My View: Trackside Neighbors’ Tactics Are Doomed

New Trackside schematic

The Old East Davis Neighborhood Association has focused much of its attention on what it views as the discrepancy between the project proposal and design guidelines.

In a piece from last year, several neighbors wrote, “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,” they write.  “Zoning by exception defeats this purpose. This is a citywide issue, and the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association is taking a stand, saying that zoning by exception stops here, before Trackside itself is built as yet another exception.”

But in our estimation, this tactic is unlikely to prevail.  The example that we offered from earlier this week was Mission Residence.  In fact, in some ways it’s a more troubling example as the council, which approved it in 2013, did so despite the fact that it was out of compliance with an agreement struck in 2007 over the B Street Visioning Process.

The project exceeded the allowable density by nearly a two to one margin, with 42.4 units per acre compared to the allowable 24 units per acre.  The building also exceeds the 38-foot height guidelines, with a 45-foot height.  And there are only 21 parking spaces compared the required 28.

The problem that the Trackside neighbors and the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association have is that, while the B Street Visioning Process was completed in 2007, the guidelines they rely on are well out of date and in need of revising.

Moreover, if their push is against planning by exception, the council will probably come back with an argument that they are working on the Core Area Specific Plan which will eliminate such concerns and update the current zoning and design guidelines for the area.

The reliance of the neighbors on design guidelines seems to be, frankly, fatally flawed as city staff has already shown the inclination to ignore these guidelines – believing them to be guiding rather than mandatory.  What Mission Residence shows is that a recent council was willing to ignore even recent design guidelines because they need housing.

Heck, even Joe Krovoza, who voted against Cannery, was willing to support this as long as it was planning by exception and did not becoming precedent-setting back in 2013.

When she voted to approve the project, Rochelle Swanson made the argument, “There are times when (there’s) a compelling reason that we have to, as policy makers, look at the overarching needs of the entire community.”

When it is Trackside, the council, specifically Rochelle Swanson, Robb Davis and Will Arnold, are going to look at the housing crisis and argue that we need to look at the needs of the entire community, not just the neighbors in Old East Davis and the neighborhood impact this will create.

The neighbors are correct to focus on more general interests than just their neighborhood, but zoning by exception is not likely to resonate with the council (their target audience) and, other than a few of the usual suspects, we have not seen a great deal of outpouring of interest on Trackside from the broader community.

What we have seen in the last year is that the council was willing to pass the Hyatt House hotel despite opposition from the neighborhood about the size and compatibility of the project.  They were likewise willing to pass Sterling Apartments with the student housing crisis looming.  They were willing to pass the B Street Residence as well, over neighborhood opposition.

So what should the neighbors do?

The Old East Davis Neighborhood Association has repeatedly stated that they are not opposed to a project there, they simply believe the size and scope is inappropriate for the location.

My first suggestion would be for them to request – if they haven’t already – that the city do a conflict resolution process.  This is something that Mayor Robb Davis absolutely believes in.  Brett Lee worked on one with the Rancho Yolo Mobile Home Park folks and Sterling, Will Arnold pushed for one with the Hyatt House folks.

In both cases, the process worked to some extent.  In the case of Hyatt House they scaled down the size somewhat and addressed a number of the other concerns, including establishing some neighborhood benefits, and the neighbors dropped their opposition.

In the case of Sterling, the Rancho Yolo board reached an agreement.  Again, the size and scope of the project was scaled back and they officially dropped their opposition to Sterling, although some of the neighbors remained opposed and spoke out against the project.

Conflict resolution might mean that there would be further compromise on size and there might be other issues that the neighborhood has which would be addressed.

A second area that the neighbors ought to consider hitting is the question that I have about this project – is the project providing for housing needs in Davis?  This is somewhat subjective, but the council has been willing to override concerns expressed by neighbors on other projects because they can argue we have a housing crisis and therefore are in need of the housing that these projects will provide.

But what kind of housing do we need in Davis?  Clearly, we have a desperate need for student housing as shown by the 0.2 percent vacancy rate.  That is what helped push through Sterling and will likely do the same for Lincoln40.  There is also a need for workforce housing for people who work in Davis but either can’t afford, or we do not have the capacity for them, to live in Davis.

There clearly is a need for housing for faculty and staff from UC Davis.  And senior housing has gained traction through the notion that people who live here might wish to downsize to a smaller home as they age in place (though I’m at least a little skeptical of whether that works in practice).  It is then hoped that this would free up single-family homes for families and other housing needs.

However, Trackside would be built not as student housing – in fact, it would be built to exclude students.  They would be higher-end rentals.  They don’t seem to have checked the standard boxes that would be identified as clear needs.

So the neighbors can push the argument that the project will have strong impacts without the upside of providing the high-demand housing that we need.

In the end, the strongest case they have is the conflict resolution route – again, if it is not already underway – and that is the most likely path they will have to a further reduction in size and scope of the project.

—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. Keith O

    One thing I don’t get, how can the city and council push that since the B Street project fit within current planning and zoning guidelines that it must be approved but in turn when we have a project that doesn’t fit the guidelines we must make an exception?  To me it sounds strange to use the guidelines in one instance as a reason for approval but then ignore the guidelines in another.

