Council Moves Forward with New Mace Redesign

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – For three years it had become a focal point for frustration and anger on the part of many South Davis residents, who derisively referred to it as “Mace Mess” and packed many public meetings held in South Davis, pre-pandemic.  But the proposal put forward by the city after years of input and feedback generated just two public comments.

Councilmember Will Arnold put it simply, “I think the success of the community outreach process is evident by the lack of overwhelming public comment today.”

He quickly added, “Not entirely nor do I pretend to think there’s uniform satisfaction about either the action that we’re taking tonight or about any of the proposed actions.  But it was not all that long ago that there was a lot of upset folks commenting on this issue.”

The process has been long and drawn out, but the council has tried to thread the needle by addressing concerns of those angry about traffic delays and those worried about safety for bikes and pedestrians and school children going to class.

As Councilmember Arnold put it, “I do believe we are working toward a solution that honors the goals that we set out to achieve when we were first, many years ago, venturing to address some of the undeniable connectivity issues that exists with the previous design—including the lack of facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians, including children going to Pioneer Elementary School to have a safe way of crossing this very busy street.”

In 2016, the city completed the Mace Blvd Improvement Project “with the intent to create a safer traveling environment for motor vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.” There were concerns at that time that existing conditions on Mace Blvd., and at the intersection of Mace Blvd./Cowell Blvd., created significant barriers to increased walking and bicycling.

However, the road redesign, which led to a reduction of vehicle travel lanes combined with increased cut-through traffic due to directional apps and freeway congestion, led to traffic backups on Mace during peak hours, especially on Thursdays and Fridays.

The council agreed in April 2019 “to revisit the corridor with a new consultant and come up with a revised design that was better than the ‘before project’ condition and an improvement on the current design.”

While many have put the primary blame for the traffic impacts on the road redesign, other factors have contributed to the congestion.

Councilmember Arnold noted that the problems with peak traffic actually predated the redesign.

“I’m not under the impression that the congestion that we’re experiencing now is a result of the redesign that happened,” he said.  “Whether the redesign exacerbated it or made it worse in very specific ways, I think is open for debate.”

Councilmember Arnold later said that a reason for the high traffic demand “is because Davis happens to fall between two of the largest and fastest growing jobs centers in California on the way to some of the most beautiful places in the world.”

The cost of this project looms large—$2.5 million for Phase 1 and a total of $4.5 million for the entire proposed project.

“It is very important to this community that we move forward with these improvements,” Councilmember Dan Carson said.  “They’re not inexpensive.”

He said, “I know we will need to do also some careful financial planning, to make sure that we do our best to contain the costs, that we do our best to leverage the city’s resources, to find additional resources to help pay for this.  That we look very carefully at the add-ons that have been suggested.”

Later Councilmember Carson added, “I think one of the important aspects of this project is it shows how our city and our county government can work together through a great many issues, about as complicated as we ever have had to deal with, particularly in the realm of infrastructure, and arrive—that probably isn’t a perfect plan, but is a reasonable plan, that serves the, the interests of both city and county government here.”

Lucas Frerichs, who acted as mayor in the absence of Gloria Partida, pointed out, “We felt like there were adjustments to the original project that needed to be made.”

He also noted the slowdown in the process as part of the pandemic.

He acknowledged that “there is definitely additional work to be done on behalf of the city of the county.”

He added that he has personally attended all the public meetings—some in person and some virtual.

“Some of the issues experienced on Mace are in part due to the conditions on Interstate 80 and the usage of the Waze maps apps.  I think there’s going to be that discussion and potential changes along the 80 corridor in the years ahead.”

Councilmember Josh Chapman noted that Mace was “one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue when I was running for this seat.”

Like his colleagues, he saw “redirection of cars off of 80 are a big problem that we’re facing on Mace Blvd., and there are a lot of issues and pieces that have moved forward, especially with the pilot lights that really do get at and address the issue around timing and throwing off the algorithm on that.”

He added, “Not everything is going to be perfect.”

The council voted 4-0 with Partida absent to move forward on the redesign.

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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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27 thoughts on “Council Moves Forward with New Mace Redesign”

  1. Ron Oertel

    Councilmember Will Arnold put it simply, “I think the success of the community outreach process is evident by the lack of overwhelming public comment today.”

    Seems that Mr. Arnold is referring to the outreach process that was needed as a result of not doing an outreach process the first time.  And, attempting to use SACOG money without questioning the strings attached.

    To paraphrase Oliver Hardy (to Stan Laurel), “Well, here’s another (Mace) mess you’ve gotten me into.”

