Guest Commentary: Downtown Traffic Will Also Get Much Worse with Nishi

Richards View 2 GE_ASBy Dan Cornford

The debate about the traffic impacts of the Nishi project has mostly focused on its effects on congestion through the Richards/Olive Drive intersection and into the downtown tunnel. Minimal public attention has been devoted to three other crucial traffic-related issues:

1) Traffic in Downtown Davis – This project will have serious adverse impacts on traffic flow in downtown Davis itself;

2) Cumulative Impacts – Other projects on the Richards. Blvd corridor including the approved Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center at Richards Blvd.-Olive Drive. and the proposed Lincoln40 apartments on East Olive Dr. will have additional huge impacts on traffic in the entire corridor;

3) EIR Credibility – The credibility of the entire EIR traffic study is suspect because of assumptions that cannot be verified.

If one considers all the factors, it is quite evident that Nishi will bring hugely increased traffic in downtown Davis especially during busy parts of the day – even with all the proposed traffic mitigation measures on the other side of the downtown tunnel.

For instance, even if we accept the Nishi EIR face value claim that the project will purportedly generate only 4,870 new trips a day and only 400 plus trips during both the a.m. and  p.m. peak hours, it  defies credibility that the Nishi traffic engineers could actually contend that traffic flow in downtown Davis would, if anything, be improved by the project!

Additionally,  the traffic consultants concede that “the nature of travel forecasting includes uncertainty about future event that are hard to predict….This is especially true for the local roadway network…

Moreover, any forecast is only as good as the data put into it.  The baseline traffic statistics used in the study are projections based on traffic counts at 40 different intersections in downtown and nearby areas.  All were supposedly taken on only a single day (October 12, 2014), and for only for one hour in the a.m. period and then again for an hour in the p.m period hours. This hardly seems to be sufficient data on which to base an estimate of the potentially massive traffic impacts of this huge project and the cumulative impacts of several other major projects.  There is also some question as to the completeness of the measurement data itself.

In an attempt to get some answers to this question, during an independent review of the traffic study in the Nishi EIR, one traffic engineering firm, Smith Engineering, requested the raw traffic data count worksheets taken on that day hoping that the information might address some of the many questions about the EIR’s traffic data.

To date, the City has not provided that information claiming that the only data they had was the summary data contained in the EIR itself. Well without the ability to investigate the raw data used in the traffic study, Smith Engineering’s has expressed  skepticism  of the findings of that traffic study.

Furthermore, most Davis residents familiar with the City’s streets know that the Richards Blvd and Olive Dr intersection and through the downtown tunnel onto 1st street is the worst in Davis. The traffic congestion through there is so bad that it is going to take more than an indecipherable traffic study to convince us that running 4,870 additional cars through the area is going to make it better.

Many people have different reasons to vote No on Measure A – lack of affordable housing, air quality, no real economic benefits to the City because of developer giveaways. But the most compelling reason for you to vote No is that the anticipated further congestion of our compact Davis downtown  is highly undesirable, even potentially disastrous. Davis’ downtown was simply not built to handle large volumes of traffic in its core unlike many other Central Valley towns.

Do Davis voters really want to take the extreme and irreversible risk of embarking on a project that most likely result in increased downtown traffic congestion and gridlock?  It is the comparative absence of major arterial streets and major traffic jams that is integral to our downtown and one of the crucial qualitative aspects of Davis life that distinguishes us from most other towns.

Does not our experiences over the last 10-15 years, in which traffic volumes have increased dramatically, not convince us that our traffic and parking woes are serious enough, and that adding substantially more traffic to our downtown is a step backwards?  Do the citizens of Davis want to take such a risk when there are so many questions about the reliability of the traffic engineering report that are unsubstantiated by City data?  I think and hope not.

Please vote No on Measure A

Dan Cornford is a long time resident of Davis and Professor Emeritus of History at San Jose State University

About The Author

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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60 Comments

  1. darelldd

    >> the project will purportedly generate only 4,870 new trips a day and only 400 plus trips during both the a.m. and  p.m. peak hours <<

    The number of trips is not an important metric. The number of motor vehicle trips is important. If no distinction is made, we have not learned much.

    1. The Pugilist

      But are those trips going to go into the downtown or bypass the downtown through Nishi or a re-directed traffic directly onto Old Davis road.  The current situation is a problem – can we fix it by investing in infrastructure financed through this project?

  2. nameless

    If one considers all the factors, it is quite evident that Nishi will bring hugely increased traffic in downtown Davis especially during busy parts of the day – even with all the proposed traffic mitigation measures on the other side of the downtown tunnel.
    For instance, even if we accept the Nishi EIR face value claim that the project will purportedly generate only 4,870 new trips a day and only 400 plus trips during both the a.m. and  p.m. peak hours, it  defies credibility that the Nishi traffic engineers could actually contend that traffic flow in downtown Davis would, if anything, be improved by the project!

    Traffic that would normally go through the Richards underpass to get to campus will be rerouted to campus via an extension of Olive Drive.  Nishi residents can avoid the Richards underpass altogether by either using the Olive Drive extension or Old Davis Rd.

