This is our sixth of eight questions. The candidates get exactly 250 words. The answer was due at 9 pm on Thursday.
Question 6: The city undertook the Davis Downtown Plan through a citizen-based commission. Discuss your thoughts on the plan – address issues like: (A) Form-based code, (B) Densification, (C) Mixed-housing and residential housing in the downtown, (D) Parking and your overall thoughts on the plan going forward.
In addition to being a key part of our updated General Plan process, major advantages of our Downtown Plan include finding space in town for increased densification and increased building height, as well as mixed use capability so we can get folks living working and shopping in one place and all of the benefits that come with that. In addition, form based codes are more resilient and flexible, allowing for predictability in future development, helping business and encouraging walkability.
Shared spaces, pedestrian amenities and plazas are a key feature at the very foundation of our Downtown Plan. These permanent improvements to our downtown landscape will build upon those that we have already undertaken, including the 3rd Street corridor, creation of outdoor dining plazas and, most recently, with street and parking lot closures to accommodate COVID-19 business support for outdoor dining and sales. The Downtown Plan calls for re-envisioning space allocation in key areas and will allow for the periodic closure of key streets, and the consideration of possible longer-term closures.
Implementation of our Downtown Plan and infrastructure will be a top priority of 2021, immediately following the adoption of the Plan. Private reinvestment projects that will come on the heels of the plan adoption will catalyze the funding for public infrastructure.
On my website (https://www.walsh4davis.com/principles) I lay out detailed principals for how our city should be governed using the acronym TRACK. In short, those principals are Transparent, Responsible, Accountable, Community-Oriented, and Knowledge-Driven. All of those apply here.
- A) Form-based codes seek to control the physical form, with a lesser focus on permitted uses. They have the potential to diversify and intensify use over traditional zoning that restricts use, ideally keeping the physical form pleasing but expanding the uses allowed and having the potential to add vibrancy and flexibility that single use zoning does not. Either zoning or form-based code, however, are susceptible to manipulation to allow for unexpected outcomes if a council does not follow the ideas behind TRACK.
- B) Reasonable densification will create more business and housing opportunities, but it should not be done at the expense of the character of the town and independent retailers.
- C) Mixed-use and residential housing in the downtown would be welcome, but it needs to come with stronger Affordable housing requirements.
- D) “Parking” would be better understood as part of the whole transportation picture. The downtown needs to be easily accessible including public transportation, active transportation, and automobiles. “Parking” is only one piece.
Overall, I worry that the draft downtown plan that has gone into the EIR process lacks popular community support especially regarding some of the building height issues. Without these issues being better resolved I worry that we are headed for a contentious process.
I’m excited about implementation of the new Downtown Plan! Downtown is the heart of our community and District 3.
The Downtown Plan is an example of a really solid community engagement process. I appreciate the energy and dedication that the 15 DPAC members put into crafting it. I’m also grateful that 12 of the 15 DPAC members have endorsed my re-election effort.
The future of Downtown Davis is to densify responsibly, and to provide an increased combination of vibrant mixed uses, including various types of needed housing above ground floor retail and office spaces. Adding additional residents to Downtown Davis will benefit our community.
As Councilmember, I advocated for use of form-based codes to serve as a guide of what types of buildings can be built, and at what heights/# of stories. The new plan allows for buildings of up to seven stories as allowed uses, while we currently have mostly 1 & 2 story buildings with a smattering of 3 & 4 story buildings throughout downtown.
I also believe the key to building ANY project is proactive and sustained communication between developer/applicants and neighbors. The city should work to ensure this happens during the consideration of every project, regardless of location.
The next phase is pursuing the CEQA certification that overlays the boundaries of the plan. When finished, projects that come forward will qualify for CEQA clearance. This will provide certainty to applicants. There are several downtown property owners waiting for CEQA clearance, before moving forward with their projects.
I really liked the process around the Downtown Plan and hope we replicate it for major decisions in the future while simultaneously centering the needs of marginalized communities and those who are the most impacted by a given decision. I’m generally in favor of form-based code and also support densification and mixed use developments where appropriate, especially in and near the downtown and the UC Davis campus (I think this has a number of benefits in terms of housing, the environment, and downtown revitalization) as long as other conditions are met (both on the developer, like around affordability, and on the City, like making sure our Fire Department has a ladder truck).
