Sunday Commentary: What Do Trackside and Davis Ace Have in Common?

Back in June there was a lengthy discussion over a proposed parking project by Davis Ace Hardware.  The discussion over Davis Ace’s parking highlighted the need for more extensive examination of the issue of downtown parking and the Core Area Specific Plan (CASP).

Just prior to the meeting in June, Josh Chapman, President of the Davis Downtown, published an op-ed in the Vanguard noting that the Ace project “has been appealed by an ad hoc coalition of social justice, environmental, smart urban planning, pedestrian and bicycle transportation, economic development, small business, and fiscal resiliency advocates.”

He argued that such a project was “detrimental to the downtown without providing any clear benefits to the community.”

He further argued, “The Ace project is inconsistent with the city’s long-standing planning documents and with current City Council direction and advice from city advisors. The city staff report fails to clearly articulate what it is about this project that merits allowing it to move forward despite clear evidence that the project violates downtown development principles as outlined above.”

Mayor Robb Davis, Will Arnold and Brett Lee all had qualms about the project, but the latter two ultimately voted to support the Davis Ace project, which prevailed 3-1 with Mayor Robb Davis in dissent and Rochelle Swanson recused.

Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee said, “They are supporting their business.  What they are proposing makes sense from their perspective.  Given the sort of dysfunctional parking environment that we’ve created for ourselves because of our unwillingness to listen to what the experts on parking policy and good design have said, it’s understandable that they’ve made this request,” he said, noting, “I’m supporting their request for parking.”

When we move ahead with the CASP, he said, it’s important “that we give weight to what the experts say.”  He added that he was hoping people will work with them as they implement a paid parking strategy.

On the Sunday following the decision, I wrote a commentary on this issue.

On January 10, 2017, the city council directed staff to proceed with core area plan zoning and design guideline amendments. This week we noted that, in a way, if student housing is priority 1 for the city, and the budget (along with revenue generation through taxes and economic development) is priority 1a, then the Core Area Specific Plan could rightly be seen as 1b.

What makes this process even more interesting is that, unlike peripheral housing and a peripheral innovation center and even a tax increase, the CASP will be approved by the Davis City Council without a vote of the citizens.

As a result, the CASP may end up being the policy area that could see the biggest change in the coming year.

Clearly, one big area of discussion for the Core Area Specific Plan will be a re-focus on the issue of downtown parking. We have pointed our fingers at the lack of progress in meeting the needs identified by the Downtown Parking Task Force.

The issue of paid parking, perhaps, is seen as the biggest point of contention. Some would argue that the problem we have is not a supply issue, but a management issue.

As Mark West, who filed the appeal against the Ace parking project, put in a comment, “What is more important, the absolute number of parking spaces present or the availability of a space when you need/want it? Parking spaces are expensive, so why build more spaces when there are tools available to better manage the availability of the ones we already have?”

He said, “We eventually will need to increase capacity, but we won’t know how much we need to add until we have the current inventory managed properly.”

But the Core Area Specific Plan also bleeds onto another issue – the issue of Trackside.

In mid-July I argued that the Trackside debate illustrates once again the need for a CASP update.

I wrote at the time that the issue of Trackside and discussions that we had in the comment section have cemented my belief that we need to work out the policy on that first before we approve the specific project.

As I explained, this is not an argument for or against Trackside itself.  There are a lot of other considerations at work and I think the neighbors have a number of valid concerns, especially those on the southwest portion of I Street just north of 3rd Street, who will have their views fundamentally altered by the project.

When Trackside proposed a six-story building, it was an easy call to oppose it as too large for the spot.  On the other hand, I believe that a two-story building is too small.  As some have pointed out, given all the requirements we put on development, given land costs and construction costs, a two-story building is simply not viable.

Moreover, from a philosophical standpoint, I think putting a two-story building anywhere near the center of town is inefficient land use.  That puts me at odds with those neighbors who believe Trackside should be a two-story building.

