Guest Commentary: Four Reasons We Should Vote No on Measure B, the Ruinous DISC Plan

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By Heather Caswell

As the founder of Save Davis and owner of downtown Davis’ Wardrobe for the past 33 years, I feel it is important that citizens stand up for our community and local businesses by voting NO on Measure B on the current ballot.

Last week I decided to create a petition against measure B to learn and reveal what other business owners were thinking. I approached 34 businesses and 33 signed the petition.

There are four important reasons why we need to reject the politically powerful but locally ruinous plan known as DISC: Terrible traffic, adverse impact on local businesses, immense carbon emissions and negative environmental consequences.

In terms of the over-hyped positives of the deal, like tax revenues for schools: this is pie in the sky and years, or more likely decades, away.  It will do nothing to mitigate the immediate economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

You can read more about why this plan is detrimental for our city at www.votenoondisc.com. I will summarize the objections of the growing number of Davis citizens who oppose this misguided effort.

1)    DISC could destroy Downtown Davis’ businesses.

The project will single-handedly shift the center of our city away from our historic hub to an area mile outside of downtown. It adds 100,000 sq. ft. of retail and more than a million feet of office space on the edge of town. In the time of Covid-19, when most local businesses are in a fragile state and the demand for office space is plummeting, why on earth would we vote for this monstrosity?  Why on earth would we endorse a plan which lures our office workers, diners and shoppers away from downtown Davis?

It is also why I am disappointed by the ill-advised endorsement of DISC by the Downtown Davis Business Association. This endorsement was done irresponsibly without any real pole of the membership over a year ago before the proposal was anywhere close to final and should be reversed immediately do to the disastrous impacts DISC will have on our downtown and the strong opposition recently expressed among DDBA members.

2)    Traffic Nightmare: An estimated 24,000 new car trips will be added to the Mace mess that already, with only 18,000 car trips, can cause an hour delay just getting out of town at rush hour.

3)    Unmitigated climate disaster

This is 2020 and we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint, not expand it. According to the project Environmental Impact Report “Because net emissions in the year 2035 would equal 37,724.31 MTCO2e/year, the project would not meet the City’s target of net carbon neutrality by the year 2040.” DISC alone will increase—not reduce- the City of Davis’ carbon footprint by the equivalent of over 83 million pounds of CO2 per year! 

4)    Critical Farmland, Habitat, and our Last Views of the Sierra and Sacramento Skyline will be Lost!

DISC will pave over 200 acres of designated Prime Farmland and habitat usable by sensitive species like the Burrowing Owl and Swainson’s Hawk. Land like this is dwindling in supply and is more critical now than ever. DISC will also destroy the last remaining City views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Sacramento City skyline. Instead, our view will be blocked by 6-7 story buildings.

When is enough, enough and when is it time to seriously embrace Davis’ general plan goal of in-fill as a viable alternative to sprawl? 

These times require new ways of seeing and doing things with high environmental integrity and transparent leadership.

I urge you to vote no on B to create a pause to help us learn how to become more vibrant and better adapted to doing business not as usual.

One step at a time.

Be bold. Be the change.

Vote no on measure B.

Heather Caswell is a Davis Resident, and Owner of the Wardrobe of Downtown Davis


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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37 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Four Reasons We Should Vote No on Measure B, the Ruinous DISC Plan”

    1. Tia Will

      Ron

      “Don’t you mean be the unchanged?”

      As the dystopian author, Octavia Butler said, ” Life is change”. But “change” in and of itself is neither good nor bad. Our community just got slapped in the face with a major change in the form of the pandemic. Those individuals and businesses that are the best adaptive will be those that prosper. I do not see a plan that was initiated on the premises of 10 years ago as potentially best addressing the unknown future. What people at that time saw as the best route forward, maybe far from that today.

       

      1. Ron Glick

        Agreed Tia. As an example opponents relying upon an already out of date 2040 GHG estimate in the EIR. With the Governor mandating all new cars be zero emission by 2035 we will be well on our way towards reducing this number by 2040.

        More to the point I thought a no vote represents lack of change so I think her tag line contradicts her argument.

      2. Richard McCann

        I agree with Tia. This has been my point — what threatens downtown Davis is the potential to draw off office space leases just as there’s a strong potential for commercial space emptying downtown. Telling us that it will just return to normal is meaningless without a deeper analysis of what appears to be happening in the office market. San Francisco is already seeing an exodus–why do we think that we will be immune? Pause and reexamine. We can always come back to this — that plot of land is not moving somewhere else and the owners still want to use it for a good financial return.

      3. Matt Williams

        Add my voice to Tia’s and Richard’s.

