Guest Commentary: Nishi Engineered with Davis Needs in Mind



By Steve Greenfield, Dan Fenocchio & Chuck Cunningham

As local Davis Civil Engineers we encourage voters to vote Yes on Measure A, also known as the Nishi Gateway. We are writing this article because we think the financial resources provided by Measure A that go directly to improving the Richards Boulevard corridor are just too compelling to ignore.

Based on the Development Agreement between the project applicants and the City of Davis, Measure A requires significant offsite roadway circulation improvements before any of the project buildings can be occupied. Construction of onsite backbone infrastructure can’t even begin unless construction has also started on the offsite circulation improvements. The offsite improvements will be a tremendous benefit to the entire community.

The Nishi Gateway project includes an extension of Olive Drive to the west with a proposed connection under the railroad tracks to UC Davis, subject to University approval. We can’t widen the existing Richards Blvd tunnel, but we can double vehicle capacity with the second tunnel connecting Nishi and UC Davis.  Four lanes instead of the current two will provide options for those traveling to and from Downtown and UC Davis. Please refer to the nearby graphic.

This tunnel will provide an alternate route for UC Davis and Nishi Gateway travelers, allowing downtown shoppers and campus students/faculty to select alternate routes and diffuse traffic volumes. This additional route to campus, as well as I-80 via Old Davis Road, will be designed to accommodate the additional vehicle trips generated by the project itself, providing alternatives to the Olive Drive/Richards intersection. The project traffic study, prepared by Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants, validates this to be the case. We have worked on projects with Fehr & Peers throughout the region for over 30 years and found them to be meticulous, thorough, and highly reputable!

As residents who also work in Davis we frequently navigate through the congested Richards Boulevard Corridor so we are excited to see this plan for potential roadway and I-80 interchange improvements. The dangerous weave conditions approaching the Richards/Olive intersection have contributed to 15 collisions between 2009 and 2013, six of which included cyclists. We have the opportunity to make this area safer and more efficient.

Unfortunately, none of these improvements are currently funded and are not likely to be built anytime soon without the private investments provided by Measure A. The region and UC Davis will continue to grow and thus without Measure A providing funding to fix the current problem traffic and safety conditions will only get worse.

As part of the Nishi Gateway traffic mitigation fees, the project will contribute $3 million towards funding improvements to the Richards/I-80 Interchange and corridor, which the City Council has long identified as a priority. These include smart improvements such as a widening of the westbound off-ramp to three lanes to facilitate a smoother transition off the freeway. In addition, a tight diamond intersection (similar to that at the Mace/I-80 interchange) will increase capacity, improve traffic flow, and reduce the conflicts which currently exist between bicyclists on Richards Boulevard and cars exiting and entering the freeway.

The proposed tunnel mentioned above is estimated to cost 13 million dollars, which will be funded entirely by the Nishi Gateway project. Per the Nishi Gateway Development Agreement, “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 from the Project have been completed.”

The Nishi Gateway project also provides a significant investment in public safety for pedestrians, bicycles and Unitrans riders. Based on an analysis conducted by the City in 2013, the Richards/Olive intersection had one of the highest number of bicycle accidents dating back to 2009. Nishi will create new barrier protected bike lanes (aka a cycle track) in addition to a walking path, which means bicyclists and pedestrians will no longer have to negotiate with the cars that are entering and exiting from I-80.

The status quo is a university that plans on adding 5000 students by 2020. If Nishi is not approved the 13 million dollars for the tunnel will not materialize. Neither will 3 million dollars for the interchange, greatly reducing the likelihood of those improvements coming to fruition. Even if the interchange improvements do find funding absent of the Nishi Gateway project all of the downtown and UC Davis traffic from Richards Boulevard will continue to be funneled to the existing single tunnel.

Nishi helps develop more multi-modal options for the transportation network to and from campus and downtown. The current situation is untenable and will only get worse without Measure A. We urge you to vote Yes on Measure A to provide Davis with traffic solutions and much-needed improvements to a currently overburdened interchange and roadway corridor.