Well, it all comes down to the Core Area Specific Plan.  Currently the CASP puts a height limitation of two to three stories, which, if it reads like something out of the last century, it is. Pre-2000, pre-Measure J.

I would argue that the CASP needs to set building height limitations at five to six stories in the core. That would allow for a ground floor of retail and restaurants, a second floor of office space and three or four floors of residential. And, if done right, you can integrate parking internally into the structures.

If you have a downtown core of five or six stories, then a two-story Trackside makes zero sense and, frankly, even now it seems like a massive waste. Personally, I believe that four stories is about right, but compromise is okay and going down to three would be workable – although less than ideal.

These are the issues that we are going to touch on a week from Wednesday, on August 30.  We will have many of the key players on hand for our discussion:

Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee
Davis Downtown President Josh Chapman
Doby Fleeman from Davis Ace
and Rhonda Reed from the Old East Neighborhood Association

The event will be at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen from 6 to 8 pm, so please join us for this important discussion of the future of the downtown, with discussions of parking and the Core Area Specific Plan.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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  1. Tia Will

    especially those on the southwest portion of I Street just north of 3rd Street who will have their views fundamentally altered by the project.”

    Although when the design proposal was for 6 stories, much was made of the “views” of the immediate neighbors. While I believe that the sight line is still a major issue, there are other impacts on the immediate neighbors that were not mentioned in this article. 1. The planned changes to the alley and parking will rendered the garages that open directly onto the alley unsafe to use. 2. While this site currently has businesses that are open only day time hours, the new plans including restaurant and housing will turn the site into one of  near 24/7 usage. The noise from the businesses and comings and goings of residents will now be unremitting for those closest to the building. 3. Deliveries that occur in the alley way and  refuse collection will be greatly increased.

    While I understand that city needs will necessitate compromise and change in this area, I do not believe that we should pretend, even by omission, that the only impact on the immediate neighbors will be their view. There will be profound impacts on their daily ( and nightly lives) that I do not believe should be trivialized.

    1. Mark West

      1. The planned changes to the alley and parking will rendered the garages that open directly onto the alley unsafe to use.

      The alley way would change from two-way to one-way. How does that change make the garages unsafe to use? With traffic only coming from one direction it seems it would decrease the problems utilizing the garages.

      2. While this site currently has businesses that are open only day time hours, the new plans including restaurant and housing will turn the site into one of  near 24/7 usage. The noise from the businesses and comings and goings of residents will now be unremitting for those closest to the building.

      None of the businesses will likely be operating 24/7 so unless one is a nightclub, you really don’t have much to complain about (especially as Alan M. ‘solved’ the nightclub problem). If you like the restaurant, you might even be happy that it is there and oh so convenient. As for the housing, how many people do you think will be living at the site? How many live on your block? Probably won’t be much difference between the two. A couple people an hour coming and going won’t even be noticed, even by those living next door.

      3. Deliveries that occur in the alley way and refuse collection will be greatly increased.

      Deliveries already occur and not just to the businesses, but to your house and your neighbors’ as well. This situation already exists and won’t change much. Refuse collection will be on the exact same schedule as it is currently.

      All of your ‘impact’ as stated already exist so it seems that your fears are really unwarranted. I’m sure that during construction you will all be inconvenienced at times, but once the building is in place and operation you will quickly become accustomed to the ‘new normal.’ Just think, you might even like one of your new neighbors and be happy they moved in near by.




      1. Alan Miller

        There will be profound impacts . . . that I do not believe should be trivialized.

        Thanks, MW, for trivializing them.  We can always count on you.

        especially as Alan M. ‘solved’ the nightclub problem

        WTF?   In case you have forgotten recent history, it took a murder to solve the nightclub problem.  I had been trying to get the City to take action on the growing problem for years, to no avail.  It took a scumbag from out-of-town killing someone to get the City to take action to solve our nightclub problem.  What the F— are you implying saying I solved the problem?  That’s just creepy and weird.

        1. Mark West

          Alan M.: “There will be profound impacts . . . that I do not believe should be trivialized.”

