Nishi on Housing and Richards Traffic

Nishi-Richards

By Corey Solliday

As a downtown employee who commutes from Winters I follow the ASUCD University Housing Survey closely, and every year the results continue to amaze me. In 2015, the survey took place in the months of October and November and concluded a total vacancy rate of 0.2 percent in this town. That is, of 8,143 units surveyed there were 16 — literally, 16 — units available in the city of Davis. In 2014, there was a 0.3-percent vacancy rate, and in 2013, there was a 1.9-percent vacancy rate.

Due to its proximity to my work, I can’t help but follow what has been going on with the Nishi Gateway project that is on the ballot in June. The 440 multi-family units represent a much-needed pressure valve for a rental market that is one of the most constricted in the country.

A healthy vacancy rate is considered to be 5 percent; that is the rate when rents stay level. Because of our much lower vacancy rate, the average rent in Davis increased 7 percent from 2013 to 2014 and another 5.3 percent from 2014 to 2015. The ideal location of Nishi as well as the newer units will bring much-needed supply.

The ASUCD survey this year was notable in that studio apartments and four-bedroom apartments had no units available, a real-world example of a 0-percent vacancy rate. Nishi will include 44 studio apartments as well as 132 four-bedroom apartment units filling our housing needs that are most in demand. I encourage people to take a look at just how bad our rental market has become and vote yes on Measure A.


Yes on Measure A Fixes Richards Boulevard

From Measure A Campaign – One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from Davis voters about the Nishi Gateway is, “What does Nishi do about traffic?” It’s an important question, and one that was extensively examined during the eight years of collaboration that led our City Council to placing Yes on Measure A on the June ballot.

If Yes on Measure A passes, $23 million of private capital will be dedicated to improving Davis’ infrastructure, with a majority focused on fixing Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive.

There will be an additional left hand turn lane onto Olive Drive from Richards Boulevard. Olive Drive will be expanded to encourage campus traffic to bypass Richards, leading to a new access point between campus and the Nishi site (you can see the bypass road on the included map). This has the opportunity to reduce commute times for bikes and vehicles commuting between South Davis and the UC Davis campus. People living and working at Nishi will never have to go on Richards at all if their destination is the campus. Far from causing gridlock, the investments behind Yes on Measure A are a key part of the solution to alleviating gridlock. Finally, our city can make it possible to divert cars away from the Richards underpass bottleneck, and it is doing so with substantial private investment.

n addition, this second access point means that double-decker Unitrans buses will also have a direct path between campus and South Davis – which is currently not the case. These buses will further help keep students and faculty out of cars.

Due to the implementation of the new diamond intersection on the I-80 interchange, cars coming off I-80 west will no longer have to attempt what every Davisite knows to be a dangerous and incredibly cumbersome weave merge onto Richards, and bicyclists and pedestrians will benefit from this and other improved safety features.

To learn more about how voting Yes on Measure A will benefit the City of Davis, visit www.YesOnA.org.

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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51 Comments

    1. ryankelly

      He printed the press release from No on A two days ago that was a near duplicate of a campaign brochure I received.  He said that he stopped receiving op-eds from the No on A side, so he ran the campaign press release.  I think he is doing a good job.

  1. Alan Pryor

    $23 million of private capital will be dedicated to improving Davis’ infrastructure

    If they developer is only paying $4.7 M in traffic impact fees less $1.7 million rebated to the developer to put in the Olive Dr extension bridge (net $3M), where is the other $20 M  of private capital  coming from and what is it paying for?

  2. Topcat

    Far from causing gridlock, the investments behind Yes on Measure A are a key part of the solution to alleviating gridlock.

    I have not seen any discussion about the upgrades that would be needed to Old Davis Road on the UCD campus to accommodate all the additional traffic coming through the new underpass.  Old Davis Road, as it is now configured is a slow two lane road.  It has several busy pedestrian and bicycle crossings as well as a stop light, a traffic circle, and stop signs.  It was not designed to be a thoroughfare.  The “Yes on A” folks are completely ignoring the costs and upgrades that will be needed here.