    1. David Greenwald

      I think you have a good point here. I thought the council was on solid ground approving B St (and the Planning Commission on shaky ground) given its compliance with the city ordinances. I think Brett’s point last week is largely correct that in reality its about counting to three and nothing else matters. But I’ve been troubled by the willingness for the city staff to simply ignore guidelines when inconvenient. However, clearly that is what they are going to do – so I think the neighborhood has to shift tactics because their arguments are not going to work.

  2. Tia Will


    I believe that your analysis neglects to mention steps that have been taken by OEDNA as a group and some individuals who live within the neighborhood acting as individuals.

    1. OEDNA has stressed that the objection is not limited to the exceptions desired by this particular project but as precedent for future projects as well.

    2. I believe that you are underestimating the degree of community support outside OEDNA which recently gained support from Old North Davis and University/Rice neighborhoods.

    3. You made no mention of the alternative concept presented by a member of OEDNA at the last City Council meeting which would have presented a win/win/win solution with increased density & infill while still respecting the current zoning and infill guidelines. I see this as a clear demonstration that the developers proposal was not the only way to meet all current goals, just perhaps with a longer timeline to “pencil out”.

    4. OEDNA has taken no official position with regard to developments that meet actual need such as the Lincoln 40 project which is much closer and may have a much greater impact on those of us who live south of 3rd St. As a resident of this area, I am tentatively optimistic about this project which lies 1/2 block ( and across the tracks ) from my home because of the process used and because it meets a real community need in a substantive fashion by being a large student housing project. This, as opposed to Trackside which replaces current businesses ( not new development of a non productive site) and provides housing only for the most affluent with no guarantee of “trickle down housing” as seniors downsize or young professionals move in as currently claimed.

    5. Finally your article does not even mention the year’s worth of meetings that have already occurred between the developers and OEDNA. During this time they have listened to some of the community’s more peripheral and aesthetic concerns, but remained adamant about their desire to operate outside current zoning and guidelines despite the fact that OEDNA has provided a conceptual alternative when the developer declined to draw up a requested three story version of a potential project.  In fairness, another meeting is being scheduled which you also did not mention.

    1. David Greenwald

      I hear you Tia, but I think in the end none of that is really going to change anything and I think tactically, the neighborhood has to shift as I tried to outline in my commentary.

      1. Tia Will

        But David, you completely ignored the fact that there have been a series of facilitated discussions between OEDNA & the developers, one of your supposed “new tactics”. You also omitted the “new tactic” of developing our own conceptual proposal ( done within the past two weeks) when the developers declined to do so. It is the omissions of your reporting that I was objecting to.

  3. Ron

    David:  “But in our estimation, this tactic is unlikely to prevail.”

    Just wondering – do you “want” it to fail?   Also, are you sure that you have a good “read”, regarding the council’s intentions?

    Unlike Sterling and Hyatt, Trackside is “in the face of” neighbors (in small, single-floor houses).

    This provides a clear (and ongoing) example of the problems associated with “planning/zoning via vacancy rate”.  (And, it likely won’t help anyway, if this type of planning provides a justification to continue avoiding the issue with UCD.) A failure to deal with the root cause, along with a misguided attempt to deal with the effect.

    1. David Greenwald

      To answer your question – yes I think I have a pretty good read on council.  And it’s irrelevant whether or not I want it to fail.

      You say unlike Sterling and Hyatt, Trackside is “in the face of” neighbors.  You are largely incorrect there.  Certainly having walked through neighbor homes around Hyatt, those across the greenbelt would have been impacted just as much.  In the end, I don’t think that’s going to impact the decision.

    2. David Greenwald

      I’ll address the issue of UCD separately.  I think (A) UCD is irrelevant to Trackside.  (B) It’s not a root cause.  And (C) I think while UCD is a proximate impact on student housing issues, my read is that the overall housing market problems go well beyond growth at UC Davis.  I think you and Eileen in particular have ignored other pressures for growth.  UC Davis is a factor, but it’s one of many.

  4. Ron

    David:  “And it’s irrelevant whether or not I want it to fail.”

    I strongly disagree.  You operate a publication which harps upon these issues, in an increasingly one-sided manner.  You’re also (apparently) on friendly terms (and share some of the same goals) as some of the local leaders.

    You’re also continuing to avoid the question.

    David:  “I think (A) UCD is irrelevant to Trackside.  (B) It’s not a root cause.”

    It’s entirely relevant to the issue that you harp upon, as a justification for approving these proposals:  the vacancy rate.  UCD is the primary driver of the vacancy rate, which impacts the entire rental market. If there continues to be a “disconnect” between the city’s and UCD’s goals and plans, these conflicts will continue. (Lots more Vanguard articles to come, I suppose.)


    1. Don Shor

      It’s entirely relevant to the issue that you harp upon, as a justification for approving these proposals: the vacancy rate. UCD is the primary driver of the vacancy rate, which impacts the entire rental market.

      I think the point is that Trackside is not aimed at the student rental market.

      1. Ron

        Don:  Ironically, you’ve quoted a statement which shows why that doesn’t matter, overall.

        I always find it rather amusing (and somewhat “desperate”) to suggest that the rental/housing markets are realistically “divvied up” in the manner that some suggest, with no connection to the root/overall cause.

        1. Ron

          I recall that you previously explained how the Trackside developers were planning to exclude students, but I don’t recall the details.  Can you repeat them?

