Let’s Have Smart Growth with Neighborhood Preservation

Original Rendering of the proposed Trackside Project
Original rendering of the proposed Trackside Project

By Mark Grote, Robert Canning, Cathy Forkas, Larry Guenther, Kyriacos Kyriacou, Alan Miller, Rhonda Reed and Steve Kaltenbach

The Old East Davis neighbors would welcome a Trackside Center project that increases housing density near downtown: a walkable, bikeable commercial and living space that supports a sustainable community; a truly green building that makes a properly-scaled transition from the Old East neighborhood to the downtown core. To achieve these goals, the Old East neighbors seek a collaborative process with the Trackside Partners and City of Davis planners.

The City of Davis will continue to grow in the coming years, and its mix of commercial space, traditional homes and higher-density housing will change. Development that diversifies and enhances the city’s revenue stream, including mixed-use infill, will be needed for the city to grow sustainably. The Old East neighbors understand that we will continue to share in this growth and change. We believe that the Downtown Davis and Traditional Neighborhood Design Guidelines provide a reasonable and flexible framework for building mixed-use projects in the neighborhoods bordering downtown.

It might be said that a compromise should be found between the various needs and goals of the Trackside Partners, the Old East neighbors and city planners. In fact, the Design Guidelines are the compromise, and they are city law (Davis Municipal Code, Article 40.13A). The Design Guidelines lay out the middle ground between developer-driven infill on one hand, and the strict protections of a historical district on the other. They guide redevelopment and, at the same time, provide a legal and respectful framework for neighborhood preservation. Since the Design Guidelines were adopted in 2001, at least five infill projects have been completed in Old East Davis, all of them consistent with the Guidelines and designed with meaningful neighborhood input.

The Old East neighbors call on City of Davis Planning Staff and decision-makers to uphold the Design Guidelines and other applicable zoning rules when considering infill projects for Davis’ traditional neighborhoods. Zoning rules help property owners plan for the future; they foster a stable and predictable economic climate by specifying what uses are allowable, helping keep peace in the community and among neighbors.

The encroachment of “planned developments”– projects that are built with exceptions to zoning rules– is a city-wide issue. Planned developments have become business-as-usual for redevelopment projects in Davis. They allow developers rather than city planners to drive development and set precedents for infill. As infill near downtown becomes a priority, the city needs to involve neighbors to create holistic, future-oriented plans for appropriate and sustainable growth. The city should impose a moratorium on planned developments until a community vetting process, setting out an equitable and orderly path for growth, is complete. Planning by exception is not good planning.

The Old East neighborhood is socially and economically diverse, with a mix of historic homes, mid-century bungalows, newer apartment buildings and cooperatives providing student and low-income housing. The neighbors accept that infill projects such as the Trackside Center will bring changes: alterations to the I Street skyline, relocation of commercial tenants, parking impacts and increased neighborhood traffic. We are ready to accommodate our share of the city’s growth. However we aim– through open dialogue, advocacy and active participation in the planning process– to preserve our neighborhood’s cohesiveness and unique setting.

The Trackside Partners have announced a public workshop for input on a new Trackside Center proposal, Thursday March 17, 6:30-8:30pm at the Davis Odd Fellows Hall. Old East neighbors will participate, and we encourage Davis residents who value neighborhood preservation to attend as well.

Mark Grote, Robert Canning, Cathy Forkas, Larry Guenther, Kyriacos Kyriacou, Alan Miller, Rhonda Reed and Steve Kaltenbach, members of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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12 thoughts on “Let’s Have Smart Growth with Neighborhood Preservation”

  1. Tia Will

    I want to thank Steve Greenfield, Kemble Pope and the new architectural team for the Trackside project for meeting last night with members of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association. The meeting which was led by Mr. Greenfield lasted about two hours and covered a wide variety of neighborhood concerns. I was especially impressed by the willingness of the development team to “start with a fresh slate” to design a project that meets both the needs of the developers, investors, neighbors, and eventually, the city as a whole.

    The team has also organized a broader city wide meeting for any concerned resident of Davis later this week. As an advocate for collaborative approaches to change that we all agree is necessary, I am very appreciative of the flexibility demonstrated by the Trackside team and would see this approach, used early in project development as a better model for how to move forward with both infill and peripheral development.

  2. The Pugilist

    It only took them a year to figure out the right thing to do.  I suppose some will say, better late than never.  I will be curious as to what they actually come up with.

  3. Barack Palin

    I think this is the new norm in Davis, developers come forward with way over the top projects knowing they have no chance but through compromise end up with what they probably pretty much wanted in the first place.  The community feels they haven’t been overly trodden on when they get the developers to scale back but in truth neighbors end giving up more than they ever would’ve otherwise.

    1. The Pugilist

      Had they forged a compromise on that project, I might have agreed.  Here, they are going back to the drawing board, for a group with shallow pockets, this is a huge blow.  I can’t see that as part of the plan.

    2. Barack Palin

      My examples are MRIC, Paso Fino, Nishi and other developments that got scaled back before approval or near approval.  IMO this will go forward with a scaled back model of the original and the developers will profit just fine.

      1. Tia Will


        the developers will profit just fine.”

        Well, let’s hope so.  The idea is not to harm the developers. It was merely to stop the developers from putting in a project that the neighbors almost universally felt was harmful to them.

    3. hpierce

      You’re not far off ‘the mark’… but it is not “new”… Covell Village made their pitch to neighborhood activists BEFORE they submitted an application to staff… that turned out to not achieve their goals…

  4. Frankly

    So apparently we have decided that we prefer to expand peripherally instead of growing the density of our core area.  That is fine with me.

    However, if we hear any of these old Old East Davis people coming out in opposition of peripheral development plans, they lose all credibility for being seen as reasonable and will have earned the labels of No-Growth, Change-Averse, NIMBYs.

    And the next time there is a plan for dense housing next to their neighborhood of small houses on big lots, we will justified in ignoring their protests and complaints.

    1. Alan Miller

      Ha.  I went to the comments and said to myself, I said:

      I bet anonymous commenter Frank Lee made a comment in which he insulted those of us in Old East Davis using the word “old”.


      Predictable.  Yawn.

    2. Tia Will


      Do you really see the world from such a polarized perspective that everything must be one way or the other for you ?  Is there no possibility that one could support well planned ( subjective of course) infill and some peripheral development ?  I know for a fact that the majority of the OEDNA neighbors favor an upgrade the Trackside and many of us are not totally averse to some peripheral development. Perhaps if you were to talk to some of us, you might gain some insight into how many of us really feel about development. But of course, a more nuanced view is not what you value. If we do not want to see  development as you favor ( which would be virtually every proposal) then it is name calling time.

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