By Dan Carson
This weekend, we celebrate Earth Day and the many environmental trailblazers who are giving our species a chance at survival on the only planet we call home. While so many leaders in government and business act in ways that are unsustainable and destructive, here in Davis, we take our commitment to the planet seriously.
As we think about what it means to be a pro-environment Davis citizen, we need to recognize our reality:
California’s population is growing by millions of people, whether we like it or not.
Energy is the #1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in America. All of us will continue to depend on the energy grid, although can influence usage and sources.
Transportation is the #2 source of greenhouse gas emissions in America. Alternatives to car travel are essential.
We need to continue to develop creative solutions to address climate change, pollution, and other environmental concerns.
Each of these givens is suggestive of solutions. Specifically, Davis can demonstrate its environmental leadership by making energy efficient housing with clean energy production available in neighborhoods that are walkable, bikeable, and transit accessible. Davis can also become a more welcoming place for businesses that want to develop solutions to the problems that plague our planet. Measure A, on the June ballot, provides Davis voters with precisely this opportunity.
Measure A was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the Davis City Council. It approves construction of the mixed-use Nishi Gateway Innovation Park, which includes more than 300,000 square feet of R&D space and 650 energy efficient housing units, including student housing and small for-sale condominiums.
All units at Nishi are climate controlled and LEED certified, and their pressure on the energy grid is further diminished by the presence of solar panels on site, supplying Nishi with 85% of its needed energy. The housing at Nishi is a short walk or bike ride to UC Davis and our city’s downtown core. And the project includes extensive bike trail improvements, bike parking, a new Unitrans stop, and a car share system to further encourage residents to ditch the Dodge. Half of the Nishi property is reserved for open space, bike paths, and a community garden, including a forest buffer along the highway. It would even be the first project in Davis history to exceed our city’s ambitious Beyond Platinum Bike Plan. Due to its unparalleled location and built-in 80% bike ridership, Nishi is one of the best opportunities on earth to make an impact on vehicle trip reduction.
With the many ways Nishi is on the forefront of sustainable design, It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Nishi Gateway was ranked the #1 most sustainable project in the state by the California Strategic Growth Council, and the City’s Environmental Impact Report described Nishi as “a model for sustainable development.”
Measure A will also help attract innovative small businesses to Davis, many of which are focused on solving environmental problems. Sierra Energy, a waste gasification and renewable energy company, is partnering with Nishi to oversee the construction of the R&D portion of the property. This is exciting for Davis environmentalists, because it means that Nishi will be actively recruiting businesses on the forefront of environmental stewardship. In our city and on campus, there are a lot of visionary people who want a green collar job, and Measure A will make many available to them.
Measure A was written with Davis’s environmental legacy in mind. It is a fitting addition to our community. I hope you picked up some trash, planted some trees, or at least enjoyed the great outdoors this weekend. We can continue our Earth Day advocacy by voting Yes on Measure A in the upcoming election.