        Even without DISC, Davis is seeing a substantial number of commercial property availabilities, both in Downtown and across the City.  The signs below represent the canvas I did personally on September 18th

        https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Commercial-Properties-for-Lease-or-Sale-1-32.jpg

        Since then two additional signs have appeared, one that is downtown on F Street and the other on 2nd Street just east of Pena.  The resilience of Downtown is already being tested.  The presence of DISC will more than likely accelerate the velocity and magnitude of that test.

        https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/3-15-F-Street-north-of-4th-Street.jpeg

        https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/4-23-Second-Street-east-of-Pena.jpeg

  1. Keith Olsen

    2)    Traffic Nightmare: An estimated 24,000 new car trips will be added to the Mace mess that already, with only 18,000 car trips, can cause an hour delay just getting out of town at rush hour.

    I feel this is the ‘No on B’ greatest point.  At 4 to 5 pm on trips down Mace to get a Guadalajara burrito the traffic can be terrible.  I can see it getting much worse with the addition of DISC.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ahh, yes… the necessity of be able to travel “at 4 to 5 pm on trips down Mace to get a Guadalajara burrito…” without delay is a God-given right, up there with ‘life and liberty’… a form of ‘pursuing happiness’…

      Cry me a river… to be sure, it will likely be a shallow one… easily Ford-ed… which is “part of the problem”, near peak hours… the ‘solution’ has little to do with DISC… the ‘problem’ exists, as you point out… I have found that traffic problems can be ‘self-mitigating’… I pick alternate routes, alternate times, and/or alternate destinations… no problems…

      1. Tia Will

        A word on traffic: I recently read, in a book on vaccinations, one experience of the author. When trapped in an immobilized taxi in dense bumper to bumper traffic in India with horns blaring and tempers rising, she looked out the window and saw a sign which read:

        “You are the traffic.”

        She got out of the taxi and walked the remaining distance to her conference.

      2. Keith Olsen

        Once again BM, you obviously don’t get it.  It’s not about me getting a burrito, it’s about the traffic already being bad and with DISC’s “estimated 24,000 new car trips will be added to the Mace mess that already, with only 18,000 car trips” it will only get much worse as the article states.

        1. David Greenwald

          I understood your point Keith, one thing to consider, tech people don’t work 9 to 5.  So that may alter a lot of your concern.  The number of people actually leaving the site from 4 to 6 is going to be a lot less than you expect.

      3. Matt Williams

        Bill’s point … Ahh, yes… the necessity of be able to travel “at 4 to 5 pm on trips down Mace to get a Guadalajara burrito…” without delay is a God-given right, up there with ‘life and liberty’… a form of ‘pursuing happiness.’  I pick alternate routes, alternate times, and/or alternate destinations… no problems … is only partially valid.

        I can quickly think of two substantial groups of Davis folks for whom Bill’s admonition does not work.

        (1) Families with working parents (and even a lot of families with parents who don’t work) don’t have the luxury of picking alternate routes, alternate times, and/or alternate destinations.  Their routes, times, and/or destinations are proscribed by either their jobs or their children’s activities, or both.  This was pointed out to me by quite a few young parents (and even a few grandparents) at one of the Mace Mess community meetings.

        (2) People who want to use the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area are in serious danger of finding the Wildlife Area inaccessible every day from 3:00pm to 7:00pm … which are prime birding hours and prime bat watching hours.  The reason that will happen is simple.  The access point to the Wildlife Area is where County Road 32A and Chiles Road meet the Yolo Bypass Levee.
         
        A significant portion of the 24,000 additional vehicle trips per day generated by DISC will go east on both County Road 32A and Chiles Road seeking the eastbound entrance to I-80 at the Yolo Fruit Stand.  Both those roads are one-lane each way with no passing lane, and the CalTrans-controlled I-80 on-ramp meter light only allows one car to pass every 13 seconds … only 8 cars a minute.  That DISC-created commuter traffic backup will mean hour-long delays, and those delays will apply to anyone trying to go enjoy the birds and the wildlife at Yolo Basin Wildlife Area.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Says the “no parking meters” guy.

        There’s 5,600 parking spaces planned for DISC, adjacent to a freeway. For a development that will not (for the most part) house its own workers. (Assuming, of course, that it’s actually viable beyond the stages which are subsidized by the 850 residential units.)

        1. Ron Glick

          Different kind of transportation issue. My issue with parking meters is that they are un-needed. Kieth’s burrito issue is that there is too much congestion. Still its a good shot, cheap but good.

          Maybe they are similar. I try not to look for a parking space at peak hours by avoiding going downtown or seeking alternatives. Kieth could do the same on Mace.

  2. Wesley Sagewalker

    The 24,000 trips cited is highly misleading. This is the unmitigated estimate which just looks at plopping the project on top of existing conditions in Davis without changing anything. It does not look at any of the mitigation measures the DISC will provide, it does not account for any carpooling, it is based on dramatically lower estimates of transit ridership and bicycle and pedestrian trips from the TDM analysis the DISC had produced, it does not account for any of the improvements that will be made to Davis infrastructure from the $77.5 million in roadway impacts fees to be prioritized in the project vicinity or the $250,000 annual fund that the DISC will contribute to funding transit, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements in the project vicinity. This number represents a worst case scenario, not the likely reality.

