Guest Commentary: Nishi a Relief Valve to Many Pressures on Davis

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Project Manager Tim Ruff laughs at the Measure A video
Project Manager Tim Ruff laughs at the Measure A video

By Tim Ruff

Hello, my partners and I all have a deep commitment to the Davis community and have honored the collaborative process to bring the Nishi Gateway project to the voters on June 7th after a worthwhile 8-year community driven process. We are all fortunate to live in a university town.

The Nishi Gateway Innovation Park, on the June ballot as Yes on Measure A. provides a relief valve to many of the pressures on Davis, and it does so without new taxes.

1. Student Housing

We know the university plans on bringing in 5,000 new students and 300 new faculty to UC Davis by 2020. This is a decision that is completely out of the control of the City of Davis. We can respond to it; we can adapt to it; we can’t stop it.

Of the 650 mixed-use units at the Nishi Gateway, 440 are designed for students. They are capable of housing 1,500 students, more than 30% of the new student influx. Importantly, they will be at a price point that is at or below existing university housing, and they are very close to both the campus and downtown. Valued at about $1,800 a month these units are affordable for a wide range of people. A UC Davis study also shows that 80% of student resident travel at Nishi will be through biking. Those embracing a car-free lifestyle can expect to save an additional $6,000 a year. Nishi also removes the need for 1,500 students to commute from other cities, and it will reduce the number of family homes being converted into mini-dorms.

2. Jobs and Homes for Second Generation Davisites

Davis has a lot of parents who think our city is a great place to raise a family. They’re right of course. A big struggle comes in keeping kids in Davis as they enter adulthood. We have a 0.2% vacancy rate, meaning very few homes are available for anyone. Of the 8143 units surveyed in 2015, there were only 16 units available in the city. We also have very little R&D space for companies to grow in, making it hard for many new employers to maintain a presence in Davis once they get past the incubation stage.

Yes on Measure A contributes solutions to both of these concerns. Beyond the mini-dorm relief freeing up family homes, Nishi also hopes to attract seniors living in homes that no longer suit their lifestyle needs. Those newly available homes further ease housing pressures in Davis.

Moreover, Nishi is expected to create between 1,500 to 1,800 permanent local jobs. They range from advanced research positions to assembly line roles to administration. There’s nothing else on the horizon capable of creating as many jobs for Davis as Nishi, and many of the jobs will be available for existing residents.

3. Needed Revenue for Davis

Rarely are we given a chance to increase revenue for the city and schools without new taxes, but Yes on Measure A provides that opportunity. With a Yes vote on Measure A, Davis voters are approving firm commitments between the City and Nishi team that ensure:

  • $9 million in upfront fees to the city
  • $1.4 million annually to support city services
  • $400,000 annually to support Davis Joint Unified School District
  • $23 million for infrastructure improvements
  • $1 million for affordable housing

We all understand that taxation to one degree or another is needed to maintain the Davis way of life, but wouldn’t it be nice to put a little less pressure on our wallets while putting a lot more resources into city priorities?

4. Needed Traffic Improvements

The Nishi Gateway is designed to improve transportation flows and access near downtown and campus. It invests $23 million in Davis infrastructure needs, including:

  • A new undercrossing and bypass road to UCD, which will allow Unitrans buses and other vehicles to travel directly to South Davis from UCD.
  • A bridge over Putah Creek, which incorporates new pedestrian and bicycle “greenways” separated from Olive Drive, allowing bicyclists and pedestrians to safely cross Olive Drive without disrupting traffic flows.
  • West Olive Drive enhancements, which will improve traffic flow to and from campus and Nishi.
  • Richards/I-80 Interchange enhancements, including upgrades to the on/off ramps, needed traffic signals, and new bike and pedestrian pathways.

Nishi is designed to make car-free living possible for its residents, but the agreement with the city ensures that Davis receives this important private investment in traffic and safety improvements.

5. More Customers for our Downtown

Ultimately, when we Davis voters make our decision about Measure A, we’re voting for what we think will improve our lives. If you know someone who works in our downtown, odds are they aren’t complaining about too many customers. A lot of downtown businesses rely on small profit margins, and many small business owners are reluctant to hire additional help as they try and balance expenses.

