By Michelle Millet, Don Shor, Judy Corbett, Stephen Wheeler, John Mott-Smith, Charles Salocks
We live in a world where there are pollution threats and environmental impacts around us every day at our workplace and in our neighborhoods. The real question is whether we can create a new model in Davis to reduce pollution and address climate change, thereby setting an example for the world to follow. We support Nishi Gateway – Yes on Measure A – because it is a model infill project in the right place for Davis. That’s why this site, directly between the campus and downtown, was selected as a top infill site by a citizen commission back in 2008.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a full analysis of all environmental impacts across fifteen separate environmental topics including traffic, biological and cultural impacts, noise, air quality, public services and recreation, and cultural resources to name a few. These issues were fully analyzed in the Nishi Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
Under CEQA guidelines, the City of Davis weighs all issues in the EIR, balancing all components of a project. The “Final” EIR for the Nishi Gateway concludes that the project is a model of sustainability for the region. That is why it was awarded a grant award as the top project in California by the Strategic Growth Council, a prestigious state rating organization. The project also won the UNANIMOUS support of the Davis City Council – and it is supported by regional planning agencies like the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG).
The reality of the world we live in is that every infill project will confront air quality challenges. The real issue is how we address these challenges.
The Nishi project is located steps away from Aggie Village, the Solano Park married student housing dorms, and downtown Davis – all very desirable places to live. Solano Park is scheduled for redevelopment by the University and we believe the mitigation on Nishi will be a model the University can follow. The EIR identifies specific measures required of the Nishi project to reduce air quality impacts:
- Plant a buffer of trees and vegetation between the highway and the project site to reduce pollution.
- Plant an urban forest on the southwestern apex of the site, closest to the freeway. Studies have shown that dense vegetation can remove up to 50% of airborne particulate matter.
- All residential buildings are set back from the highway and located behind the commercial buildings as a buffer, reducing exposure to residential areas.
- Residential condos are located next to the 100-acre Arboretum and the Putah Creek Parkway- a living, breathing particulate filter.
- All buildings will have state-of-the-art air filtration systems that remove 95% of air particulates.
In addition to the above-listed mitigation measures in the Baseline Project Features, the project is bringing local expert Don Shor, owner of Redwood Barn Nursery, to recommend species selection and monitor growth of the urban forest buffer. The hope is that this kind of forward thinking will inspire other proposed developments in the area, such as Solano, to implement similar mitigation efforts.
Furthermore, we are recommending to the city that they create a sub-committee to work with Mr. Shor and other experts to monitor and maintain vegetation levels in the urban forest and tree buffer. This committee would ensure a healthy buffer of foliage in the intervening four years while the developers complete the required infrastructure improvements around Olive/Richards before construction.
In the near future as emission reductions from fuel efficiency standards, fleet modernization, and steps to reduce particulate matter from vehicles take hold, vehicle emissions will decline. Encouraging car-free living brings us closer to this future. The land plan for Nishi is designed to change the way people live and work. Nishi is a live-bike community that will provide an opportunity for Davis residents to live without a car with 80% built-in bike ridership according to a UC Davis study.
The design and mitigation at Nishi include measures to protect healthy living far beyond what we see at Solano Park or many of the other projects built near the freeway in Davis, a city bisected by highways and railroads.
Nishi is part of the solution when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint and addressing the reality of pollution with trend-setting innovations. That’s why it has our support and why we are voting Yes on Measure A this June.
Michelle Millet is the Chair of the Natural Resources Commission; Don Shor is the owner redwood barn nursery; Charles Salocks is a PhD, in environmental toxicology UCD; Stephen Wheeler is a Professor, Department of Ecology, UCD and Judy Corbett is a former executive director local planning commission.