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      The cost of this project looms large—$2.5 million for Phase 1 and a total of $4.5 million for the entire proposed project.

      Not a problem – the city has plenty of money.

  2. Ron Oertel

    including children going to Pioneer Elementary School to have a safe way of crossing this very busy street.”

    It would be interesting to know how many parents drive their kids to that school – including those from out of district.

    Can’t help but think that this might be one of the ways that the city continues to kowtow to the oversized school district.

    Seems to me that this is also a consideration when making decisions about locations for new housing (including Affordable housing). If the result is that several million dollars in “improvements” are needed so that a handful of kids can ride bikes to school from a relatively distant or challenging location, I wouldn’t call that a good use of funds.

    1. Bill Marshall

      It would be interesting to know how many parents drive their kids to that school…

      Yes.   And how many of those do so because “there is too much traffic”… went through an analysis years ago re:  Holmes JHS… turned out the main “traffic” was the parents driving their kids to school… we videoed it… no question that Pogo was right, “we have met the enemy and it is us”.

      – including those from out of district.
      Can’t help but think that this might be one of the ways that the city continues to kowtow to the oversized school district.
      Seems to me that this is also a consideration when making decisions about locations for new housing (including Affordable housing). If the result is that several million dollars in “improvements” are needed so that a handful of kids can ride bikes to school from a relatively distant or challenging location, I wouldn’t call that a good use of funds.

      Nice opening feint, and then you push your other agendas… being on topic, then going to another topic… smooth… not… staying ‘under the radar’ as far as ‘topic’… whatever…

      1. Ron Oertel

        Nice opening feint, and then you push your other agendas… being on topic, then going to another topic… smooth… not… staying ‘under the radar’ as far as ‘topic’… whatever…

        Given that much of the initial Mace Mess was “justified” by kids traveling to school, I’m glad that you’re not in charge of planning.

        And if unneeded schools are (also) kept open (while simultaneously being used to justify multi-million dollar boondogles), that’s adding insult to injury.

        The first thing I’d look at when adding any housing intended for families is where their “neighborhood” school supposedly is. And I wouldn’t add housing in a location that would facilitate a boondogle. Apparently, you think otherwise.

  3. Keith Y Echols

    It would be interesting to know how many parents drive their kids to that school – including those from out of district.

    From what I can tell, kids that are bussed in from other school districts get to ride on a big yellow bus.  A native of this species died out years ago causing some parents to have to dive their kids to school.  This is particularly an issue for the specialty schools like Montgomery, Chavez and Birch Lane.  But the elementary school close to Mace is Pioneer which is a neighborhood school; so in theory it’s in walking and bicycling distance for the students.  However kindergarten and many 1st graders are dropped off by their parents by car.  Harper Jr. High may have a significant number of students that are dropped off by parents since it’s sort of at the edge of East Davis; I could be wrong but it just doesn’t seem to be too bicycle friendly because it’s right on Mace (maybe there’s better rear access).

    1. Ron Oertel

      From what I can tell, kids that are bussed in from other school districts get to ride on a big yellow bus.

      I don’t think that’s true, at least not from Woodland.

      There’s more than 1,000 out of district kids in Davis schools, at this point.

      Overall enrollment in Woodland schools is also dropping, despite all of the new development. (No surprise there, when so many are commuting to Davis.)

      Enrollment throughout the county is expected to continue to decline.

      You can be sure that school districts will try to deny and fight this, every way that they can. A case of the “tail wagging the dog”, as usual.

      Not sure that I care if Davis wants to poach students from other districts, but it’s a reality.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        I don’t think that’s true, at least not from Woodland.

        I’ve seen regularly school busses that say “Woodland” on the side in North Davis and West Davis dropping kids off (North Davis, Chavez and Patwin Elementary) over the last 5 years.  There’s a Woodland School Bus that has a route that goes down my street (I’m not sure why).  I can’t be sure, but I think I’ve seen Winters school buses too…but again, I can’t be sure.

        There’s more than 1,000 out of district kids in Davis schools, at this point.

        I didn’t say they all take the school bus.

        Are you sure about that, as well?  Only kids from the “neighborhood” allowed to attend?

        I don’t know about sure.  All Davis schools are supposed to be “neighborhood” schools.  Kids by default are assigned to their neighborhood schools (closes to where they live).  The expectation is for them to walk or ride their bikes to schools (which doesn’t help if you have kindergartners or even 1st graders).  It’s why Davis doesn’t have school buses (which psses me off).  It sucks if your kid goes to a specialty school like Chavez, Montgomery or Birch Lane and you don’t live near them.  The nearest elementary school to Mace is Pioneer, which isn’t a specialty school.  So it’s mostly going to be neighborhood kids.