Nishi brings to Davis 650 compact housing units and 325,000 square feet of research and development space. That’s customers for downtown businesses who can patronize our stores without requiring parking spaces. Seniors and young professionals will check out Davis’s diverse shops. Every single Davis resident wins when these businesses pay their sales taxes and hire new workers- which created revenue for City services. Downtown is our central business district.

If you’re still undecided, I just urge you to keep reading and keep an open mind. Our website is at http://www.yesona.org. There you can learn more about the Nishi Gateway Innovation Park and see just how many trusted voices in our community are saying Yes on Measure A. Thanks for reading.

Tim Ruff is in the ownership group and is the project manager for the Nishi Gateway Project.

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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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39 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Nishi a Relief Valve to Many Pressures on Davis”

  1. Frankly

    Sums it all up nicely.

    Let’s admit that it isn’t a perfect project.

    Then let’s admit that no such think exists.

    Lastly, let’s admit that the Nishi project is better than 98% of all other similar developments we could compare it to.

    It is more than good enough, it is actually good… in fact I would say it is great.

    Not perfect, but great.

    Vote No if you are prone to allowing your demand for perfection be the enemy of the great.

  2. Tia Will

    Frankly

    let’s admit that the Nishi project is better than 98% of all other similar developments we could compare it to.”

    Ok, I was pretty much with you until you decided to throw out a statistic. Where exactly did you get the idea that Nishi is better than 98% of all other similar developments ?  I have not heard of any such “similar developments” proposed for Davis. If you are talking about those in other locations, can you be specific about the comparisons that you are making and why you feel that Nishi is better than each?

    1. Frankly

      Throughout the state and country.  I don’t have statistics because statistics are not recorded.

      But since I know what goes on in the rest of the state with respect to land development, I can assure you that Davis gets more goodies that almost all other communities would even think they have the right or interest to demand.

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        I can assure you that Davis gets more goodies that almost all other communities would even think they have the right or interest to demand.”

        Well, as Mr. Trump might say, if the citizens of Davis are doing so well at negotiating better deals for themselves, then perhaps these other communities have something to learn from us.

  3. Michael Harrington

    Had a great morning at the Farmers Market.   I had several long time Davis residents stop and grab   No on Nishi signs.  I asked why no on Nishi?  “Toxic air.”  “Who would want to live there?”  “I thought this was supposed to be 100% commercial R and D, and where did that housing come from?  Housing should not be there.”   “The air is really dirty from the elevated freeway and RR tracks.”

    We had a large number of seniors taking signs, and also young families.  Why?  “The air is toxic.”  A mommy with her baby said she wouldn’t let her kid live there, so why should she vote so other absentee parents will unwittingly send their babies to live there and go to school?

    Another message that resonated with the voters who stopped to talk.  The Sterling Housing project is proposing about 540 units, which can be built almost immediately without huge expenses on roads, bridges, tunnels.  Versus Nishi:  only about 120 more units, but at huge public expense, and complete gridlock in the construction zone for years to come.   So why vote for all that, when housing and business spaces can be built much faster and cheaper elsewhere, with lower rents?

    In fact, the more I get into this campaign, the more I realize how totally crazy it is to build the project that is on the June ballot.

     

    ps  The Yes on A is going negative … started with a negative rant by a CC Member at the Yes on A party, and now we are hearing that the students who are paid to walk precincts are getting really negative about the volunteers who are working on No on A, No on Nishi.    Usually going negative is a sign of desperation, and is not the “Davis Way” to win the voters.

    1. Tia Will

       Usually going negative is a sign of desperation, and is not the “Davis Way” to win the voters.”

      I completely agree. And I wish that both sides would adhere to this philosophy. I would like to point out that both sides of this issue have chosen to “go negative” on the other. I would be very happy to see both sides “check their weapons” and stick to clearly promoting their own points of view without casting aspersions on the motives or character of the other side.

