Analysis: Neighbors Continue Opposition to Trackside

New Trackside Schematic
New Trackside schematic

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

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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24 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    quielo

    Although I do not agree with all of this author’s points, I would like to speak to this issue from my point of view.

    It is hard to know whether the developer’s initial plan for a six story building was sincere or merely an initial bargaining chip intended to give the appearance of compromise in order to facility the “exception” that they wanted from the beginning. Some of my neighbors had stated that they believed this to be the case. I did not believe that.  I perhaps naively, believed that our own “neighbors” some of which I consider personal friends, would not engage in any such underhanded tactics. Now, I am not so sure. And what I can be guaranteed is that none of them would admit to it even if it were true.

    What I do know is that the preferences of the neighborhood have been transparent from the beginning. We stated and maintained all along that we had no objection to a project that adhered to the zoning and design guideline. What we heard at multiple meetings were variations of the “won’t pencil out argument”. Now this might be accurate, or it might not be. We will never know because unlike the neighborhood, the developers have no and seem to feel no obligation to operate from a transparent and consistent position.

    Now I know that some of you believe that this is just the way things should be, and others believe that this is because of Measure R which completely ignores the negative impacts on the neighbors and the differential assumption of negatives. This is of course all fine with many. Why should the care as long as it is not their neighborhood being affected? So much for the value of having the development done by one’s “neighbors” as opposed to some out of town developers. A failure to collaborate is just that , a failure, regardless of place of residence.

     

    1. Ron

      Tia:  “Why should they care as long as it is not their neighborhood being affected?

      Well, if concern for current residents of an existing neighborhood is not sufficient, how about the precedent that such a proposal creates, regarding other (current and future) proposed developments throughout the city?

      I recently walked around the proposed site, and could see for myself how close and impactful it is (regarding existing homes).

      “No neighborhood gets thrown under the bus”.

    2. SODA

      Morning Tia!

      Can’t seem to highlight and copy the portion of your second ppg which refers to your neighbors and the ‘appearance of compromise’ but did not understand it…..

      My comment is that whether or not the developer was starting with the 6 stories as a bargaining chip or not, what if the neighbors hadn’t raised the issues of the design guidelines, etc? What would have happened? Why didn’t the city raise the questions of how the proposal(s) meet or don’t meet the guidelines for that part of the city? Why is it up to the ‘noisy neighbors’? I see that the same with Paso Fino and with Hyatt and with and with and with…..

       

       

  2. Mark West

    This comes back to a very simple question, should the City make decisions based on the wants of a few noisy neighbors, or on the needs of the entire City? The neighbor’s desires need to be heard and addressed (if possible) during the planning process, but they should not have the power to veto an otherwise quality project that addresses the City’s specific needs. The City has both a severe housing shortage and a severe revenue shortage. Trackside addresses both. Whatever project comes out at the end of the planning process should probably be approved, even if some of the neighbors don’t like it.

    1. Ron

      Mark:  “This comes back to a very simple question, should the City make decisions based on the wants of a few noisy neighbors, or on the needs of the entire City?”

      As “out-of-scale” proposals proliferate throughout the city, it will become a city-wide issue.  Even if one’s own neighborhood is spared, there will be a cumulative impact on the entire city.

      (I may not have much time to argue, today.)

      1. Mark West

        The Downtown will be redeveloped with predominantly four-story buildings and the Third Street corridor will be redeveloped as the major connector between the City’s commercial districts and the University (already in process). The Trackside property is in the Downtown, and on the Third Street corridor, so the current design is not really ‘out-of-scale’ it is just an early step in the process.

        1. Tia Will

          Mark

          The Trackside property is in the Downtown, and on the Third Street corridor, so the current design is not really ‘out-of-scale’ it is just an early step in the process.”

          You are deliberately choosing to ignore, as you have in the past, the intended “transitional” nature of the Trackside site. I do not dispute nor object to the downtown moving to four story buildings. I believe that it is an appropriate although partial solution to a number of our problems. But no matter how many of the actual downtown building go to four stories, there is no way that Trackside at four stories can be considered a “transition” from other four story buildings to the current one story adjacent bungalows. From your previous postings, I believe that you have stated your opposition to the concept of “transition”. However, I can guarantee you that the entire neighborhood, not just a few noisy neighbors, does honor both the concept and the reality of a transition zone.

        2. Mark West

          “You are deliberately choosing to ignore…”

          Please show me the planning document that describes the Trackside parcel as a transition zone.  The only mention that I see of that concept is in the design guidelines, which do not have the force of law inherent in our land use and zoning documents. Changing land use and zoning designations requires the City Council to hold a public meeting and agree on General Plan and Specific Plan amendments. Changing the design guidelines is a simple matter of the City Council choosing to ignore them.

