City Releases Shadow Study to Gauge the Impact of 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

One of the biggest questions about the proposed Trackside project, which currently is planned at five and a half stories where the highest point of the project would be at 78 feet above the street, is how that height will impact the existing residents in the adjacent neighborhood.

Trackside Center is a proposal that would redevelop the southwest corner of the city block bounded by 3rd/4th Streets and California Northern Railroad’s short-line railroad (RR) and I Street. The quarter-acre property, according to the developers, represents “one of the largest infill opportunities in the Core Area of Davis.”

It is currently an underutilized site, with two commercial buildings, each one story, that take up about half of the lot and the other half is private parking.

The neighbors, beginning in mid-June, complained to council about the lack of outreach from the developers. Since then, the two sides have met a number of times attempting to assess impacts and look at ways to mitigate those impacts.

One way to assess that impact is a “shadow impact analysis” which basically projects where the shadows would be during a given time of day at a given time of year.

The applicants contracted with the architectural and planning firm JZMK Partners to prepare a shadow study for the proposed redevelopment project at 901-919 Third Street in Davis. “The study was conducted to determine the extent to which shadows created by the new project would affect the overall shadow conditions within the surrounding area.”

In a written analysis prepared by the applicant, they note that the city lacks “established standards or guidelines for the production of a ‘Shadow Impact Analysis’ as requested of the Applicant.” However, they write, “The Applicant and Applicant’s Architects have endeavored to utilize best practices from other communities to create a high-quality product that is helpful to both professional City Staff and members of the public.”

The applicant further notes, “This study is incomplete due to the lack of LiDAR data for the City of Davis. LiDAR data is created by remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating targets with laser and analyzing the reflected light.”

The applicant notes that, at a meeting in August, the applicants and the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association met and this study was verbally described.

At a meeting in September, the applicant noted the scope of the study. “Trackside Center, LLC, proposes to create a computer-generated, 3D, sunrise-to-sunset model of shadows created by the proposed project onto the surrounding buildings and properties utilizing the 4 extreme dates of the solar calendar: Autumnal Equinox (09/23), Winter Solstice (12/22), Vernal Equinox (03/20), Summer Solstice (06/21).”

However, an email from Rhonda Reed, President of the OEDNA (Old East Davis Neighborhood Association), noted, “Following the meeting, Alan [Miller], Mark [Grote], and I did share with the neighbors that you had asked for input to your studies for your required studies. They indicated to us that, as we shared with you, they were not interested in investing time ‘refining’ studies for a project that the neighborhood does not support.”

The applicants have proceeded to use a computer-generated 3-dimensional model of the area produced by the project architect, JZMK Partners. They examine four times of the year: June 21, December 21, March 21, and September 21.

In in their findings, they note that for all dates, “the most significant shadow effect occurs in the early morning and late afternoon, as expected, when the sun is lowest in the sky and shadows are lengthiest. Shadow coverage diminishes as the sun reaches its peak position, and begins to lengthen again in the afternoon.”

The shadows cast by existing structures and trees are shown in gray while the new shadows cast by the proposed project are shown in orange.

Trackside Shadow 1

Trackside-Shadow-2 Trackside-Shadow-3 Trackside-Shadow-4 Trackside-Shadow-5 Trackside-Shadow-6 Trackside-Shadow-7 Trackside-Shadow-8

They summarize the findings: “While the proposed project will cast some additional shadow, particularly in the late afternoon, much of this impact will be mitigated by the shadow mass of the existing context, including many mature trees not included in the simulation.

“The location of the site on a corner lot with a 30’ alley located to the east, a railroad to the west, and a rock yard to the north also results in a significant portion of the new shadow falling onto roadway and inaccessible rail property, rather than neighboring buildings. Shadows are in constant motion, and any resulting impact of shadows on specific buildings is of limited duration.

“If the project is built as proposed, only a handful of surrounding buildings will be affected by new shadow and, in most instances, for only a short period of time. It is important to recognize that the shadow conditions depicted in the computer-generated illustrations make no allowance for cloud cover or overcast skies, which occur randomly, but with the greatest frequency and duration in the late fall, and in winter. These factors can only have the effect of reducing the actual (and perceived) shadow gain.”

These findings gibe with our own observations from walking around the neighborhood as well as taking photographs of the immediate neighbors. What was clear was that the immediate impact of the development would most acutely be felt by neighbors on the southwest corner of I Street, immediately abutting Third Street.

—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.

Related posts

27 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    The location of the site on a corner lot with a 30’ alley located to the east, a railroad to the west, and a rock yard to the north also results in a significant portion of the new shadow falling onto roadway and inaccessible rail property, rather than neighboring buildings. Shadows are in constant motion, and any resulting impact of shadows on specific buildings is of limited duration.”

    I see the attempted minimization of impact on the surrounding homeowners as being very weak. Of course, shadow that falls on railroad and parking areas does not impact the homeowners. No one is objecting to shadow that falls on these areas. This is no way means that the homeowners  are not significantly impacted by that which does fall on their property. Any gardener can tell you that the success of a given garden depends on the amount of sun that falls on it, not the amount that falls on surrounding roads or parking lots.

