Sunday Commentary: DiSC Plugs Two Big Concerns – Is That Enough to Push It Over the Top with Voters?

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

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.

That was part of the Planning Commission recommendations.

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.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 Comments

  1. Alan Miller

    YESTERDAY

    Alan Miller January 29, 2022 at 8:27 am

    I believe this could make the difference in getting the vote pushed over the line.

    TODAY

    Sunday Commentary: DiSC Plugs Two Big Concerns – Is That Enough to Push It Over the Top with Voters?

    *******
    Hmmm . . . I demand headline royalties.

  2. Alan Miller

    relocating several of the commitments in the Baseline Project Features

    I read that yesterday and today.  How does one relocate a commitment?  What does that mean?

  3. Matt Williams

    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.

    Aactually David I think that is a pipe dream.  As long as drivers have the option of changing lanes they will go out into whichever lane is shortest in order to jump ahead in the queue for the I-80 on-ramp.  The only way to achieve the hypothetical outcome you describe is to have concrete retaining walls that separate the two lanes … and that isn’t likely to happen, would be very expensive, and would be butt ugly.

    With regard to the tunnel, the Baseline Features language needs to specify that it’s construction needs to be completed prior to the issuance of any Phase One residential building permits.  The experience we had with Ramos in Mace Ranch needs to be an object lesson.  The infrastructure construction was delayed well over five years and the residents of Mace Ranch were forced to pay for that construction through the imposition of the Mace Ranch CFD.  Both those outcomes were “surprises” … expensive surprises that the developer forced the City and the residents to absorb.  They were both inconvenient and expensive.  In the case of the tunnel you can add “unsafe” to inconvenient and expensive.

    1. Bill Marshall

      In the case of the tunnel you can add “unsafe” to inconvenient and expensive.

      How “unsafe”?  Not supported by past experience with other such facilities… including the undercrossing of I-80 just west of Richards…

      1. Matt Williams

        Bill are you saying an at-grade pedestrian and bicycle crossing of I-80 just west of Richard’s would be safe?

        In my opinion any delay of the proposed tunnel so that the Phase One residents would be forced to cross Mace at grade would be unsafe.

        1. Todd Edelman

          Every crossing of every major arterial in Davis at least feels unsafe, but grade-separated crossings for them also ensures that they are used like surface freeways.

          No one is promising any results, only measures. What, do you think that they would close the parking lots if people kept on driving there? The developer wants the right to decide if parking should be paid, based on their own subjective position on the “market”.  This thing will have on average 97% modal share for motor vehicles for journeys outside of trips of residents to the closer DJUSD facilities. Due to distances, the promised shuttles only operating at peaks (thus excluding the common journey of going out to eat and a movie, etc after work) plus their time disadvantage for journeys where there’s convenient parking) will not be anyone’s dependable “friend” like a comfortable pair of shoes for a 5 minute walk to a coffee shop, a 10 to 15 minute cycle to a job or booty call, or a 20 min drive to the Railyards in Sac.

          My impression is that everyone sensible and not a narcissist is just tired of this — but also nervous about losing, so to salvage their psyche their perspective gets narrow and they find acceptable things that would be laughed at – and worse – when there was more of blank slate in this area, i.e. if all of it was still farmland.

          Much of what’s been built since the 1980’s and mostly in the east – on both sides of I -80 – will never ever have any significant modal share by means other than private vehicles for journeys to Downtown and the University: At the approximate distance of DISC no more than 10% of people ride bikes to campus, 1/5 the rate of those one mile away. Many of these people don’t have vehicles and many don’t have free parking, like what will still be available Downtown. (See the UCD Campus Travel Survey, 2019-2020, pg. 30)

          DISC is a really bad idea at THIS location. Its facilities, features and theoretical synergy-facilitation needs to be distributed within and placed closer to the center and center-west of Davis.

          This major plan – which could win awards and many more practical things – would be an excellent core activity of the too-long delayed work on a new General Plan.

  4. Bill Marshall

    but grade-separated crossings for them also ensures that they are used like surface freeways. [TE]
    What???  Who is “them”?  [AM]

    Anyone who drives a car, obviously!

    Wrong facts, but consistent ideology… “Cars = evil incarnate”… “Bike-ped = heavenly”… that simple… wish my hands and legs let me use my bike more… but that wasn’t in the cards…

    Whatever…

     

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