          There may be profound impacts, but there is also a great deal of spaghetti being thrown at the wall. The ones responsible for ‘trivializing’ the situation are those who are incapable (or unwilling) to understand the difference, not those cleaning up the mess.

        2. Alan Miller

          The quote you attributed to me is not my quote, but a quote of a quote.

          Your spaghetti thingy makes me want spaghetti for dinner tonight, otherwise nothing but a thin metaphor.

          No answer to your accusation that I “solved” the “nightclub problem”.

        3. Mark West

          No answer to your accusation that I “solved” the “nightclub problem”.

          Nothing more than a friendly ‘poke’ regarding your previous verbosity on the subject…thumpa, thumpa, thumpa…

          I do not often agree with you, Alan M., but I do respect your knowledge, especially on certain subjects. No respect at all for the personal attacks you have made here and during public comment, however.

          You and your neighbors would be more effective if you differentiated between the actual impacts of a project, and the unreasonable fears professed by those who do not like change. Actual impacts should be addressed and mitigated if possible, but when the unreasonable claims are given equal weight and billing, you lose integrity and do the community (and your neighborhood) a disservice.

      2. Howard P

        Mark…there is ‘no traffic‘ on that alley… someone might experience 2-5 seconds of delay if they actually parked the car in the garage… kinda’ like the toxics “issue”… not a real, cogent, issue… suggest you don’t engage folk on the BS “issues”…

        1. Ron

          “Honest” question:  Turning the alley into a one-way street with access for the proposed development won’t “create” traffic (traveling at a somewhat faster speed, as a result of the one-way traffic flow)?

        2. Howard P

          You appear to have little sense of what “traffic” is… you are not alone in this…

          No correlation with increased trips/directionality and speed related to alleys of this size.  Period, end of sentence… I’d add more but you might consider it an insult and “report” me… and you’d probably be correct…

          Alley currently sees maybe 250 trips a day see:

          If that tripled or quadrupled … (which it won’t… estimate is additional < 50/day) that would be 750-1000 trips/day… or, ~ 100 trips max in peak hour… ~ 1.6/minute… delay would rise to maybe 4-7 seconds exiting a garage… but the reasonable estimate is that would be an additional 3-10 additional trips in peak hour (max)… so an additional trip once every  6-20 minutes…

          If you call that increased traffic, at a concerning level… well I won’t add more comments, because if I did you and/or the moderator might consider it a personal insult…

          Think… a 400% increase of a small number is still a small number…


        3. Ron

          Thanks.  As noted, it was an “honest” question, and you provided a relatively straightforward answer.  Not sure if there are counter-arguments/concerns regarding the alley, but I’m in no position to make them.

        4. Howard P

          Ron.. I sincerely tried to answer your ‘honest questions’… we are at peace, on this, as far as I’m concerned… hope you understand my answers were equally honest, and based on 35+ years of technical/professional experience (I am licensed to practice traffic engineering)… I actually care not a whit about the outcome of this specific proposal… I care very deeply about the process, and that it be based on facts, and honest opinions… just ‘wired that way’ on development issues.

          Have a great evening…

  2. Ron

    Again, I’m failing to understand the reason that a proposal cannot adhere to neighborhood guidelines (which actually allow for a 3-story building).

    It’s not up to the neighbors to “prove” that a taller, denser proposal (than what is already allowed) has significant impacts.

    As usual, the conversation seems to start by putting the neighbors on “defense”, regarding a proposal that exceeds existing guidelines.

    1. David Greenwald

      I think you raise several points that are worthy of discussion.

      First point, “cannot adhere to neighborhood guidelines” I think it too definitive.  I would modify it to “do not adhere to neighborhood guidelines,” and respond with a question – are the guidelines out of date?  That’s why I’ve really tried to focus a discussion on the CASP first.

      Second, there is a concept in game theory called first mover advantage.  That’s what is happening here.  The developer is the first mover, they make the proposal and then it is up to the opponents to convince the deciders not to go with the first proposal.

