Sierra Club Yolano Group – Davis City Council Candidate Questionnaire, Part Three

Candidates Forum on March 12/ Photo by Eunah Cho of Davis Media Access
Candidates Forum on March 12/ Photo by Eunah Cho of Davis Media Access

The Sierra Club will not be making a Davis City Council endorsement this year “since all candidates were perceived by our management committee as being equally qualified and all did very well in responding to our series of questions.”

The Sierra Club assessment of the Davis City Council candidates is as follows:

The Sierra Club Yolano Group has carefully assessed all of the answers submitted by the four Davis City Council candidates in response to our questionnaire. Although there are some minor differences of opinions between candidates and we do not agree with all candidates on all issues, we find all of the candidates are equally worthy of receiving Sierra Club endorsement for this elective office. All demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the general environmental pressures facing the City and our planet and all seemed genuinely cognizant of the necessary urgency in responding to this challenge. Indeed, in our opinion this is the most environmentally knowledgeable and committed slate of candidates to ever run for City Council in Davis. Unfortunately, Sierra Club rules prevent endorsement of more candidates than there are available open seats in an election so the Sierra Club Yolano Group must take a ‘no endorsement’ in this Council race.

The Vanguard will break the responses into a five-part series.

9 – Do you support increased height of buildings in the downtown core to allow for more mixed residential/commercial uses and, if yes, what is the maximum height in structures that you would support?

What about in transitional areas adjacent to the downtown core or in other parts of Davis?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

I support the increased density and height of buildings in the core and other parts of the community where suitable, considering neighborhood and other impacts. We must always be mindful of our shared community interest in neighborhood and historical resource preservation.

A new General Plan is necessary to bridge the many different priorities (GHG reduction, urban infill, TOD, etc.) that have emerged over the past 20 years and are in conflict with some of our existing policies.

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

Yes. I support increased height for buildings in the downtown core.

Currently, any building over two stories requires a Conditional Use Permit. We should examine the potential of allowing 3-4 stories as the default. Again, not every building will be this many stories.

Also, one of the biggest issues is not height, but rather design. Good design is one of the keys to getting people to be accepting of infill.

Buildings can contain many stories, but not seem tall, especially if they are tiered away from the sidewalk. (like tiers of a cake- the taller stories are smaller and are not adjacent to the edge of the sidewalk below).

The other major issue is compatibility with the existing neighborhoods. We need to ensure a collaborative relationship/process when infill proposals come forward and are proposed in existing neighborhoods. Ideally, infill can be approved where the vast majority of stakeholders are satisfied with the process, proposal and outcome.  Getting 100% support/approval is near impossible, but I’m still committed to getting us as close as possible to 100% as possible.

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

I support Downtown Core – 3 to 4 stories, similar in height to the Chen Building (2nd and G).

For Transition Areas – as currently zoned – 2 to 3 stories.

IMG-23Matt Williams:

Increased building height is a General Plan issue and regarding the General Plan, we should hire an independent general plan expert to assess our existing General Plan and determine which parts of it are still just as solid as they were when adopted in May 2001 and updated in January 2007.  My suspicions are that those “solid” portions comprise 90% or more of the plan.  Then with the problematic 10% (the Land Use section that covers building height falls into this 10%) identified, the City should embark on a focused public process that produces updates to those problematic portions.  I believe that public process should engage the idea of a Sustainable Resilient Davis 2030-2040-2050.

10 – Do you support the development of the Nishi mixed use and Mace business park sites in Davis as proposed and why or why not?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

I am a strong supporter of economic development and I believe it is imperative that we diversify our revenue portfolio and leverage our tremendous assets. These projects offer important opportunities to do so. I believe the Nishi project could have gone farther in its commitment to environmental sustainability, but I believe that project will become a major community asset. I recognize much of the project details are yet to be determined with the Mace Ranch Innovation Center, and I will strongly advocate that the project goes above and beyond in its sustainability commitment. I am hopeful that this important project will be built, and that it will provide our community with investment, jobs and tax revenue.

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

I do support the development of the Nishi mixed use site, and voted to place it on the June 2016 ballot, for the citizens to decide. It is a good spot for infill, mixed-use, transit/bike/ped heavy development.

I’m not sold on MRIC. The proposed ag mitigation is a non-starter. The proposal for 8,000 new parking spots is also bad. Housing should be investigated at the Mariani/inside the Mace Curve site, if MRIC goes forward. That way, there will be housing directly adjacent to the site

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

I support Nishi.  Additional apartments adjacent to the university, relatively good GHG footprint and development of a new southern entrance to campus which will alleviate traffic through downtown.

I am pretty skeptical about Mace.  It is a very large, peripheral development that is unlikely to meet my criteria.  I will endeavor to keep an open mind though.

