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.