          I assume that it’s illegal to specifically exclude students.

          Regarding your “assessment”, you’re the one who focuses on the vacancy rate.  Are the Davis “single professionals” or “retired empty-nesters” unable to find or afford housing?  Are they living on the street, instead?  Are groups of them down at the council, demanding action?

          1. Don Shor

            I recall that you previously explained how the Trackside developers were planning to exclude students, but I don’t recall the details. Can you repeat them?

            By requiring tenants to pass a credit check.

      1. Ron

        The question is, do you hope the neighbors’ efforts fail?  (Again, the guidelines allow for a 3-story building.) If I recall correctly, you’d prefer 4 stories (due to the vacancy rate), right?

        1. David Greenwald

          I would just suggest that you are misreading my view. I think that the neighbors raised good points and bad points, but their current line of argument is not going to succeed. It is irrelevant whether I hope it does or doesn’t because it doesn’t change my assessment.

        2. Howard P

          Another way of looking at it, is floor story of retail/commercial/business, 3 stories of housing… I support that as a trend we should be going to in the Core… unless of course, we just expand the City footprint.

        3. Ron

          David:  “It is irrelevant whether I hope it does or doesn’t because it doesn’t change my assessment.”

          It changes what you report/focus on.  Imagine how different the Vanguard would be, if a more “slow-growth” individual was writing these articles.

          Not  sure why you continue to avoid taking a position, while “talking around it”.  Do you support 4-stories at this location, or not?  (Pretty simple question.) Actually, you never seem to take a position regarding ANY given development. Instead, you primarily focus on reasons why they should be approved.

          1. Don Shor

            Imagine how different the Vanguard would be, if a more “slow-growth” individual was writing these articles.

            Go for it.

          2. David Greenwald

            Part of it is that I don’t have a position. I would not be opposed to four at this location but that is as I have written dependent on the core area specific plan and how high up we decide to go in the core. If we only go to four stories in the core, four doesn’t make sense here. If we go up to six, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stay at two. Make sense?

            But none of that is for me the biggest issue facing the project.

        4. Ron

          Don:  I’m “busy enough” pointing out the counter-arguments that aren’t reported on.  (And, I’m not running or moderating a publication.)

          I’m just hoping that anyone happening upon this site understands that the point of view expressed in these articles is not universally accepted. I suspect that the same will be true at the upcoming “growth forum”, hosted by the Vanguard.

        5. Ron

          David:  “But none of that is for me the biggest issue facing the project.”

          Honest question – what is the biggest issue for you, regarding this proposal?

          (Got to run for awhile, soon.)

        6. Ron

          David:  “The key question is – are we providing housing that we actually need in this city?”

          That’s the fundamental question, where we likely disagree.

          On a broader level (e.g., in so-called “desirable areas” of California), I could see this coming a long time ago.  To me, the question is, “do we simply continue to build to meet market demand, and then deal with the ever-worsening consequences” – e.g., traffic/congestion on existing roads, loss of open space, negative impacts upon the environment, further squeezing existing resources such as water supply, etc.)

          Seems like the height of absurdity to think that’s a desirable (or even achievable) goal.  As you sometimes say, “something’s got to give”.  (I’d suggest that it’s ultimately the idea that never-ending growth/development is something that should continue to be pursued.)

          Ultimately, it’s an environmental issue, which won’t be solved by switching to low-energy light bulbs, low-flow toilets, more efficient autos, etc. (Those efforts just buy time, and enable the current path to continue.)

          Unfortunately, few leaders seem to talk about (or acknowledge this). Even our governor.

          1. David Greenwald

            “That’s the fundamental question, where we likely disagree.”

            I’m not sure we do. There’s a reason why I brought that up as the critical question here. I’ve never made any bones about whether we need student housing, but I have to question the proposed housing type here as a critical need. And if you’re going to put a huge burden on neighbors here, then it seems to me there has to be a clear community benefit in doing so and I’m just not convinced.

        7. Ron

          There (might) be some hope for you, yet!  🙂

          I’ve always suspected that (deep-down), you are concerned about environmental issues.  (Ultimately – and on a broader level, that’s what this issue is about.)  Includes “livability”, as well.

          Your “nature photos” seem to show a side that’s not presented very often, on the Vanguard. (Actually, almost all of your photos are quite good.)

        8. Mark West

          “And if you’re going to put a huge burden on neighbors here, then it seems to me there has to be a clear community benefit in doing so and I’m just not convinced.”

          What ‘huge burden?’ Having a four story building in their neighborhood? Have you asked the neighbors of other four story apartments in town if the building is a burden?

          How about the burden imposed on those who are unable to find appropriate housing? is it appropriate for the neighbor’s fears of tall buildings (and those who live in them) to be given greater weight than the actual damage being done daily to those who are desperate for housing?

      2. Matt Williams

        Howard’s way of looking at it would be consistent with the provisions of the M-U (Mixed Use) Zoning Regulations, which state:

        40.15.060 Height regulations.

        _ (a)    Structures shall not exceed three stories in height except as provided in Section 40.15.080.

        _ (b)    Mixed use and residential structures shall not exceed three stories in height except as provided in Section 40.15.080.

        40.15.080 Lot coverage; floor area ratio requirements.

        _ (a)    Lot coverage (without parking district).
        ___ (1)    Mixed use and residential structures, fifty percent.