IMG-23Matt Williams:

The Nishi Gateway project has undergone a thorough, iterative, public process leading up to the City Council’s decision to place a Measure R question on the June 7th  Ballot.  The current proposal is not flawless, nor is the “no project” alternative flawless.  Different voters will weigh those flaws differently , and will base their June 7th vote on those very personal weights.  That is the democratic process

With that said, I have personally made a motion in the Finance and Budget Commission, which was passed by a 6-0-1 vote that between now and May 1st , prior to the mailing of permanent absentee ballots, the City’s consultants need to complete and publish a trended report of year-by-year annual revenue/expense/margin contribution for the Nishi project from the date that Nishi’s entitlements are granted until full build-out is achieved.

Regarding MRIC, currently, there is no valid, complete, up-to-date proposal for MRIC on the table from the developer.  Now that the Council has clearly decided there will be no housing at MRIC, the development team needs to submit their official multi-phase proposal and the City staff and financial consultants need to complete an economic/fiscal analysis of that submitted proposal. Until the economic/fiscal analysis is materially complete and accurate, the City Council should not approve a Measure R vote on the MRIC innovation center project proposal.

Further, any economic analysis of the MRIC project proposal will not be materially complete and accurate until and unless the analysis shows a trended year-by-year annual revenue/expense/margin contribution from the date that entitlements are granted until full build-out is achieved.  I have personally made a motion to that effect in the Finance and Budget Commission, which was passed by a 6-1-0 vote.

In addition, any economic analysis of the MRIC project proposal to be materially complete and accurate until and unless the impact of annual City revenue increases and annual City services costs increases are shown in a trended series of annual values for the 10-year period after full build-out is achieved

11 – Davis prides itself on being a bicycle-oriented city with miles of bike lanes and paths throughout the community to facilitate bike use as an alternative form of transportation. Yet, the bicycle mode-share in Davis has dropped in recent years.

What would you propose to make the bicycle a more viable and safe transportation mode in Davis?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

Making a serious commitment to repair and upgrade our transportation infrastructure is imperative. This includes repairing paved bike paths and greenbelts, but also reinvesting in and rehabilitating other pieces of bike and pedestrian infrastructure, like underpasses. I also believe we need more bike parking in downtown. The “2014 Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan” gives our community a great objective framework to plan and implement actions to increase our community’s bicycle mode-share.

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

Davis still has the highest bike commuter mode share of any city in America (~23%), and there is only room for improvement.

One of the things I support and voted in favor of is the 5th Street Road Diet, which has made 5th Street much safer for all modes, including bikes, pedestrians and and cars. I also support removing cars from parking on B Street- which has worked well (even though I couldn’t vote on it- due to living there)

Frankly, we need to double/triple-down on our bike culture in Davis- fully implementing the Beyond Platinum Bike Plan- which is a GREAT plan- and we need to put more $$ into our bike infrastructure.

There are also needs to finish the 5th St road diet- from L St to Pole Line, as an example. More buffered/protected bike lanes and cycle tracks are needed and on the horizon.

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

Rather than focus on a couple of big “showcase” bike infrastructure projects that use up all of our funds, we need to make comprehensive basic changes to all of our streets and intersections.  We need to have many more separated bike lanes, we need to reconfigure our intersections to eliminate the required mixing and mingling of cars and bikes.  Properly designed Dutch junctions can be a lower cost way to achieve increased bike safety and rider comfort.

IMG-23Matt Williams:

As noted above, one such method would be to not provide an automatic parking space with each residential unit, and charge a daily San Francisco-level or UC Davis-level parking space rental fee (between $9.00 and $15.00 a day).  This would be particularly effective in student housing situations, because students will be more inclined to avoid the parking fee and use the money saved for their non-transportation living expenses.

In addition, we need to work collaboratively with DJUSD to come up with programs that incent parents to have their children bicycle to school rather than be driven t school in an automobile.

Another possibility could be to convert the DJUSD parking lot between the Senior High School and Veterans Memorial to a metered parking lot to discourage Senior High School students driving to school.

12 – Do you support the construction of a new automobile parking structure near or in the downtown core and why or why not?

If yes, where would you like to see it located, how large should it be, and how should it be paid for?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

Lack of sufficient parking acutely affects people with disabilities, families with young children, and seniors. I am a member of the first two groups, and I hope one day to be a member of the third. Beyond that, every potential diner or shopper we lose from our downtown because of lack of parking is revenue lost for the City. For those reasons, I support more parking downtown, including the expansion of parking districts and the construction of a parking structure that could increase parking for all vehicles, including bikes. I believe we can build a nice structure downtown with retail on the first floor and parking above and below that could be “wrapped” with offices or residential units. And I am committed to finding and maximizing a public-private partnership to reduce the financial impact to the City.

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

I do think that more parking is needed in Downtown Davis.