       

    2. DavisforNishiGateway

      Please let us know who, if anyone, is communicating in a negative way on the Yes on A team and we will take care of it immediately. We are quite confident that our positive message of the great benefits Nishi will deliver to Davis–jobs, increased revenue for the City and Davis schools, much-needed student and senior housing, and much more–will be well received by Davis voters who understand that this project, having been shaped by eight years of collaborative planning with UC Davis and the City, will help address many of the critical issues currently confronting Davis.

    3. Alan Miller

      Big Lie:  a false statement of outrageous magnitude employed as a propaganda measure in the belief that a lesser falsehood would not be credible.

      • “Toxic air.”
      • “Who would want to live there?”
      • “I thought this was supposed to be 100% commercial R and D, and where did that housing come from? 
      • “Housing should not be there.”
      • “The air is really dirty from the elevated freeway and RR tracks.”
      • “The air is toxic.”

      Big Lie:  a false statement of outrageous magnitude employed as a propaganda measure in the belief that a lesser falsehood would not be credible.

  4. Odin

    Nice sell job.  I wonder how much some folks on these forums fare to profit from Nishi.  The same thing happened with Covell Village, and thank goodness most of us voted against it.

    1. Tia Will

      Odin

      Nice sell job.  I wonder how much some folks on these forums fare to profit from Nishi. “

      I do not exactly consider Tim Ruff, the project manager for Nishi to be “some folks on these forums”.
      Although I have no say at all concerning what articles get accepted for publication ( I believe that all do as long as they are within Vanguard guidelines for submissions) I did express a preference for both sides presenting their positions clearly with and without any mudslinging. It would appear to me that this is exactly what Mr. Ruff has chosen to do with this article. Mr. Pryor has written extensively for the opposition. I happen to believe that we, as a community will make a better decision if we have heard all points of view.

       

  5. Michael Harrington

    Frankly:  Nishi is great:  a great toxic dump.  Anyone check how loaded the soils are with pollution raining down on it from the cars, trucks, and trains that are only a few yards from the place these wealthy developers want young people from far away to come live?

    1. Alan Miller

      My first career out of UC Davis was in environmental consulting, evaluating land for toxic substances.  Living near a freeway or a railroad does not make a place a “great toxic waste dump.”  What is a dump is your and Cahill’s sensationalized toxic S—.  Your argument would be a lot stronger had you been fighting for decades for the people living in the toxic waste dump of East Olive Drive, equally wedged between the freeway and the railroad.  I’ll tell you, I see corpses being removed from East Olive Drive every night, then a fleet of black vans comes and removes all evidence of their lives there.

  6. Tia Will

    Michael

    Anyone check how loaded the soils are with pollution raining down ”

    I have not checked with a soil scientist, however, I did check with the county epidemiologist to see if there were any “hot spots” along Olive Drive and the other communities that are in close proximity to the freeway in terms of ER visits for respiratory illnesses and her answer was “no”. It is not until you get to West Sacramento that there is a measurable increase in visits for acute respiratory illnesses which are an indirect measure of freeway related inhaled toxins. This should provide at least some reassurance with regard to the presence of inhaled particulates in this area.

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      Furthermore, Nishi will pursue full mitigation efforts as outlined in the EIR including planting a dense buffer of trees between I-80 and the on-site buildings, installing state-of-the-art air filtration units, and locating all residential in the farthest location from the freeway. As Councilmember Davis noted, the slight estimate in elevated risk for developing a respiratory illness is so infinitesimal that it is not a particularly sound concern. We know that SMART growth principles tell us to put people next to transportation options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The No on A campaign is making an issue out of something which does not comport to reality. Furthermore, the expected inhabitants–students and seniors–are beyond the age when lungs are still developing, thereby reducing the already small risk substantially.

      1. hpierce

        “pursue” is not the same as “achieve”, nor even “implement”… trees need 15-20 years to develop to the point that they will have any true effectiveness… hope you at least meant “college” students.

        In my mind, the air quality/health risk issue isn’t the fatal flaw to the project (not even close)… the motor vehicle access to W Olive is.

        1. Don Shor

          trees need 15-20 years to develop to the point that they will have any true effectiveness

          Depending, of course, on what they plant. If they did a mix of hybrid poplar, giant timber bamboo, and hybrid sycamores it would be a horticultural nightmare, but they’d get the screening they need really fast.