  3. Yes on A Fan

    When all the improvements are complete the traffic will be “reduced to less than significant”.  Here is a link to the traffic consultants hired by the City who studied Embassy, Nishi,  MRIC, and UCD impacts as well.  http://www.fehrandpeers.com/  They have a fine reputation and have spent a tremendous amount of resources modeling traffic both on and off campus and downtown. However, they do not have a degree in History, but we all know that traffic increases over time until you figure out ways to get people out of their cars so they can walk and bike downtown leaving the parking spaces for others who have to drive.

  4. Frankly

    Why is it that the No people always ignore the “do nothing” statistics and impacts to make their point?

    There is no balance in their opinion pieces, and that is why they get easily branded with various labels of the unreasonable.

    The thinking SHOULD go…

    Build it and traffic will be X.

    Don’t build it and traffic will be Y.

    The difference between the two over a set period of time is the ONLY measure of traffic that is relevant to the debate.

    For example, let’s assume that Measure A passes and the road improvements are built, what does the traffic look like in 10 years?

    Now what does it look like in 10 years if Measure A fails?

    How about 20 years (since it is absolutely likely that no improvements will happen for at least 20 years if Measure A fails)?

    The No people cannot seem to accurately visualize what 1000 new UCD-related people per year will do to traffic regardless if we develop or not.

    The No people remind me why direct democracy is a bad idea.

    1. Alan Pryor

      The No people cannot seem to accurately visualize what 1000 new UCD-related people per year will do to traffic regardless if we develop or not.

      Frankly – You neglected to mention that the new draft Long Range Development Plan for UCD says the University will have on-campus housing for 90% of added enrollees and Staff. So there will be little new traffic growth in the City as a result of University Expansion.

  5. cornford

    To Nameless:
    Your assumption and that of the traffic engineers is all or most of the Nishi traffic will be diverted.  But how can you or the traffic engineers be so certain of this?   To begin with: why should someone, especially someone driving west on I80  drive way past the Richards exit and then take a loop through campus?  If they do this they will create a traffic mess on roads through the UCD campus and they will also majorly impact downtown traffic.  There is also the traffic from the Lincoln 40 apartments (130) units and the proposed Sterling apartments  (244 units)   THAT WAS NOT FACTORED INTO THE CUMULATIVE TRAFFIC IMPACTS SECTIONS OF THE NISHI EIR.  Then we have the Embassy Suites traffic, which according to Smith Engineering, greatly underestimates the number of trips that will be made from the conference center to downtown.
     

    1. Frankly

      Dear cornford:

      I appreciate your opinions here.  As a 40 year resident (my wife has lived here 51 years), I think it is easy to understand that traffic has already gotten much worse than it has been.

      It would be one thing if these development projects, like in other parts of the state and country, are just to grow… and would drastically increase the population of the communities they are in or adjacent to.   However, the Nishi development is simply to provide living and working space for the EXISTING population.   That existing population includes Davis residents that are commuting to other communities for their jobs, and non-Davis residents commuting from other communities to school or work… both of these are contributing to Davis traffic… and pollution and low quality of life for all.

      1000 new people every year because of UCD growth.

      UCD growth because changes in the world now make a four-year degree as necessary as a high school diploma used to me.  And that requirement is increasing and will likely begin to be that a Masters degree is the new high school diploma.

      wadayagonnadoaboutit?

      The growth in people and traffic are here and more is coming.  Nishi isn’t causing it.  Nishi is attempting to help deal with it.

      I think you and others are irritated with the growth and are, in fact, shooting the messenger.

      But in doing so you will just be locking Davis into a much bigger mess.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        we’re moving to the country….that is what WE are doing…cya

        PS>  it now takes much longer for me to get to work from South Davis  than for my staff and others who live in Dixon or Woodland…

        the freeway is impossible and so is any route through town.

        I used to ride my bike or take the bus…but now that I work 24/7 and had some health issues, that is not possible nor convenient…I cannot carpool, as who wants to keep the hours I do..

        with the water cost  through the roof and the traffic at ALREADY gridlock many times of the day….I am heading to the outskirts on my own land where we will have our own whatever we want….

        and guess what we are doing with the Davis house…you guessed it…  I am going to be a landlord…nothing I ever wanted…but….it makes NO sense to sell…

        1. Frankly

          Marina – Apparently business is good!  Housing in the country around Davis is not cheap.

          But you bring up the perfect point.

          If you don’t like Davis changing to be more busy and congested, better start planning to cash out all that easy home equity or become a landlord… and move somewhere where time slows down and few people get in your way.