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      The EIR identified some improvements along Old Davis Road for which the property owners at Nishi are legally bound to pay. More importantly, however, UC Davis’ LRDP will identify more improvements the University wants to see, and they will be included once the LRDP is finished. Currently, there is a placeholder for Nishi in the LRDP and they are and have been including it in their planning. I wouldn’t say “Yes on A” is ignoring this so much as this is not a particularly pertinent discussion to the Measure R/J vote since it mainly involves negotiations and planning between the property owners and UC Davis. If UC Davis is not satisfied, the project doesn’t go forward, so there is really no reason to be concerned about this.

    2. Topcat

      Topcat, who will be responsible for the costs of any upgrades to Old Davis Road?

      That’s a good question.  I think that the supporters of Measure A have completely ignored the problem of the upgrades that would be needed on the north side of the Railroad tracks on University property.  I don’t think that anyone has given this much thought from what I’ve seen; but I do think that it is a serious issue that needs to be resolved before Nishi is approved

  3. Michael Harrington

    Yes on A:  would you please be so kind as to list all the infrastructure that needs to be improved or built, list the best estimates, and list where the money is coming from.  From our read on it, nothing adds up and there appears to be a large shortfall of money to pay for it.

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      Approximately $13 million will be spent on creating the tunnel for the railroad undercrossing. This tunnel will allow drivers coming from South Davis or I-80 looking to head to campus to completely avoid using the bottleneck of the Richards tunnel.  Approximately $2 million will be spent improving the safety and capacity of the Olive Drive/Richards intersection. Approximately $2 million for the Putah Creek Bridge that will allow bicyclists along the Davis Bike Loop to avoid any motor vehicular traffic. $3 million will go towards the redesign and improvements at Richards as part of the Developer Agreement. $3 million will be spent on creating 1) the new by-pass road that will allow people from South Davis or anyone exiting I-80 to avoid the Richards Tunnel (also, as the article mentions, it will allow emergency services and UniTrans better access to South Davis), 2) an extension of the Davis Bike Loop that will allow people biking from South Davis another access point to campus beside going through the Richards tunnel, 3) sidewalks (remember an estimated 80% of trips will be by walking or biking), and 4) the construction of a UniTrans bus stop which will help expand and improve public transportation here in Davis. If you add it all up, there should be no shortfall. These are estimates coming from partners who have more than 100 years building experience between them.

      1. Alan Pryor

        I do see now how that $23 M total of roadway projects was calculated. However, almost all of that is being spent as a direct result of the project and the vast majority of it is spent within the project’s boundaries or it’s connections. I don’t consider money spent on the project’s internal roadway infrastructure needs to be the same as “$23 million of private capital will be dedicated to improving Davis’ infrastructure”.

        1. The Pugilist

          I think you are missing a key point here.  The internal roadway infrastructure in this case gives us a key connectivity from Richards to the University bypassing the tunnel.  The city without the development would have to pay for that themselves and purchase easements and right of ways to do it.

        2. DavisforNishiGateway

          Well, creating another option to access campus that avoids the Richards tunnel, contributing essential funds to redesigning Richards, and extending and improving the Davis Bike loop all seem like improvements to Davis’ infrastructure to me. This project will also make improvements along Old Davis Road and help encourage more drivers coming from Woodland and such to use that exit instead. These improvements do far more to provide traffic solutions than to be dismissed as mere “internal roadway infrastructure needs” in my opinion. Yes, they help ensure that Nishi mitigates its traffic impacts, but the contributions will provide traffic solutions for problems which are currently facing Davis residents and drivers. That seems like progress to me as opposed to merely maintaining the status quo.

        3. Frankly

          Well now, this is an interesting bit of insight to how you think about this topic and other related topics.

          Weirdly.

          It appears that you believe that all developments should hand over cash to the city to fund activist’s pet environmental and social justice causes, and if not, then you are going to oppose them.

          Last I checked it is the common normal thing to expect the developers of these project to pay for infrastructure improvements directly connecting, impacted and adjacent to where they are developing.  This is one of the common expectation of community benefit for accepting the pain of development and for the impacts of more people that would populate and visit the new development.

          But here in Davis we go beyond that.  We see all those infrastructure improvements as old hat… stuff that is now normalized and not to be considered goodies from the developer.  Now we demand more.