        _ (b)    Lot coverage (with parking district).
        ___ (1)    Mixed use and residential structures, eighty percent.

        _ (c)    Floor area ratio (FAR) shall be determined using the following chart:

        Base/Bonus FAR _________________ Mixed use and residential structures
        Base FAR ___________________________________ 1.5
        Buildings providing underground parking ___________ Bonus up to 0.5 FAR
        Buildings providing plazas/ outdoor gathering areas __ Bonus up to 0.2 FAR
        Preservation of residential structure _______________ Bonus up to 0.5 FAR
        Total permitted FAR, including bonuses ____________ 2.0
        FAR in the M-U district not to exceed 2.0 with bonuses.

         ____ (1)    Mixed use and residential structures, one hundred fifty percent of the total lot area.

        _ (d)    Floor area ratio bonuses. All projects applying for floor area ratio bonuses shall be subject to design review. Total amount of floor area ratio bonus shall be determined through the design review process.

      3. Matt Williams

        To state that Zoning Code regulation succinctly, mixed use buildings of more than 3 stories are allowed as long as they do not exceed 2.0 Floor Area Ratio and they meet specific lot coverage and parking requirements.

        So Howard’s 3 over 1 would comply with Zoning Code if it did not exceed 2.0 Floor Area Ratio.

        1. larryguenther

          Actually Matt, this is incorrect.  First, by the list you post they would get an allowable FAR of 1.7 if they built a plaza on their property, not on the adjacent leased land.  Also, the current zoning for that site is 2-3 stories and…

          The City of Davis Municipal Code section 40.13A.020 (b) states: “Wherever the guidelines for the DTRN conflict with the existing zoning standards including planned development, the more restrictive standard shall prevail.”

        2. Ron

          Seems that this issue is critical for the neighbors and city to sort out, especially since the city seems determined to cram as much in as possible under existing guidelines (as demonstrated by approval of the B Street development).

          Alternatively, the city could simply wait until the CASP is clarified. (However, I suspect that as a result of that process, the existing guidelines for Trackside would essentially remain in place.)

          3-stories makes sense, here.

        3. Ron

          (I should have clarified – under existing guidelines AND existing zoning.) Not sure if the zoning was changed to accommodate the B Street development.

          I sincerely hope this works out for the neighbors of this proposal.

        4. Matt Williams

          Larry, as it exists the plaza is an integral part of their proposal.  I agree with you that the long-term leased status of the leased land is a subject of dispute, but until there is a determination otherwise the application is “as proposed.”  If in the future the lease is disallowed, I agree with you.

          The current zoning is M-U.  The zoning regulations for M-U are not 2-3 stories.  The Design Guidelines are arguably 2-3 stories, but they are arguably not “standards.”

          I am not providing the additional information as an “either/or” dichotomy, but rather to illuminate a highly contradictory “both/and” mess.

  5. Eileen Samitz


    I find it astonishing how you continue to try to diminish the negative impacts of UCD’s negligence to provide adequate on-campus housing.  UCD is clearly a root cause of any housing shortage that Davis may have, and that is more and more evident as UCD accepts more and more students while dragging their heels on committing to the needed 50/100 plan.

    1. Matt Williams

      Eileen, I find it equally astonishing that you try to paint this issue with a monochromatic brush, and in the process diminish the fact that the growth of enrollment at UCD and the growth of population in Davis closely paralleled one another for 30 years until the City unilaterally chose (through the passage of Measure J in 2000) to substantially constrain its population growth rate.

      The numbers do not lie.

      The city population experienced 56% growth in the decade of the 70s, 26% in the 80s, 30% in the 90s, and 9% in the 2000s”
      UCD Total Enrollment experienced 42% growth in the decade of the 70s, 27% in the 80s and 7% in the 90s, and 21% in the 2000s.
      For the aggregate period from 1970 to 2010 the city population grew 179% and UCD’s Total Enrollment grew 135%.

      1. Matt Williams

        Howard, I’m not willing to go that far.  Eileen is very cognizant of the facts.  I respect her greatly for her deep understanding of the facts.  My belief (which could be wrong) is that she is consciously discarding some of the facts in order to serve her political message.  Open discussion of the fact that the City and UCD were in equilibrium for more than 30 years prior to the passage of Measure J does not help move her political message forward.  That isn’t about “learning” that is about “choice.”

        1. Eileen Samitz


          What you are not accounting for is the massive growth that UCD has been adding on in student growth population. For heavens sake, the City is housing 63% of UCD’s enormous 35,000+ student population while UCD drags it heels at only providing 29%, the majority of which are freshman beds for only 1 year for freshman. So these freshman dorm beds should only count as 1/4 of a bed, since they do not offer housing for the full 4 (or more) years that the students attend UCD.

          So, while the City is housing over 22,000 UCD students, UCD is only providing 9,400 beds most of which are dorm beds for only for one year. On top of this, UCD adds more and more new students every year exacerbating the overcrowded campus which cannot handle the students they have now, no less adding more. The students, faculty and staff have all been complaining bout this.

          Meanwhile, UCD has plenty of land and can do far higher densities to accommodate their own growth like the other UC’s are. UCD’s negligence and lack of adequate planning is inexcusable.