    2. DavisforNishiGateway

      Cornford, no one is saying that all traffic studies are infallible (cue Tia calling out the No on A folks for hyperbole). What is true, however, is that Fehr and Peers is a nationally recognized firm who has studied Richards extensively. They conducted a professional and extensive survey to model this intersection, and their findings are consistent with the reams of data modeling they have done at this particular intersection. Given that Mr. Smith admitted that he had done no professional modeling or data gathering, it probably makes more sense to go with the conclusions and modeling contained within the EIR. Although you point to the statement contained in the EIR that cautions that forecasting can be unpredictable, I don’t really understand how this could be considered some sort of revelation. All estimates and models are, by their nature, speculative. The goal is to choose the best model or estimate–in this case I think it is clear that relying on the impartial professional data and models of Fehr and Peers is to be preferred to the informal observations of Mr. Smith.

  6. cornford

     
    So the position of the pro Measure A people is that all EIR traffic studies are infallible and beyond criticism; that they are never challenged in court successfully, and that, as required by CEQA, they can accurately project out traffic volumes for the next 20 years.  Get real please!  For a good academic article on the tendency of traffic studies to frequently underestimate traffic projections. See this link:  http://nexus.umn.edu/papers/ForecastAccuracy.pdf
     
     
     

  7. Mark West

    Dan Cornford: “Does not our experiences over the last 10-15 years, in which traffic volumes have increased dramatically, not convince us that our traffic and parking woes are serious enough, and that adding substantially more traffic to our downtown is a step backwards?”

    If traffic has ‘increased dramatically’ over the past 10-15 years as you state, what do you think is going to happen over the next 10-15 years?

    It is safe to assume that traffic problems in the downtown will continue to get worse no matter what is decided on Nishi.  The difference is that with the approval of the Nishi project we will have the funds to address the issue and mitigate the impacts. Without Nishi, traffic will continue to get worse and there will be no funding for mitigating the impacts.

    Perhaps we should require an EIR for the impact of failing to act.

      1. Yes on A Fan

        I think the EIR analyzes “no project” as required by law. Guess what, traffic at Richards continues to deteriorate with no project.

  8. Marina Kalugin

    well duhhhhh….what is REALLY needed and it should be done without the pittance that Nishi will bring to the table….if that…  is to do some proper undercrossings in a few other areas ….like to campus ……and under railroad tracks elsewhere.

    like from the Cannery to make it safe to cross Covell…for children and bicyclists…..

    ps, if anyone still believes the same people who renegged on the cannery infrastructure to do anything they ever promise?

    are people’s memories THAT short?

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      Nishi has nothing to do with the Cannery. Weren’t you on the horn just two days ago about people making hyperbolic and misleading claims? $3 million to help redesign Richards, $2 million to make the Olive Drive/Richards intersection safer, $13 million for the construction of a new access point to campus via the railroad underpass which will allow drivers to avoid using the Richards tunnel, $2 million for the Putah Creek bridge which will allow bicyclists to avoid interacting with motor vehicles, and $3 million spent on building the new by-pass road, bike path, sidewalks, and UniTrans stop are certainly more than a “pittance.” What’s more, if Nishi passes, it will be easier for the City to get funds from regional funding entities.

  9. Yes on A Fan

    Smith’s questions were all answered in the EIR. Smith is hired for $500 by people who file frivolous CEQA lawsuits and has been thoroughly dismissed as any type of expert in recent testimony and in other areas around the state where he “works”. He visited the site “off and on” over the past 15 years.  No, EIRs aren’t beyond criticism- they invite and then respond to criticism as part of the CEQA process. Read the responses to Smith’s criticism. Its in the Final EIR online at City hall.

  10. cornford

    So Mark you doubt my assertion that traffic has increased substantially in Davis over the last 10-15 years?  Can you back that up with any city traffic data that I have not been able to obtain despite m efforts???   What do readers and voters think of this assertion by virtue of their own experience?  I mean David has been regaling us with anecdotes about Davis traffic issues since he first started the DV.   And even David, a strong Pro Measure A advocate, conceded yesterday that the traffic issue was the biggest hurdle for the Measure A proponents.

    But much more to the point:  So Mark your position is that we (Davis and all cities and towns) should just all throw up our hands and say:  “Well traffic is going to increase anyway and so we might just as well dispense with land use planning and embrace growth, commerce and industry regardless of the environmental impact.”  Let me put it to you another way Mark:  How bad would the traffic impacts of a development in Davis have to be before you drew a line?  Do you have any limits or standards , and if so what are they?

    1. Mark West

       “So Mark you doubt my assertion that traffic has increased substantially in Davis over the last 10-15 years?”

      No, I agree with that point. I merely pointed out that it will continue on the same path regardless of Nishi. Traffic through downtown has been bad for years and will continue to be so. That is why I don’t drive through downtown at busy times during the day.

      “Can you back that up with any city traffic data that I have not been able to obtain despite m efforts?”

      I am not a traffic engineer, so I do not have any use for the data myself, and I doubt that you have the expertise to understand it even if you obtained it. There are valid reasons why we hire experts to answer questions such as this and not rely on the uninformed opinions of aviation lawyers, history professors or retired winemakers.

      “So Mark your position is that we (Davis and all cities and towns) should just all throw up our hands and say:  “Well traffic is going to increase anyway and so we might just as well dispense with land use planning and embrace growth, commerce and industry regardless of the environmental impact.”