        Davis is in a weird position.  I believe they get less money per kid than other school districts in the county because of the economic make up the population.   So they try to make up with it with special property taxes and such.  But they continue to believe that pumping in more kids for revenue is the solution.  They’re trying to optimize their overhead costs with revenue.  But in truth they may want to look at downsizing some of their overhead.  Instead they’ve borrowed and spent money to increase their overhead (big construction project of Multi-Purpose Rooms/MPR) at multiple elementary schools in the district.  Those rooms are needed.  But would it be more efficient to close a school (spend on one less MPR)?  At the same time Davis high is bursting at the seems.  The elementary school population may be declining but I’m not sure about the High School population.  It was pretty maxed out even 10-15 years ago.

        1. Matt Williams

          Keith, I could be wrong, but I believe the buses with Woodland on the side you have seen in Davis are serving special needs children.  I don’t know if they also serve general populace students.

          Regarding your All Davis schools are supposed to be “neighborhood” schools comment, Don Shor has a wealth of knowledge on the topic of parental selection of schools.  Hopefully he can/will jump in and clarify what the procedures of DJUSD are.

          With that said, here is what I have learned over the years.  You are correct that the default elementary school placement for each child is their neighborhood school.  However, the default is overridden for any child who is in a magnet or immersion program or is home schooled using the Davis School for Independent Study as a “base.”  As I understand it, there is one more situation where placement in the default neighborhood school is overridden.  That override happens whenever a parent requests placement of their child in a school that is different from their neighborhood school.  For example, in a prior thread you said, “I live in a Northern Central area of Davis” so according to the DJUSD School Locator map your children’s neighborhood school is probably either North Davis Elementary or Birch Lane Elementary.  However, if for any reason you wanted to have your children go to Pioneer or Patwin or Willett all you would have to do is ask for that placement, and DJUSD would honor your request as long as there is available room at your requested school.  Further, if at a later date you change your mind you can revise your request, and DJUSD will attempt to honor your revised request.  When I said “for any reason” I meant it.  It could be that your wife’s best buddy’s kids go to a different school than your “neighborhood” school and she wants your kids to become friends with her best buddy’s kids.  It could be that your office location makes a different school than your “neighborhood” school more convenient.  It could be that you or your kid don’t like a teacher at your neighborhood school.  It could be any one of a myriad unilateral reasons … no reason is considered to be invalid.

          As a result the DJUSD default placement is regularly not followed.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          Thanks Matt,

          As a parent of kids in one of the specialty schools, I’m aware that you can override which school your kid goes to….if your kid gets into that school.  It’s why I gripe about having to drive my kid to his specialty school (one of them is getting old enough to ride his bike to school). But what I said about neighborhood schools does apply to the majority of kids and placement in Davis.  You’re right it’s not set in stone but I think it applies to large majority of students.

          At any rate, I wonder if that flexibility is coming into conflict with the Davis vision of neighborhood schools and walking and riding bikes to school.  I wonder if that flexibility is causing more traffic because there are no school buses.  But every time I gripe about the lack of school buses in Davis; parents tell me that you’re supposed to be able to walk or bike to school in Davis.  So there maybe there’s some disconnect somewhere.

          As to the Woodland School Buses. You might be right. I’ve never looked in them. If this is the case then DJUSD really does need to get their school buses going for the transfer kids to reduce the car trips by their parents and reduce Davis traffic congestion.

        3. Keith Y Echols

          I could be mistaken, but I don’t think DJUSD has any school buses.

          I’ve been told they did in the distant past.  Then they went the neighborhood walk/ride to school plan.  It was long ago, before mid 80’s as far as I know.  My wife said she didn’t take buses to school in Davis either (she went to a neighborhood school and then to a new program which moved around to a couple other elementary schools). She walked, rode her bike and was driven to these other crosstown schools

          At any rate, I’m curious at the number of kids from outside of Davis that are driven to school (especially from outside of Davis).  I wonder if it maybe causing additional traffic in some areas (like Mace).

        4. Ron Oertel

          At any rate, I’m curious at the number of kids from outside of Davis that are driven to school (especially from outside of Davis).  I wonder if it maybe causing additional traffic in some areas (like Mace).

          I would think so.

          Seems to me that the effort to resist “right-sizing” isn’t being driven by the needs of kids.  As usual.

          I’d suggest that even the mask-wearing requirement is (primarily) driven by the desire of teachers to not be exposed to the little germ factories.

