By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – Right out of the box, DiSC 2022 figured to have an advantage over its initial version. It had a smaller footprint, a greatly reduced size and thus a lesser number of employees—as such, the traffic impact was going to drop from 24,000 vehicles a day down to 11,000.
You can’t avoid traffic concerns on Mace Blvd—even if no project occurs—but given how close the election was in 2020, a 55 percent reduction in traffic could have by itself pushed the project over the top.
That remains to be seen. While there are things that the project can’t avoid—location, traffic impacts, even the pandemic, there were things that they had under their control. Issues that can be taken off the table will not of course ensure passage, but it takes weapons away from the opposition.
So, prior to the council’s vote on Tuesday that most likely will set the project to go before the voters in June, they removed two big obstacles—relocating several of the commitments in the Baseline Project Features and committing to the construction of a grade-separated bicycle and pedestrian crossing of Mace Blvd.
Two weeks ago in a Monday Morning Thoughts column, I spelled out three things they could do to improve their chances—those were my top two.
This was a group effort. The Planning Commission recommended it. Several Vanguard commentators pushed for it. Apparently the subcommittee of Mayor Gloria Partida and Councilmember Dan Carson pushed for it as well.
Dan Ramos told the Vanguard, “In the negotiations with the city, especially (Mayor) Gloria (Partida) and Dan (Carson) (members of the subcommittee), they were very clear that they felt it was so important that that commitment be made.”
In my column, I wrote, “Personally, I would rather see them put their resources into the TDM (Travel Demand Management) and the road redesign rather than a grade-separated crossing, but as an observer of recent history, I think it would be a grave tactical error not to address this issue up front. This is an issue that most people in Davis will understand and if the opponents attack on it, it will cost votes. This is an easy way to shore up support for the project—easy but not necessarily cheap.”
On the Project Baseline Features, while I agree with the point made by Matt Keasling at the Planning Commission, I also believed that politically you have to put every commitment into the project baseline features or it will be attacked for being a non-commitment.
So, the project shored up two of my three concerns. The third concern is still going to be a problem—and the only reason at this point why this figures to be a close vote.
Traffic is going to be a major issue in the Measure J election. Right now, the DiSC 2022 project “would be required to plan and implement roadway capacity and operational improvements on Mace Boulevard and CR 32A.”
Improvements have been identified at seven specific locations (there were 10 in the original DISC project). The applicant would be required to prepare a Mace Blvd Corridor Plan.
What concerns me is this: the “precise timing and nature of improvements would be determined by focused traffic studies conducted prior to each phase of development.”
From a policy perspective that makes sense—there will be a lot of moving parts and uncertainty and they need to be flexible and responsive to problems.
On the other hand, you need to get votes in June and that means you have to convince people that you aren’t dooming half the city to sitting in traffic for an extra 20 minutes because of this project.
I still think there can be road fixes to improve the flow—especially for local residents. Finding a way to get the freeway traffic in a queue while allowing the local traffic to flow free is crucial.
At the same time, while readers can point to times when it took 20 minutes to get through the corridor, that is not an everyday occurrence. Avoiding the corridor during peak hours on Thursday and Friday can probably avoid much of that congestion.
DiSC will likely not impact the traffic on the portion of Mace south of the freeway where the city is having to revamp the roads.
What else can the applicants do here?
Colin Walsh pointed out in a text to me yesterday that “if you actually read the baseline features, it commits to 1500 in Davis, but commits to ZERO trees actually being planted at the DiSC site.”
That seems like language that should be and can be easily cleaned up.
I have seen people arguing that this is just phase one of the project and that the northern half has already been planned to be added. I actually don’t believe that to be true, but, even if it was, it would require another vote of the people.
There are probably a few more things that the applicants can do to clean up their proposal including making the TDM a bit more concrete in terms of traffic mitigations—otherwise I think this is ready to go to the voters and the voters will get their say.