      No, I’m saying that we need to embrace the 10 years of community discussion and planning that brought about the ‘dispersed economic development’ model that we are currently pursuing, with Nishi being the first step.  With regard to traffic, it will continue to get worse right up until the time that we outlaw private vehicles.

        “Do you have any limits or standards , and if so what are they?”

      Yes, I do have standards, including among them, when I need advice I turn to experts in the field of interest (see my comment above).

  11. Ron

    Mark:  “The difference is that with the approval of the Nishi project we will have the funds to address the issue and mitigate the impacts. Without Nishi, traffic will continue to get worse and there will be no funding for mitigating the impacts.”

    Most of the funding for traffic improvements (e.g., the I-80 interchange) is not coming from Nishi. Most of the improvements that Nishi would pay are for the Nishi development, itself. (I won’t repeat the lengthy discussions regarding the effect of adding 1,732 parking spaces and additional motor vehicle access to the University that would occur, if Nishi is approved.)

    Matt recently provided a (somewhat confusing) explanation, regarding funding.

    1. Ron

      To clarify, the 1,732 parking spaces are for Nishi itself.

      The impacts of providing additional motor vehicle access (through Nishi) to the University have not been planned, accounted for, or approved.  (Including any additional parking that the University might/might not provide.) Traffic would still have to pass through existing intersections (e.g., Richards/Olive) before passing through Nishi.

      In general, adding additional motor vehicle access and parking encourages more commuting, via motor vehicles.

      I think that’s all I’ll say, for the moment.

      1. The Pugilist

        You can argue that they haven’t been finalized but to say they haven’t planned or accounted for is not accurate.  Corridor plan, widening Olive Dr, two left turn lanes, better freeway exit points, etc. are part of that motor vehicle access.

        1. Ron

          The Pugilist:  “You can argue that they haven’t been finalized but to say they haven’t planned or accounted for is not accurate.”

          I was referring to the impacts of traffic once it passes through the Nishi site.  (In other words, there are no plans to handle the increased traffic and parking at the University, assuming that additional motor vehicle access is even approved via the University’s approval process.

        2. Ron

          And again, traffic flow (all the way up to existing intersections, such as Richards/Olive) is dependent upon how the University handles the additional motor vehicle access point and parking (if such access is approved).  The University has not made plans to accommodate this.

          Then, add in the 1,732 parking spaces at Nishi itself (and years of construction/disruption, via an already-impacted intersection).

        3. DavisforNishiGateway

          Fehr and Peers is also handling the University’s traffic studies as part of the LRDP. They are very aware and are planning for the scenario in which Nishi is approved.

        4. Ron

          DavisforNishiGateway:  “Fehr and Peers is also handling the University’s traffic studies as part of the LRDP.  They are very aware and are planning for the scenario in which Nishi is approved.”

          Might I suggest that the developers work with the University, gain approval for the additional motor vehicle access point, and present an accurate traffic study regarding the total effect of adding 1,732 parking spaces at Nishi itself (for residential and commercial development), combined with the effect of providing increased motor vehicle access and parking at the University BEFORE the development proposal is presented to voters?

          (Actually, any traffic study should also include the effects of the planned hotel/conference center at Richards/Olive, the apartment complex proposed for Olive, etc.)

          Richards/Olive is the primary entry point for the city.  Is it really worth rushing this to the voters, when there are many unknowns (including some non-traffic concerns)?

        5. DavisforNishiGateway

          Ron, as part of the Project Baseline Features, the property owners do have to negotiate with the university for access to connect to Old Davis Road or there can be no construction at Nishi, so any concerns you have about traffic impacts on the university land will be dealt with by the university during these negotiations.

        6. Mark West

          Ron:  “I was referring to the impacts of traffic once it passes through the Nishi site.  (In other words, there are no plans to handle the increased traffic and parking at the University, assuming that additional motor vehicle access is even approved via the University’s approval process.”

          This has been explained here many times, the University has not made specific plans for how to handle the traffic because it is too early in their process. That planning is the University’s responsibility and not that of either the City or the developer. We are years away from the new access being built, so there is no reason for the planning to be complete at this time. You act as if there is no intention on the University’s part to complete that work.

        7. The Pugilist

          I don’t see it as a huge problem to overcome:

          1.  It seems most likely that the university is planning to approve a crossing

          2.  For all intents and purposes, the developer isn’t going to build until that is approved and will know well before the corridor completed whether they can proceed

          So it seems like a low risk.

        8. Ron

          The Pugilist:  “So it seems like a low risk.”

          Seems like you didn’t read my posts above.

          The primary (but not the only) concern is that the “other half” of the traffic study (regarding the effect of providing additional motor vehicle access and parking for commuters at the University itself) has apparently not been studied in any manner.  The developers are apparently stating that this is not their responsibility (despite the fact that they’re also simultaneously claiming that the additional motor vehicle access point is a “benefit”).

