By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – When council discussed Focus Items and laid out the next steps for policing, they heard an earful from the public—not on the policing item, but on Mace Blvd.
Item 6 on the list was “finalize technical discussion with County on Mace Blvd., hold community meeting and bring plans to council.”
City Manager Mike Webb, before the onslaught, noted that they don’t have a date pinned down yet for a community presentation. He said that there have been “multiple multiple meetings” with the county and Supervisor Jim Provenza.
“At this point in time, we are committed… to posting and providing diagrams and information well in advance of that community meeting,” he said. He speculated on a meeting right after Thanksgiving, perhaps the first weekend in December.
There were a number of comments from the public, critical of the delays.
Owen Yancher said, “What’s happened over the last several years along the Mace corridor is really sad, and the Mace mess project has quite literally decreased the quality of living for thousands of South Davis residents.”
He asked, “My first question is whether or not the giant ornamental orange barriers at the Mace and Cowell intersection are permanent or not. They’ve now been there for what seems like ages, and if they are indeed not permanent, I would like to get a concrete answer on when the city will begin work on restoring the intersection.”
Yancher added, “I know this project was originally intended to improve bicycling safety. And it’s now looking more and more like an entire cohort of local students are going to matriculate from elementary school all the way through high school. While this intersection is still quote unquote under construction.”
Another caller asked when the residents of South Davis “are going to see the new design that’s been promised by city council members and other staff in the city. We need to see that design at least a week or two weeks prior to a community meeting.”
Another caller asked, “Removal of the cement barriers, when will that happen? Removal of the lights at San Marino—when will that happen? Adding back of the two lanes north and south on Mace Boulevard and the right turns. When will that happen?”
Another caller said, “I live in El Macero and I’m wanting to know why the petition that had over 700 signatures was not acknowledged at the meeting.”
Another caller said they have lived in the area for over 30 years: “We’ve been extremely upset about the way the process of changing all the driving lanes came about. We would like to urge the council to please include many community meetings to re view future proposals for Mace Boulevard—the lack of which was complete in the last redesign and has led to such discontent that we see now.”
She said, “We support the return of Mace to two lanes in both directions.”
Another caller suggested we “move forward and forget about the amount of money that was spent on throttling Mace Blvd. and South Davis.”
She added, “With COVID we haven’t had our commutes disrupted so much in the afternoons with the Tahoe Waze traffic, but morning traffic going north on Mace with school started again, has been significantly interrupted.”
In her view, “There’s no increased bicycle school traffic in the morning as was intended with the new design. It just backed up traffic of folks trying to get and drive to work or driving their kids to Pioneer School or Harper School.”
Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs said, “I completely understand the frustration around the issues with Mace.”
In response, however, he noted that “the Waze app is very much responsible for diverting traffic off of a congested Interstate 80 at Kidwell Road to Tremont Road to Mace Blvd, to try to sneak back onto the freeway and, and bypass a bunch of parking lot traffic that sits in front of UC Davis multiple days a week. So that’s something that is definitely causing an issue there.”
He also noted that the previous council had met in September of 2019, and “we were all ready to go” but “the reality is we had a worldwide pandemic that shut things down for the greater part of a year.. year and a half.”
”There’s frustration, I completely understand it,” Frerichs said. “But it’s not been an attempt to just put our heads in the sand and maybe folks will forget about it.”
Mayor Gloria Partida noted that “there’s no better evidence of the fact that a lot of the issues that are happening on that stretch of highway are in fact attributed to commuters that are coming down the 80, because we didn’t have the backups. We didn’t see the backups that we are beginning to see again now, when everybody was staying home.”
Councilmember Josh Chapman, who represents South Davis, also understands the frustration.
“Believe me this subject has not been off my mind or out of my email box since I was sworn in on December 15,” he said. He said the answer to the questions of changes is what will be addressed at the next community meeting.
At the same time he said, “I also think it’s important for people who listening to this call or who may watch this later who interacted with Mace Blvd. and who may have a different viewpoint from some of the callers here this evening to reach out and have those conversations.”