From the start the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association has pushed back against charges of NIMBYism by arguing that they are not opposed to redeveloping the Trackside site, they simply believe that the current project is disproportionate in height and mass to the location.
As one commenter put it yesterday, what they are saying here is, “This is OK in our back yard.”
It is a smart move by the neighbors to put their own proposal out, but the trend we are seeing is that, as the council has made it clear they are going to try to pass something, the idea you can block projects is disappearing and instead the strategy has moved to reducing size and scope. Instead of NIMBY, we have the emergence of the SIMBY movement – or “Smaller in My Backyard.”
While I jest on this point, I see this increasingly as part of the way that infill is going to be accomplished in Davis.
If we look at the Hyatt House debate from last year – the neighbors immediately in that project organized against the project. They argued that the a hotel was inappropriate for that spot while also expressing concerns over privacy and other impacts. Eventually it became clear that the council was going to support a project there – at that point they came to the table, and were able to get the height reduced from 4 stories to 3.5 stories with some other neighborhood benefits as well.
When neighbors at Rancho Yolo expressed concerns about the Sterling Apartments project, the resulting meeting reduced the project’s height and scope.
The neighbors were not going to win on the design guidelines issues – even though they continue to make their case on that. They argue, “Approval of the Trackside Partners’ proposal by the
City Council would violate the agreements designed to protect traditional neighborhoods from direct, overwhelming encroachment and unmitigated impacts.”
They further cite Planning Commissioner David Robertson at the August 23 Trackside Center hearing, who said, “If we’re not going to enforce the Design Guidelines, then why do we have them?”
I have long argued that the Planning Commission and neighbors have a point here that the city, rather than arbitrarily changing the planning guidelines on a project by project basis, needs to update the Core Area Specific Plan itself.
Part of my reasoning is that right now the CASP calls for heights in the core at three stories, maybe four stories. That seems badly outdated given the current needs of the community. It seems much more reasonable to go up to six stories in the core. And if we go up to six stories in the core, three or four stories along the transition area seems much more realistic.
But once again, as was pointed out yesterday, the city is not going to sit on Trackside for two years for this process to be done – which in my mind is not good planning. Instead, they will likely ram through some sort of compromise that will not take into account the holistic approach of planning in the core.
As Brett Lee has pointed out a number of times, the guidelines and zoning are not nearly the protections that we think they are. Instead, they are devices that can be changed at the whim of the latest group of three.
However, I still think there is value in what the neighbors have done here. Putting their own proposal on the board insulates them from NIMBYism charges as well as puts an alternative in paper on the board.
That said, it is now pretty clear where this process is going and I’m not sure how the neighbors will like this.
The first Trackside proposal was for a six-story building. The neighbors pushed back, with some arguing that two would be more appropriate. The developers then came back with a four-story scaled down proposal. The neighbors continue to push back and now have gone up to three stories.
That pushes the compromise point to 3.5 stories. That is the same height as the Hyatt House and slightly lower than the compromise four-story Sterling Apartments.
Is that going to be enough for the neighbors to walk away with a win-win?
That is where the process appears to be heading, however. We’ll see what happens when this comes before council on October 10.
In the meantime, be sure to join us tonight at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, 173 E Street, for discussion of Student Housing.
—David M. Greenwald reporting