          We just want the cash sir.  Yes, you still need to meet all of our hyper “save the world” codes and amenity requirements… and you still need to build the most transportation infrastructure improvements we could possibly demand… but in addition… we also want cash.

           

        4. Tia Will

          Alan

           I don’t consider money spent on the project’s internal roadway infrastructure needs to be the same as “$23 million of private capital will be dedicated to improving Davis’ infrastructure”.”

          I am not following your reasoning here. If the project is providing housing and additional business space that are identified city needs, then how is this not “dedicated to improving Davis’ infrastructure ? Can you clarify ?

        5. Marina Kalugin

          seems to me that the other developments already approved for the location near the tunnel should already be required to come up with that level of “improvements to infrastructure”  and after it is seen how well that works, then more building and more traffic could be considered  – certainly not before.

  4. Odin

    I remember voting years back on whether to widen the underpass of Richards to relieve congestion.  The underpass was rejected because it was identified back then that Richards still feeds into two lane streets downtown so would do little to relive congestion.  So suddenly we are to believe that a “new” solution has been found?  I’ve said this before:  There is NO proof that adding lanes onto Olive will do much of anything.  You still have MORE cars using the intersection no matter what.  That means wait times at the lights will be extended and those two lanes may not back up on the overpass as far, but nevertheless, you will still have to wait a longer time.  I live on Olive.  We see the traffic backing up on both Olive and Richards every day and now we are supposed to smile at the thought of more cars at the intersection.  I for one won’t be sold by the developers on this.  If Nishi passes, they’ll be smiling all the way to the bank while us suckers have to deal with the horrible consequences.

    1. The Pugilist

      There’s no proof on most things.  Life doesn’t come with guarantees.  What we have now isn’t working.  So the question is how else do we get $23 million to try to fix the roads?

      1. Alan Pryor

        Repeating my question from above, how is this $23 million dollars of private development money supposedly going to be used. There is nothing in the City’s record mentioning this figure or its uses. It has seemingly come up just in the past few weeks of the campaign.

      2. Mark West

        More importantly, do we make decisions based on what lay people ‘believe’ or on the informed opinions of professionals with the proper expertise, experience, and data? (Should you rely on the medical advice of your neighbor who works the cash register at the local Pharmacy, or that of an experienced physician?)

         

        1. Tia Will

          Mark

          More importantly, do we make decisions based on what lay people ‘believe’ or on the informed opinions of professionals with the proper expertise, experience, and data?”

          From my experience with issues that depend upon the informed opinion of professionals, this community frequently opts in favor of what “lay people believe”.

        2. Mark West

          “From my experience with issues that depend upon the informed opinion of professionals, this community frequently opts in favor of what “lay people believe”.”

          I completely agree (imagine that?). It is especially obnoxious when someone posts an opinion that starts out with wording such as: ‘I’m not an expert, but…’ and then proceeds to ignore the answers of those who do have the ‘expertise, experience, and data.’

    2. DavisforNishiGateway

      Hey Odin,

      I don’t know if you got to read the letter of support from SACOG that was published earlier this week, but one of the reasons SACOG is so supportive of Nishi is precisely because of how it will help reduce traffic congestion and promote more sustainable transportation options (these are some of the reasons why SACOG was developed, in fact). The EIR called Nishi ‘a model for the region’ and I can certainly see why. Its unique location means that 80% of the trips from its residential component will by biking or walking. It will have car-sharing services on-site to further encourage its residents to go car-free.

      What’s more, the millions Nishi is spending to create another access point to campus (allowing people coming from South Davis or commuters getting off I-80 to avoid the Richards tunnel), the improvements it will add to the intersection of Olive Drive/Richards to increase safety and capacity (and bring order to a currently chaotic and tangled mess of an intersection), and the money it contributes to the redesign of Richards is the product of years of planning and work by experienced and distinguished professionals. It represents the best option moving to address the challenges at this area by creating a way to divert the sizable amount of traffic currently heading towards campus through the Richards tunnel. It adds extra lanes to accommodate your concerns about capacity. This is a thoughtful plan laid out by people who have enlisted experts to find a solution.

