If there was any remaining hope that a compromise might be reached between the neighbors and the Trackside developers, the letter today in the local paper suggests otherwise.
The writer notes, “I’ve been thinking of how grateful I should be that the Trackside Center proposal is from a bunch of down-home local folks just trying to make Davis a better place, not some out-of-town greedy, manipulative, speculating developer determined to get away with ignoring our community-generated development guidelines/safeguards in order to rape a historic Davis neighborhood for profit.”
I have to cringe at the use of the term “rape” here to describe some sort of housing development. The bigger issue, I think, is the strong opposition that remains to the project, which has been re-proposed at four rather than six stories.
The notion here is that the fact that the developers are local, rather than out of town, is, at least to this neighbor, a non-factor.
“We could be in real trouble if they were like that,” they write. “An out-of-town developer without our best interest at heart might even come on with an arrogant, aggressive approach, constant spin, dissimulation and outright lies, right?”
He continues, “Just imagine: After presenting a development proposal with no consideration of the impact on the neighborhood and aware of monolithic opposition, he still might glibly maintain that he had the express support of neighbors. Oh, how sick would that be? He might insist that the design guidelines don’t apply to him or that a six-story apartment building is in scale with a historic neighborhood of one-story and a few two-story bungalows.”
He continues again, “He might go as far as to assert that, for Davis to survive, our design guidelines simply have to be abandoned because anything less than six stories would not be financially viable but faced with insurmountable opposition, he might somehow discover the impossible — la! — it turns out that four stories would financially viable!
“This is just my wild imagination, but if it was a really shifty developer, he might even then try to spin proposing a building two times the height allowed by design guidelines instead of three times the allowed height as a grand compromise, as ‘working with the neighborhood’ — and post in the newspaper that he had, unfortunately, not managed to reach consensus with some of the neighborhood residents,” he adds.
The neighbor writes, “Clever, yes? Without actually saying it, it sounds like the majority of residents now support Trackside, doesn’t it? It’s called ‘spin,’ a particularly devious form of lying. But, of course, it would be easier to find a unicorn than the mythical Old East Davis Resident Who Now Supports The Current Trackside Proposal.
“So really, thank goodness we have a hometown group looking out for us and nothing like an out–of–town bully with money and connections who couldn’t care less about healthy development and community relations but rather just wants to strong-arm his development on us,” he concludes.
The takeaway here seems clear. The neighbor does not believe there is any advantage to having a group of local developers proposing Trackside rather than an outsider. The neighbor feels that the project has been misrepresented to the neighbors, it has attempted to change design guidelines, and the bottom line seems to be the continued opposition to the project.
This is the point raised in mid-October by a group of neighbors: “Though smaller than the previous design, the proposal far exceeds the mass and scale envisioned in the Davis Downtown and Traditional Residential Neighborhoods Design Guidelines.”
They also indicated, “The Old East Davis Neighborhood Association supports development on the Trackside site, as specified by the Design Guidelines. The Trackside Partners, however, appear to have bought the Trackside property speculating that the city would change the zoning for their project, superseding the Design Guidelines.”
For the neighbors, the key point is that “City of Davis planning can no longer operate on ‘zoning by exception.’ The city must stop changing zoning at will, throwing out hard-won agreements made with the time and effort of residential and business stakeholders. The purpose of zoning laws is to establish clear expectations for allowed uses of real property, certainty of investment and to minimize conflicts among neighboring properties.
“Zoning by exception defeats this purpose,” they argue.
—David M. Greenwald reporting