Another possibility to explore further is a commercial vacancy tax and/or commercial rent control which could help incentivize (or require) the few landholders who own much of the downtown to treat their small business tenants better (both during and beyond the pandemic).
Finally, I’d be in favor of allocating more land to purposes other than vehicle traffic and parking while incentivizing (preferably through positive means rather than negative ones like fees) alternative modes of transportation (like walking, biking, and mass transit). In particular, I think larger sidewalks and bike paths are important and I also support examining other potential uses, like more public green space or seating areas. Plus, such spaces could benefit local businesses, though I’d want them to be accessible to everyone rather than being exclusively reserved for certain businesses (public land should remain public).
I am proud to have been a part of the early formation of the Downtown Plan. The goal being a plan reflective of community driven vision and certainty for investment and improvement. As the plan goes through the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) phase, there will more opportunity for input. Ideally the adopted plan will successfully improve over previous layers of regulations and guidelines and will set a tone for an update to the full General Plan.
I support form-based codes because they lay out building types and scale for more predictable planning by providing a framework that lets prospective investors know the parameters for a particular project along with the overall desired flow of development.
The greater heights encourage mixed use projects which I believe is critical to a sustainable vibrancy of the Downtown. Densification and residential housing will enable a true live-work-play community. Not just more housing, but thoughtful placement which creates a steady presence of customers to businesses, ease of proximity to Amtrak, less reliance on driving and more opportunity for creating events that pull the community together. Dynamic activity in the downtown will also encourage more than local participation and will become a greater attraction for visitors. As the downtown area transforms, it will be important parking and street use is integrated to minimize traffic and support biking and walking, which includes maximizing the Amtrak parking lot. I want to see greater community inclusion as we go through these final stages of adoption.
As a member of this committee and a downtown retailer, I am fully supportive of the Downtown Plan. My top priority throughout this process was making sure our Downtown becomes a more desirable location for residents with more jobs, mixed use housing, and a sense of identity that will allow more locals to live, work and play right here in Davis.
Downtown has tremendous potential to develop as a major regional destination. It needs a distinct identity and a mix of uses that would give it a competitive edge over other downtowns in the region and attract visitors from the greater Sacramento area as well as people commuting on I-80 between the Sierras and the Bay Area.
Form-based code provides predictable results in the planning and re-development process. Once EIR and CEQA are adopted this will provide predictability and a sense of certainty for developers looking to build projects downtown. This aspect of the plan is so important because it streamlines the process and negates the conflicting documents that are currently guiding our planning process.
Downtowns across the country are transforming from commercial centers into mixed-use neighborhoods. The benefits are many, including higher levels of safety, with more people present at all times of the day, and a more stable economy, due to a larger and more diverse consumer base.
A redeveloped, multi-story, mixed-use, downtown has been envisioned stretching back to the 1960’s. Regrettably, the execution has always fallen short. I want to help make this new plan a success!
This should be done for the entire city in the form of an updated general plan. Davis needs to be forward looking, and our community is well equipped with engaged and knowledgeable citizens to make an appropriate plan.
Form-based code gives developers concrete direction of what Davis is looking for as well as making the process faster for allowable changes and new infill development and allowing for appropriate flexibility within acceptable specifications.
Densification is the most sustainable way for Davis to move forward. Specifically building more in underutilized spaces and areas near downtown and campus without historical significance. This means working with neighborhoods to decide what would fit in currently and moving forward.
Mixed use is an amazing use of space. Allowing people to live where they work and play provides businesses a built in customer base and makes living without a private vehicle increasingly possible.
We allocate almost one third of downtown to streets for free. Let’s reallocate some of this space to businesses and pedestrians. I prefer decreasing reliance on private vehicles overall to specifically pricing parking downtown. If parking is priced in the future, I disagree that these funds should be spent only on improvements within the downtown neighborhood. Pricing parking does not only impact downtown. Things like public transit and bike path infrastructure across town would be obvious complementary uses for funds raised from parking fees.
Davis cannot remain the same in an ever-changing world. Let’s plan for the future we want.
For those interested in this topic, the Vanguard will host a Webinar on Monday, October 26. More details and to register – click here.
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