      2. DavisforNishiGateway

        To clarify, Nishi is required to implement all air quality mitigations as part of the project with the result that the impacts will be fully mitigated.

        1. Jim Frame

          I think it’s safe to assume that DavisforNishiGateway is compensated for his/her work in promoting the project.  I also think that an explicit statement regarding that status would remove any fanciful suspicions by making the relationship transparent.

          I don’t see anything inappropriate about a project representative respectfully posting factual (or — to save hpierce some typing — plausible) information about Nishi.  But I do think that trying to disguise the relationship does more harm than good.

          P.S.  I have an idea who DavisforNishiGateway is, but at this point it’s just a hunch, so I’ll keep it to myself for now.

  7. Ron

    DavisforNishiGateway:  “We know that SMART growth principles tell us to put people next to transportation options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    True, but Nishi actually encourages driving by expanding/widening traffic lanes (at existing intersections/streets), and by providing an additional access point for motor vehicle traffic.  This encourages those who live in surrounding areas to commute to campus and to Nishi via private motor vehicles.

    1. Alan Miller

      This encourages those who live in surrounding areas to commute to campus and to Nishi via private motor vehicles.

      Not following your “logic”.

  8. Ron

    Alan:  “Not following your “logic”.

    Not following your question, if there is one.  Widened streets/access = encourages more people to drive.

  9. Alan Miller

    Not following your question, if there is one.  Widened streets/access = encourages more people to drive.

    In a very general sense, yes.  In THIS situation?  My question is how in this situation does it encourage more people to drive?  This is an impacted entrance.  Are you implying there are people driving or taking the bus to work now, who would drive if they had access through Nishi?  That defies logic.

  10. Ron

    Alan:  “Are you implying there are people driving or taking the bus to work now, who would drive if they had access through Nishi?  That defies logic.”

    There are people who work at the University (now) who commute via public transit, from other areas.  Most workers who take (or consider) public transit weigh the pros and cons of each option (e.g., expense, hassle, environmental concerns, etc.).  If it’s easy and cheap to drive (and park), most will choose that option.

    The developer states that the development will be adjacent to “transportation options”, and is therefore “smart growth”.  However, the proposed development primarily relies upon private vehicles to access the site, and to provide vehicular access for commuters to the University beyond the site.  The only “improvement” (widening streets and providing more access for motor vehicles) proves that point, and will primarily benefit those who drive.

    Anyone who states that adding residences, commercial development, and more traffic lanes/access (intended for motor vehicles) will “reduce” motor vehicle usage is defying logic.

    1. Alan Miller

      There are people who work at the University (now) who commute via public transit, from other areas.  Most workers who take (or consider) public transit weigh the pros and cons of each option (e.g., expense, hassle, environmental concerns, etc.).  If it’s easy and cheap to drive (and park), most will choose that option.

      That is true on it’s face, in a macro sense.  But here you are talking about an impacted commute, where the line into town screws up traffic in multiple directions.  This helps relieve the “Nightmare on 1st Street”.  I originally was against having Olive as an access point until I studied the plans in detail.  I’m convinced this will help traffic.  Your logic is that having a traffic nightmare is a good thing for the environment because it forces people to take alternative transit.  Well, the news is the U is growing and the region is growing, so the impacted corridor will become constipated.  The other news is that cars sitting in traffic are a net negative as they spew more air pollutants sitting and idling and moving slowly through town than if they were moved through quickly.

    2. Alan Miller

      The developer states that the development will be adjacent to “transportation options” . . . the proposed development primarily relies upon private vehicles to access the site . . .

      The developer is correct.  A Unitrans line will run through the site (a “transportation option”).  The Putah Bike Trail runs along the site (a “transportation option”).  The Amtrak station is a quarter mile away from the site (a “transportation option”).  A new tunnel will connect not only auto, but bike/ped to campus (a “transportation option”).  There are new bike paths connecting to exisiting bike paths to the north and east (a “transportation option”).  So how on any planet within a few planets of Earth does “the proposed development primarily rel[y] upon private vehicles to access the site” ???