    Likewise, all shadows are ” of limited duration” or transient depending on the position of the sun. This does not in any way mean that a property owner will not be adversely affected by the addition of yet another very large shadow even though it is, of course, not permanent.

    While it is true that a limited number of homes are impacted, I do not believe that we should be attempting to minimize the impact on those individuals.

    1. Barack Palin

      I see the attempted minimization of impact on the surrounding homeowners as being very weak.

      I fully agree.  Shadow or not, who wants to have to look at a huge out of place building in their neighborhood?

  2. Davis Progressive

    “While it is true that a limited number of homes are impacted, I do not believe that we should be attempting to minimize the impact on those individuals.”

    completely agree.

  3. Frankly

    Shadow or not, who wants to have to look at a huge out of place building in their neighborhood?

    I think this is overblown.

    Once the building is in you don’t keep looking up saying “wow that building is big!”

    To test this theory, go to S.F. downtown and walk around where the skyscrapers are.  You get used to it… with your eyes mostly level and focusing on the first ad second floors.

    The building at G and Second is four stories.  I have mentioned that to many people that insisted it was only 2-stories.

    Some of the greatest cities in Europe that have a great vibe and are bike and pedestrian friendly are filled with 6-story buildings.

    I think people are being hypersensitive on this.

    1. Alan Miller

      I note that your comments are frequently boiled down to “if someone can make a lot of money doing X, those heavily impacted by X should not complain about it, as making a huge profit is the pinnacle value of existence.”

      There is a guy who wrote a letter that made the Enterprise today who made similar comments regarding downtown nightclubs and their impact on our neighborhood.  Perhaps the two of you should become friends.  Or perhaps one of you needs to find a phone booth.

      1. Mark West

        Alan Miller: “if someone can make a lot of money doing X, those heavily impacted by X should not complain about it”

        Actually I think his comments are more along the line of “those who want to make a mountain out of a molehill should consider shutting up.”

        The number of people who will be “heavily impacted” by the proposed project can be accounted for with the fingers on one hand, with a few fingers left over. Those who want to believe that they will be ‘heavily impacted’ with no factual basis for that belief, are a much greater number. By the way, I love all the signs around the neighborhood complaining about the potential loss of sunshine from the project.  Too bad the facts don’t fit with your excellent marketing materials.

        1. Tia Will

          The number of people who will be “heavily impacted” by the proposed project can be accounted for with the fingers on one hand, with a few fingers left over”

          You missed one sub classification. There are those of us who, whether or not we will be heavily impacted ourselves, actually care about those who will be.

        2. Misanthrop

          Yet the impacts to those people are real. I would agree with you if the developers were willing to compensate those few property owners for the externality costs of Trackside. Now that we know the impact area we should be able to decide who should be compensated. The only thing left is to value those impacts.

        3. Mark West

          Tia:  “You missed one sub classification. There are those of us who, whether or not we will be heavily impacted ourselves, actually care about those who will be.”

          Nope, I didn’t miss you at all. I care about those who are actually impacted by the project, but not at all about those who project their own misguided feelings on to others. I agree with Misanthrop about compensating those who are directly impacted, but those of you who are a couple of blocks away and whining?…I put you in the same class as the guy who files nuisance lawsuits against the City because he doesn’t like change.

      2. Frankly

        I read that letter today.  It was very well done, don’t you think?

        I don’t think that letter writer made any point about making huge profits.  In fact, I do not know of a single small business downtown that makes huge profits… maybe except Davis Ace… and even that I would not characterize as “huge”.

        What are you so hostile to downtown small business?

        1. Alan Miller

          >What are you so hostile to downtown small business?

          When did you stop beating you wife?

          I was speaking of only those that morph to dance-clubs, a very small number, and a develop that expects to make so much money, he publicly stated he would retire on it — that’s a huge profit.

          I support many downtown businesses.   I am hostile only to nightclubs.  I have friends who own downtown businesses.  Why are you so hostile to them?  You may recall I stated some of them are against the nightclubs.  Why are you so hostile to them?

  4. Tia Will

    Frankly

    I think people are being hypersensitive on this.”

    That’s ok. Others might think that you are being callous about it. We all have different tolerances for various emotions.

  5. Tia Will

    I agree with Misanthrop about compensating those who are directly impacted”

    I don’t know how you think that someone who cares more about their lifestyle than they do about money can be “compensated”. Classify how you like, I don’t whine. I state my opinion and I act. Is that any different from you ?

    1. Mark West

      TW: “I don’t know how you think that someone who cares more about their lifestyle than they do about money can be “compensated”.”

      How will this project directly impact your lifestyle in any way other than through your imagination? You don’t deserve compensation for an imagined harm.

       TW: “I don’t whine.”

      Complaining about how imagined change will impact your ‘lifestyle’ is whining.

