This week the city released a draft of the Downtown Davis Specific Plan and a Draft Downtown Form-based Code. What follows will be a 90-day public review and comment period which ends on January 14, 2020.
The draft documents are available at: https://www.cityofdavis.org/downtownplan
The city appointed a 19 member Downtown Plan Advisory Committee that began holding public hearings in December 2017. They have had 6 pop-up workshops and 20 focus group meetings over the last more than 20 months.
“In our shared opinion, the most important part of this process is about to begin: public review and input about the draft Downtown Specific Plan. We urge everyone in our city to review the Plan, whether at a high level or in detail, and to consider how well it reflects our community – particularly, how well it establishes a vision and a foundation for how our community will develop in the coming decades,” write Chair Meg Arnold and Vice Chair Michelle Byars in a letter summarizing the report.
The letter notes 17 recommendations for the DPAC. These include unanimous support for “integrating accessibility through universal design,” and strong support for creating greater certainty, thoughtful transitions, a taller central core of the downtown, a more useful urban center, unanimous support for adding housing capacity along with affordable housing, and maintaining local businesses.
They also add opposition to adding a public parking garage, while having strong support for innovative parking management, such as parking maximums.
According to the plan, “Downtown will further the community’s reputation as a leader in sustainability and a model of sustainable urbanism. It will embrace the concept of Triple Bottom Line sustainability that gives equal emphasis to ‘people, planet and profit.’”
The goal is that “Downtown Davis (will be) a carbon neutral, equitably accessible, water efficient, zero waste, resilient community by 2040.
“The Specific Plan Goals will be realized through a Downtown vision that reinforces the community’s aspirations and is uniquely Davis,” the report notes. “Over the years, Davis has established a reputation as a progressive leader in promoting sustainability, and has been at the forefront of initiatives and legislation that have made an impact at the regional and national level.”
The plan lays out six goals which “address the key issues and opportunities identified” and “reflect the community vision that has evolved during the Specific Plan Process.”
- A memorable identity for Downtown that celebrates Davis’ unique culture
- Compact development that incorporates sustainable practices and infrastructure
- A feasible, equitable development program that builds a resilient economy and increases housing access and choice
- A sense of place reinforced with appropriate character, balanced historical preservation and thoughtful transitions to context
- An active and inclusive public realm that promotes civic engagement and health
- A safe connected, multimodal network that uses innovative mobility and parking solutions
Under goal number two, they note: “Downtown will model a holistic approach to sustainability, with an equal emphasis on its economic, social and environmental aspects. Further, it will aim to become carbon-neutral by 2040.”
The report writes, “Integral to Downtown’s development approach is the strategy of compact development that focuses on infill and redevelopment of opportunity sites with a variety of residential and mixed-use buildings, supported by shops, services, open spaces, and other amenities within easy walking distance.”
These policies are intended to be used as a guide for decision makers to consider future actions in order to implement the Specific Plan goals.
2.1 Enhance Downtown’s character with compact and walkable infill development.
2.2 Promote the rehabilitation of historic buildings for adaptive use, reducing the carbon impact of demolition and reconstruction.
2.3 Incentivize private developers to include sustainability features and energy efficient systems in new development, renovation and expansion projects that exceed minimum City requirements.
2.4 Prioritize alternate transportation and encourage a car-free lifestyle for Downtown households and workers.
2.5 Consider sustainability strategies at all levels of reinvestment and decision-making.
2.6 Provide leadership in sustainability through demonstration projects on City property.
Goal three notes, “Downtown will have a diversified development program that can adapt to match market conditions while striving towards broader community goals. Downtown will evolve from being primarily a commercial destination to a vibrant, mixed-use district.”
Among the key sub-goals here are prioritizing “innovation and knowledge sector jobs to build synergy with UC Davis and attract a diverse set of employers,” as well as, “Encourage the creation of new commercial space in Downtown to attract a variety of employers and support new businesses.”
A key point: “The Specific Plan seeks to provide more affordable housing in Downtown, while considering feasibility concerns to ensure that aspirations for equitable housing can become reality.
“The analysis of market conditions has shown that there is adequate housing demand, but supply has been hampered due to constrained infill conditions (such as small parcel sizes) and a cumbersome regulatory process.
“The Specific Plan recommends a strategy of requiring new development to comply with citywide affordability requirements to provide below-market rate units, as well as incentivizing the private sector to provide housing units that are affordable by design.”
It also focuses on housing in several parts.
They wish to “encourage affordable housing at all levels through a focus on market-rate, affordable-by-design housing, allowing microunits, and complying with City requirements to provide below-market rate housing for new development.”
They will also “encourage Missing Middle Housing types to provide a variety of house-form housing types that will fit well in Downtown and enable appropriate transitions to adjacent neighborhoods such as Old North and Old East.”
Further, they seek to “[b]alance rental and ownership housing, and encourage diversity in housing sizes and types to cater to diverse population groups, including workforce housing, empty nesters, students, etc.”
Finally they will “[i]ncentivize developers to integrate universal design and sustainability strategies exceeding City requirements into building and site design.”
They note, “Missing Middle Housing refers to a range of building types that are seen in cities and towns across the country and were a fundamental building block in pre-1940s neighborhoods.”
The report adds, “Combined together (and usually with detached single-family homes), Missing Middle building types help provide enough households within walking distance to support public transit and local businesses, and they are found within many of the most in-demand communities across the United States.”
One of the big pushes is to create an “active and inclusive public realm that promotes civic engagement and health.”
Here they note, “Downtown will strengthen its public realm in ways that support its role as an active neighborhood as well as a citywide and regional destination of choice.
“The public realm is the backdrop for public life, community conversations and civic engagement. The public realm includes streets, sidewalks, plazas, parks, alleys, and mid-block passages—spaces that any individual should be able to visit and enjoy freely and comfortably. An inclusive public realm encourages day-to-day, spontaneous interactions with community members of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, and can assuage social isolation,” they write.
Finally, any plan for the downtown has to plan for mobility and parking solutions.
“Downtown will provide transportation options for all users and be designed for the future of transportation,” they write.
Some of the key components here include making downtown a place where “daily needs can be met without a car,” improving the transit service which will include electric shuttles and other modes to make travel accessible and comfortable.
They will “[e]stablish a clear hierarchy of streets that balance vehicular traffic with the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, prioritizing different modes based on the physical context.”
They will design the streets to be adaptable to future transportation modes and balance “short and long-term needs, and evaluate progress, by implementing comprehensive Parking and Transportation Demand Management strategies.”
The report writes, “This includes offering incentives for converting underutilized private parking into shared, available-to-the-public parking, and reserving sites for future public parking structures if and when needed.”
The plan seeks to “manage curb and public parking as a strategy that recognizes and responds to the varying parking needs of Downtown’s neighborhoods.”
Finally, they look to “[e]liminate minimum off-street parking requirements for new development, as well as additions, expansions and renovations of existing development.”
A future article will look at the downtown neighborhoods and districts.
—David M. Greenwald reporting