Council Looks to Further Options on Cannery Bike Crossing

Option 1

This time there would be no backing down in the face of requests from the Cannery.  Councilmember Lucas Frerichs sent the message early on stating, “I’m not in favor of Option 1, I think we should take another crack at… sitting down with the property owners.”

The subcommittee of Lucas Frerichs and Robb Davis will meet with the folks from the Cannery to take another crack at getting a better grade-separated crossing across Covell Boulevard for the Cannery project. The council passed the motion unanimously, after expressing dissatisfaction with Option 1 and hearing concerns from the bicycling community.

In November 2013, the city council narrowly approved the Cannery project on a 3-2 vote.  A key provision of that project was having grade-separated crossings to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to avoid the heavily congested Covell Blvd. crossing to the south.

The agreement had a grade-separated crossing at the southwest corner of the project.  It also provided the funding to “implement key transportation improvements that will serve The Cannery and enhance the existing network, such as improvements to the H Street tunnel and funds to implement a second grade-separated crossing of Covell Boulevard.”

However, both grade-separated crossings never made it into the development agreement, and a crossing to the east was always deemed to be problematic at best.

Staff recommended Option 1, which “is a connection that originates from the multi-use path within the southwest corner of the Cannery and runs south along the UPRR tracks, then sweeps to the east connecting to the Covell Boulevard multi-use path.”

That differs from what was the “preferred option” that “originates at the multi-use path within the Cannery and runs south across the private property of two private apartment complexes adjacent to the UPRR tracks down to the H Street tunnel.”

Craig Blomberg, a 38-year bike commuter in Davis who just purchased a home in Cannery, explained to council during public comment that Option 1 suggests “we send our children under the existing overpass, up a steep incline followed by a hairpin turn over the overpass, which for an 8- or 10-year-old is going to be quite a hike, down the other side dumping onto a very busy street to a crosswalk that just last week was the result of a very serious pedestrian versus motor vehicle collision.”

Alan Miller, in a lengthy letter sent to council and the Vanguard, notes, “There is no issue from recent-year City Councils that I consider a more colossal failure than the failure to secure a bicycle and pedestrian path from the Cannery development to the H Street bicycle/pedestrian tunnel.  I am personally and individually disappointed with those of you who enabled this failure.”

He argues, “The H Street connection was the gem in the packet of infrastructure improvements from building the Cannery, and cause for my support of a project I was otherwise lukewarm about at best.”  He writes, “The H Street tunnel connection would allow bicyclists and student traffic to access the East-West path that leads directly to Davis elementary, junior high and high schools, as well as downtown.  The exposure to auto traffic in the daily student commute would have been greatly diminished.”

Mr. Miller adds, “The ramp-up-to-Covell connection is cheap and rather non-functional.  It places bicycles on a path they would get on anyway to cross Covell, and requires bikes to cross at the intersection of Covell and F, a rather busy and questionably safe (free turns) intersection, one way on the wrong (left hand) side.”

Following public comment, Councilmember Frerichs argued that “Option 1 is not the option for the community.”

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis noted that the subcommittee needs one more chance to get this right.  He said, “I think we’ve tried, but I think too we’ve both gotten busy.”  He asked for two to three more weeks of work as a subcommittee, pledging to redouble their efforts.

He added, “I know that staff is not enamored with the H Street Tunnel option.”  He said, “It’s not a great option, there are some things that need to be done to make it a better option, an optimal one.  But it was what was considered to be the best solution.”

He said, “I concur with what we heard in the public comment that we need to take a stronger measure to make it happen.”

During public comment, among others, Matt Williams suggested that this might be a political situation rather than an engineering situation.  He said, “Given that the principal of this political situation is John Whitcombe and he’s also a principal in the political situation that we’re facing on June 7 of Measure A, I would think that it would be in Mr. Whitcombe’s interest to not find himself in the midst of an imbroglio with regards to both political situations at the same time.”

He urged Mr. Whitcombe not to make political calculations and instead do what’s best in the community.

Councilmember Brett Lee, however, took a different view on this. He noted that during the original decision on the Cannery proposal, “up until the very last moment, it was clear that there was not a connectivity plan, there was a connectivity hope.”