           

      2. Yes on A Fan

        Davis For Nishi Gateway, everything Ron suggests has been studied in the EIR- the parking spaces and trips from Nishi to campus and city intersections along with all mitigations.  Ron, is simply employing the No on A gameplan:  suggest more studies and sow confusion and mislead as Robb Davis, the Enterprise, Vanguard and many others have pointed out..

        1. Ron

          Yes on A Fan: Davis For Nishi Gateway, Everything Ron suggests has been studied in the EIR- the parking spaces and trips from Nishi to campus and city intersections along with all mitigations.  Ron, is simply employing the No on A gameplan:  suggest more studies and sow confusion and mislead as Robb Davis, the Enterprise, Vanguard and many others have pointed out.

          Hmmm.  I thought that the “Yes on A” side was running a “positive” campaign, and not making false statements about opponents? (However, I’m not sure if “Yes on A Fan” is directly affiliated with the campaign.)

          I can assure you that I’m not employing a “gameplan”.

          You mention the trips from Nishi to campus, but nothing about the lack of planning for traffic and parking for motor vehicle commuters from outside of Nishi, who are the primary beneficiaries of the increased motor vehicle access to the University.  (This additional motor vehicle access is one of Nishi’s primary “selling points”, for Davis voters.)  And yet, there are apparently no studies regarding the impacts of commuters using this new access and parking on campus (which still has to go through existing intersections).

          I recall that another commenter pointed out that even without considering the increased motor vehicle access and parking on the University (for commuters, from outside the area), traffic impacts will go to level “F”, in the EIR you mentioned.  (I didn’t verify this.) What would it be if a complete traffic study was done?

          Please obtain University approvals, complete traffic studies (which considers the increased access point and parking for motor vehicle commuters who benefit from the increased access), before you present your proposal to voters.  (Preferably, a study that also includes the effect of the hotel/conference center and apartment complex proposed for Olive.

          If the parties involved (the developers, the University, and the city) can’t do this, why would you ask Davis voters to take a blind risk?

        2. Mark West

          “why would you ask Davis voters to take a blind risk?”

          What blind risk? If the University doesn’t agree in the end, then there will be no project. The connection has to be built first. That was one of the main points of the development agreement.

        3. Ron

          Mark:  “What blind risk? If the University doesn’t agree in the end, then there will be no project. The connection has to be built first. That was one of the main points of the development agreement.”

          Another commenter pointed out that your statement is not accurate.  Apparently, construction can be completed without an agreement.  (Occupancy is another matter.)

          And – even if an agreement is reached (after the election), we’re being asked to approve a development without knowing what the full impact on traffic will be. It simply has not been studied. (Stating that it’s the “University’s responsibility” to determine this after the election is not a good strategy, for Yes on A supporters.)

          This would not be as risky, if the impacts I described above (e.g., commuters from outside the area, passing through the new access point) were actually studied and approved with the University, prior to presenting the proposal to voters. (Again, it’s an example of the “cart before the horse.”

          Uncharted territory.

        4. The Pugilist

          Ron: You’re being illogical on this point.  Even if technically true, who is going to build a building for millions of dollars if they cannot sell, rent, or occupy it?

        5. Ron

          The Pugilist:  “Ron: You’re being illogical on this point.  Even if technically true, who is going to build a building for millions of dollars if they cannot sell, rent, or occupy it?”

          Maybe so.  But, if an agreement is easy to reach, why isn’t this being presented now, prior to the election?

          I suspect that the developers will, in fact, being construction prior to an agreement.  Not sure what will happen after that. (Or, perhaps they’ll simply realize the increased value of the rezoning that Measure A will provide, and will take a different, unknown action. No one is forcing them to begin construction.)

          More importantly, we don’t know what the effect of an “agreement” with the University will be, which won’t occur until after the election. (Regarding the effect on traffic.)

        6. The Pugilist

          Because you’re dealing with a huge bureaucracy – it has to go through a process that includes a final LRDP document with approval from the regents.  So it may well be a done deal, but it’s not finalized until those steps are completed.

        7. Ron

          The Pugilist:  “Because you’re dealing with a huge bureaucracy – it has to go through a process that includes a final LRDP document with approval from the regents.  So it may well be a done deal, but it’s not finalized until those steps are completed.”

          Exactly.  And, that’s the problem that Davis voters are being asked to overlook – with the risks and unknowns regarding the impact on traffic that I described above. I’d suggest letting the developers deal with that, first. And then, study the effects that providing additional motor vehicle access and parking at Nishi (and the University) will create. (Preferably, along with the impacts of the hotel/conference center at Richards/Olive, and the proposed apartment complex on Olive. Of course, these last two items are not necessarily the responsibility of the Nishi developers, regarding the financial costs of an adequate traffic study.)

        8. Mark West

          Ron: “This would not be as risky, if the impacts I described above…were actually studied and approved with the University, prior to presenting the proposal to voters. (Again, it’s an example of the “cart before the horse.”

          There is absolutely no reason for the University to ‘study’ the project until there has been a formal request from the City, which cannot happen until the project has been approved, in this case due to Measure R, approved by the voters. The University has agreed with the concept of connecting Nishi to the University, but no formal analysis will be done until the project is moving forward. It is a waste of resources to do otherwise and is the real example of putting the cart before the horse.