          Finally, Matt you are wrong in your belief. Further, I would appreciate it if you did not try to make the false assumptions that you tend to make about my comments on this issue. In fact, contrary to your “belief” it seems apparent that it is you who is selectively ignoring the facts and trying to place the primary blame for this situation elsewhere, rather than where it belongs which is at the feet of UCD.


        2. Matt Williams

          Eileen, let’s take a look at “the massive growth” you refer to.  The numbers below are the  decade-by-decade Total Enrollment numbers for UCD from 1970 to present:

          1970 _____ 1980 _____ 1990 _____ 2000 _____ 2010

          12,971 ___ 18,370 ___ 23,318 ___ 25,075 ___ 30,449

          N/A ____ 42% _____ 27% ____ 7.5% _____ 21%

          The 2020 Initiative set a 2027 goal of 39,000, chic with 20/20 hindsight looks low to me, because in 2016 they have already reached 37,424, so here are a few enrollment growth calculations based on specific enrollment levels.

          38,000 = 25% growth over 10 years
          39,000 = 28% growth
          40,000 = 31% growth

          The aggregate growth rate over 10 years from 1970 through 2010 is 135%.  The four decade average is therefore 34% (on a straight line basis) and 24% (on a compounded basis).  Which tells us that UCD’s projected enrollment growth from 2010 to 2020 is only slightly above their historical average.


          When you say “In fact, contrary to your “belief” it seems apparent that it is you who is selectively ignoring the facts and trying to place the primary blame for this situation elsewhere, rather than where it belongs which is at the feet of UCD.” you are ignoring the fact that I have not said that any of your numbers or opinions are wrong, simply that they are incomplete.  

          I leave the assignment of “blame” to you.  I have said before, and say again, there is plenty of blame to go around … to UCD, most importantly to the Regents and UCOP, and to the City.

          I very publicly joined you in 2008 in the HESC process, in calling for more housing on the UCD campus, very clearly and publicly noting (as you did) that UCD had not lived up to its commitment in the 2002 UC Housing Task Force report.  

          It is too bad that you prefer to have only a portion of the whole picture discussed.  You are doing an outstanding job illuminating the on-campus housing component of the problem.  The enrollment vs population trends, not so much.


          Eileen, the big difference between our respective approaches to this discussion is that I am reading your comments and my comments with a “both/and” orientation. Based on what you have said above, you appear to be interpreting my comments with an “either/or” orientation. May I suggest that you reread my comments thinking “both/and” as you read them, and I believe you will clearly see my intent.

        3. Matt Williams

          With respect to Don’s 1:57 pm comment about  4736.55 acres in Yolo County and 1678.83 acres in Solano County it is worth noting that any of 1678.83 acres that is zoned agriculture is protected by Solano County’s Orderly Growth Initiative, which severely restricts the possibility of that agricultural land being converted to urbanized use.  

          I suspect that effectively takes some or all of those 1678.83 acres off the table.

      2. Ron

        Matt:  “The numbers do not lie.”

        I’m failing to understand the argument, here.  The implication being that when UCD says “jump”, the city must (forever) ask “how high”?  (Even as much of the recent/planned growth at UCD is due to their unilateral pursuit of International students who can pay $42K in tuition?)

        Indeed, the numbers don’t lie. In fact, they’ve been posted here more than once (along with some audit reports which were highly critical of UC’s operations).

        Time to deal with UCD in a more effective and permanent manner. Otherwise, this will continue (as long as UCD’s “well” doesn’t run dry).

      3. Ron

        Of course, there have also been numbers posted regarding all of the “previously-promised” campus housing that apparently hasn’t been built.

        Again, numbers don’t lie.

        1. Don Shor

          Trackside is a very small project, obviously, but it is really competing in the market for young professionals, higher-paid staff and faculty, etc. UCD is a huge factor in that market, obviously, since it is one of the biggest employers in the region. Two useful data points for comparison:
          Total career and non-career staff at UCD in 2010: 19,871
          Total career and non-career staff at UCD in 2016: 24,093.
          21% increase in staffing. UC has provided a small amount of equity-limited housing for staff at West Village and at Aggie Villa previously. But most of those 4000+ new staff are competing in the Davis housing market, or living in Dixon, Woodland, West Sacramento, Vacaville, etc. Most (by overwhelming numbers) are driving in to town.
          So yes, UCD is a major factor in the housing market. The crucial part is what they’ve done (or not done) that is affecting the student rental market. But as the premier employer in the area, they certainly do drive the non-student housing market as well — regionally, not just locally. The thing is, we don’t generally expect employers to house their staff.

        2. Ron

          Don:  “The thing is, we don’t generally expect employers to house their staff.”

          “Other” employers (such as you) pay taxes to help support a community.  Even so, I suspect that if a private employer had 5,300 acres, they would “find” a way to house their employees – and their “long-term customers” (students).  (Especially those paying $42K in tuition.)  Of course, they can continue to avoid doing so, if the city takes on the costs and responsibilities, instead.  (Such as unfunded bicycle overpasses/underpasses, to reach campus.)

          In any case, you’ve neglected to mention the imminently-planned faculty/staff housing at West Village.