           

           

        3. Alan Miller

          The Trackside property is in the Downtown, and on the Third Street corridor, so the current design is not really ‘out-of-scale’ it is just an early step in the process.

          “Well, that’s like, your opinion, man.”

          The fact is, Trackside is NOT in downtown, this is a myth.  Trackside IS in the Core Area Specific Plan, IS in the Old East Davis Neighborhood, and IS is specified as falling in Transition Zone East in the Design Guidelines.  It is a transition zone, and 2 to 4 to 1 is a transition only if the word “harsh” is placed in front of it.

    2. Tia Will

      Mark

      This comes back to a very simple question, should the City make decisions based on the wants of a few noisy neighbors, or on the needs of the entire City?”

      I know that you honestly believe that this is what it comes down to. I have no reason to doubt your sincerity. However, this is not what it comes down to for me. I do not believe that this is limited to the “wants of a few noisy neighbors” but rather groups of concerned citizens. I also do not believe that the concern is limited to one group of neighbors as others have pointed out. The repercussions and precedent setting may involve my neighborhood today, and on another day it may involve Paso Fino, or Olive Drive, or neighborhoods on East 5th street, or Old North Davis.

      This is not for me fundamentally pitting the desires of developers against ” a few noisy neighbors” ( although quite convenient negative characterization there) but rather whether we are going to disregard previously worked out visions and beak previous agreements with our citizens in the name of “benefitting the entire community” while benefitting developers and those with a “grow as fast as we can mentality” over others in the community with equally as justifiable but different visions for the future. If we want different rules, then I believe that we should change the rules, not over ride them on a case by case basis.

      1. Mark West

        “The repercussions and precedent setting may involve my neighborhood today, and on another day it may involve Paso Fino, or Olive Drive, or neighborhoods on East 5th street, or Old North Davis.”

        Yes, the evil empire is going to take over all the neighborhoods, rise up…

        The repercussions of our severe housing shortage and severe revenue shortfall impact everyone in town. We are already living with the damage that is being done daily under the pretense of protecting your way of life.

        “This is not for me fundamentally pitting the desires of developers against ” a few noisy neighbors””

        Where in my post did I mention developers?  I did not say anything about the Trackside Developer’s wants, that is laid out in their proposal and is the subject of negotiations within the planning process. I am only referring to how the City should evaluate the final proposal, and there the only discussion point of any importance is the impact on the City as a whole.

        “whether we are going to disregard previously worked out visions and beak previous agreements with our citizens”

        In 1996 the City commissioned a study on the fiscal health of the City in order to (in part) inform the upcoming General Plan update. At that time, we knew that we lacked the retail and commercial property required to pay for the upkeep of our infrastructure. If you read the General Plan you will find a discussion of these issues, and see that we mostly ignored the information in formulating the GP update.  Maintaining  the perceived ‘quality of life’ in town was more important than being able to pay our bills and so the thoughtful citizens involved in the process enshrined that approach into our guiding documents (and Municipal code). In short, we knew we were headed for insolvency and we created a plan to ensure that outcome.  The approach you favor has been proven to be a fiscal failure and I see no reason to continue down that path, so all ‘previous agreements’ should be reconsidered.

        As an aside, I hope that developers make money on their projects as that will give them a reason to come back and risk their money again for our benefit. And here Tia, I really don’t care whether or not you see a particular project as a benefit to you. The only question is does it benefit the City, and it does if it addresses one or more of our critical needs.

  3. Tia Will

    Ron

    Oops. Sorry. People in mourning are more prone to make mistakes. I actually have held back on making plans for an inherited property in Washington State based on my recognition that I am probably not in a state to be making major life decisions yet.

      1. Tia Will

        Mark West

        Yes, the evil empire is going to take over all the neighborhoods, rise up…”

        I am wondering what I said to provoke the sarcasm.

        We are already living with the damage that is being done daily under the pretense of protecting your way of life.”

        You seem to have no difficulty asking those who feel as I do to sacrifice for your preferred way of life.

        Where in my post did I mention developers? “

        You didn’t. But I do not feel constrained in my comments to address only comments that you have made. I hope none of us feel so constrained.

        The approach you favor has been proven to be a fiscal failure and I see no reason to continue down that path, so all ‘previous agreements’ should be reconsidered.”

        And on this  point, I agree with you that previous agreements should be reconsidered. I just believe that the reconsideration should be done on a city wide level with all having input rather than individually by a count to three of the city council

  4. Frankly

    Trackside as proposed is not out of scale with respect to the current city need and set of progressive standards for smart development.  It is the opposition that is out of scale.

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