Staff Recommends Council Approval of Trackside

The Trackside Center project has been one of the more contentious issues since the project was first introduced more than two years ago as a six-story redevelopment project.  The project has now been decreased to a four-story mixed-use building located in the transition zone of the city core, and maintains current levels of commercial space while adding 27 one- and two-bedroom apartment units.

The current project calls for the removal of two existing single-story commercial buildings, to be replaced by a new four-story mixed-use building just past the railroad tracks as you head east on 3rd Street.

Currently the proposal calls for 47,983 square-feet of building with 8950 of that as commercial/retail space on the ground floor.

Apartment units include a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units ranging in size from 705 square feet to 1,537 square feet plus balconies. Thirty parking stalls are provided in a mix of covered and uncovered spaces.

In addition to the apartment units and retail spaces, the building includes common areas for a manager’s office, lobby, mail room, bike storage, utility room, trash room, a lounge and roof terrace. Proposed floor area ratio (FAR) is 1.59 for the project site (2.1 FAR without the lease area).

This represents a significant reduction from the original proposal submitted in June of 2015 for a six-story, 86,000 square-foot building with 48 apartment units and underground parking.

Staff notes that “due to neighborhood concerns about the proposal, the applicant reduced the building size and modified the project to the current project. It resulted in an approximately 35-45%
reduction in the building’s density, height, size, and scale.”

The revised project for the proposed four-story, 47,983 square-foot building with 27 apartment units was submitted in September of 2016.

However, there remains considerable concern with this project, and staff undertakes a lengthy explanation of their recommendation that the council support and approve this project.

Staff notes that the Core Area Specific Plan (CASP), which the city is in the process of potentially updating, establishes general policies for development in the core area including the allowable density of projects.  Staff writes, “While the Trackside Center Project is consistent with the overall vision of the CASP, it requires an amendment to address the project’s increased density for its land use classification. No other changes to the CASP are required.”

Staff continues: “With regards to the development standards, except for the number of stories the project including the lease area complies with all applicable development standards of the base M-U zoning district. It should be noted that the 3-story height standard in the M-U zone indicates that a 3-story limit is not absolute and references the floor area ratio requirements.”

At the same time, staff recognizes “the proposed project demonstrates the challenges and tensions involved with infill development.”

The project’s location between the established Old East Davis residential neighborhood and the core downtown area means that it serves as a transition site between the two areas.

“The increased density and intensified development that occurs with infill projects often raises neighborhood concerns about traffic, noise, aesthetics, and other issues,” staff writes. “The primary neighborhood issues with the Trackside Center project have been concerns about historical impacts, the size, scale and density of the project, traffic and parking, and consistency with city plans, zoning, and design guidelines.”

In staff’s opinion: “While there are still concerns by members of the public, staff believes the project issues have been thoroughly and adequately analyzed and that the proposed Trackside Center project is consistent with the applicable policies and meets the intent of the plans.”

The project is also located within a Conservation District.  Staff writes, “While there are individual properties that are historical resources located within the district, the Conservation District is not included in the Davis Register of Historical Resources and is not a designated historical resource. The Conservation District was adopted rather than a Historic District to allow for more flexibility in redevelopment of the area.”

In fact, on December 12, 2016, the Historic Resources Management Commission reviewed the project and voted unanimously to affirm the Commission’s determination: “The existing structures do not meet the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, California Register of Historical Resources, or City landmark or merit resource requirements based on the Historical Resources Analysis and that they do not warrant full review under CEQA as historical resources.”

Public concerns have pointed to problems of the project consistency with design guidelines.  These concerns generally have focused around issues of mass and scale, which many believe is “not in keeping the scale of the residential neighborhood to the East.”

Staff responds that page 10 of the design guidelines for the downtown addresses the difference between guidelines and standards, which they believe demonstrate that guidelines are generally descriptive statements that “describe a preferred policy direction for the City.”

The document also notes that descriptive rather than quantitative statements are most often used which is “particularly important for those instances where flexibility is necessary given the variability of the special character areas.”

Staff continues to believe that this language acknowledges “a certain amount of flexibility is provided unlike zoning standards which are unequivocal.”

Staff concedes that “both the DDTRN Design Guidelines and the Conservation Overlay District specify that where the guidelines conflict with the zoning standards, the more restrictive applies.”

Staff believes, however, that “the guidelines are not strict standards and do not require 100% compliance and there may be disagreement about the interpretation of guidelines, but it is ultimately the Council’s role to review the project under the guidelines, and determine whether the project is consistent with the design guidelines as a whole.”

Staff continues to believe “the Trackside Center project complies with the majority of the design guidelines and meets their general intent.”  They argue, “The building has been designed to transition in height from the smaller residential structures nearby with the taller building mass concentrated on the west side facing the railroad tracks and downtown area. Building architecture, detailing and articulation break up the elevations and create visual interest.”

Staff also points to substantial public participation and outreach throughout the project process.  However, despite a recent series of meetings with the applicants with adjacent residential property owners and neighborhood representatives, where some progress and compromises were made, “concerns about the project’s overall size remain an issue and complete agreement on the project was not achieved.”

Staff, however, concludes that the Trackside Center “responds to the challenges of the site with a well-designed infill development that provides needed housing and supports the downtown commercial area.”



Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$
USD
Sign up for

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.

Related posts

4 Comments

  1. Ron

    From article:

    “. . . both the DDTRN Design Guidelines and the Conservation Overlay District specify that where the guidelines conflict with the zoning standards, the more restrictive applies.”

    “. . . the Trackside Center project complies with the majority of the design guidelines and meets their general intent.”

    “. . . guidelines are generally descriptive statements that “describe a preferred policy direction for the City.”

    “. . . descriptive rather than quantitative statements are most often used which is “particularly important for those instances where flexibility is necessary given the variability of the special character areas.”

    It’s always a good sign, when someone interprets “intent”, and conclude that “descriptive” statements (such as number of floors) have no meaning.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for