          There is no risk.  If the University fails to agree to the connection, there will be no project. If, as you propose, the developer is dumb enough to move forward with construction prior to gaining the connection, then the project will not be occupied. I don’t get the impression that the developers are dumb. No people occupying the site means no increased traffic.

          Your demands are unreasonable and your fears are unfounded.

        9. Ron

          Mark West:  “There is no risk.  If the University fails to agree to the connection, there will be no project.  If, as you propose, the developer is dumb enough to move forward with construction prior to gaining the connection, then the project will not be occupied.”

          So again, you’re stating that even though the developer cannot produce an agreement with the University anytime soon, they will wait for the agreement with the University to be formalized, before they start construction.  This doesn’t seem likely, to me.

          Mark West:  “The University has agreed with the concept of connecting Nishi to the University, but no formal analysis will be done until the project is moving forward.

          “Your demands are unreasonable and your fears are unfounded.”

          My “demands” and “fears” don’t matter.  If the voters of this city want to approve a development in which the traffic impacts have not been studied (e.g., of providing increased motor vehicle access and parking at the University, combined with 1,732 parking spaces for Nishi’s residential and commercial units, along with the hotel/conference center at Olive/Richards, and the apartment complex proposed on Olive), then they’re free to do so.

          Also, as I mentioned in a post (below), there’s apparently nothing to prevent the University (after the vote) from subsequently creating its own developments on campus, facilitated by the increased motor vehicle access point through Nishi.  (Thereby generating even more traffic, which would go through Olive/Richards.)

          In this case, University “development” could mean parking lots, residences, conference centers, other campus buildings, whatever.

           

           

        10. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “So again, you’re stating that even though the developer cannot produce an agreement with the University anytime soon, they will wait for the agreement with the University to be formalized, before they start construction.  This doesn’t seem likely, to me.”

          Ron, legally the developer has no choice other than to wait.  I have excerpted the relevant passages from the Project Baseline Features below.  As explicitly noted, they can not change those baseline features without a vote of the City, and the baseline features explicitly prohibit them from starting prior to the commencement of construction of the connection to UC Davis.  It is self evident that there will be no commencement of construction of the connection on UC Davis land absent a formal agreement.

          NISHI PROPERTY BASELINE PROJECT FEATURES

          Phasing

          Construction of backbone infrastructure, including the central street, utility mains, and drainage improvements, may be commenced only after commencement of construction of both the connection to UC Davis and the reconfiguration of the Richards Boulevard interchange identified as the “I-80/Richards Interchange” in the Sacramento Area Council of Governments 2012 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

          Certificates of Occupancy will not be issued for any buildings on the property until the UC Davis connection (which is subject to approval by the Regents of the University of California), the Interchange improvements, and the road connection to West Olive Drive (including the Putah Creek Parkway bridge and bikeway path) from the Project have been completed.

          Baseline Project Features: Implementation

          The Nishi Gateway project is required to develop in a manner consistent with these Baseline Features. As provided for in Measure J/R, the Baseline Features may not be changed without approval by the voters of the City.

        11. Ron

          Matt:   “. . . and the baseline features explicitly prohibit them from starting prior to the commencement of construction of the connection to UC Davis.”

          Thanks for providing this.  Perhaps not an important point, but I’m not entirely certain that an agreement is needed to “commence construction of the connection” (on the Nishi site, at least).  The ability to complete construction (but not occupancy) was brought up by another commenter, so I’m not sure what he/she was referring to.

          More importantly, why not wait until the agreement is in place, prior to the vote?  And, if an agreement is imminent, why not study the full effect of the increased traffic access and parking, to the University itself (prior to the vote)?  (Please refer to all my postings above, if you’re going to respond further.)  I understand that the (partial) study that was already completed shows deterioration of traffic to an “F” rating (at Olive/Richards, I presume – but I didn’t verify this).  I wonder what a complete study would show.  (Is there anything worse than an “F” on the traffic scale?)

          You have already acknowledged that you believe the vote is premature. Are your beliefs based upon the unknown traffic impacts, or do you also have other concerns?

        12. Adam Smith

          Ron

          Also, as I mentioned in a post (below), there’s apparently nothing to prevent the University (after the vote) from subsequently creating its own developments on campus, facilitated by the increased motor vehicle access point through Nishi.  (Thereby generating even more traffic, which would go through Olive/Richards.)

          In this case, University “development” could mean parking lots, residences, conference centers, other campus buildings, whatever.

          There is also the possibility that UCD will move to enhance the underutilized  Old Davis Road exit as part of the Nishi  development or as  part and parcel of the work they’ll need to do as they add the student housing that you optimistically assume they will do.       If they do enhance the Old Davis exit, traffic going through Olive/Richards intersection may actually be reduced.

