Commentary: New Housing Project Is Unlikely to Be a Major Impact on Mace

There was a letter in the local paper worried about the impact of the new Chiles Road Apartments project on the Mace Boulevard congestion.

The writer notes: “So the city recently heard from 150 folks about the Mace/I-80 onramp/Cowell traffic problems, which they, in part, exacerbated through ‘road enhancements.’”

The writer continues: “Well, they haven’t yet thought about the additional impacts to that situation by having already converted 7 acres of General Plan-designated general commercial property to residential apartments on Chiles Road. This change will potentially dump 300 more vehicles into the Mace Boulevard mix.”

That sounds like a huge problem.  But there are several problems with that statement – most notably, it is not like all 300 vehicles, if there are 300 vehicles, will come onto Mace Blvd. at the same time.

But the core premise is completely wrong.  They have thought about the additional impacts because they are required to do an Environmental Impact Report and they put out a traffic analysis dated May 1, 2018.

Needless to say, while there are and continue to be concerns about traffic impacts on Mace, the new apartments are hardly going to be one of them.

Before we delve into the specific findings, let us use common sense for a minute.  Consider the huge area that the Mace Blvd. arterial road serves.  Now consider the relative size of the 222-apartment Chiles Road Apartments on the huge area that Mace Blvd. serves – logic tells us that any impact is actually going to be quite small.

While the map only shows the west side of Mace, this puts the project size into perspective with the overall area.

The summary of the traffic impact analysis tells us the rest of the story: “The project consists of a 222-unit apartment complex. Access to the site will be along Chiles Road. The project is expected to generate approximately 1,323 new daily trips. 102 new trips are projected during the a.m. peak hour and 120 new trips will be generated in the p.m. peak hour.”

Is this going to produce a huge impact?  Not really.  If you think about it, while 102-120 new trips generated during peak hours sounds like a lot, you are really talking about an average of one to two trips per minute.

The biggest projected impact would be not at Mace and Chiles, which would not be impacted at all by the change, but rather at Mace and Second Street, which would see about a six-second delay in the evening as vehicles attempt to make the right turn from eastbound Second Street to southbound Mace.

Why wouldn’t there be a problem at the problematic Mace/Chiles intersection?  The first thing is that the traffic congestion on Mace occurs on northbound Mace south of that intersection.  The new residents would not even drive there most of the time.

Those headed east on Chiles will either turn left and head onto the highway – which in the morning commute is not impacted – or head straight to the frontage road, which in the morning commute is unimpacted.

Coming back, they would simply make the free right turn onto Chiles, at a point in the road that is unimpacted.

In short, regardless of the volume of traffic generated by the project, which is again fairly small, the impact is going to be small because they don’t at all impact the problematic portions of that roadway during the times of congestion.

Finally the letter writer adds: “As with other commercial/light industrial-zoned property conversions to residential uses in the city, this deviation from the General Plan, thought to be a clever way to deal with unmitigated UC Davis-created student population housing impacts in the city, will have unintended consequences for South Davis residents indefinitely.”

First of all, the UC Davis-created student population has been mitigated by the MOU.  Second, this has nothing to do with that scenario (other than perhaps as an indirect spillover effect) because it is not designed to be student housing.

Bottom line, a quick analysis shows the letter to be largely unfounded.  The city did their duty by studying the traffic impact.  A cursory look at the impact report combined with knowledge of existing conditions is sufficient to eliminate the possibility that this is going to impact Mace Boulevard’s traffic congestion.

—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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  1. Alan Miller

    The project is expected to generate approximately 1,323 new daily trips. 102 new trips are projected during the a.m. peak hour and 120 new trips will be generated in the p.m. peak hour.

    I thought new residents didn’t have cars.  Isn’t that the idea behind changing parking minimums to parking maximums — or just ignoring parking.  Or was that for the benefit of developers?

    New residents’ll use light rail instead.  Oh, yeah, we don’t have light rail.  Or Lyft/Uber.  Oh, yeah, they are either going to run out of money due to lack of cash or having to pay drivers as employees and will raise fares 50% in the next few years becoming the taxis they killed, and reducing use dramatically.  So residents”ll use Yolobus once an hour, or semi-seasonal Unitrans.  Or bike, maybe bike.  When the weather is fine.  Not when it rains.  They’ll take a cab.

    Or, they’ll drive.

    1. Bill Marshall

      If 150 people in existing south Davis, gave up 1 trip @ peak hour per day, through the intersection, problem completely mitigated…

      Wonder if the author of the letter to the editor would be willing to contribute to that mitigation…

      I will commit to that (although, not in south Davis, but we live close)…… we will not transit that corridor at any peak hour.   Takes 2 cars out of the mix…

  2. Alan Miller

    Bottom line, a quick analysis shows the letter to be largely unfounded.

    Because the project exists in a vacuum, and cumulative effects are a myth, existing alongside unicorns and well-maintained roads.

    1. Craig Ross

      The project doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  It’’s going to be built.  The idea that you can’t model and study and estimate cumulative impacts is stupid.

      1. Bill Marshall

        It’’s going to be built.

        Not a true story… but a very good bet… one of the questions is when

        A project like this, depending on interest rates, and other economic market factors (including but not limited to financial impacts of the conditions of approval), may yet morph slightly, or may be ‘tabled’ by the developers indefinitely… or, ground-breaking may happen soon…

        We’ll see… I think it’s a pretty good project, and will have minimal impacts on folks… JMO…

  3. Craig Ross

    The letter made a lot of bad points.  Common sense alone should tell us that a small project in a large area is going to have a small effect on the main arterial route – even if that route is congested.  People let fear override rationality and common sense.

    1. Alan Miller

      What’s fear got to do with it?  What’s fear, but a second hand emotion?

      Rather, arterials tend to be minimally effected until they reach a breaking point.  This isn’t about common sense, it about rational modeling.

      1. Craig Ross

        Here’s the problem and it’s laid out in the article pretty well.

        When is Mace/ Chiles impacted?  Evening commute.  But it is outgoing evening commute, not incoming evening commute.  Chiles is already north of the bottle neck and people aren’t going to go from the Chiles Apartments to EB 80 in the afternoon.  So where’s the impact?

    2. Bill Marshall

      C’mon, Craig, the author (of the Letter to the Editor) is a former Planning Commissioner for crissakes!   He knows better than the EIR consultants and professional City staff!  Unlike the developers, EIR consultants, and City staff, he has no bias, nor ‘agenda’… a true, unbiased, SME (subject matter expert)…

      Yeah, right.

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