.
            • A minimum of one parking space per residential unit should be provided on-site.
            • On-site parking for commercial uses is highly encouraged.
            • Shared use of parking between residential uses and commercial uses should be encouraged.

  6. Nancy Price

    Just a reminder from the past and the issue of change and vision. In 1986, the City Council voted  4-1 to make Central Park a 3-tiered shopping mall with underground parking. That was their vision based on their assessment of city needs. Others of us had a different vision based on our assessment of city needs. Both visions were based on different values to some extent and that’s where the evaluation of change comes is….what is that evaluation of change based on? When the charge of being “afraid of change” thrown out, why is the change being proposed being opposed…for what reasons and what are those reasons based on.  Let’s just say that when 5 of us met in Central Park on a sunny September afternoon to organize to oppose the City Council’s vote, our vision is what Central Park is today …with the Farmers Market , the play fountain, the gardens, the carousel, and the Wed. family picnics. What a huge success! What a huge draw for the city, the vendors, the restaurants, and all the families and children.

    All I have to say is that we 5 weren’t afraid of change – change from a dirty parking lot to a beautiful park. But we were afraid of certain kind of change based on a certain solution that didn’t represent certain values that we thought were important for the people of Davis to embrace and endorse through a legitimate democratic process.  We made our case and voila, look what was accomplished.

    If some would have preferred a 3-tiered shopping mall of all chain stores, then why did almost all of the downtown businesses endorse SOS, our Save Open Space ballot measure?

    I bet  that if most of the newcomers to Davis since 1986-87, young families, retirees, and students, knew the history of Central Park, they would understand the link of change to values. Often when I am at the market, I mention the history of Central Park and everyone is uniformly amazed and grateful.

    1. ryankelly

      Nancy, There was already a beautiful Central Park where community activities were already taking place.  The budding farmers market was already operating on 4th street. The site was the location of Central Davis Elementary School turned into a gravel and dirt lot that people parked their cars on. It was begging to have something done with it.  There were many proposals over many years to do something with the publicly owned property.  Expanding Central Park, once the idea was proposed by a UC Davis professor in Landscape Architecture, was an idea that was easily embraced by the community.

      I don’t know what that has to do with anything currently happening.  All there seems to be is opposition without a suggestion of an alternate embraceable idea.

       

      1. Matt Williams

        ryan, as part of the discussion of the possible Utility Users Tax at last night’s Finance and Budget Commission (FBC) meeting, Robb Davis shared with the FBC an observation based on his interaction with citizens over a broad range of issues that those citizens believe are important to them. His observation was that there is a broadly held, and in many cases deep-seated, distrust of government. In lots of cases the distrust has its roots in feelings about Washington, DC governmental actions, but in many cases the distrust is much more local in its origins. The sense I get when I read Nancy’s cautionary tale regarding Central Park, is that she is illuminating a chapter of Davis history where the Council’s 4-1 vote was clearly misaligned with the broader community values, and that the handling of that shopping mall proposal by the Council/City caused many citizens to say, “we better pay closer attention to what our government is doing.”

        With that said, in order for there to be “a suggestion of an alternative embraceable idea” there needs to be a better sense of what is embraceable. The big challenge we face as a community is to come to a much better understanding of what Davis is going to look like in 25 to 35 years (in 2040 and/or 2050). In effect, we need to decide what kind of community the next generation of Davis residents will have. Absent that kind of Vision for Davis … absent that kind of long view … we will have little choice other than to think about Davis in very short-term and personal terms. We won’t be planning the future. We will be arguing about the details of the present … or in some cases (because of the events that have contributed to the distrust) the past.

    2. Mark West

      “Both visions were based on different values to some extent and that’s where the evaluation of change comes is….what is that evaluation of change based on?”

      I think this is an important question but I would turn it around a bit and ask, do we want to make the evaluation/decisions based on our emotional responses or perhaps some political calculation, or do we want to focus on real world data  (aka Matt’s evidence based decision making).