He said, “If anything has been clear in this process, at that night it was clear, two years ago (Whitcombe) did not want that access to occur.”  Councilmember Lee felt that the notion that they should get Mr. Whitcombe and company in the room (to agree) and “twist their arm,” he said, “To me that’s not appropriate.  They’ve been very clear, they’ve been upfront. They said, this is not an option, we’re not interested.”

“This idea that we’re going to use eminent domain to clean up a mess that the city created,” he said.  “I find that totally unacceptable.  That’s not what eminent domain is for.”

Instead, he argued that the people we need in the room are the Cannery folks “who keep coming back asking for more and more from us.  In exchange we’ve received essentially very very little.”

Brett Lee said, “They’re going to come back.  Suspiciously, their ask has somehow been removed from the table.  I’d like to have that ask, concurrent with our ask.”

Councilmember Lee pushed for Alternative 4, arguing that it is the one plan with no backtracking, and said that he felt “psychologically backtracking is kind of a pain in the neck.”

He argued if we build the staff-recommended access point, “It’s mediocre.  A lot of the kids are going to go across the semi-Dutch Junction.”

He concluded that if anyone should be locked in the room it should be the Cannery folks, not the people to the south.

Rochelle Swanson moved to send the item back to the subcommittee to meet with Cannery to discuss options before returning to council. The motion passed unanimously.

—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.

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  1. Michael Harrington

    ” both grade-separated crossings never made it into the development agreement”

    Why is that?  Who were the CC members on the negotiation team?

    1. David Greenwald

      The negotiation team was Frerichs and Krovoza. Krovoza disagreed with the deal and voted no. So the three members who voted for the agreement were Frerichs, Wolk and Swanson.

      1. Mark West

        So if Frerichs created this mess with his poor choices during negotiations, why would anyone think he provides the pathway to a solution now?

  2. Nancy Price

    Kinda shocking that as the city wants more and more people to bike and that children, in particular, need to bike to their respective schools safely that neither the City Council nor the developer seemed to get this right to make sure that the  best design for safe and appropriate bike crossings got into the development agreement.  This is exactly why there is often skepticism about the planning process.

  3. Michael Harrington

    Any of the CC candidates on that cracker jack negotiating team for the Development Agreement?  Come on, don’t be shy about posting …

    And we are supposed to trust the City to somehow tear up the southern gate to our little city for over 5 years and get it right?  Basically cutting off South Davis from their downtown??

    All for 660 measly units of wildly unaffordable housing for the children of rich families from far, far away over the oceans who are suckered into sending their child to live in Nishi, from the slick online web site sales materials?

    Someone should do a reality show about this town … no one would believe it.

    Now Lucas, who was a strong supporter of the Cannery, is up there beating his chest on cable TV last night, trying to clean up the Cannery fiasco he was instrumental in creating?  All for show during his re-election?

    1. Misanthrop

      Boy Mike still not over your own loss for council, still trying to settle old scores are you? Well it appears everyone is out to settle old scores these days.

      The bike crossings for Covell have been a difficult point of contention for years with the owners of the apartment building and the Covell Village site not cooperating out of spite over the defeat of Measure X. More old scores.

      The option proposed by staff last night was unacceptable and Lucas agreed but you want to slam him anyway. Of course if he had pushed for what the bike people didn’t want you would have slammed Lucas for that too. Damned if you do damned if you don’t. Politics in Davis is a full contact sport these days.

      Then Brett proposed no amendments to the Cannery agreement for two years. Of course Brett voted no on the Cannery and has never done a thing to help out. But this smacked of payback for the CFD with Brett insisting that the Cannery pick up the seven plus million dollar tab for an expensive bike bridge and insisting the neighbors shouldn’t be forced to do anything. Some of these same neighbors, by the way, are the same people that Brett voted to give an $11 million dollar break to so they could deal with the access issues at Nishi. Of course Harrington, who understands the concept of  three out of four get elected and blames Lucas for helping Harrington’s neighbor- the one that Harrington sued over a parking space- deal with the conditional use permit on his neighbors property, doesn’t say a word about Brett Lee in his rant even though Harrington is suing the city over the supposed $11 million affordable housing giveaway.