Chuck Cunningham is the founder and CEO of Cunningham Engineering, Dan Fenocchio is the President of Cunningham Engineering and a former Chairperson for the Safety Advisory Commission, Steve Greenfield is the Vice President of Cunningham Engineering.

Note: Cunningham Engineering provided technical engineering studies for the project in support of the EIR.


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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36 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Nishi Engineered with Davis Needs in Mind”

  1. Marina Kalugin

    I just KNEW it….   dear Chuckie (Cunningham)……remember me?  of the Ricci Farm to Woodbridge “development” on the border of Putah Creek?   I’m sure you recall my name…..many in Davis lost that battle…..but that was only the beginning..

    Before you throw such lies around, would you please come fix the sidewalks in your signature development from the 90s….

    you know….the one where many of the overpriced Custom homes built by builders the likes of Fouts had TOXIC mold and so on?

    if I was nearby I would go take a few pictures of the worst sidewalks in Davis….and yet, they are some of the very newest…..  didn’t your team, Chuckie, of “engineers” plan for the expansive soil conditions on the Ricci Farm, and now we are to trust YOUR skills on the Nishi….

    Marina Kalugin (Rumiansev)

    [moderator] Please read and adhere to the Vanguard Comment Policy.

    1. ryankelly

      Marina, you are moving out of Davis.  Why do you care so much that you spew such hateful rhetoric on a public platform?  It is getting tiresome.

    2. Alan Pryor

      We are writing this article because we think the financial resources provided by Measure A that go directly to improving the Richards Boulevard corridor are just too compelling to ignore.

      One of the first large monetary beneficiaries of development projects of this type are the civil engineers designing the roadways. The authors might have instead more comprehensively posted,

      We are writing this article because we think the financial resources provided by Measure A that go directly INTO OUR POCKETS …are just too compelling to ignore.

  2. Marina Kalugin

    PS>  Chuckie and the other “good ole’ boys” are still around – still doing shoddy unneeded work at extremely high cost…..and “helping” their pals in the process……”scratch my back and I scratch yours.”….unfortunately, that is how it works in this town….between the DE, the council, and the ones who stand to profit at the expense of the students, workers and so on….most of whom can no longer afford to buy nor rent in Davis……

    Back in the 90s, I had been in Davis for a couple of decades….I did not trust the city, nor the council, nor much of anyone in “authority” so when I bought my falling apart fixer on the border of the Ricci farm in 1989 I did my due diligence..   I made calls, I met with planners, and council and got a copy of the general plan….. some of you know some of the rest of the story…….

    when a sacramento developer swooped in to entice the farmer that he could make huge bucks on that property, and then came before the council with a plan of over 220 houses on the 26 acre parcel, he was laughed out of the council chambers.

    But, he was NO dummy….he sold the option to Chuckie  (who on that project was not only an engineer, but a principal on the Woodbridge development) –

    the years go by and instead of a 3-2 majority on the council by that point, a council who had laughed the Sac guy out of the room, we had one new person on the council….and now the local Davis boys had a 3-2 majority to overturn the general plan…..

    there is much more to this story, but I am trying to enjoy my lovely new place in…..truly ….edited

    Marina Kalugin (Rumiansev)

    PS>   and none of this is slander or whatever….this is the truth and I will provide pics and docs if anyone is interested…  I have FILE boxes on that whole thing….I hope I didn’t toss them when I was cleaning out a few years ago..   LOL   but it is ALL public record and I even have some VHS tapes also….of city council meetings back from then…





    1. hpierce

      There is nothing nothing disrespectful nor dismissing about using ‘Chuckie’, instead of ‘Charles’, or ‘Chuck’, is there Marinara Sauced?