Now that the Brinley properties have changed ownership, and the new owners will likely want to densify in the coming years, I think that when they come looking for entitlements, the city will have leverage over them, and any entitlements for increased density should require the providing of additional off street parking…either underground, or shielded behind retail. The developers would have some responsibility for its construction. It could also be a paid parking structure.

If the DJUSD headquarters is redeveloped, we should require underground parking at that site, with mixed use above.

The City also owns an unpaved lot on the west side of Richards and Olive Dr., which could easily be paved, and accommodate approx. 50 spaces, including ensuring that it’s a paid parking lot to gain some revenue.

Brett Lee:

The studies have been quite clear that the current parking “shortage” downtown is at its root a parking management issue.

In the future, we may need additional capacity.  I would support adding capacity at the Amtrak Lot or a joint effort with UCD at the existing UCD Lot at 1st and A.  I do not support a big structure in the middle of our downtown.

Matt Williams:

Not at this time.  I would prefer seeing the paid parking recommendation of the Downtown Parking Task Force implemented first. Paid parking will produce a howl of protest from many in the Davis business community whose argument will be that changing from free parking will drive their customers away.  I believe an efficiently installed and managed paid parking system can actually provide better “free” parking for the customers of Downtown businesses than the current system.  In today’s computerized cash register world, providing a rebate to a customer at the time they make a purchase to compensate them for the cost of their parking will make the parking “free.”  Once a month the business’ sales software would tally the total of the rebates provided, and submit that to the City for reimbursement from the paid parking revenues.  That means window shoppers will pay for their parking, as will entertainment seekers.  The net amount left over after the expenses are paid will go to the City coffers.  It will in all likelihood be a modest amount.

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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    1. Matt Williams

      BP, you choose to focus on a sound byte rather than engage the fact that for Davis residents making purchases in the Davis Downtown, their parking would be free . . . and the retail businesses providing services to those customers would be providing free parking for their customers.

      With that said, implementing the Parking Task Force’s paid parking recommendation is no simple matter, and since I submitted my answers to the Sierra Club on March 20th I have taken the time to do some additional research about how to implement an optimal solution for Davis’ parking problems.  Part of that research was to sit down for an extended discussion with Jennifer Anderson, owner of Davis Ace Hardware, to better understand her strong opposition to paid parking, and to hear what alternatives she might have.  It was a lively and very productive discussion.

      One of Jennifer’s alternative solutions was to bring back the latest technology version of the license plate recognition cameras that are mounted on the roof of the Parking Enforcement vehicles that currently patrol/monitor/enforce parking in Davis.  Jennifer’s argument is that that technology would put an end to the “reparking” problem that Davis currently has with the yellow chalk on the tires system.  The camera system software/database would be able to identify a vehicle that had simply gotten around the 2-hour limit by moving the vehicle from one parking space to another (or simply rolled the vehicle’s wheels while in the same space in order to prevent the chalk from being seen).  Jennifer argued that the camera system eliminates one of the biggest drawbacks to meters, which is that people will simply change their parking habits and park in the areas that fall outside the boundaries of the metered areas.  It was Jennifer’s understanding that the Davis Police were expecting delivery of the new cameras and software very soon, and that implementation of those cameras would be expedited.

      Armed with that alternative, I spoke to a number of the strong advocates for installing meters, to see if the camera system would be work as a good alternative to meters.  The most frequent answer I got was “Yes, but . . . “ The concern that was most frequently raised after the “Yes, but . . . ” was that the activities of visitors to Davis very frequently exceed two hours, with at least an hour for a meal, followed (or preceded) by some combination of two hours for a movie and an indeterminate amount of time for shopping at Davis’ downtown businesses.  In short, they believed having a two-hour camera enforced limit would drive business away from Downtown in a way that paid parking at meters would not.  Their argument was/is that visitors to Davis are much more willing to pay for parking in Davis than Davis residents are, and that our downtown businesses need that influx of visitors in order to stay in business.

      So I found myself presented with a choice between well thought out input from different sources that had considerable merit.  The conclusion I came to is that these two approaches are not as incompatible as they initially seem to be.  In fact, a blend of these two alternative may well be the optimal solution.  That blended solution would be installation of meters in a concise/limited area of Downtown where the kind of serial activity that exceeds two hours is most prevalent.  The computerized rebates system I described in my Sierra Club answer would ensure that Davis residents would continue to benefit from free parking when they shop in that concise/limited metered area, as well as ensuring the ability for visitors and residents alike to enjoy the combination of a meal and other activities without having to worry about getting a parking ticket.  The areas outside that metered area would be patrolled by the camera system equipped vehicles to (A) eliminate the “reparking” problem that currently gobbles up huge swaths of parking spaces, as well as (B) eliminate the parking problem in residential neighborhoods that UCD students are causing when they drive to Davis, park on the streets for free and walk to their classes at UCD.  Those UCD students who reside in housing outside Davis should be using University-provided parking, not City parking.

      So my question to you BP is, “Is that a solution you could support?”


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