      Yet everything is not hopeless. The integrity award of the night has to go to Robb Davis who instead of re-litigating old political fights looked at the price tag for the bike over crossing and recognized that the cost benefit of what was being proposed at a cost of millions of dollars was unreasonable. He asked that he and Lucas, who had been working together on the problem for months, be given one more chance to get everyone in a room together to try to hash things out. Everyone including the city, the Covell Partners and the Cannery. Robb, joined by Lucas, were the voices of reason who were actually trying to solve a difficult problem.

      Harrington, Greenwald and Lee are playing politics here. Their interests are not  solving the immediate problem at hand. People should not be fooled by what they are doing.

  4. Alan Miller

    “That’s not what eminent domain is for.” – Brett Lee

    I couldn’t disagree with Councilmember Lee more on this issue. 

    That is EXACTLY what eminent domain is for:  when the public good, usually a transportation project, outweighs the use of private land.  That is how the interstate system was built (much as I have mixed feelings, mostly negative, about that, due to the removal of linear chunks of neighborhood).  Today is the era of alternate transportation, and this would be for a car-conflict-free, safe-route-to school, bike path.

    What eminent domain is NOT for, and I think Councilmember Lee would agree with me on this, is the more modern, and supreme-court backed, vision of the taking of private land for a private business that will bring in more tax revenue.  THAT use of eminent domain is disgusting.  As well, were we talking about removing people’s long-time homes, that would be one thing — but this is a few buildings in a large and highly transient apartment complex — and I’m not convinced that any building removal would be necessary.

    Have no doubt — any other bike path option will be insanely expensive (or cheap and dysfunctional — see Option 1) and have more conflicts with cars and require two crossings of the tracks for some trips — and as a result there will be, over the years, more bicycle accidents due to the failure of the owners of Cranbrook Court and Pinecrest complexes to do the right thing for the public good of Davis.  Some involving school children.  Yes, I’m playing the guilt card and the children card — this is an appropriate venue for those cards.

    I respect private property.  I respect even more property owners who will give a bit for the public good of the community they are building in — most especially for a Safe Route to School.

    Property owners of Cranbrook Court and Pine Crest apartments — Step up!  Do the right thing!

    1. Ron


      I’m glad that your efforts (along with the efforts of others) have encouraged the council to (at least) re-examine the concern.

      Regarding the use of eminent domain, I see your point.  (Normally, I would have no objections to using it to establish a better/safer bike path.)  However, in this case, I suppose it would “piss me off” if I were a property owner, watching the city approve a new development (that didn’t necessarily have to be approved), and then using eminent domain to take my property to serve that development (even for a “good cause”, such as a safe bike path).

      It’s really unfortunate that the city didn’t insist that the Cannery developers work this out, prior to approval.  (Perhaps it’s something that couldn’t have been worked out, which would have forced the city to make a decision regarding whether or not to proceed without it.)

      If I understand the situation correctly, the owners of the Nishi site are the same owners of the site that’s needed for the bike path. Is that correct? If so, you’d think that they might help resolve this situation voluntarily, as a “good will” gesture.

      I hope that something acceptable can still be worked out.



        1. Ron

          Michelle:  I was personally against Covell Village.  (I’m definitely in the “slow growth” camp.)  But, I can see that there are some political issues going on, here.

          But, if the owners of the preferred site for the bike path are the same owners as Nishi, you’d think that they might be motivated to generate some good will within the community, prior to the election.  (Or, maybe not.)

        2. The Pugilist

          Good point Michelle.  What I find interesting is that the owners of that property is going to such lengths to emphasize their community spirit and philanthropy.  I am surprised they haven’t been more criticism for playing politics on this

        3. South of Davis

          > There is a lot of political history here.

          I have heard that one of the selling points for Covell Village “next time” will be a grade separated bike crossing…

          P.S. Does anyone really think that the space between the Cannery and Pole Line will be a farm in 25 years?

        4. Ron

          So, nothing to do with the Nishi owners?  If so, I withdraw that reference.

