This is the fourth of the Vanguard’s series of 11 questions. Every Monday until the week before election, we’ll have a new question and answers. Answers are limited to 250 words.
Question 4: The city of Davis will be embarking on its update of the core area specific plan. Describe your vision for the Davis Downtown – be sure to discuss issues like housing in the downtown, retail business, parking, transportation and other issues.
My vision for the Davis downtown area includes dense mixed use sustainable development with affordable units, frequent public transportation service via buses and if feasible city sponsored ride share, subsidized employee parking in parking structures to free up on street parking.
To further alleviate parking we need at least one new parking structure. Expanded bike share with standard bicycles as well as electric assist bikes would be helpful for people wanting to park farther from downtown but who don’t want to ride from the edges of Davis.
Major grocery chains could set up satellite grocery stores for walkable grocery shopping. Aggressive solicitation of businesses as well as a study to identify perceived barriers to opening a business in Davis and finding ways to compete with e-commerce.
I would like to see more support of minority and women owned businesses and collaboration with UC Davis Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I would also like to see more areas to linger and enjoy conversations or music. It is important to support art programs downtown to help draw patrons and build community.
A diverse number of eateries and shops to cater to all demographics. Shuttle service from UCD to downtown businesses during lunch and from restaurants to events at the Mondavi center on evenings when events are taking place.
Most importantly, the visioning exercises we are participating in must find ways to make visions realities. We must not recycle old ideas and shelve all the work done by the community until the next visioning session.
Davis Downtown must become a vibrant and livable economic engine for a city in dire need of tax revenues to pay our bills.
I would explore the opportunities to develop new high-density housing for our workforce, UC Davis faculty and students, and seniors to breathe new life into our core area, create an exciting vibe, and generate new customers for downtown businesses. This could bolster sales and property tax revenues to pay for city services we all enjoy.
Our ongoing downtown planning process provides a chance to use zoning laws and design rules to entice new investors to expand successful existing businesses. We should strive to attract a broader array of entertainment, restaurant, and retail choices and create space to expand our innovation economy. I would also examine the feasibility of using city land and buildings to directly generate new activity downtown – and lease revenues to support city services:
Relocation of the city’s Fifth Street corporation yard to the city’s edge could allow new housing, commercial, or mixed-use development near downtown and more compatible with the adjoining East Davis neighborhood.
The Amtrak station parking lot could become a site for high-rise housing for rail commuters to Sacramento and the Bay Area choosing to live car-free. Such a project could also include additional parking to support downtown businesses.
A farm-to-fork restaurant could be integrated with the bicycling museum at Third and B, encouraging out-of-town visitors to the Farmer’s Market to stay in town longer and spend more money in downtown Davis.
The Davis downtown area should be a vibrant place for shopping, housing and community events for all residents. Downtown spaces should be mixed-use; where we, as Davisites can have an open space for public art, cultural events, family-friendly entertainment, retail business, especially for students, youth and children.
The next ten years need to be foundational for community-oriented initiatives to foster community and establish a historic small-town character conducive to local business development, walkable streets and building on existing infrastructure. A development for bike lanes and pedestrian areas must be considered.
A portion of E Street, between 2nd Street and 3rd Street can be closed off for the expansion of E Street Plaza. I will concentrate my efforts to highlight the E Street Plaza. The E Street Plaza is the heart of Davis and it should be expanded to include lawn, trees, more benches and more space for kid-friendly events, and activities for all residents.
In addition, the old City Hall building, and the Varsity Theatre can be used as anchors as we plan for smart development and bringing in new businesses and supporting our existing small business owners.
The downtown area needs a pharmacy, a supermarket, an urgent care center, a public library, and potentially a UC Davis satellite center for students to study and hold events. Many longtime and new residents are ready to contribute to the local economy with new leadership and direction. I will lead this effort when I’m elected.
Downtown is the most financially productive area of the city, averaging $3.8M of value per acre. To build upon this let’s have additional investments which encourage people to come and linger; e.g. improved alleyways and broader sidewalks available parking, and additional housing.
We have 3100 parking spaces downtown, 900 of which are privately controlled. Finding parking is challenging during the lunch hour and evenings – and much of the traffic congestion is created by people looking for parking. Therefore, I support any and all measures that we can implement that will help to manage this situation. Those measures include, smart metering which allows you to add time remotely and to alter pricing depending on demand, partnering with private lot owners to allow parking outside of business hours, expanding the X permits for employees, and adding additional parking at the train station.
Creating housing in our downtown core is essential to maintaining its economic vitality. Currently, there are fewer than 1000 people living here and we need to double that number. We can do this by building up and creating spaces for retail, offices and living space and/or developing the approximately 10 acres of land already owned by the City. However, until we revise our zoning standards and guidelines, development of this sort will continue to be hampered.
I am a member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee and this answer reflects my personal views.
- I believe that whatever height the community decides the central downtown should be, the height should decrease in a harmonious way and transition to the surrounding traditional residential neighborhoods.
- More residential. Remove the barriers to mixed-use building. The benefits of people living downtown are legion: reduced traffic and congestion, increased viability of a variety of businesses other than restaurants, etc.
