Davis Planning Commission Prepares for Future Downtown Davis Plans

By Madison Forwood

On Oct. 28 the Davis Planning Commission went over the draft for Downtown Davis and discussed specific chapters of the plan. The purpose of the meeting was to review the plan and take any additional public comments. 

The commissioners expressed that this was not a meeting to make any notable changes but rather a forum for discussion. 

The three items the commissioners discussed concerning the plan were in Chapter Four: Building Environment, Chapter Five: Historic Resources and Chapter Six: Mobility.

Eric Lee, a city planner, presented and reminded those listening that these are not the final recommendations by the planning commission; there will be further workshops in December. 

For Chapter Four – Built Environment (Development Strategy and Program) Lee stated, “The unit and limit capacity that is being proposed for the downtown that would be evaluated in the EIR [Environmental Impact Report] over the next 20 years.” 

Lee reminded the commissioners that the specific square footage expansion over the coming years is simply a guideline and rather very little of the plan is set in stone. 

Public commenter Ronda Reed shared her concern over the “tendency to lose our character of our small town which is vital.” She described how when going eastbound on Russell Blvd from Highway 13, “how institutionalized the streetscape looks on the Eastside with the three, four and five stories apartment buildings.”

“Yes,” she said, “this is an efficient use of space but this isn’t a pleasant or liveable environment which is what I think we are trying to achieve in the downtown area.” 

Reed requested additional “scrutiny” in the transition zones from the downtown plan into the surrounding neighborhoods.

Lee went on to present another portion of Chapter Four which concerns possible rezoning and positioning of the town of Davis and noted that “staff is open to input.” 

Commissioner Herman Boschken commented, “The railroad tracks to me have been a barrier for many years, and now I’m seeing it as an unnecessary arbitrary barrier. If you look just to the South, East to the Tracks you have a whole Olive drive area that is ripe for redevelopment…if we want to talk about densification, we have to take into account expanding the boundaries.”

The commission meeting moved on to Chapter Five, the Historic Resources section of the Downtown Davis Plan. 

Commissioner Stephen Mikesell commented, “I strongly recommend that we keep the guidelines that have been developed for Old East Davis, Old North Davis, and Rice Road. We scrap the guidelines for the downtown area, which are not really old. They respect the character of that part of town. We are talking about a downtown plan that is going to double the amount of nonresidential square footage, we are talking about more than doubling residential units. 

“We are talking about a plan that is going to fundamentally change downtown,” he continued. “Those guidelines aren’t flexible enough to facilitate that level of growth. This is a pretty complicated and daring proposal but I think it’s right.” 

In regard to the Chapter Six of the plan, mobility of the city, Commissioner Emily Shandy said, “From my perspective do we want to design our downtown streets to accommodate a few minutes of deliveries everyday or do we want to design our downtown streets to support the multimodal pleasant walking, bicycling, dining outside of this downtown area that is there 100 percent of the time.

“I would really caution against backing off in this plan of that minimum vehicle lanes statement,” she continued. “I think that there are other solutions either with curb management of loading zones in parking areas.” 

Collectively, the planning commissioners voiced their concerns and offered potential alternatives to Lee. There were concerns about bike lanes, parking, and public transportation. However, the commission did not decide on any actual changes. 

The EIR meeting for the Downtown Davis Plan was held a day later. The purpose of the meeting was to inform the public that the city will be conducting an EIR for the proposed Downtown Davis Plan. This meeting initiated the 30-day public review period for public comment and to express any specific concerns. 

The EIR is going to cover aesthetics, agriculture resources, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, energy, geology, greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use, mineral resources, noise, population and housing, public services, recreation, transportation, utilities, tribal cultural resources and wildfires. 

The timeline for the EIR will take approximately six months. The first phase will be in spring 2021 when the drafted EIR will circulate for public comment and input for 45 days. Then the final EIR will be presented to the public in summer 2021 which will include a response to public concerns. The next phase will be public hearings in late summer 2021 for the Davis Planning Commission and City Council meetings. 

The next City of Davis meeting that will concern Downtown Davis will be Dec. 9, 2020, in the form of another planning commission workshop meeting. 

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