          But bringing this back to Pioneer, how many kids “caused” a complete redesign (and a subsequent redesign) of the Mace Mess?  And, how many come from the relatively new Affordable housing complex, which is a couple miles away (on/near Chiles)?  (Not sure, maybe they go to Montgomery.)

          In any case, take the total amount of the initial screw-up, plus the subsequent redesign, and divide it by the number of kids trying to cross Mace.

        5. Ron Oertel

          And if you gave me that money, I’d probably volunteer to drive them to Pioneer. Hell, I’d probably do it in a three-wheeled bicycle, if anyone’s concerned about the climate change impacts of my driving (or that of the design, and redesign).

        6. Keith Y Echols

          There are a total of 78 transfer to Pioneer this year.

          Thanks.  Is that 78 transferred this year or 78 total transfer students in the school?  The real question is how many are out of neighborhood and out of city students (live beyond….I dunno…a 2 mile radius of the school?).  I guess I’d like to know how many kids are being driven to school.  Maybe there’s a solution that will help to relieve traffic congestion?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            That’s 78 total transfer students in the school. They don’t break it down that way in the data I saw.

    2. Ron Oertel

      But the elementary school close to Mace is Pioneer which is a neighborhood school;

      Are you sure about that, as well?  Only kids from the “neighborhood” allowed to attend?

      1. Don Shor

        “Neighborhood school” merely refers to their school of residence, as shown on the images I posted below. Others are allowed to transfer there from other parts of Davis.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Thanks Don,

      That being the case, doesn’t it make sense for the District to run school buses?  I know it’s an added cost.  But maybe it should be in (financial) conjunction with the city?  If you’ve ever dropped a kid off or ridden a bike to school these days; it’s kind of scary.  I think less kids being driven to school is a good thing for traffic, safety and the environment.  That being said, I don’t know if it’s a significant enough of a problem (unless it’s viewed as a cumulative set of problems) that it will be addressed.  And the over all attitude among the people in Davis is that if you have any issues just go to a neighborhood school.

      1. Don Shor

        That being the case, doesn’t it make sense for the District to run school buses?

        Sure, but looking at those numbers it would be a logistical nightmare.

        1. Todd Edelman

          Don, isn’t it a

          logistical nightmare

          right now? The school drop-off (and pick-up) by private motor vehicle? DJUSD refuses to even do a study to see about some kind of bus services, inclusive of looking into other districts – mostly in Europe – that simply don’t allow a drop-off in front of school.

          While it’s true there are bus-driver shortages now, it’s easy to solve with money if parents and the school board grow up and realizes that the alternative is injury and death, plus a lot of time ferrying kids around.

          Unitrans drivers could get extra training for driving school buses; the head of Unitrans has told me there are possibilities to share charging stations for electric buses.

          Yolo-Solano AQMD had a fee on DMV registrations to replace or update old, pollution buses… which they’ve done in other school districts. This was $2 per vehicle, and from what I’ve seen that would bring in about $500,000 per year based on the number of registrations in the air district.

          The City Council and the BTSSC also don’t seem to care about this issue. As the cycling modal share here is relatively high – especially at the junior high level – the Platinum rating the City gets for Bike-Friendliness probably is not affected by the lack of complementary solutions. I doubt that the bike-ped coordinator mentions it in the application.

          Thanks for the stats on non-geographical catchment.

        1. Keith Y Echols

          But maybe it should be in (financial) conjunction with the city?
          Why?

          Because the school district has no financial reason to start running school buses.  But the city does if it helps to relieve traffic in problem areas.  Just floating an idea.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Because the school district has no financial reason to start running school buses. 

          Right… the DJUSD would see that as an expense they do not want to go back to (as I understand from others, there was a time when DJUSD did indeed have school buses).

          But the city does if it helps to relieve traffic in problem areas. 

          Where is the financial reason that the City would do that?  Where would the $$$ be diverted from?

          Just floating an idea.

          Ahhh… ‘floaters’… municipal utility workers and engineers understand ‘floaters’ pretty well…

          The simple answer is to encourage kids and parents to bike/walk to school and back… worked well in the past… we lived ~1 mile from my elementary school, ~ 3 mi. from my HS.  Biked/walked most of the time, except when there was severe inclement weather.  In HS, did have a bus TO school (paid for by the District, not the City), but usually walked back… one car family, and my bike had been stolen in JH years… no bus back as I participated in after-school sports.  So, age 6-12, rode bike/walked (except as noted), and in HS walked one-way (sometimes 2)… felt ‘normal’… never felt ‘put upon’…

           

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