The Trackside Debate Continues

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On November 14, the council is expected to take up the issue of Trackside.  One question is whether by that point there will be an agreement between the residents and developers.  Late last year, the developers scaled down the project from six stories to four stories.  Meanwhile, the neighborhood association has come out with its own counter proposal for a three-story building.

In an ad running on Facebook, the neighbors opine:  “The Davis City Council could approve the four-story version of the Trackside Center project on Tuesday, Nov. 14. This building would be the largest mixed-use building in Davis, setting a precedent for future growth and it does not conform to any zoning or planning documents.”

The ad continues: “Old East Davis supports the development of a mixed-use building at the Trackside site with mass and scale conforming to Davis zoning and Design Guidelines.”

Instead of the developers’ proposal, the neighbors argue for what they call Trackside 3.0, which is “a proposal that balances the need for housing with the basic Davis values of sensible growth and the preservation of neighborhood character.”

The association’s proposal is “a three-story, mixed-use building based on the current design by the Trackside Partners — but scaled to fit within neighborhood Design Guidelines and city zoning.”

In the meantime, in an op-ed this weekend, Nicole Bourne, Dan Wolk and Dan Fuchs write, “We support the Trackside Center proposal because we think it strikes the proper balance between neighborhood interests and local and regional development goals.”

Here they argue: “While a smaller project will comply with the decade-old General Plan guidelines, the slightly larger project now before the City Council will better harmonize those guidelines
with the land-use policies forged by generations of Davisites that guide us today. Those policies (shown in the table below), including Davis’ commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, provide the blueprint to achieve the goals that determine our land-use decisions.”

They note that, in the perfect world, all projects would meet the standards perfectly but, in reality, “we need to weigh all of these factors when making decisions that have long-term impacts on our community.

“By itself, Trackside won’t solve all of these challenges, and we understand the impacts it will have to neighboring Old East Davis,” they write. “But decisions like these set the tone for how Davis will grow and whether such growth is in line with our values. And we think it’s an important litmus test on whether the city actually wants to meet the goals laid out.”

The authors continue, arguing that that Trackside is a great example of how “strategic densification can help the city grow more sustainably. This kind of strategic densification can help Davis be the more walkable, livable and vibrant community we want.”

For them, building more density near the core, with transit and parks along with grocery stores and shops nearby, enables the economy to thrive, and allows people to walk and bike rather than drive.

The result, they say, is that residents will drive less, reducing congestion and transportation costs.

“[A]s density increases, the city can spend less per capita on road and utility infrastructure,” the three write.  They add, “Importantly, from an equity perspective, strategic infill development like Trackside can increase our housing stock while improving accessibility to public facilities, especially for those who do not have cars.”

They also see this as an advantage from an environmental perspective.  Here they argue that higher density next to transit and amenities “means less car travel, cleaner air, lower greenhouse-gas emissions, lower building energy use, greater water conservation, and more rural and agricultural lands preserved. All of these things enrich our community — including the Old East Davis neighborhood — and balance the goals laid out by the city.

“Increasing the housing supply by building more densely also can bring down the cost of housing in Davis,” the authors claim. “This would be the right thing to do even if the new housing package passed by the California Legislature did not hold cities more accountable to meeting housing needs.”

They acknowledge that this will not solve the city’s housing problems by itself, but instead call it “an important step in a city where the rental vacancy rate stands at 0.2 percent.”

Like the neighbors, they see this as precedent setting, but in a positive way.

“The City Council can set the direction of future development in Davis with its decision on this proposal. We believe the current proposal best balances the neighborhood’s legitimate concerns with the larger needs of the city,” they write.  “A new generation of community leadership has the opportunity in Trackside to make a bold contribution to furthering our values; we hope they act.”

The neighbors believe the developers can do much of this and still comply with existing design guidelines.

They argue: “Responsible land use involves balancing the city’s need to grow with implicit contracts between the city and its citizens, which are embodied in zoning ordinances and land-use policies. The city’s goals can be achieved with a zoning-compliant building.”

The neighbors cite Planning Commissioner David Robertson, who on August 23 asked at the Trackside Center hearing, “If we’re not going to enforce the Design Guidelines, then why do we have them?”

For the neighbors, that is the key issue as they view the policies of the General Plan, Core Area Specific Plan and Design Guidelines as “statements of shared values and norms, produced with the input of planners, decision-makers and community stakeholders.”

—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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5 thoughts on “The Trackside Debate Continues”

  1. Howard P

    Robertson, in my opinion, had a good point, which I will expand on.  If a project meets the guidelines/zoning, it should be approved…

    Specifically as to the ‘guidelines’… if not substantially consistent, there are three choices… enforce the guidelines, amend the guidelines with due process, or “86” the guidelines.  Whatever the choice, it needs to apply to all projects in the area subject to the guidelines.

    1. Alan Miller

      Whatever the choice, it needs to apply to all projects in the area subject to the guidelines.

      For the past nearly two decades, all who invested in the neighborhood were required to and followed the Guidelines, willingly.  Those are the Old East Neighbors, who invested here and believe that in doing so — while also allowing for growth as specified in the Guidelines — would make their investment one worth making in a neighborhood all so investing would cooperatively agree on — including our partner, the City.  Now comes Trackside, with the potential that the Council will give Trackside Partners a free pass to violate the Guidelines, in the name of a vague “community good”.

      Were Old East a no-growth group trying to stop Trackside, I’d be calling for our own heads.  But that’s not the case.  The Old East Neighbors want a large, mixed-use building there.  We all agree that the one on the table is too large for its location, and are only asking that the Trackside Partners follow the same rules as those who invested in the neighborhood did.

      All of these things enrich our community — including the Old East Davis neighborhood — and balance the goals laid out by the city.

      Nicole Bourne, Dan Wolk and Dan Fuchs, it is offensive to tell others what is good for them.  You do not not tell us what is good for us. We have worked out a growth plan and guidelines for that growth, and you want to take that agreement away from us by force, not by agreement and compromise.

  2. Dianne C Tobias

    I read the Enterprise article last week (? Maybe Fri) about Trackside and it implied there was only slight neighbor pushback and few details of the negotiations over the past years. Not an accurate historical perspective in my opinion. Did a disservice to the issue and Old East.

  3. larryguenther

    It is interesting that the authors of the Enterprise piece appeal to regional density goals.  A zoning-compliant building (30 dwelling units/acre) would be 150% of the the regional (SACOG) density goals (20 du/ac). Current growth in Davis is also right on track with SACOG growth goals.

    They state that the, “larger project now before the City Council will better harmonize those guidelines with the land-use policies forged by generations of Davisites that guide us today.”  The guidelines in place state 30 du/ac. How does a compliant building fail in addressing any of the goals stated in the piece?  In fact the first item in the Community column: “Actively seek input and feedback from the community and encourage public participation in the civic process,” seems somewhat lacking in the process used by the Trackside Partners LLC.

    The purpose of the designated transition zoning is to preserve the character of the historic neighborhoods.  This is not out of date.  Every speaker invited to talk in Davis regarding City Planning in the last couple of years has stressed the need for well-planned transitions between historic neighborhoods and a denser downtown core: every speaker – without exception.  Joe Minicozzi stated in no uncertain terms to not lose your soul.  James Corless, the CEO of SACOG, at the Planning Commission meeting for the Trackside project stated the city needs to, “…maintain your community character, your charm, your livability and small-town feel.”

    Densification without planning is crowding – a city without zoning is Houston.

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