      By the way, some of your “facts” on Woodbridge/Ricci are flat out incorrect, or mis-placed…  tying (implied) toxic mold to an engineering firm that built not one home?   c’mon…

      As to your ‘contention’ that Mr Cunningham as a “prinicpal”, I’ll leave to others, but I know that three of the principals were Bob Schnieder, Virginia Thigpin, and Blaine Juchau.  If you have concrete info to the fact he was principal, either provide for all to see, or, …

      1. SODA

        I agree with your comments hpierce; must be a full moon!

        With respect Marina, I find your posts often uncomfortable to read when you mention individuals in such a disparaging way…close to slander I would venture.

        You have toned down the use of CAPS and I thank you for that. Moderator can you rule on the personal attach situation please?

        1. hpierce

          In soccer, the “pay-back” foul is usually the one called… betting I’ll be sanctioned first… but that’s OK, I “should have been the adult”…

          And I agree with acknowledging and appreciating the good faith (apparently) the disappearance of what had been ubiquitous all-cap use.

        2. Biddlin

          I have suggested an “ignore” button to Don, allowing users to block their own view of individual posters who they might find to be impertinent, irrelevant, magniloquent or just irritating. On one of my luthierie fora, by blocking two members, I reduced the technical thread from 14 to 11 pages, saving me a lot of frustration.


  3. Marina Kalugin

    the development is NOT needed…but that underpass directly to UCD is..

    That is the only thing that makes any sense in these days/times…..and the developers are not funding it……there is no rush…and it is all a smoke screen of the “huge” need….

    UCD is doing more than it’s share for the expansion of students…..

    it makes no sense to funnel down the same overpass, just build the damn underpass to connect directly to UCD from South Davis…..   jeez…

    1. David Greenwald

      “the development is NOT needed…but that underpass directly to UCD is.. That is the only thing that makes any sense in these days/times…..and the developers are not funding it”

      The developer is funding the underpass from Nishi to campus – is that what you meant to say?

    2. hpierce

      Absent the development @ Nishi, the undercrossing of UPRR is a facility to nowhere.  The linkage to the rest of Davis, absent the development of Nishi, would require condemnation of right of way across Nishi.

      What are you thinking Marinara S?

    3. Tia Will


      it is all a smoke screen of the “huge” need”

      I have frequently criticized those who call the condition of the roads in Davis a “crisis” or site a “desperate” need for housing or jobs. I have pointed out many times that to me these are hyperbole when used in reference to our extremely affluent city.

      I would similarly now like to ask you a question. If a 0.2% vacancy rate combined with a planned influx of new students ( only 90% of whom will be housed on campus at the most optimistic) at what point would you consider there to be a “huge need” ?

        1. Tia Will


          Don’t get too comfortable ; )

          You have never answered my question with regard to how much growth would be “too much” for you. You have blown it off many times as irrelevant much as I suspect Marina will do.


        2. Ron

          Tia:  “You have never answered my question with regard to how much growth would be “too much” for you.”

          How about for you?  How would you answer that question?  Would you base your answer on say, the vacancy rate?  Do you think that adding a particular number of units will directly correspond with a decrease in demand (by the same number of units)? And, that the resulting vacancy rate can be predicted by adding “X” number of units? If this approach doesn’t work, should the city just keep adding more units until the vacancy rate reaches an “acceptable” level?

          And –  a question not directed to you, but why don’t we see some numbers of the Vanguard, regarding the total number of units added over the past few years, along with the units under construction or planned?  Wouldn’t that provide some “evidence-based information” to guide us on future decisions?  (Or, do we only look at the vacancy rate as a guide?)

          Also, does the University’s announcement that they will provide housing for 90% of new students factor into your decision regarding the need for more housing in the city?

          Of course, I realize that there’s no “right or wrong” answer to these questions.

          I personally think that the city has been growing  more than “fast enough”, overall (e.g., the Cannery, Chiles Ranch, and others).

        3. Misanthrop

          Ron there has been little construction in Davis since the beginning of the 21st Century. I used to know these numbers better but as I recall there were only around 100 single family homes built between 2001 and 2012. The numbers for multifamily were not much better during that time frame. Perhaps somebody with better access to the information can post it. The truth is that we haven’t built much in a generation. We are now seeing the strain of the decisions to stop peripheral development  with Measures J/R.