- Improve parking. Re-visit the X permit. The current construction of a parking lot on the south side of the tracks will help, but we need to move more employee parking out of central downtown. Paid parking will help the parking and congestion issues. Working with the banks to share parking should be a priority.
- Safer and more amenable to bikes and pedestrians. Making downtown safer for bicycles is a difficult issue and must be addressed with robust involvement of the cycling community and BTTSSC. Moving forward with a pedestrian-only section of E St. between 2nd and 3rd streets and removing parking from the E Street plaza would make the downtown core an even greater space than it is now.
- Fill the store fronts. Businesses that provide goods and services are critical to a resilient downtown economy. The benefit of locally-owned businesses cannot be overstated. The revenue multiplier for a locally-owned business vs. a national chain is huge.
- Homelessness will be addressed in a future question.
Mary Jo Bryan
My vision of Davis Downtown is a vibrant setting that serves Davis residents and UC Davis students, as well as visitors to both UCD and Davis. Downtown should be a place where people come to enjoy themselves. It’s a place where mixed-use residential construction comes into its own. A mix of three- and four-story buildings, stretching down Second Street with ground floor commercial, retail and service establishments and two to three stories of residential above will substantially increase consumer demand in Downtown. An example is the Chen Building at the northeast corner of Second and G Streets.
Second Street would be a promenade that stretches from the Amtrak Station to the University. The Amtrak station becomes the hub of commuter transportation to and from both the Bay Area and Sacramento.
The university would harmonize with the Downtown, and could carry a theme of agriculture and food culture from end-to-end with kiosks, trees, outside dining, a small playground, and more.
That is my vision for the future of Davis. Joining with the citizen-based Downtown Davis Plan Advisory Committee, and working with citizens on improving our Downtown, a vision like that could become a reality.
As citizens, we have a chance to join and participate in its development. The Advisory Committee and consultants have scheduled a four-day Participatory Design Workshop, July 24th to 28th at the Davis Community Church. Together all of us, residents, students, property owners, and businesses have an opportunity to be a part of future vision of Davis Downtown.
If we want the downtown to remain an economically vibrant town center we will need to plan for its renewal. My vision is an update of the plan put forward by the community with the 1961 Core Area Specific Plan in an effort to imagine a downtown that would support a city of 70,000 people. http://www.davishistorytoday.org/2017/08/the-davis-core-area-plan-of-1961-moment.html
The approach is to replace the numerous one and two-story buildings with private parking lots with high-rise mixed-use developments with retail and commercial on the bottom, and residential above. Parking should be incorporated beneath or behind the new buildings and hidden from the streetscape. With more people living downtown we will see greater support for our core area stores and restaurants which will lead to greater diversity in those offerings and the expansion of the economic vitality of the City.
The status quo is entrenched in this town, however, so if I were a betting man I would expect that after another 57 years the downtown will continue to look much the same as it does today (and as it did in 1961), and residents will still be arguing about a vision for the future. Our community, after all, is great at making plans, but not as successful when it comes to implementing them. That is a characteristic of our community that we will need to change if we want a sustainable future.
My key priorities for the Davis Downtown excluding addressing anti-social behavior are:
- Neighborhood reservation
- Community-led planning
- Progressive, world class leadership in transportation, energy, waste, water, etc.
- Improve business conditions and City revenues
I will focus on the first two in this response due to the 250 word limit. I have attached the other two sections in case they can be accommodated.
If we go higher than 3 stories, we may lose our small town feel and the ambiance of our downtown. Many have moved to Davis for its small-town charm.
I would look to accommodate any necessary growth through a more incremental approach, which preserves our neighborhoods, including downtown.
We also need to think very carefully about the impact of more people living downtown on its current focus as our entertainment center. The two concepts could conflict due to noise from the nightlife, etc., which Downtown businesses rely on.
I think we need to proactively engage our community and determine what it wants, and then implement it effectively and transparently, so that the City can be held accountable.
Going door to door, many residents worry we may be making downtown too much of a focus, at the expense of the distributed commercial districts around our fringe, which also help reduce congestion and improve quality of life.
The City needs to go out to people to get this kind of input.
We need to strive for a work – live – play downtown. There is so much for us to be proud of in our downtown, from the gatherings at E Street Plaza to our vibrant art mosaics to that one-of-a-kind shopping experience we get from our favorite boutiques. While many of our favorite parts of downtown will be here for decades, I believe there’s more we could do to enable our downtown to thrive even more.
The biggest impediment to downtown vibrancy is the strain on that work – live – play balance. We don’t have enough folks living downtown, who could be filling our shops and restaurants with patrons. The parking dilemma is exacerbated by the lack of housing, as the record high number of commuters driving into our community almost all use personal vehicles to get to and from their jobs in Davis. (Whereas if they lived closer to where they worked they would be incentivized to drive less). At least a quarter of our downtown traffic is generated by that scintillating search for parking, and we are at risk of not attaining our long term sustainability goals if we can’t find a way to bring folks closer to where they work and reducing vehicle trips where it makes sense to do so.
As far as the downtown business community that’s feeling the pinch, I think we need to listen more to our business leaders, especially those who are struggling, to better understand their perspective. Their concerns about patronage, parking, and profitability are valid, and any solutions we produce as a community need to be grounded in keeping the patronage of our businesses alive and well.