      Why don’t you allow the people who are directly impacted by this project speak for themselves instead of projecting your own unreasonable fear of change on them?

      TW: “Is that any different from you?”

      Yes. I don’t present opinion as fact, and don’t project a fear of change on others.

      1. Tia Will

        Mark

        Ok, one at a time.

        1. “How will this project directly impact your lifestyle in any way other than through your imagination? You don’t deserve compensation for an imagined harm.”

        Of course it is not directly impact my lifestyle and I have stated as much on a number of occasions. I do not need and am not asking for compensation. Frankly even said it was likely to raise my property value to which my reply was I don’t know and I don’t care. Like many of my neighbors, what I care about is the overall character of our neighborhood.

        2. “Complaining about how imagined change will impact your ‘lifestyle’ is whining.”

        I have never complained about how it will impact my lifestyle but have had a great deal to say about how it will impact the closer neighbors and the neighborhood as a whole.

        3. “I don’t present opinion as fact, and don’t project a fear of change on others.”

        I have never one presented an opinion of mine as fact. I have been very clear that when I post, it is solely my opinion unless I quote my source. If you believe that this is not true, please quote my post that leads you to this conclusion. If you cannot do this, I would appreciate it if you would not “project fear of change” onto me. Also, I would appreciate it if you would state your opinion without making it personal.  But of course, that last is just a personal preference, not a fact.

  6. Tia Will

    Misanthrop

     The only thing left is to value those impacts.”

    Perhaps I am mistaken but it seems to me that you are implying that all impacts are financial or can be resolved with money. For many people, money is simply not the most important issue. For some, where and how they choose to live is of much more importance than any monetary compensation.

     

  7. Barack Palin

    This is all of our downtown, not just the people that live close to the Trackside Project.  We all have a valid say in how we want our town to look.  It’s wrong to try and marginalize other’s opinions whether they live in the vicinity of Trackside or not.  That would be like saying only those that live close to the proposed MRIC should have a say in it.  We know that’s not how it works.

    1. Frankly

      BP,  I think you and others not directly impacted are having a problem with idea of a six story building, but maybe, just maybe, are failing to consider that once build it would become just another part of the city that you have gotten used to and would really not be so bothersome as you think now… and in fact might actually become something you are proud of having in our city.

      Again, I noted this some time ago.. that there really is not too much of a tall building factor in many places that we consider highly attractive and highly desirable places to live and be.

      I am heading to Austin again and will enjoy parts of that city that are mostly one-story bungalows.  But Austin is hugely spread-out… and other parts that are cool to hang out in have taller buildings.  Tia Will for example has been one of the most vocal about Davis not expanding out and being dense and car-less.   This is the result of her demands.  Unless of course she is just NIMBY, change-averse and no-growth… which she claims she is not.

      At least you support the innovation parks!

      We have locked much of the land around us to prevent building.  We refuse to expand out.  So we have no choice but to expand up.  The land is too valuable to accept low FARs just so a couple of people don’t have 5% of their viewscapes blocked.   Who gets a viewscape in an urban area anyway?  I have a big only tall two-story house 10 ft away.  I cannot see the sky.  It shades that part of my yard.  This one is set back 30-50 ft.  The residents are next to the core area.  This is what happens when you demand that a growing city stay geographically small and dense.  But I really don’t think will be as bad as some folks are complaining about.

  8. Tia Will

    Frankly

    once build it would become just another part of the city that you have gotten used to and would really not be so bothersome as you think now… and in fact might actually become something you are proud of having in our city.”

    You have used this argument with me repetitively and each time it has been in error. You once told me that you were sure that I would like Davis even better if it were significantly larger. This is nothing but you projecting your preferences on to others. I will give you an example. I was opposed to the Target. I thought it was a needless repetition given that there were already 9 other Targets within very close proximity. I haven’t just “gotten used to it and to me it is equally as bothersome, ugly, and the opposite of everything that I value in Davis as it was the day it was completed.

    While I think that it is just fine for you to state that you would be proud to have a six story building at this location, I think that it is completely pointless to pretend that others will feel the same way.

  9. Tia Will

    Frankly

    This is the result of her demands.” 

    Since the “her” in question is me, I will respond to this directly and also to failsafe.

    I make absolutely no demands. I have preferences which I take the opportunity to state both here, in public comment, in letters to the CC and city staff, to relevant commissions and forums, and occasionally in communications to the editor of the Enterprise just as everyone else has the ability to do. I also vote. Beyond that, I have no ability to demand nor make any attempt to “demand” anything.

    “It is currently an underutilized site” – where is this “fact” established?”

    This is not fact just as my preferences are not demands. It is a matter of personal preference. For someone who would like to see an open space use of this property, it is over utilized. It may be optimally utilized for a current business person operating in that location or their customers. And, for those who want to build up for whatever reason, it is underutilized. There is nothing at all “factual” about any of this. It is completely a matter of individual values , priorities, and preferences.

    Some may see this as merely semantic or nit picking. I believe that words matter.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for