As the discussion about the Davis Downtown has gone on, there seems to be emerging a variety of viewpoints on the future. One sees the need to redevelop the downtown – proponents see a declining retail base, a downtown more focused on entertainment options, and the need to house more people in the downtown as a means to help generate more commercial activity.
Others see an “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” scenario, where they see a successful and vibrant downtown and believe either things need to stay the same or any change should be incremental.
Missing from this analysis is any detailed critique of the downtown. Summarized from two reports from 2018 – Downtown Davis Existing Conditions, March 2018; and Economics Analysis, June 2018 – here are some summary points worth exploring on several areas.
The core is an underutilized area in terms of housing. There are 404 housing units in the Core Area. That accounts for a population of 737 persons and the density is the core is 3800 persons per acre, half the density of the citywide population of 6,700 persons per acre.
Those living in the core are doing less well than the surrounding areas. Thirty-three percent of residents in the Core Area earn less than $10,000 annually, with 63.3 percent earning less than $20,000 annually.
On the other hand, the Core Area has the highest concentration of jobs (2,482), as it contains 29 percent of all jobs located within the city.
There is also a continued work-live imbalance. The Core Area “imports 2,450 employees who live outside the area, 309 live in the Core and work outside of it, and only 14 workers both live and work in the Core (and only 2 of the 14 work at UC Davis, the area’s largest employer).”
The site remains a challenge. The report notes, “Downtown has very few vacant parcels, and many parcels are narrow in lot width. This could limit development and redevelopment opportunities and options for different building types.”
The report also finds a lack of usable public space, as “the available spaces are not conducive to being used by all age groups.”
Staff notes: “Current zoning standards imply that a certain level of intensification can occur but this is not possible upon applying all the standards: the zoning standards are not coordinated to produce predictable and feasible development.”
Further, “The current regulatory framework is confusing because of the six policy documents, two sets of guidelines, and the existing zoning. In addition, that information has many areas of overlap and inconsistency as well as a lack of clarity in whether a document is advisory or regulatory.”
The fiscal analysis shows a strong housing market, but “limited opportunities for large-scale infill projects in the Downtown area.” Currently, the downtown along with most of the city is “nearly fully built out.” They note: “Downtown Davis is the most financially productive area of the City.”
Analysis shows “vast opportunity to partner with the University to leverage economic development for the downtown area and beyond.”
Living and working in the downtown “is currently an untenable option for a majority of residents and workers.”
As we have previously noted, consultants describe the various challenges of redevelopment in terms of economic feasibility.
We look at two more areas of challenge: transportation and parking.
We have already noted in previous articles the challenges related to parking. The reports summarize these challenges as: “The City-operated parking supply is near capacity under the City’s current parking management approach.” They further note that curb parking is generally full while parking garages sit empty except during peak hours. They write that “more efficient parking management is needed.”
On transportation: “High volumes of pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile activity can create a challenging operating environment in conflict areas such as intersections and driveways.”
They note, “Roadways with angled parking or frequent curbside activity (e.g., delivery vehicle loading and unloading) are less conducive to a high quality bicycling environment.”
Factors such as narrow sidewalk widths, encroaching street furniture, and frequent driveway curb cuts “diminish the pedestrian environment, particularly for individuals with disabilities or mobility impairment.”
The report notes: “Established edges, including the railroad tracks and Fifth Street, form barriers to travel into and out of Downtown, requiring targeted strategies to better improve accessibility between Downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.”
Finally, “The Davis Train Depot is limited to a single access point due to its configuration within the triangular railroad junction.”
These are some of the challenges of the downtown as we continue our discussion.
—David M. Greenwald reporting