      Let’s use housing as an example.  If we look at the occupancy rate, the percentage of housing stock being rented, the changing age demographics in the population, or even the rate of ownership turnover as just a few examples, the rational conclusion is that the City needs more housing. The response to that statement however is often not a refutation of the data, but an emotional expression of what someone wants:

      The University needs to build dorms first,

      I wouldn’t want that in my neighborhood,

      Nobody has the guaranteed right to live in Davis,

      We have to build more apartments before we build any houses,

      I’ll only agree to it if my friend is the developer.

      If we can turn off the emotion/politics and focus on the data the need becomes apparent. The pertinent question then is no longer, do we need more housing, but how do we fulfill that need. We are no longer asking, do you want Davis to change (emotion), but how are we going to manage that change (action).

      If, for the sake of argument, we decided that we needed to add 10,000 more beds to the City’s housing stock. Is it better to add this in one large project (Mace Ranch II), or in multiple smaller projects of various size spread around town?  If we are looking to make a dramatic change to the City’s character we might choose the former, but if our interest is to spread around the risk and share the burden, we might prefer a combination of several Paso Fino’s, Trackside’s and Nishi’s.

      Focusing on the obvious need with an approach to spread the risk might give us the strength to then stop attempting to micromanage every step of the process.  We can allow the planning process to proceed, giving our professional staff the leeway to negotiate changes to projects out of the public eye, knowing that every project will require an affirmative action by our representatives, and no one section of the community will carry all of the burden.  We won’t all get what we want, but we might start addressing what the City needs.

      Perhaps then we will collectively turn down the volume (thumpa-thumpa) and begin to make progress towards a more productive and collaborative future.

      1. Barack Palin

        We won’t all get what we want, but we might start addressing what the City needs.

        Going by that logic then we should turn down the Trackside project in favor of a higher revenue producing 10 story building.

        1. Mark West

          If you take one line out of the entirety perhaps you might come to that conclusion, but if you take the entire context the obvious conclusion is that we need several ‘Trackside’ type projects around town.  I am not arguing that Trackside (or any other project) needs to be approved as is, but rather that we should allow the planning staff and our commissions to work with the parties to approve projects that move us forward towards the goal of fulfilling the City’s needs and not remain stagnated due to the wants of the few.

        2. Frankly

          This isn’t a new debate.  There in Washington DC…

          In 1910, the 61st United States Congress enacted a new law which raised the overall building height limit to 130 feet (40 m), but restricted building heights to the width of the adjacent street or avenue plus 20 feet (6.1 m); thus, a building facing a 90-foot (27 m)-wide street could be only 110 feet (34 m) tall.

          In engineering and design we understand this balance of “form and function”.  For example, when the trend for hand-held devices has been a smaller and smaller form-factor, it gets to a point where it is too small to be of functional use for a segment of the market with failing eyesight.

          The assessment of “form” is generally subjective and qualitative.  It is also migratory as general design tastes can change over time.

          The assessment of function is generally objective and quantitative.

          For example, we can determine the function of building height by calculating the overall cost-benefit.  But the taller the building, the greater the cost of engineering and building infrastructure.  Generally, a taller building would require a larger base so their are land cost-considerations.  Also there are parking and entrance and exit challenges.  Lastly, there is a market for the space that would be created.

          The bottom line is that we can use math to arrive at what is the optimum building height from a cost-benefit perspective.

          Then we get to form.

          And here is where reasonable people can differ.

          The problem I have is when people are demanding their preference of form at the extreme expense of function.

          I do not think that a 4, 5 or even 6-story mixed-use commercial-residential condo building in the core area is out of the realm of acceptable form for the City of Davis in consideration of our functional requirements.   10-stories?  Maybe… but my guess is that it would not be functionally feasible on that .53 acre lot.

          Now, if we chose to satisfy those functional requirements in other ways the functional requirements change, and thus we should be more acceptable to lower-density form design.

          This is the point where I get the most irritated… it is at those ignoring the functional requirements for the city, and demanding a seat at the form-design table.

        3. Barack Palin

          but rather that we should allow the planning staff and our commissions to work with the parties to approve projects that move us forward towards the goal of fulfilling the City’s needs and not remain stagnated due to the wants of the few.