  4. The Pugilist

    “The proposed tunnel mentioned above is estimated to cost 13 million dollars, which will be funded entirely by the Nishi Gateway project. ”


  5. Marina Kalugin

    actually, the developers are only on the hook for $3mil from previous reports.

    And, if anyone wants to do their own research….please go back to the 90s and look up the principals on the Woodbridge development….

    truth is uncomfortable and chuck knows who I am and we knew each other very well back in the day..

    the same players  who brought us Woodbridge and then the assessment at the Cannery….and made millions….are playing on the backs of the not quite bright “experts” who hang out at the DV….

    Don Fouts built the $600K plus house behind my house at woodbridge….and now he is involved in so many of the other oops in town

    and, for those who truly do not understand how things work,  pick up a book and do your own research….

    the structural engineering firm is ultimately responsible for everything at the development….

    overseeing every last thing from start to finish…

    chuck was a very vocal partner of the Woodbridge back in the day….that is why I know who he is an the quality, or lack, of the projects over the years….

    back in the day when my dad  (RIP) was the managing partner of a top SF Structural engineering firm, such things that went on at Woodbridge would not have happened under his watch…his project…so on…

    the fact that so many people on here seem to get all their facts wrong…well, do I have time to spoon feed?   nah….that is why I get so frustrated….

    PS> there were 2 chucks on that project Chuck Roe and Chuck Cunningham….the other names may come to me later….


    1. The Pugilist

      “actually, the developers are only on the hook for $3mil from previous reports.”

      You’re conflating the $3 million for the corridor improvements with the money for the undercrossing.

      I think you should be careful, you’re attacking people who have the ability to sue you for defamation.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        I’m not attacking anyone….and the fact that they have the ability to sue doesn’t scare me either….I didn’t mention anything in this thread which was not facts……the other name involved was Blaine Juchau….on Woodbridge…

        and the toxic mold was also a matter of record…..

        [moderator] Please refrain from any further attacks on the authors of this op ed.

      2. Marina Kalugin

        Tia, if you read my many posts on this same and tired topic, you may understand that giant developments do not handle any of the longterm issues……see the other posts…..signing off for today….   need to destress before I head to the office…

        1. Tia Will


          giant developments do not handle any of the longterm issues”

          This is a matter of perspective, not fact. For example, if you are a student needing housing in order to complete a degree, Nishi may well provide a solution to your immediate need which is certainly part of your longterm plan. If  you are a construction worker or a materials supplier, you might certainly see Nishi as advancing your long term plans. I do not see the issue as “handling any of the longterm issues” in terms of a panacea. Tim Ruff himself has stated on a number of public occasions that Nishi is not a panacea. It is rather a project that has the potential for contributing several needed pieces to the Davis economic and housing problems which are real, even if I do not view them in the catastrophic terms used by some.

    2. Matt Williams

      Marina said . . . “actually, the developers are only on the hook for $3mil from previous reports.”

      Public Works has projected the costs of the I-80 Richards Interchange project at $10 million.  The reasons that project is needed are attributable to two immediate components,

      (1) Traffic volumes of UCD students, faculty and staff

      (2) Traffic volumes generated from South Davis developments like Woodbridge, Oak Shade, Interland, and other developments,

      as well as two anticipated components,

      (3) Nishi Gateway

      (4) the Hotel/Conference Center.

      As currently proposed the $10 million construction cost burden will be proportionally shared by (2), (3) and (4).  To-date (1) has stepped up with no contribution commitment.

      According to Public Works officials I have spoken to face-to-face, the $10 million budget for the project includes the changes to the I-80 interchange, the changes to the section of Richards Boulevard between the interchange and Olive Drive, and the changes to the Olive/Richards intersection.

      The Nishi Gateway developer has committed (in writing) $3 million to the I-80 interchange and $2 million to the improvements to the Olive/Richards intersection . . . $5 million total.