          Of course, this type of position won’t help the owners of Cranbrook with any future Covell Village proposals, either.

        5. Ron

          Michelle:  “If had a bargaining chip like the one John Whitcombe has, and I had future plans to develop a big project in Davis, I would probably try and hang on to it.”

          I see your point.  However, if an “alternative” bike path is built for the Cannery instead, that “bargaining chip” will have lost all of its value.  If there is a way to make the preferred option work, now is the (only) time to do it.

          And, if there is a developer connection to Nishi, it might be in that developer’s interest to try to work with the city (prior to the election next month). (Seems like something that the developer might have thought of, prior to this point.)


        6. Michelle Millet

          Ron-I agree this a card that could have played before Nishi was put in ballot, but with the exception of Robb Davis, getting good bike connectivity out of the Cannery has never proven to be a priority for this particular council.

      1. Tia Will


        There isn’t a need, just goodies desired by some.”

        I could not disagree more. Safe means of transportation other than private automobiles are a necessity, not a “goodie”.

      2. Marina Kalugin

        Frankly, do you ever go down THAT road?  and especially while 5th and 8th are ALSO impacted?   That was a bit of irony as I am NOT a fan of eminent domain…however, since the OWNER of Cranbrook is ALSO a developer now could be due justice with the lives of others he has impacted over the years…..

  5. Eileen Samitz

    I think it is interesting that the same people who keep claiming that they want different bike path have not seemed to have attended the original meetings when this all came up and was discussed in detail, nor have they seemed to have read the staff reports regarding the physical problems regarding all of the alternatives to option #1. Plus I am still not understanding why crossing at the new improved J St. and Covell intersection is being ignored as an way for bicyclists to cross Covell, like at all of the other street intersections along Covell? Also, I hope that we can avoid personal attacks and stick to the issue, since the personal attacks do nothing but degrade the discussion.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Plus I am still not understanding why crossing at the new improved J St. and Covell intersection is being ignored as an way for bicyclists to cross Covell, like at all of the other street intersections along Covell? ”

      It was discussed last night, but rejected as a possibility. I believe Brett referred to it as a “semi-Dutch junction.”

      1. Marina Kalugin

        do you ever drive down LaRUe…..pedestrians, bicyclists and children on skateboards continuously take chances with THEIR lives because they are not willing to head towards the safe undercrossing….  it is TOO far for these folks who don’t THINK they could get hit…

    2. Alan Miller

      Plus I am still not understanding why crossing at the new improved J St. and Covell intersection is being ignored as an way for bicyclists to cross Covell, like at all of the other street intersections along Covell?

      That’s replacing the intended two grade-separated crossings with one Semi-Dutch Junction (a great phrase from Brett).  Not a great outcome.  I supported the SDJ because I came to believe the grade separation was infeasible, AND we were promised there would be several SDJ’s along Covell Corridor as a safety compromise rather than one undercrossing that would, by taking all the money, prohibit changes at the other intersections.

  6. Eileen Samitz

    I see that Michelle has brought up a very interesting point. John Whitcombe (who owns Cranbrook Court) has refused for so long to co-operate for an easement for access to his Cranbrook Court apartment complex for a bicycle path, if one were possible.

    It is also SO interesting that Whitcombe is not named in today’s Enterprise, but only referred to as the “landlord” of Cranbrook Court not wanting a bicycle path through his apartment complex. Yet, Whitcombe is also a partner in Nishi Gateway. I remember that this “local developer” who has once been claimed to be so “altruistic”, yet is trying to take the City for “a ride” on Nishi Gateway.

    Furthermore, not so long ago, Whitcombe would not even co-operate to allow access for an evaluation of if a bicycle access was possible through his Cranbrook Court apartment complex.  Why didn’t Robb Davis as a bicyle safety advocate and commissioner object to Whitcombe stonewalling the City to even access his Cranbrook Court site to evaluate it when this was being discussed over a year ago?

    1. Michelle Millet

      For the record I am supportive of the Nishi project and do not want to be associated in any way with those affiliated with the No on A campaign. I find their tactics harmful  and distructive to this community.