        13. Ron

          Adam  “There is also the possibility that UCD will move to enhance the underutilized  Old Davis Road exit as part of the Nishi  development or as  part and parcel of the work they’ll need to do as they add the student housing that you optimistically assume they will do.  If they do enhance the Old Davis exit, traffic going through Olive/Richards intersection may actually be reduced.”

          Gee – that’s a lot of “ifs” – especially for someone who is calling me “optimistic”.

          If traffic going through Olive/Richards might actually be “reduced”, then perhaps Nishi doesn’t need the motor vehicle access to Olive Drive.  Perhaps the developers will consider “withdrawing” that part of the plan, prior to the vote? 🙂

  12. cornford

    To Yes on A Fan:  Because Smith’s questions were “answered” does not mean that his criticisms did not have considerable validity.  And what evidence do you have that Smith Engineering specializes in filing or supporting  “frivolous” CEQA lawsuits?  Don Mooney would not have taken on this case unless he felt based on the evidence of Smith, others,  and the lack of city data that there was a substantial basis for a legal challenge to the traffic study done for the Embassy Suites EIR.   I know from close friends that he (Don) has PLENTY of other work.

     

    Oh, and I suppose the Ascent and Fehr and Peers did their EIR as an act of charity to the city of Davis?  Does it ever occur to you, or any other advocate for Measure A for that matter, that not only are EIR’s impeachable, but that there is often a community of economic interest between the entity commissioning the EIR and the very well paid people who churn out these EIR’s?  In the past I worked on EIR’s, not a huge number, but well enough to get familiar with the process and the “EIR culture.”  In addition, two of  my close friends in the Bay Area have spent 30 plus years working on EIR’s.

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      Fehr and Peers is an impartial third-party entity contracted by the City to prepare the traffic study. They have absolutely no reason to come to anything but the conclusion they feel is warranted by their data and modeling. Let’s contrast this with someone who was hired as part of a lawsuit whose goal is to besmirch the meticulous data and professional work done for the traffic study with observations that result from “more than occasional visits.” Indeed, Mr. Smith himself conceded that he has never done a formal traffic study of this intersection. Which party do you think is better positioned to deliver the best estimate?

  13. cornford

     
    I would like to compliment and complement Ron’s above remarks re funding for the traffic mitigation measures with the underpass under UPRR et al.  Somehow the city will have to come up with circa $10 million to make these improvements besides the developer contributions. Oh you say: “We’ll get the money from Caltrans, it’s easy.”  Well to those people I say:  “Start  reading a newspaper and listening to the news on the radio.”    In sum, there is heavy competition for state/Caltrans funds especially because of declining revenues in the fund because of lower gas prices.  This many city and counties, including possibly Yolo County, and certainly Sac. county, will have to go to the voters for funding for projects that FORMERLY might have more easily garnered state funds.
     
     
     
    Perhaps Bob Clark, Director of Public Works, can assure us that these funds are in the bag?
     
    For more information (no $500 per hour charge) see:
     
    http://www.govtech.com/fs/Sacramento-Calif-Reveals-36-Billion-Transportation-Wish-List.html
     
     
     
    http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/05/22/with-californias-special-session-on-transportation-stalled-counties-are-raising-money-on-their-own
     
    But, even should the funds be obtained, this does not negate the thrust of my article: that even with this so called mitigation there will be major impacts on traffic, and for that matter parking, in downtown Davis.
     

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      They City of Davis has been working for years with entities like CalTrans to plan for the redesign of Richards. The City has to come up with the money for this one way or the other. If Nishi passes, however, it relieves Davis taxpayers from $3 million of total cost for redesigning Richards. Nishi also delivers another access point to campus that will allow drivers to avoid the Richards tunnel and invests millions in making the intersection of Olive Drive and Richards safer (including a barrier-separated bike and pedestrian path).

  14. cornford

     

    For those, like most supporters of Measure A, who have total faith in the neutrality, objectivity, and accuracy of EIR’s, and for those that say I am a naysaying cynic that wants to bankrupt downtown Davis (See Rich Rifkin’s online comments on my article in the DE yesterday), I give you the following:
    “The differences that exist between science and politics limit the accuracy of an EIS. Although analysts are members of the scientific community, they are affected by the political atmosphere. Analysts do not have the luxury of an unlimited time for research. They are also affected by the different motives behind the research of the EIS and by different perspectives of what constitutes a good analysis. In addition, government officials do not want to reveal an environmental problem from within their own agency.[6]
    Source: Wiki:  Environmental Impact Statements

     
    “Litigation also occurs on the grounds that EIRs are too brief or overlooked possible impacts, as there are no guidelines for the length or content of the EIRs.”
     
     
     
    Source Wiki: CEQA
     

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      Nobody is saying that EIRs are infallible. What shouldn’t be in dispute, however, is that it makes more sense to rely on the advice and professional work done by a nationally-recognized traffic engineering firm instead of the “more than occasional” visits of someone who has never done a formal study of the intersection. Not all diagnoses by doctors are correct 100% of the time, but it sure makes more sense to follow a physicians advice over consulting Web M.D.