          1. Don Shor

            Even so, I suspect that if a private employer had 5,300 acres, they would “find” a way to house their employees

            I can’t think of any large employers in the area that build housing on private land for their employees. Can you? I could be wrong. Aerojet? Intel? Usually employers count on the private housing market for their employees’ housing.
            Most of that “5300 acres” is not suited to development or housing. So long as you and others keep using that number, it will probably be necessary to rebut it. You could, of course, stop using that number. It’s not even an accurate tally of what UCD owns nor does it accurately reflect the amount of land they have suitable for housing or other construction projects.

        3. Ron

          Another (perhaps minor point):  Those commuting from other communities don’t necessarily “drive through town” to reach campus. In general, the shortest/easiest “commute” is experienced by those living on campus.

          When UCD starts directly contributing taxes to offset costs imposed upon a community (as private businesses do), please let us know.

          Yeap – 5,300 acres (unless you know otherwise).

          1. Don Shor

            4736.55 acres in Yolo County, including Russell Ranch (1573 acres).
            1678.83 acres in Solano County.
            Russell Ranch and Solano County properties mostly not appropriate for development, as they are either conserved specifically or by location for agricultural research. We won’t be housing students out at the Wolfskill property, for instance, nor on Stebbins Reserve.
            The area around the core campus suited for development of housing and other projects is about 1500 – 1800 acres, depending on how far west you’re willing to go.
            So 5300 is not a valid number for any purpose.

        4. Howard P

          Don… according to the media, the State is considering legislation to allow school districts to develop housing on their vacant land (think Grande a few years ago, Nugget Fields today) for their employees… [AB 45 & AB 1157]

  6. Howard P

    And, somewhat off-topic, what’s with this “survey”?  Who, why, and how?

    Bars of support (‘view results’)are not proportional to votes… there appears to be no protections to prevent “the Chicago model”… appears to be totally bogus.

    I, for an exercise, tried to vote twice… no problems encountered… it appears a group of folk could sit around with their laptops/devices and vote every 5-10 minutes to ‘make their point’… as I said, zero credibility, whatever the “results”…

    If I don’t get a “real” answer, sometime before 1P today, will vote every 3 minutes, to make sure that the results are bogus… will keep track of my votes, and will advise David, off-line, so he’ll know what to subtract from which…

    1. Ron

      Howard:  ” . . . it appears a group of folk could sit around with their laptops/devices and vote every 5-10 minutes to ‘make their point’…”

      Let me clear my throat.  *Ahem*  🙂  (Regarding input on the Vanguard, we should ALL avoid looking in the mirror, at this point.)

      Regarding the poll, who was it that said, “vote early/often”? (Something like that.)

      1. Howard P

        Hence, my reference to the Chicago system… difference is, I did it as a test… and fully disclosed.

        Now that I know it’s a game, for fun, I’ll have some fun…

        1. Eileen Samitz

          How interesting. Since the comment about “running up the votes” was posted on this Vanguard “poll” the “Davis” category went up well over 100 votes in the last 20-30 minutes. Since apparently anyone can vote multiple times (and the word is out to the developers apparently) this Vanguard “poll” is meaningless.

          So, David I hope you understand that this “poll” you posted is totally rigged at this point, and hopefully will not be used in any article? I strongly suggest you take it down because it is not only meaningless, but is really ridiculous now. It goes beyond the pale of misleading any readers noticing it at this point.

        2. Eileen Samitz

          Wow…18 more votes for Davis in the last 5 minutes since I checked and posted my comments regarding this rigged poll.

          The developer email list apparently is rocking and rolling on this Vanguard “poll”!

  7. Tia Will


    their current line of argument is not going to succeed. “

    Maybe I am unclear as what you see as “their current line of argument”, since that has evolved over the course of the past two weeks when the new conceptual proposal was drawn up in the absence of a similar concept from the developers. Could you explain what you see as “the current line” since you did not even mention what I see as the current reasoning.


  8. Mark West


    Housing policy is supposed to be nondiscriminatory, yet many of the arguments made here today are at their base, forms of discrimination against one class of people or another. The most prevalent being, against those who do not already have an appropriate place to live. We may not be discussing deed restrictions against a specific race or religion, but the arguments made by the elite ‘haves’ of Davis (those who have an appropriate place to live) to justify their actions against the ‘have-nots’ (those in need of a place) are functionally the same as those made by people in another era whom we would all likely recognize as being overtly bigoted.

    It should not be relevant (in fact, it should not even be an acceptable argument) who or what type or class of people will occupy new housing. Nondiscriminatory means anyone may live there. If you are looking to prevent new housing in town for one class or another, you are acting the part of the bigot. Appropriate housing is a social justice issue, and its availability should not be controlled by those in town who believe they have the right to predetermine which groups of people (and how many) will be allowed to move into their neighborhood.


    1. Alan Miller

      If you are looking to prevent new housing in town for one class or another, you are acting the part of the bigot.

      MW, I went through this comment section to discern who had argued “to prevent new housing in town for one class or another”, so as to determine which commenters you may judge to be bigots.  I don’t want to assume your exact criteria for calling someone a bigot, so I’d prefer you be the one to put words in your mouth.  So please, since you are calling people bigots today, please name the specific people you are calling bigots, so there is no misunderstanding.

      [moderator] That would violate the Vanguard Comment Policy.