      And yes, you are correct, the first mover advantage inherently puts the neighbors and opponents on “defense.”  That’s its nature.  But you also ignore the inherent advantages that opponents of growth have in Davis.  The result is that almost always you end up with a smaller and less dense development than what was originally proposed.

      1. Ron

        David:  “The result is that almost always you end up with a smaller and less dense development than what was originally proposed.”

        If you’re referring to the “original” (6-story) proposal as something that had a legitimate chance, then yes – a 4-story proposal looks “reasonable”, by comparison. (I would not make that comparison, for obvious reasons.)

        Not sure how “adjusting” the neighborhood guidelines would address the concerns raised by neighbors. I would also not automatically conclude that the guidelines “should” (or will) be adjusted, to accommodate this type of development.

        Honestly, I can’t believe that this proposal is even being entertained.  3-stories isn’t “sufficient”, next to existing/small 1-story homes?

        1. David Greenwald

          I’m still believing that what gets passed will not be the current proposal – we’ll see.  But that doesn’t address my point exactly.

          “I can’t believe that this proposal is even being entertained.”

          It has to be entertained, there is no way to prevent it from being entertained.  The other problem you have is that not everyone agrees with your assessment here and someone you have to allow for a difference of opinion to enter and be resolved in the public realm.  your comment doesn’t seem to anticipate that.

      2. Howard P

        I would have used a different analogy… other than ‘game theory’…

        The Fifth amendment protects property rights, absent due process… not clear if guidelines meets that bar… zoning ordinances do.

        So, a property owner, seeking to use their property (now, remember this was framed as the ‘guidelines’, not by ordinance) is entitled to use their property… so, just as in a criminal matter, the property owner should have the benefit of innocence as to impacts, until it is shown/proven that the impacts are significant and can’t be mitigated… perhaps using the standard of “beyond reasonable doubt’?

        This is not a “game”… the underlying principles are law-based… and actually the property owner had to pay for third-party analysis of those impacts… but had little/no control of that analysis…

        1. David Greenwald

          Game theory is simply a way of analyzing a series of proposals and counter-proposals.  Interestingly enough game theory is heavily used in analyzing bargaining and strategic decision making in foreign policy.  War isn’t a game either, but game theory is useful in analyzing decision leading to or avoiding war.

        2. Howard P

          Acknowledged… but my inclination is to look to law first, war/conflict resolution only if that fails… different strokes for different folks… your approach may well be equally valid, as long as it comports with the law (or at least doesn’t directly conflict)… so, maybe we are both onto something… but I fear that often land-use decisions are based on “games”… look at many recent examples of that… I know you know to which I refer… particularly if subject to a ‘vote of the people’…

        3. Ron

          Howard:  “. . . particularly if subject to a ‘vote of the people’…”

          Also based upon “law”.  (Perhaps one you don’t “like”.) Probably not worth going into the “games” which usually occur, regarding land-use decisions in just about every other nearby city.

        4. Ron

          Howard:  It’s not a game, to me.

          I’ve always found it strange that you criticize Measure R, while simultaneously noting on the Vanguard that you didn’t support Nishi (due to traffic concerns), and presumably used the opportunity provided by Measure R to vote against it.  Surely, you must have appreciated the opportunity to weigh in.  Had it been entirely up to the council, it probably would have been approved. (And, I suspect that some on the council haven’t given up on the idea – despite the unresolved traffic concerns, etc.)

          Of all the nonsense that’s discussed on the Vanguard (over which the city and its residents have no say or control), growth/development issues truly are the primary local concern.

        5. Ron

          To clarify, growth/development issues are one of the few concerns that actually matter, regarding local input at least.  (Local opinion has much less influence, regarding what one thinks of BLM, ANTIFA, Trump, Nazis, . . .)

          By the way, “BLM” will always refer to the Bureau of Land Management, for me at least. A primary owner of much of the Berryessa/Snow Mountain Monument. 🙂

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