      1. Odin

        How can anyone guarantee that 80% of occupants will be by walking or biking when the project doesn’t specify that it is exclusively for students or university employees?  Also, I don’t really trust the opinion of traffic relief posed by SACOG.  They didn’t do their own analysis of the project so they are responding to what they were told(sold).  You mention extra lanes, but can’t guarantee that traffic will flow better through the intersection.  What about all the folks leaving downtown on Richards who will have to wait for the cars making left turns on Olive?  How will the Dutch Brothers problem be addressed?

        As I stated on another thread, when I walk Richards and Olive (daily) I don’t see just students in cars.  In fact the overwhelming majority of what I see are people 30 and over or workers in trucks.  The other  major use comes from travelers stopping at In and Out, Dutch Brothers and Redrum and all this seems to just ignore that fact.  Once again, it’s an intersection that feeds into two lanes downtown.  You can’t just add lanes and expect the wait to be shortened by adding more cars to the mix.  Mathematically something is seriously wrong with this assessment.  This whole deal stinks and this will become painfully obvious if it passes.  I predict the overwhelming majority of votes against will be from folks living in South Davis, while the majority for will be from folks living in North Davis who rarely use the intersection.  Call me a NIMBY, but I’d rather have the intersection fixed as it is, and leave Nishi open space to the plant and fauna that live there.

        1. DavisforNishiGateway

          You want certainty, but say you don’t trust the opinion of experts. I don’t really know how to answer that. Nothing is ever certain in life, but we endeavor to make our best predictions using the available data and knowledge. I don’t really see how you can dismiss SACOG as somehow being less competent than you to devise traffic solutions.

          The 80% number comes from the UC Davis annual transportation survey. I don’t know whether you trust that source, but it seems legitimate to me. The rental housing on site is going to be geared towards students. Students are going to overwhelmingly live there. I don’t know what more can be said.

          I would hope that people living in South Davis will overwhelming vote for the project, since it will create a way for them to avoid having to go through the Richards tunnel to access campus. That is a huge benefit for them.

          As for the intersection, there will be some major changes which encompass more than just adding an extra lane in order to improve its safety and capacity. It seems like you may not have seen them, so here is a link to previous articles in the Vanguard describing them: http://www.davisvanguard.org/2016/04/new-richards-interchange-improvements-funded-nishi-gateway/ Also: http://www.davisvanguard.org/2016/04/measure-will-make-richards-safer/

          If you want more, let me know. I think Don Shore gave a pretty clear reason why you are seeing mostly non-students along the intersection–the UCD transportation study says most of them are employees going to campus. (Now I think you are the one ignoring answers to your previous questions jaja). I would rather not call you anything. I try not to define my life by labels or slogans, and I don’t try to put them on other people. It seems that you are emotionally invested in this issue, but I don’t think there is any reason that should preclude us from having a conversation about Nishi that is rhetorically sound. Thanks for your contribution to the community dialogue.

        2. Topcat

          You can’t just add lanes and expect the wait to be shortened by adding more cars to the mix.  Mathematically something is seriously wrong with this assessment.

          Yes, when you think about hundreds of vehicles per hour more going through the same space, even if it is reconfigured, it just doesn’t make sense.  In addition, everyone is ignoring the backups that are likely to occur with vehicles going under the new underpass when they get to Old Davis Road and need to turn right or left.  This is going to be a very congested intersection at peak times with a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists complicating things.  I have not seen anything to indicate if this will be a signaled intersection or just 3 way stop signs.  The net result may be a line of stopped cars snaking through Nishi.  Unless some serious upgrades, including grade separated pedestrian and bike paths crossing Old Davis Road are built, we are going to have another big traffic problem.

        3. DavisforNishiGateway

          Topcat,

          To begin there is going to be bike and pedestrian access under the new railroad undercrossing, so it sounds like you should actually be on board. What’s more, Nishi creates a railroad undercrossing will allow people driving from South Davis to bypass the Richards tunnel to go downtown or to campus. The millions invested to create a new route to campus and downtown that bypasses the Richards tunnel, the improvements to the safety and capacity of the Olive Drive/Richards intersection, and the redesign of the Richard’s interchange were recommended by the nationally-recognized firm Fehr and Peers. This firm has studied this intersection thoroughly and on numerous occasions, and their meticulously collected data shows that traffic impacts will be less than significant after these mitigation measures are implemented. These are distinguished experts who have gathered copious amounts of information and utilized sophisticated models to arrive at their professional opinions.