      1. Mark West

        I have not labeled anyone a bigot, Alan M.. What I have done is point out that many of the arguments being made here are philosophically and logically identical to those used to justify the segregated neighborhoods I saw while in graduate school. It boils down to people trying to predetermine their neighbors by limiting access of those who do not fit the preferred criteria. I think housing discrimination in any form is wrong and bad for the community.

  9. Tia Will

    How about the burden imposed on those who are unable to find appropriate housing? “

    I think that Mark makes an excellent point. I just interpret it differently. The people that will be able to afford to live in one of the Trackside apartments are not the same people who will be “unable to find appropriate housing”. The people who will be able to afford these luxury apartments are people who can also afford other “luxury” accommodations such as purchasing a house or condominium. I do not see this project, small as it is, as meeting a true community need. It is clearly a “nice to have” for the few who will live there and for the developers and investors at significant costs to the immediate neighbors which have been outlined elsewhere. And no, I am not one of them, and this does not affect me directly, so can we please just agree that this is a philosophic difference in point of view, not an issue of finances or “bigotry”.


    1. Mark West

      “The people that will be able to afford to live in one of the Trackside apartments are not the same people who will be “unable to find appropriate housing”.”

      You do not know that, as everyone’s description of ‘appropriate housing’ will be different. Davis has a severe housing shortage of all types, so any sort of new housing will help meet a need. It is simply not your place to decide who should be allowed to move into your neighborhood, either on an individual basis or as a class.

      “this does not affect me directly”

      On this, we agree.

  10. Ron

    Mark:  “How about the burden imposed on those who are unable to find appropriate housing?”

    That’s why some are advocating that the city confront UCD.  No one is “forcing” UCD to pursue International students, or to fail to accommodate them on campus.

    Settle that issue, and all the rest will fall in line.

    A broader point:  Is it ANY community’s responsibility to continue to build housing for those who might want to move there?  (With all of the costs and impacts that entails?)  Is this a reasonable “demand”?  (If so, I have my eye on a nice spot on some currently-open ranchland near Pt. Reyes.) Perhaps I should start attending council and supervisor meetings, in Marin county. (Damn those snobby, wealthy, self-centered, greedy bigots! How dare they preserve land that I might live on.)


    1. David Greenwald

      What if those people who might want to live here are people Who work here?. So that means that right now they drive into town which clogs the roads and then they drive out of town. Isn’t that bad for the environment?

      1. Ron

        David:  Yes.  But, last time I checked, there was no way to ensure (or even know) if that population would take advantage of new housing in Davis.  (In fact, that population is likely diverse, in more than one way.)

        Have you ever looked into exactly who is occupying new units at the Cannery, for example?  Where are they from, and what connection did they have to Davis?

        If they moved from surrounding communities, who took their place in those communities, and where are those folks now “commuting”?

        Also, how many people were like me (commuting via public transit to Sacramento, from Davis)?  Is that a “priority” population for you? (I can assure you that I wasn’t “alone” on those buses. I recall standing-room only, at times. And that was years ago. Not sure how it is, today.)

        In other words, how do you know that any housing will be occupied by one of your preferred groups?

      2. Ron

        Or, is your plan to simply build it, and hope that it’s occupied by your preferred groups?

        I always find it halfway amusing when someone talks about developments to meet an “internal need”. That’s pure b.s., with the possible exception of Affordable housing.

        Again, there has to be some resolution with UCD. If/when that occurs, the situation will drastically (and perhaps permanently) change. Without that, there can’t really be much successful planning in Davis.

        1. Don Shor

          Or, is your plan to simply build it, and hope that it’s occupied by your preferred groups?

          Is it your plan to simply build almost nothing, and hope that several thousand staff people go live in nearby cities?

          there has to be some resolution with UCD.

          Just say what you really mean: you want the city to sue the university. What resolution do you think that would yield?

          1. David Greenwald

            “Is it your plan to simply build almost nothing, and hope that several thousand staff people go live in nearby cities?”

            The plan seems to be either that (A) the staff people live elsewhere and commute here or (B) that UCD builds the housing and some can live there. Of course, I don’t really get what the difference is between the university building on Agland and the city building on Agland, so this whole thing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

            But Ron, your answer seems to be that if we can’t ensure that housing will be occupied by those with identified needs, we should not provide housing at all. That doesn’t make any sense. Doing nothing ensures that the problem doesn’t get solved.

        2. Ron

          Don:  Davis is unique (compared to cities that don’t host universities).  I am saying that without some kind of resolution (which may, or may not require legal action), the city will essentially continue to be a “pawn” for UCD’s plans.

          Unless something is done to resolve the situation, folks like you will continue to be arguing for more housing for years to come, as a result of UCD’s “latest plans”. (And yet, there will still be a housing “shortage”, concerns from neighborhoods, financial and other costs . . .”) In fact, I understand that you’ve already been “sounding the alarm”, for years. You’ll continue along that path, I suppose.

          I don’t have the expertise to start “guessing” about the legal options the city might have.  However, we do know that two other cities which host UC’s have used those options.  (Albeit, the situation might, or might not be somewhat different.)  Have at it, if you’d care to engage in some armchair legal analysis.

          Of course, the “other” possibility is that the International student market might “dry up”. Other universities are already competing for those students.