       

       

    3. DavisforNishiGateway

      An estimated 80% of trips made to the University and downtown will by bike or by walking. Furthermore, Nishi is significantly contributing to fund the construction of an improved, safer, barrier-separated bike and walking path connecting South Davis to downtown, Nishi, and campus. I don’t think it is inconceivable to envision a scenario where far more people walk and bike (instead of getting in a car) from South Davis to downtown and campus (or Nishi) than currently do. As for the traffic improvements and solutions Nishi will fund, these seem to me to be pretty obviously needed at the Richards Interchange. Nishi’s improvements along with the new access route to campus, to me, seems more like a needed fix for the existing traffic than an inducement for new traffic. I suppose if your point is that driving at Richards will be improved from its current morass, then I don’t disagree with you. It does not, however, in my opinion, exclude the fact that it will also be more convenient to walk and bike to campus or downtown, not only from Nishi, but from South Davis as well–and as Mr. Miller points out, UniTrans will also be able to expand its routes and service and cut the commute time to South Davis by bypassing the Richards tunnel.

    4. Alan Miller

      Anyone who states that adding residences, commercial development, and more traffic lanes/access (intended for motor vehicles) will “reduce” motor vehicle usage is defying logic.

      Well of course adding a development will increase traffic some; that is obvious (so the only development in your mind is never, ever, no how Sam?).  This plan, however, also relieves a huge congestion bottleneck; offers student housing that almost certainly will largely be populated by students using bicycles, walking and taking Unitrans; and helps relieve the student housing shortage and the need for some smaller-scale business park space.

      Of course there will be an increase in vehicle traffic as there will be more people and more businesses.  That’s like a giant “DUH!”  However, I can’t imagine an opportunity in Davis that has more mitigating circumstances than this project.

      1. hpierce

        Alan M… what I’d propose, is no MV connection to W Olive, AND a bike/ped  crossing over Richards to get folk over to the Amtrak connections… proposed before (mayb 15-20 years ago), but seems to be lost in the current plan/amenities… short-sighted…

        The other connections shown pale in comparison to that relatively simple solution…..

  11. Ron

    Alan:  “Your logic is that having a traffic nightmare is a good thing for the environment because it forces people to take alternative transit.”

    No – I’m saying that we shouldn’t constantly try to “accommodate” the traffic nightmare, by building more lanes and access.  Attempting to do so rarely makes things better (and it certainly does not reduce traffic, overall).  Providing better public transportation options (instead of more traffic lanes) does help.

    Nishi will increase overall traffic, and perhaps shift some of the “nightmare” onto Olive.  Of course, Nishi will add even more commuters and residents, who will still have to negotiate the same intersection at Olive/Richards that’s already a “nightmare”.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there are backups on Olive, impacting that same intersection (including those waiting to get through the existing tunnel to/from the city).

    Some of the other “options” that you mention (the Putah Bike Trail, Amtrak station) already exist, without the development.  The development will do nothing to improve those.  I believe that you are referring to new bike paths (to/from the site itself), which provide no function for anyone outside of the site.  Regarding Unitrans, I’m not sure if this is an existing line, or a new line.  But, either way, it won’t do anything for current commuters (within the city, or from beyond the city, which isn’t served by Unitrans).

    It seems strange to me that your photo (and previous comments) indicate an interest in bicycling.  And yet, you’re supporting a development that is primarily focused on accommodating more vehicular traffic.  You must have a very different way of thinking, than I do.

    It’s almost laughable to me, when others attempt to “sell” a residential/commercial development (with increased capacity to accommodate motor vehicle traffic) as something beneficial for the environment.

    Regarding your last question, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

     

     

    1. Alan Miller

      who will still have to negotiate the same intersection at Olive/Richards that’s already a “nightmare”.

      The whole idea is it won’t be the same intersection.

      Some of the other “options” that you mention (the Putah Bike Trail, Amtrak station) already exist

      As we used to say in pre-school, no S— Sherlock.  I mentioned them, as did the developer, because they are nearby and accessible to Nishi residents, not because they don’t exist.

      I believe that you are referring to new bike paths (to/from the site itself), which provide no function for anyone outside of the site.