        4. Topcat

          …the improvements to the safety and capacity of the Olive Drive/Richards intersection, and the redesign of the Richard’s interchange were recommended by the nationally-recognized firm Fehr and Peers.

          While there has been a lot of discussion of the Richards/Olive Drive situation, I have seen nothing about the intersection of the road going through the new Railroad underpass where it intersects with Old Davis Road.  I think that this is likely to be a new traffic bottleneck at peak times.  I have also seen nothing that deals with all of the pedestrian and bike traffic that will be crossing Old Davis Road, thus causing more traffic congestion and backups.  What does the “nationally-recognized firm of Fehr and Peers” have to say about this situation?

        5. Matt Williams

          As I read Topcat’s comment above, two thoughts popped into my mind.

          First, if the rental units at Nishi can be 95% automobile free, the described bottlenecks  would be highly unlikely to occur with northbound bicycle/pedestrian paths between Hyatt Place and the School of Management handling the 95% while Old Davis Road handles the 5%.

           

          Second, if the additional students being added to UCD are not within pedestrian/bicycling distance of the campus, then they will be driving their cars on a daily basis to campus, and that may well add more volume to the intersections near the new Art Museum and the Mondavi Center than Nishi will.

           

          Thoughts?

  5. SlowSoDaMa

    “I would hope that people living in South Davis will overwhelming vote for the project, since it will create a way for them to avoid having to go through the Richards tunnel to access campus. That is a huge benefit for them.”

    I wonder what % of people from south Davis are just trying to get into town to shop and eat which is what we and our immediate neighbors are doing.  The traffic at Richards is so bad, we mostly go over Pole Line overpass and all the way through town.  I’d love to be able to use the Richards underpass again, but I just don’t see the “improvements” allowing us to do that.

    1. Topcat

      The traffic at Richards is so bad, we mostly go over Pole Line overpass and all the way through town.  I’d love to be able to use the Richards underpass again, but I just don’t see the “improvements” allowing us to do that.

      Yes, I also use the Pole Line overpass when Richards is clogged up.  I also don’t see how the changes are going to improve things much. With all the new Nishi traffic including the new hotel traffic things may even get worse.

      1. Matt Williams

        Topcat said . . . “With all the new Nishi traffic including the new hotel traffic things may even get worse.”

        Topcat, the possibility of a hotel at Nishi was taken off the table by the developers in January.  There is no hotel in the Nishi Baseline Features.

      2. hpierce

        Matt… am thinking you may have parsed Topcat’s comment incorrectly (or perhaps I have)… I think the hotel reference was re:  the hotel/conference center on Richards… not anything on Nishi… yet the cumulative effects still apply…

    2. Marina Kalugin

      one of the issues with the current design is that there will STILL be too many cars heading from south davis over the overpass before heading through the proposed development and only then to another tunnel….the bottleneck will still be on the south davis side and on the overpass…..why not ignore the whole project and make a true other route from South Davis over to campus….for example take the existing bike path tunnel and expand THAT to allow cars and unitrans…..that could be a useful solution to the current situation and also for the hotel and conference center….only after assessing whether that is enough to handle the current scene and already approved projects should further traffic expanding building even be proposed…

      1. Topcat

        one of the issues with the current design is that there will STILL be too many cars heading from south davis over the overpass before heading through the proposed development and only then to another tunnel….the bottleneck will still be on the south davis side and on the overpass…..

        Yes, I think that there will still be bottlenecks that cause traffic backups during peak times.  One issue that I see as a big problem is routing a lot of traffic to Old Davis Road on the UC campus.  This road is a very slow two lane road with a stoplight, stop signs, a traffic circle, and several pedestrian, and bike crossings.  It is not designed to be a thoroughfare.  I have not seen any plans or discussion about the modifications to Old Davis Road that the University will have to make to accommodate all the new traffic.

        1. David Greenwald

          I’ve been thinking about your points since the first time you’ve stated it.