        3. Howard P

          Well kinda hard to say that Davis “hosts” UCD… University Farm predates the incorporation of Davis.  It by and large has been a symbiotic relationship… one grows and thrives, the other grows and thrives.

        4. Ron

          Well, one grows and thrives, at least.  The other suffers (and is starting to “wither”).  (Referring to the city itself, not the individuals who benefit.)

          Seriously, it will be interesting to see what happens in future years, if the situation is not resolved. (Probably more of the same.)

  11. Ron

    Mark:  “You do not know that, as everyone’s description of ‘appropriate housing’ will be different.”

    I actually agree with that statement, as is.  (However, I arrive at an opposite conclusion.)

  12. Howard P

    However, Davis should not ‘house’ UCD offices, labs, etc., where the land used comes off the tax rolls, and is unavailable for business/commercial uses which provide PT and other revenues…

    1. Matt Williams

      Howard, Davis doesn’t choose to ‘house’ UCD offices.  The individual land owners (landlords) choose to rent space to UCD in an open supply/demand real estate rental marketplace.  Similarly, land owners choose to sell their property (for example the skating rink then Explorit building on 2nd Street also in an open supply/demand real estate sale marketplace.

      1. Howard P

        Understood… but if “co-operation”, and “partnering” were happening, without the items I mentioned and the ‘master leases’, we would not be facing as many fiscal challenges… that was my point…

        1. Howard P

          Understood… then why do some think we have the power to change UCD’s approach(es)?  Some focus (pretty much entirely) on the residential… I choose to point out that is just silly, unless you deal with the other side of the coin… maybe that was not clear… I was pointing out the myopia of those who think we can change UCD on ‘residential’ housing… they are tilting at the wrong windmill…

          The focus should be larger, but some seem to think they will be victorious if UCD builts more housing… a pyrrhic victory…

          and of course zero City growth…

  13. larryguenther

    The issue for the neighborhood is, and always has been, mass and scale.  If the main issue for the City Council is housing, then the issue seems to boil down to this.  The existing zoning and Design Guidelines allow an FAR 0f 1.5, 3 stories (if done in a way that respects neighbors and other considerations), and allows 15 dwelling units.  This is absolutely achievable – the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association presented such a proposal the City Council, have forwarded a copy to the Trackside Partners, shown the concept at the Farmer’s Market, and will be doing more outreach very soon.

    The current proposal has 27 high-end apartments.

    So is the City Council willing to ignore the Design Guidelines and other planning documents for 12 high-end apartments?  Are they willing to start the erosion of another Historic Neighborhood for 12 high-end apartments?

    Every survey done that asks “what do you most love about Davis,” gets the answer, “the small town feel.”  Whether the respondents are visitors or residents of Davis.  I submit that the predominant contributor to ‘the small town feel’ is the historic neighborhoods.  The general plan, core area specific plan, design guidelines, and every speaker invited to Davis to talk about city planning has stated that you need to have careful transitions between residential neighborhoods and the downtown core.  So is the City Council going to go against all that advice and all city planning documents for 12 high-end apartments?

    As Planning Commissioner David Robertson asked, “If we’re not going to follow the Design Guidelines, why do we have them?”  And a subsequent question could be, if we’re not going to follow them, why spend all the time and money for new ones?

    1. David Greenwald


      Is the council willing to ignore design guidelines for 27 housing units?  Absolutely.  They did with Mission Residence with a more recent proposal.  I dont think you’re going to win on this point.

      1. larryguenther

        David.  It’s interesting that you keep bringing up the Mission project, since the EIR for that project lists following the Design Guidelines better in the future as part of the mitigation of the negative effects of the project.

        Also, you seem to have missed one of my points and fallen into the ‘all or nothing’ trap.  This is not an ‘all or nothing’ situation.  The existing zoning allows 15 units.  The current proposal is 27.  27 – 15 = 12.  A gain of 12 units over existing zoning.  Lack of high end housing is not, in my view, the root problem that the City faces.  I just don’t see the benefit of ignoring zoning and good city planning for 12 high-end apartments.

        I understand that you feel our strategy will be ineffective, it is the title of the article after all.  But we did feel that reasonable argument and existing law should be given a chance.

        1. David Greenwald

          I understand your point. Mine is slightly different with respect to the number of units. If the project was filling vital needs, it might make sense to go to greater density even at the expense of the neighborhood. Might is the key word. But with the current target population, you’re not filling a community need AND you are doing it at the expense of existing residents.

          In a perfect world I think the existing guidelines should be adhered to or changed, but neither the council majority nor city staff seem moved by that reasoning, therefore… I think you have to shift your approach.

    2. Mark West

      “the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association presented such a proposal the City Council, have forwarded a copy to the Trackside Partners, shown the concept at the Farmer’s Market, and will be doing more outreach very soon.”

      Have you also offered to purchase the property from the existing owners, risking your own financial future so that your proposal may go forward, or do you think you have the right to spend other people’s money?

  14. Ron

    Mark:  “Have you also offered to purchase the property from the existing owners, risking your own financial future so that your proposal may go forward, or do you think you have the right to spend other people’s money?”

    It’s the neighbors’ responsibility to be concerned about development interests that purchased a property on the speculative hope that the guidelines would be ignored?  (Actually, it does seem like it might be a “good bet”, under the current council. In any case, they can always return with something that actually adheres to the guidelines, if the current effort fails.)

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