City Lays Out Some Alternatives for Mace; Residents Mostly Want It to Go Back to How It Was

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs gives some opening thoughts on Thursday as Brett Lee listens intently

Over 200 people attended a community engagement meeting and workshop at the South Davis Fire Station, as the city laid out a few alternatives on what to do with the Mace Boulevard design.  The public reaction was fairly overwhelming – they don’t like the current structure.  A good portion are willing to go with Alternative 1, but many believe, “Nothing Works.”

The overwhelming sentiment seemed to be that they wanted the road to go back to two lanes in both directions – with audible booing when city staff suggested that would be an expensive approach.  There is also strong support for restoring the right turn pockets – even as many in the city note that such an approach is dangerous and they are moving away from it across the city.

The city identified the six biggest complaints.

First, there is congestion and frustration due to the reduction of traffic from four vehicle travel lanes down to two.

Second, there is the belief that the Mace-Cowell intersection’s bulb-outs, pedestrian and bike areas are too large.

Third, the crosswalks are too wide and they are set back, which impacts the line of sight.

Fourth, the protected bike lane eliminates the second travel lane, and confines bikes and is overall too wide.

Fifth, there is difficulty exiting San Marino onto Mace due to congestion.

Finally, the traffic lane width feels tight.   This is a safety concern expressed by Chief Darren Pytel and others who believe that cars are ending up crossing into opposing traffic when they make these turns at speeds that are too high.

Some of the options that City Staffer Brian Abbanat laid out included:

San Marino Drive: Convert to stop-controlled intersection, design revisions.  Put “HAWK” (High-intensity Activated crossWalK light) signal in flashing red.

San Marino to El Macero: Restore northbound to two lanes.

El Macero to Cowell: Restore to four lanes, remove protected bike lanes, restore bike lane(s) and/or construct multi-use path.

Mace and Cowell: Reconstruct interior islands for easier turning.

Three slides of Alternative 1

Reaction to Workshop

The Vanguard caught up with a number of city officials, as well as County Supervisor Jim Provenza and Councilmember Lucas Frerichs after the breakout sessions.

“It’s a big mess and people are working hard to try to find a solution,” Supervisor Provenza told the Vanguard.  “I’m working with a working group of citizens from the county and El Macero as well as South Davis residents who live close to Mace Boulevard and we’re going to look at these alternatives and try to give some feedback.”

Chief Darren Pytel said that he felt that the meeting was going very well.  “We have a lot of people in the room who are asking a lot of really good questions,” he said.  “The feedback is really valuable for coming up with a plan moving forward.

“It’s good to see that people are actually engaged,” he said.  “It’s good to see that people (are) responding.”

While people are unhappy, the feedback will allow the city to understand better what people are unhappy about and what they might be willing to accept as alternatives – and perhaps more to the point, what they won’t accept.

“We have a meeting already set with staff for next week, we’ve already started writing our staff report,” he said.  That staff report “is basically incorporating many of the community feedback (comments) and seeing if we can come up with some designs that maybe accommodate some of the suggestions tonight.”

The plan is to have this before council as early as the next meeting – April 23.  At that time, staff would present options to council.

“One of the reasons we want to do that is to allow (council) to weigh in very early in the process about where they want this to go and at least allocate money so that we can start working on the  true designs,” Chief Pytel explained.

A packed audience gathered to hear what the city had to say and provide feedback

Similarly, City Manager Mike Webb was “pleased to see the high turnout.”  He felt like they got good feedback from the public in hoping to identify potential pathways forward.

“I’d to think this is a good opportunity where we can recognize where things aren’t perfect and proceed forward with making adjustments,” he said.  “Based on the feedback we get tonight, we’re going to go back and cull through that – see if there (are) any new ideas that were raised that we may have missed as we put these concepts together the last couple of weeks.”

They hope to then take a proposal to city council for feedback and lay out some options.  They hope to develop some general concepts from council and be able to move forward with more fine-tuned plans.

“Two-lanes is definitely part of the designs that we’ve put forward here – particularly between El Macero and Cowell,” he said.  They have “an eye towards really trying to accommodate our local traffic while not exacerbating issues that we’ve had with the Waze App and out of town traffic, using Mace as a cut-through.

“We’re acknowledging and seeing that going back to two lanes for that section where it was two lanes before makes sense,” he said.

But he said the “free right turns” is a “trickier one.”

“We have city policies that go back quite a few years where, all over the city, we have been implementing elimination of free right turns with an eye towards safety,” he said.