          My thoughts:

          1. It is better to have a bottleneck at the UC Davis campus than in the center of Davis
          2. The Nishi access point will dump people onto campus in fairly close proximity to the parking garage
          3. While Old Davis Road is not set up for a lot of traffic right now, it would be fairly simple to take out the raised median and expand the traffic lanes and light sequencing. Far easier for the university to make secondary fixes than the city.

          Bottom line is that adding one more access point to campus can alleviate a portion of the overflow on Richards and the traffic can find their own equilibrium between the two access points.

        2. Matt Williams

          Topcat said . . . “I have not seen any plans or discussion about the modifications to Old Davis Road that the University will have to make to accommodate all the new traffic.”

          The UCD Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) (see LINK) is well underway, with the following What’s Next timeline (see LINK)

          October 2015 – Initiate Scenario Planning; Host Open Houses

          February 2016 – Develop Preliminary Planning Scenario

          April 2016 – Identify Proposed Planning Scenario; Initiate Environmental Review

          October 2016 – Publish Draft LRDP and LRDP EIR; Initiate Public Comment Period

          April 2017 – Submit LRDP and LRDP EIR for Regents Consideration

          The LRDP devotes a full page to what they call the Solano Gateway (see LINK)

          SOLANO GATEWAY PLANNING TOGETHER Currently Solano Park provides graduate student apartments and student family housing with easy access to the Arboretum, campus and downtown. In the next ten years these buildings will require significant reinvestment or replacement. In anticipation of that important decision, we will work collaboratively with our community to build a more sustainable future. The new planning concept for this neighborhood explores additional student apartments on Solano Field, west of Old Davis Road. The concept for this area would reconfigure Solano Field in relation to new buildings and a new pedestrian bridge across the Arboretum Waterway. Buildings in this area could contain academic programs on the ground floor and student housing above. The Nishi Gateway Project The University and the City of Davis have been planning collaboratively and exploring possible roadway, bikeway, and open space connections, in hopes of gaining mutual advantage to the vitality of the campus, downtown and the greater Davis community. The Nishi Gateway project is currently studying the implications of the possible connections. Campus will analyze these connections through an environmental review process in 2016.

          The page includes the following graphic

          http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Gateway_proposed.jpg

  6. Tia Will

    Mark

    ‘I’m not an expert, but…’ and then proceeds to ignore the answers of those who do have the ‘expertise, experience, and data.’”

    True, but even experts can see a problem from different perspectives and often, those with strong opinions will chose to cherry pick their expert opinion.

    A possible example of this might be the way that some pro growths have treated the expertise of Dr. Cahill. I am no expert in particulate distribution patterns, and was happy to say so. However, I do know a bit about the use of epidemiological data and was able to ascertain to my satisfaction that the epidemiological data as provided by the county epidemiologist did not support the most severe consequences of his observations. I did this through an examination of his data ( done by a friend since I don’t have the numeric savvy) and the county information, not just by claiming that “I don’t believe it because I don’t want to”. Some might call this an excess of nuance. I call it evidence based decision making.

     

  7. Marina Kalugin

    one can take ANY set of research results and end up with different statistical results…depending on which horse one has in the race….  only trust those who don’t have a horse in the race…….

    That is done by designing it poorly, like all the Monsanto funded GMO studies in the US>>..and outright lying, as brought to light in some great recent documentaries..  BOUGHT is one of them…

    When done outside the US in places where Monsanto is not so favored, then the results PROVE the harm of gmo BT soybeans and corn….

    says one who actually has designed research studies and seen what happens to stellar NAS faculty when their research starts to drift from what the norm is….. sighhh….

  8. Marina Kalugin

    as one who has engineering in my blood, I look and see…why the current design on the new underpass…

    but REALLY those overpriced new apartments and lofts in a hazardous fumes location ?

    I would not want my children to live there, nor my mother either….  and that is another reason why I was against the large low income apartment down Covell….that is WAY too close to the freeway for anyone who can do her own research…..

  9. Marina Kalugin

    PS>   if the poleline was placed where WE needed and wanted it we could have a real interchange there…and we could still have more underpasses where needed for the bikes, cars and pedestrians….

    underpasses should be separated for those who generate fumes and those who do not….they are not ideal either when shared with bicyclists and pedestrians…..

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