The city has begun a robust community outreach effort in looking into developing a new Core Area Specific Plan. There is another plan of outreach and public workshops planned for the early part of 2019.
The city has hired the firm Opticos Design to present the fundamental concepts. According to staff, the Downtown Plan originated from the adopted council goal of: “Identify opportunities for ‘form based’ visioning and planning in the Core Area and other key area(s), in conjunction with the General Plan update. Opportunities include the consolidation and clarification of development policies and codes in the Core Area.”
Opticos, based out of Berkeley, is the “prime consultant” responsible for project management and leading the consultant team in all tasks.
Council has appointed the DPAC (Downtown Plan Advisory Committee), made up of broad and diverse groups of community members. The committee is comprised of 10 at-large members appointed by the council, five members appointed by key organizations like Davis Downtown and the Chamber as well as three neighborhood associations, and five liaison members appointed by various commissions.
“The Downtown Plan will set the vision and general direction for the downtown. The plan will not be a perfect ‘idealized’ plan that answers every question and tells us exactly what will be built when, by whom, and with what dollars,” staff writes.
They add, “The ‘implementation’ of the plan will largely depend upon private property investments and what investments the plan enables them to pursue. Those developments will generate opportunities to incrementally update public infrastructure via direct construction activity associated with the private developments, or via assessed fees that fund city infrastructure improvements.”
Opticos has looked at key trends affecting the Davis Downtown. These include: “national trends such as an aging population and the changing needs of the elderly; the rise of the Millennial generation and their influence on business location preferences; lifestyle preferences; restructuring of the retail industry; emergence of food and entertainment as key functions in commercial areas; and increasing real estate costs.”
In addition, the Davis Downtown is influenced by UC Davis, its growth and demands.
Consultants have looked at preliminary market analysis which suggests that “the City should seek to maintain and support the existing inventory of retail space with limited additions to supply; office demand scenarios range from 300,000 to 600,000 square feet of new downtown office space; residential demand scenarios conservatively range from 86 to 209 new residential units.”
The city could go with more housing if they wish to more aggressively pursue housing demands.
However, there are challenges. As the Vanguard has previously reported, “Financial feasibility analysis indicates that many downtown development prototypes that could accommodate demands will face feasibility challenges. This is primarily due to high land costs and construction costs, compounded by scarce land.”
“Sites with existing buildings can face additional redevelopment costs and challenges,” staff writes, suggesting “the City should consider how to provide clearer direction for desired development to help reduce entitlement risk, time and costs.”
Land use planning and urban design figure to loom large in the community discussions. They are looking at a vision that is “forward-thinking, bold and exceptional; can accommodate small, incremental changes that can make a substantial impact; and celebrates sustainability.”
They have developed a working set of six guiding principles:
- Create an active and inclusive public realm that promotes civic engagement for everyone.
- Create a memorable identity for downtown.
- Reinforce sense of place with appropriate character, balanced historical preservation, and thoughtful transitions to adjacent neighborhoods.
- Enable and encourage compact and sustainable development.
- Provide safe and dependable multi-modal connectivity into and within downtown.
- Craft a development program that is financially feasible, economically resilient, and equitable.
Some of the other concepts have been the network of unique sub-areas: Heart of Downtown, G Street District, North-West Downtown, South-West Downtown, North G Street District, and University Avenue District.
They have presented the idea of a new town square, with the preferred alternative a transformation of the E Street Plaza into a new town square – Davis Square.
Another key concept has been mobility and street design. They are looking at the overall street network design approach, looking to “[r]eallocate excess right-of-way and introduce modal prioritization to improve the functionality of the street system as a whole, including.” Within that they would look at a priority bicycle network and pedestrian enhancement corridors.
They are also looking for more versatile flex space and curbside management to match changing demands and adjacent use needs like on-street paid parking, bicycle parking, passenger loading zone, freight delivery zone, outdoor seating/dining, and green infrastructure.
Finally, with regard to parking and transportation management, there are a number of thoughts.
First they are recommending parking and traffic reduction strategies which include strategies for: managing curb parking; managing city-owned lots and garages; regulating private developments; and improving transportation choices.
They suggest reserving sites for a future public parking structure if and when needed – they do not believe that such construction is needed in the short term.
They recommend the continued implementation of the 2014 Downtown Parking Management Plan which includes implementing paid parking and the charge for curbside parking.
Finally they see the need for residential parking benefit districts, which would include charging non-residents the right prices for curb parking and returning revenue to the neighborhood to pay for public services.
There were a number of key questions and comments arising from the August 22 Planning Commission meeting.
Here are a few to consider:
- In terms of redevelopment of downtown, how is this going to move forward financially and feasibly?
- What are the owners saying? How are they going to become interested?
- How can we finance the visions in the plan? How can we incentivize?
- There is a challenge for small property owners and, how to combine these?
- We need higher densities and higher buildings. If we resist going out, we need to go up.
- Is there an overlay of what this plan looks like on existing structures?
- Will there be a phasing approach in the Specific Plan? Should be based on the likelihood of owners changing their property, as the plaza concept would drive excitement.
- Will there be a financing plan in the Specific Plan? With funding sources?
—David M. Greenwald reporting