  3. Jim Frame

    I found none of the 4 reasons cited to be compelling (especially No. 4).  To me this project is a waste of a uniquely valuable commercial/industrial site.  To me it looks like a poorly-located housing project with some commercial window dressing tacked on to justify the “business park” label.  Especially since the highly-touted linkage between housing phases and commercial development are in the easily-modified development agreement, not in the binding baseline features.

    1. Don Shor

      To me this project is a waste of a uniquely valuable commercial/industrial site.

      My hope is that if this fails, they will come back with a commercial-only project. It doesn’t sound as though this group of downtown retailers would even support that, but at least it would reflect the years of planning the city and commissions put in to the current economic development strategy. The addition of housing to this project has been my main objection from the start.

        1. David Greenwald

          If you are worried about traffic – a commercial-only project is going to be far worse. People’s position on this don’t make a lot of sense to me. And yes, I do understand the traffic concern.

          1. Don Shor

            If you are worried about traffic – a commercial-only project is going to be far worse.

            Not if enough housing is built elsewhere in Davis. As you have said elsewhere, the amount of housing projected for Davis over the next decade-plus would be enough to accommodate the jobs at the DISC site.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Not if enough housing is built elsewhere in Davis. As you have said elsewhere, the amount of housing projected for Davis over the next decade-plus would be enough to accommodate the jobs at the DISC site.

          Seems like a big “if”.

          Where does David propose to put that housing?  Given that he (and you) already claim a “shortage” – even without DISC?

          Does David (or anyone else) believe that creating more jobs than the proposal would house has “no effect” on demand for housing? (This would defy basic logic.)

          Again, assuming it’s actually viable beyond the stages which include housing.)

      1. Mark West

        “My hope is that if this fails, they will come back with a commercial-only project.”

        What makes you think that is an option? There are sound reasons why they added the residential to the project, largely financial. Do you really believe they are going to spend the money for a new design and Measure R campaign on a project that has considerably greater financial risk associated with it? I don’t. I expect a response similar to Covell Village, decades with no changes to the site while the City accelerates its fiscal decline.

        1. Don Shor

          What makes you think that is an option?

          The fact that they originally drafted a commercial-only project, and the addition of housing was evidently at the behest of city staff.

          There are sound reasons why they added the residential to the project, largely financial. Do you really believe they are going to spend the money for a new design and Measure R campaign on a project that has considerably greater financial risk associated with it? I don’t.

          I have no idea what they might do, and neither do you.

        2. Mark West

          “The fact that they originally drafted a commercial-only project”

          That is what was requested by the CC in the first place (for political reasons) with little or no regard to financially feasibility of the potential projects. None of the original responses to the request for commercial only projects made it to the full proposal stage.

          “I have no idea what they might do, and neither do you.”

          True enough, but there is more evidence to support my position than yours. In fact, I doubt there is any evidence to support your position beyond your imagination.

  4. Sharla Cheney

    I’m disappointed by the argument that this will destroy the downtown.  That argument has been used since the beginning of time in Davis – for the building of the University Mall, the building of Target, the development of neighborhood shopping centers, the redesign of 5th street from 4 lanes to two lanes with a bike path and turn lanes, the creation of parklets to allow storefront restaurants to have outdoor seating, and on and on.

    I’m disappointed that habits of commuters from the Bay Area and Sacramento are being used to dictate economic development in Davis.

     

  5. Keith Olsen

    An estimated 24,000 new car trips will be added to the Mace mess

    If this estimate is correct taking it further one can figure that not many cars will be traveling between 10 pm and 6 am so that leaves 16 hours between 6 am and 10 pm where most of these trips will take place.

    If my math is correct those 16 hours will average out at 1500 car trips/hr. or 25 extra car trips per minute.

    That sounds like a lot and certainly not going to help the Mace mess.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      I think Wesley’s point bears repeating: “The 24,000 trips cited is highly misleading. This is the unmitigated estimate which just looks at plopping the project on top of existing conditions in Davis without changing anything.”

      I would add, most likely starting 10 years from now and ramping up over the following 10 to 20 years.

      1. Keith Olsen

        And I think Heather Caswell’s point bears repeating, “Traffic Nightmare: An estimated 24,000 new car trips will be added to the Mace mess that already, with only 18,000 car trips, can cause an hour delay just getting out of town at rush hour.”

        1. Matt Williams

          David and Wesley,

          (1) where in the project documents (especially the baseline features) are the specific traffic mitigation measures described and committed to?

          (2) Since a substantial portion of the 24,000 trips per day will be getting on and getting off Interstate 80 to and from the east, and the on-ramp volume is constrained by CalTrans’ control of the on-ramp meter lights, how will any changes to the roads leading from DISC to those I-80 eastbound on-ramps be anything more than “Shifting the Deckchairs on the Titanic”?

          1. David Greenwald

            On Page 12 of the Baseline Project Features: “A Transportation Demand Mangement (TDM) Plan will be adopted and implemented requiring specific reductions in vehicle use.”

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