          Who said it’s only the wants of a few?

        4. Mark West

          “Who said it’s only the wants of a few?”

          Well…since I wrote the words the answer is me.  Neither one of us has any hard data one way or the other, so I guess we will just have to wait and see.  What we can say however is the vocal opposition is a small fraction of the total population…which I believe then is correctly described as a few.  That doesn’t say anything at all about the desires of the silent majority however.

        5. Barack Palin

          We don’t really know.  It doesn’t effect me directly like the residents in East Davis but I’m against it.  There are a few coming out against it and and from what I’ve seen even fewer coming out for it.

    1. Tia Will

      And of course, the Target, was a wonderfully innovative and forward thinking business totally representative of our community specifically, and favored by a whopping 51% of the voters. I opposed the Target and the Cannery, but was a vocal advocate for the surface water project. I don’t remember being told that I should stop communicating about that one…..hmmm.

      I think that my record speaks for itself in supporting changes that I favor as well as opposing those I do not think are in the best interest of our community. I suspect virtually everyone who posts here has been for some changes and against others. Isn’t that what critical thinking is supposed to be about ?

  7. Tia Will

    Frankly

    The bottom line is that we can use math to arrive at what is the optimum building height from a cost-benefit perspective.”

    And here is the core of the issue for me. I do not believe that the cost-benefit ratio of the developers and the investors should be put above the values and interests of those already inhabiting the neighborhood regardless of whether or not they are making an argument that their interests are the same as those of the entire community. Since their proposal is not a plan to house low income students, or other low income folks or fixed income seniors, being a “luxury” development by their own statement, I find it hard to believe that they are really being any more “altruistic” than I am.

    Again, it this were a plan for low income housing of which we are very much in need, or a space dedicated for Habitat for Humanity or the like, I might have a very different view.

  8. Michael Harrington

    Matt wrote:  “Mike Harrington said … “I am totally open to settling the case at any time.  Have you put a settlement offer on the table Mike?”

     

    Yes, I have.  My standing offer  is to enter into confidential mediation, the civilized way of handling these disputes.  Neither the City nor the applicant have agreed to do that.  Their choice.

     

    I’m open to change, and to discussion about solutions to the traffic issues.

    1. Matt Williams

      Mike, what you have provided here is a description of a settlement process. That process description is very different from an actual settlement offer.

      With that said, as a citizen, what solutions to the traffic issues do you propose? As Brett Lee said from the dais, the traffic issues along the Richards corridor predate the project application, and exist regardless of whether the project proceeds or does not proceed. Davis could (one could argue should) proceed with identification and implementation of solutions to the traffic issues. Receiving your suggestions of what those solutions could/should be would allow Davis to be a better/safer community sooner rather than later.

  9. Michael Harrington

    Matt: I don’t litigate cases in the press. I do publically ask for a common, respected form of civilized communications: confidential mediation.  My office door is always open.

    What a shame that the City is planning on using precious judicial resources when a settlement process is open and available to them ?

    1. Matt Williams

      Mike, since the issue is not one between private parties, but rather about a public process managed and implemented by a public entity in the public domain, why isn’t a transparent public resolution process appropriate? Since you are acting on behalf of the citizens of the City of Davis, don’t they have a right to know/understand the issues that you are putting on the table in their name?

  10. Tia Will

    Matt

    Since you are acting on behalf of the citizens of the City of Davis, don’t they have a right to know/understand the issues that you are putting on the table in their name?”

    I think that you make a valid point. I also think that this point can be applied to developers and investors who claim that they are acting for the good of the city. If one is acting to benefit the city with the good of others in mind, then surely they should be willing to be fully forth coming in their actions, what they stand to gain,  what benefits there may be for others, what adverse effects there may be on others….so that all the pros and cons can be weighed openly.

    Now if anyone, a developer, a lawyer, a property owner…whomever, is only making the claim that they are acting in their own best interest, then that is fully within their right within our “money trumps all other values” society as succinctly put by Frankly who said “The bottom line is that we can use math to arrive at what is the optimum building height from a cost-benefit perspective.”, then a claim to privacy is entirely reasonable.

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