      The Hotel/Conference Center is expected to provide $2 million.

      That leaves the remaining $3 million for Woodbridge, Oak Shade, Interland, and the other South Davis developments, which has already been prepaid by the developers of those past projects into the Traffic Impact Fees Fund.

      Public Works has also informed me that the current balance of the Traffic Impact Fees Fund is over $9 million.


      The bottom-line from the above information is that Nishi Gateway will be paying 50% of the $10 million of Richards Corridor improvements from the Olive/Richards intersection to the I-80 interchange. The Hotel Conference Center will be paying 20% and the South Davis developments have prepaid the remaining 30%. Those percentages will change if the Traffic volumes of UCD students, faculty and staff component contributes to the solution as well.


      1. Marina Kalugin

        some of the same folks also promised to pay for some of the same kinds of things for the Cannery not long ago….and what happened there?  how soon people forget….and that is not even ancient history as I get accused of regularly…

        a lot of these issues are very near and dear to me….what I lived for decades and is now repeating right in front of me….

        there is not enough time in the day to do what is required of me these days….   I am trying to stay off the DV, the DE and my lists at work…….retire and move to my new place in the country….  if someone thinks I am a bully well  – think what you will…..

        1. DavisforNishiGateway

          Nishi has nothing to do with the Cannery. This is another misleading and erroneous claim coming from the No on A side. The truth is that Nishi is required by law to complete everything outlined in the Project Baseline Features which includes implementing every mitigation measure set forth in the Final EIR.

    3. Tia Will


       if anyone wants to do their own research….please go back to the 90s and look up the principals on the Woodbridge development”

      I do not mind doing my own research. What I do mind is the casual throwing out of names and accusations without backing them up with facts. You have said that you have all of this information available. My request would be that you actually do post it. Show the articles and pictures that you believe are relevant instead of casting aspersions and then saying …..”go look it up yourself”.

      To me these kinds of write and run tactics are typical of bullies and cowards. If you have the information, please post it for all to review and judge. If you do not have it, or lost it, please have the courtesy to say so. If you do not have enough time, then I would ask you to consider that perhaps you also should not be taking the time to make personal attacks that you cannot substantiate.

  6. Tia Will

    Chuckie’s friends called him Chuckie back in the 90s also…”

    From your posts, I got the impression that you were not one of his friends. If that is not true, and you were amongst those invited to use this nickname personally, I apologize.

  7. Tia Will


    How about for you?  How would you answer that question?

    Fair question. First given that it is not, and never will be all about me, I have no problem stating that my personal preference would have been to have Davis grow to a total of about 50,000. That was the “sweet spot” for me in terms of congestion, a lively enough but not packed downtown, nice parks, adequate sports facilities, good schools and a pleasant low key atmosphere in which one actually knew many of the business people even if you were not in business yourself and frequently encountered friends and acquaintances on the street.

    That goal is of course long gone, so what do I feel is best for our community ?  I would like to see the town grow in population as slowly as possible to meet our SACOG guidelines. I agree that there has/is with the current projects been enough growth in Davis for what I think is appropriate when Nishi is added in. This gives us New Harmony ( within the past 5 years), The Cannery, Nishi, possible Trackside, possibly the student complex planned for 5th Street and possibly the apartments planned for Olive Drive. This does not appear to me to be particularly slow growth, so I think that at this point we might stop, take a deep breathe, see what UCD comes up with before we leap to the conclusion that more is always better before we see what effect these developments have on the rate of available rentals.

    Sorry that I cannot provide you with more specific numbers, but I think that will provide an overview of my thought process.

    1. Ron

      Tia:  “I would like to see the town grow in population as slowly as possible to meet our SACOG guidelines.”

      Me too.  However, I understand that the developments you mentioned (including Nishi) are not needed to meet SACOG guidelines, at this time.  SACOG guidelines are not the “motivating factor” regarding these proposed developments.

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