      1. hpierce

        For the record, I’m opposed to Nishi because it has direct motor vehicle access to W Olive, and no guaranteed direct access to UCD.   Pretty much every other aspect of the project I like and support… but those two issues, for me, out-weigh all the other issues…

      2. Marina Kalugin

        Regardless of YOUR position on Nishi, I am glad that you speak out…

        Did I MENTION yet that I lived in the Nishi Farmhouse in the 70s?   I adopted the Shepherd the farmer left behind……..

        Nishi is a toxic site and NOT fit for any residents…

        It is TOO close to the FREEWAY and it is NOT fit for humans NOR animals…..

        It should become an easement for testing on harmful fumes from freeways and the effects on PLANTS>>>>not humans….

        I am leaving work now…shoulda never stopped in at the Vanguard….

        1. Alan Miller

          It is TOO close to the FREEWAY and it is NOT fit for humans NOR animals…..

          Tell the animals that.

          How do you feel about East Olive, even closer to the Freeway?  Should we bulldoze it and kick everyone out of Davis?

  7. Ron

    Thought I’d clarify that I’m against the Nishi development (mostly regarding concerns with traffic).  Also because I’m slow-growth oriented, and we’re already meeting SACOG growth requirements.  But, I try to listen, consider, and remain respectful of those with different views.  (Not always easy, when passions run deep.) For the most part, I enjoy hearing from others with different points of view. (And, sometimes I learn something.)

    Regardless, it seems to me that (Whitcombe?) could have been more cooperative (and generated more goodwill among voters/citizens in general), regarding the preferred bike path for the Cannery.  If he’s actually taking a hard line because of “spite”, it’s not going to help him (or anyone), in the long run.  (Some have already demonstrated that they have a long memory.)  This is what I’m gathering from some of the comments, here – regardless of one’s views regarding Nishi.  Of course, no one can be certain, regarding motivations.

    1. Michelle Millet

      Ron I want to make it clear, I have no problem with people opposing the Nishi project. But I have a big problem with how  a select group of people involved with the No on Measure A are choosing to oppose it. (you are not part of this group:-).

  8. Marina Kalugin

    PS>>>>  I was kinda out of touch last year…trying to keep my uncle alive…and I am NOT happy with what was done with the school district, nor the GATE program, nor the many stupid council decisions while I was BUSY….  I no longer know WHO is on WHICH side…  mea culpa Michelle

    1. Michelle Millet

      Sorry if I came across as harsh. I have witnessed very bad behavior from specific individuals who happen to be opposing Measure A. That is who and what I was speaking out against. I have no problem with people opposing the project, and I think you have expressed some very valid reasons for doing so, and I appreciate you sharing them:-).

      1. Ron

        Thanks, Michelle.

        That’s pretty much what I thought you were saying.

        Usually in campaigns, both sides become more intense.  But, I agree that misinformation (from anyone) isn’t the best approach, nor is it effective, in the long run.

        Historically, I think that citizen-based movements (such as the slow-growth movement) have felt that they’re up against more powerful, wealthy interests, and that the “cards” were stacked against them.  (From my perspective, the world at large still works that way.  Davis is one of the few places where citizens exercise a significant level of civic engagement.)

        But, I do hope that everyone (including the slow-growth community) listens to others’ concerns, as well.  (And, I’m about as slow-growth as they come.)  In addition to simply being considerate of others, there’s risk in totaling disregarding the concerns of others.  (That’s how citizen-based movements arise.)

        Regarding the bike path, I hope that a reasonable solution is found. (We are, after all, “Bicycle-City, USA” – something we can all be proud of.)

  9. nameless

    Misanthrope: “Harrington, Greenwald and Lee are playing politics here. Their interests are not  solving the immediate problem at hand. People should not be fooled by what they are doing.

    Precisely.  Instead of rolling up their sleeves and trying to work out solutions, the three above have dug in their collective heels and just want to complain.  Talk is cheap.  I would rather listen to those trying to find a solution.

  10. Misanthrop

    David with his incessant attacks on anyone running for office who ever did something David didn’t approve of or who doesn’t buy ad space from this rag.

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