      What a load of crap.  Anyone can use these new paths, and can access the new Nishi urban forest on the south end of the site, or the park sited where the current Oak trees by the old house will be saved and kept, both spaces I am looking forward to, and areas I thought would be lost with Nishi development, but wont’ be.

      Also a load of crap because you said Nishi was only accomadating to cars to access the site, then you say the bike trails, which will be built, can only be used by residents.  You keep moving the target because your target is made of tissue.

      Regarding Unitrans, I’m not sure if this is an existing line, or a new line.  But, either way, it won’t do anything for current commuters (within the city, or from beyond the city, which isn’t served by Unitrans).

      Wrong and wrong again.  The Unitrans line will serve south Davis, and the new tunnel will allow increased capacity by allowing the use of the double decker buses, which the historic tunnel can’t.  As well, why do dismiss the new residents as non-entities like they were space aliens?  They will be Davis residents too.  Just like you and I.

      It seems strange to me that your photo (and previous comments) indicate an interest in bicycling.

      I have no idea what photo you are referring to; I do ride a bicycle, and ride the train, and walk, and drive a car.

      And yet, you’re supporting a development that is primarily focused on accommodating more vehicular traffic.

      Those are just words, re: “primarily focused”.  Campaign rhetoric for the No on A.  I can’t imagine a more friendly development for bicycles, open space, walking, connections to downtown and campus that don’t involve a car.

      You must have a very different way of thinking, than I do.

      As different as Night and Day, Nixon and Carter, Tia and Frankly.

       

      It’s almost laughable to me, when others attempt to “sell” a residential/commercial development (with increased capacity to accommodate motor vehicle traffic) as something beneficial for the environment.

      I’m not selling anything, just supporting a project I believe is a net positive for Davis.  I find it laughable that you don’t understand the benefits of rerouting the U traffic out of tunnel/1st, and I find it laughable that you consider the current situation acceptable, and I find it laughable that you think the current situation will be even remotely functional as the U continues to grow.

      Regarding your last question, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      Regarding a “last question”, I have no idea what question you are referring to.

       

      1. Ron

        Alan:  “The whole idea is it won’t be the same intersection.”

        By adding lots more traffic, it will indeed be a “different” intersection.

        Alan:  “What a load of crap.  Anyone can use these new paths, and can access the new Nishi urban forest on the south end of the site . . .”

        Gee, what lovely language that you’re engaging in.  (Although you write in a clever fashion, you often display a level of hostility and misinformation, to go along with it.)  Having bicycle access to the development itself is not a major “selling point” for existing residents.  However, I didn’t say that these trails couldn’t be used by existing residents.  Just that they’re not that desirable (and go nowhere), for existing residents.

        Alan”  Wrong and wrong again.  The Unitrans line will serve south Davis, and the new tunnel will allow increased capacity by allowing the use of the double decker buses, which the historic tunnel can’t.  As well, why do dismiss the new residents as non-entities like they were space aliens?  They will be Davis residents too.  Just like you and I.”

        O.K. – (IF?) Nishi is paying for a new bus line that will serve south Davis residents, then that sounds like an improvement.  (Is that actually the case?) Not sure that a double-decker bus is needed for that.

        Regarding new residents, you make a valid point.  If you want to add new residents and businesses (along with the auto traffic it generates), then that is a good reason to support Nishi.  (On a related note, I haven’t seen a discussion lately, regarding the number of parking spaces at Nishi itself.)

        Regarding your last point (increasing traffic as a result of Nishi, and re-routing some traffic through Olive/Nishi), please refer to my earlier points, regarding the impact of adding more traffic at the existing Richards/Olive intersections (which still affects those who travel to downtown), and the likelihood of backups on both sides of Olive (affecting that same intersection).  Not convinced that this will be an overall improvement.

         

         

         

         

         

        1. Alan Miller

          Gee, what lovely language that you’re engaging in.

          I don’t find crap lovely, but to each their own.

          (Although you write in a clever fashion, you often display a level of hostility and misinformation, to go along with it.)

          I am hostile towards misinformation — that’s not the same thing.

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