Their hope then is to “get to a better balancing point of accommodating vehicular traffic and also cyclists and pedestrians in trying to strike that right balance.”

He said that the city has had a strong policy on free right turns, “where we’ve been gradually eliminating those.”

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, like all those the Vanguard spoke to, was “encouraged by the turnout.”  He said, “One thing that is always the hallmark of Davis is engagement – clearly this project and the changes here have struck a nerve with folks and their desires and needs to want to be involved – that’s a good thing and I appreciate that.”

He talked about the need for a balance.

“There are definitely some real safety concerns,” he said, mentioning the San Marino intersection.  He said, “I have been at that intersection several times, where I have actually seen very sketchy situations where people were not stopping and having a hard time getting out of the neighborhood.”

Councilmember Frerichs said, as to the future, “I don’t think this entire stretch is going to be 100 percent the way it was before.  I think there are a variety of already-proposed solutions and some yet to be proposed solutions that will enhance the current project to make it very similar to the way it was before.

“Is that going to make 100 percent of the people happy?” he queried.  “Probably not.  But I’m not sure 100 percent of the people are going to be happy about any particular project or situation regardless of whether it’s Mace Blvd. or something else.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Photos from the breakout sessions…

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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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9 thoughts on “City Lays Out Some Alternatives for Mace; Residents Mostly Want It to Go Back to How It Was”

  1. Rik Keller

    Has anyone documented any traffic issues on Mace in the past 3 weeks? Chief Pytel stated previously that 3 weeks ago (DJUSD spring break) there weren’t any, and in the past two weeks in both driving through the area and monitoring on Google Maps on a daily basis in the late afternoon/early evening I haven’t documented any, other than minor backups at Mace northbound at Cowell that add maybe 1 minute of travel time from a test route from El Macero Country Club to the Taco Bell on Chiles via S. El Macero Dr. that is normally ~5 minutes.

    1. Matt Williams

      Rik, there is plenty of documentation in the 700 comment thread on (see HERE)

      My personal observations have been numerous and inconsistent.  As a result I have strongly suggested (formally to both the City and County) that an important step the City (and County) need to take immediately is to pay for one or more persons to monitor and record the traffic conditions on Mace at the very least from El Macero Drive (the red blinking light) through Cowell.

      — Count the cars.
      — Record the cycle times of each traffic light change at Cowell, and
      — Do so from dawn to dusk for at least one week from Monday through Sunday, possibly even for two weeks.

      If that is done, the timing differences between individual (anecdotal) observations of specific snapshots in time will be clearly noted.

      Had I experienced what some of the Nextdoor posters report, I would feel very different than what I saw yesterday morning when I went northbound at 6:40am and 10:20am and southbound at 8:40am and 10:40am. This would be the kind of traffic survey that Charlene Henwood and others have said the City should have gathered and distributed in 2013, 2016, and 2018 at a minimum, before any construction started.

  2. Todd Edelman

    When a staff person was making an important point about how free right turns are dangerous, the crowd reaction – supporting “restoring” them – was awful. It reminded me of a crowd cheering for death at a Roman arena. I’ve had some differences with this staff member, but I wanted to support him and found it hard to prevent myself from screaming at them in response.

    Then nearly everyone drove home.

    Someone estimated that half the people were from El Macero — my understanding is that it shouldn’t even be here, as it was built against the objections of City Hall. El Macero residents could offer to pay reparations; instead we are all paying for their entitlement.

    But to be clear, it’s also unfortunate that there were no requirements for the grant for complementary measures, such as robust public transportation alternatives, support for shopping by bike at Nugget etc. and not driving alone when leaving home…

    1. Todd Edelman

      Wanted to add: Chief Pytel seemed interested in my idea for a requirement for computer simulations that – early in the process – would show the P.O.V. of all users of a transportation infrastructure project. It would cost something, but clearly less than significant modifications of a huge project.

    2. Rik Keller

      Todd: thanks for your insights from the meeting! And I agree with your suggestions that would improve alternative transportation options further.

  3. Craig Ross

    Looking at the photo I see generally older and whiter people at this meeting.  There aren’t a lot of kids.  There aren’t a lot of younger families.  Not sure what that means – but it is interesting.

  4. Alan Miller

    generally older and whiter people at this meeting.

    lordy be!

    Not sure what that means

    It means:  There aren’t a lot of young people of color in El Macero and South Davis.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      That’s not true. There is a whole community of students that attend and support Pioneer Elementary school living within half a mile of that intersection, those people did not attend this meeting but they do exist.

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