  15. cornford

     
    If there is any further question as to the credibility of the Nishi’s EIR traffic study, I’d like to state two little publicized facts:
     
    1)      After the Nishi EIR was completed, the Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission called for an independent review of the traffic component of the Nishi EIR.
     
    2)      On the same day that the City Council certified the Nishi project, on the consent calendar, it authorized a $250,000 Davis traffic study. 
     
    The latter obviously or probably reflects some concern about the cumulative impacts that all future Davis projects may have on Davis traffic.  That the CC chose not to do this earlier reflects its incompetence, and that it rushed to get the Nishi issue put on the June ballot, reveals its very open and unabashed support for Nishi.
     
     
     

    1. hpierce

      …  the Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission called for an independent review of the traffic component…”

      The Fehr & Peers work was, in fact, an independent study, in my professional opinion…

      Are you saying you and the Commission want an “independent second opinion“?

      Just looking for clarification…

       

  16. cornford

     
    So DavisforNishiGateway, and indeed most supporters of Nishi,  are prepared to put full faith in the Nishi EIR traffic study and s/he, while conceding that EIR’s are not infallible, does not address my remarks and citations about the political and economic influence that goes far to negate the wished for, or assumed,  neutrality and objectivity of the EIR businesses.
     
    How anyone can think that the Nishi project, plus Lincoln and Sterling apartments, will not have a major impact on Davis traffic no matter what the mitigation is beyond me and beyond belief.  More than that:  in its cumulative traffic impacts section, Fehr and Peers argue that even if two innovation parks are built in the future, Davis  traffic everywhere (and presumably parking), will be improved.   This defies common sense, logic, and people’s experience of growing traffic issues in Davis as it is.  Such projections cast profound doubts on the credibility and methodology of the traffic EIR, to say nothing of other influences.
     
    Yet Measure A advocates are prepared to take the risk of taking an irreversible step despite the fact that UCD’s LRDP makes a major step toward addressing the student housing problem.
     
    There is also the issue of what economist call “opportunity costs.”   Perhaps the leitmotif of the DV articles, and with some significant justification, is that  Davis has a serious structural budget deficit issue.  Yet, there is much disagreement as to whether Nishi will improve that situation.  Even if one takes the most optimistic assumptions it will, at best, make only a marginal difference.  The city’s funding and resources might be better served by projects that can show much more unambiguously a clear revenue benefit.
     
    It may be the case, for example, that innovation parks fit this bill, or indeed a housing project located elsewhere.  However, these projects will almost certainly require an EIR.  Notwithstanding, the conclusions of Fehr and Peers on cumulative impacts, it is very possible, or even likely, that a subsequent EIR could determine that building a more revenue-friendly projects would have serious impacts on Davis traffic that would be almost impossible to mitigate.
     
    And while on the subject of opportunity costs, let’s turn to a second leitmotif of the DV—the serious deterioration of our road infrastructure and the costs of addressing this.  Let’s assume, for purposes of argument, that Nishi was able to secure transportation funding from Caltrans and other external sources.  Now, as I understand it funding from these sources is a very competitive game, and in some sense a zero sum game.  In other words if Nishi “captured” a block of Caltrans funding, Davis would have a much harder time getting external funding to address the OTHER  transportation infrastructure problems that David recurrently rails about.
     
    And all of this for 650 units, only two thirds of which will be rental units, with many questions as to the affordability to students  As for the projected 1,500 jobs, how many of these will go to Davis residents and graduates, even if these are created?  Other projects, that Nishi might pre-empt because of its environmental impacts might produce as many, if not more, with far less environmental and traffic impacts.
     
     
     

    1. tj

      Nishi’s a terrible project, especially in light of the multi- million dollars the city gave up to help the developer;

      money the city needs now and will need in the future.

      And consider the city’s added costs to maintain Nishi’s streets and lights and provide all the city services and police and fire, etc. year after year.

      City Council ought to rework the whole project and forgo subsidizing the developer.

      City Council abdicated its responsibilities.

  17. Ron

    Just throwing this out there:

    If Nishi is approved, what’s to prevent the University from subsequently creating its own developments on campus, centered around the increased motor vehicle access point through Nishi?  (Thereby generating even more traffic, which would go through Olive/Richards.)

    In this case, University “development” could mean parking lots, residences, conference centers, other campus buildings, whatever.

    1. Ron

      To clarify – additional, traffic-generating University developments that would be “facilitated by” (vs. “centered around”) the new motor vehicle access point.

  18. nameless

    cornford: “To Nameless:
    Your assumption and that of the traffic engineers is all or most of the Nishi traffic will be diverted.  But how can you or the traffic engineers be so certain of this?   To begin with: why should someone, especially someone driving west on I80  drive way past the Richards exit and then take a loop through campus?

    If someone from I80 wants to go to campus, they could bypass Richards underpass altogether and use the Olive Drive extension Nishi would provide.  If folks living in Nishi want to drive out of Davis, they can use either the Olive Drive extension or Old Davis Rd and avoid the Richards underpass altogether.  I don’t think these concepts are difficult to understand…

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