Old East Davis Requests Review of the Trackside Project Appellate Decision


by the OEDNA Board

The Old East Davis Neighborhood Association (OEDNA) is requesting review by the California Supreme Court of the recent appellate court decision on the Trackside development project, in the case of OEDNA vs. City of Davis.

We are doing this because we believe that the City should be faithful to the plain meaning of its planning and zoning rules, and because we want to preserve the setting and feeling of our historic neighborhood.

By convention, land use policies adopted by a California city can be interpreted by the same city when the policies are applied to specific projects. While this sounds logical— giving cities flexibility and local control— if understood too broadly, the conventional view could allow a city to reinterpret planning policies in ways that violate their original meaning and intent.

In the Trackside case, the Yolo Superior Court found that the City of Davis overstepped its discretion in approving the project, which does not conform to the City’s land use policies for mass and scale transitions between the downtown core and traditional neighborhoods.

To our dismay, the appeals court reversed the Yolo court’s decision, and in doing so claimed that the City has almost unlimited discretion in the application of its planning policies.

Following the appeals court decision, the League of California Cities requested that the written ruling be published as part of precedential case law. Communities who value oversight of planning decisions should be alarmed by this.

OEDNA believes that the City should have some discretion, but should not be allowed to ignore planning and zoning rules when they are inconvenient.

If cities can interpret, and reinterpret, planning documents with virtually unlimited discretion, then community-based planning processes— which led to the Downtown Davis and Traditional Residential Neighborhoods Design Guidelines, and will in the coming years lead to a new General Plan— become toothless and meaningless.

Unlimited discretion means that investor-developers may buy a property, intending to build a project larger than planning documents allow, with confidence that a development-oriented city council will reinterpret the policies to allow for the larger project to be built. This should never happen, but it has and it does.

OEDNA welcomes appropriate development that fits with the neighborhood character: we support a three-story to one-story transition, conforming to the Design Guidelines and zoning law, at the Trackside site. A conforming building would provide commercial space and more than twenty dwelling units, densifying the Old East neighborhood and adding housing near the downtown core.

Supreme Court review is OEDNA’s one remaining venue for challenging the City’s overreach in the Trackside matter, as well as the nearly unlimited discretion granted to the City by the appeals court. Our request for review is not only for our neighborhood, but for every neighborhood in California that values its sense of place.

No matter the final outcome, OEDNA will strive to protect the setting and feeling of our neighborhood, support sensible growth, and advocate for other neighborhoods at the grassroots level, citywide.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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20 thoughts on “Old East Davis Requests Review of the Trackside Project Appellate Decision”

  1. Ron Oertel

    Wow – I hadn’t expected this.

    Regarding the photo, what are those people doing, in the street? Summoning the “spanking machine”?

    Does it then land inside that circle? 🙂

    At the very least, this must be at least somewhat discouraging for developers in general.

    1. Alan Miller

      Wow – I hadn’t expected this.

      I don’t think anyone expected this, least of all those of us who filed the request for review.  This has been a difficult, expensive and frustrating half-decade since the Trackside project was proposed in 2016.  Then the Vanguard published the article pointing out that the League of California Cities wanted this decision published for precedent.  We then realized this was much bigger than OEDNA or Davis, but in fact would affect all of California.  The issue and the precedent are supremely important.  Therefore, despite the chances of acceptance of our review being tiny — speaking strictly by the rate of review by the CA Supreme Court — we felt we needed to stand up for neighborhoods everywhere.

        1. Craig Ross

          Definitely true.  However, there is zero chance the Supreme Court will even hear the case.  I mean they didn’t even take the Berkeley case and the governor who appointed many of them asked them to.

  2. Ron Oertel

    Future Vanguard Article:

    “In response to Supreme Court ruling, Legislature and Governor hurriedly-enact law to ensure that luxury housing units are exempt from CEQA, Neighborhood Guidelines and Planning Process”.

    “However, the new law will still allow neighbors to sue the developer and the city, after the development is built.”

    1. Alan Miller

      No it doesn’t, CR.

      There’s a 5-story ‘apartment complex’ out my living-room window that was conceived, land-purchased, constructed and filled with 700 students, with years to spare, all in the time Trackside has gone nowhere.  Oh, and they were sued which delayed it a year, but not by OEDNA.  We are not an anti-development group, we are a historic-neighborhood preservation organization.  Big difference.

      Do I like having a 60-foot wall of windows outside where once I had sky?  No, not at all.  But we worked with the developers of Lincoln40, who contacted us before submitting or announcing, were honest with us throughout the process, were cooperative, and we worked out mitigation measures that all accepted.  I believe we actually ended up saving them money relative to the mitigation they originally had proposed!

      So, nice try, CR, but maybe the issue isn’t with how long it takes to build an apartment complex, but rather the attitude and approach of the developers.

      1. David Greenwald

        Alan – I guess you forget that’s partly because the litigants missed the filing deadline by a few days and their appeal got thrown out.

        1. Alan Miller

          I remember that now.  I am fine with that error occuring as I was not in favor of that lawsuit.  Frankly, because I’m not, I thought the Lincoln40 developers were being punished despite their best efforts to work with those most affected.  Those of us actually adjacent and affected were not the ones who had the major issue with Lincoln40.

      2. Ron Oertel

        In all honesty, I would guess that if Lincoln 40 were on the other (closer) side of the railroad tracks, OEDNA might view it differently.  As would anyone.

        The lawsuit against Lincoln 40 was of a completely different nature. If I’m not mistaken, it had to do with the same type of issue that Nishi created (discrimination against non-students, for the Affordable housing component). You know – the type of housing that SACOG requires to be available to non-students, as well.

        Of course, Trackside offered none of that type of housing, either. But that’s not what the lawsuit was based upon.

        1. Alan Miller

          I would guess that if Lincoln 40 were on the other (closer) side of the railroad tracks, OEDNA might view it differently.

          Well I certainly would, because it would literally be on top of me 😐 .    But that’s just theory.  Lincoln40 is so close to me that a good pitcher could hit it with a baseball on the first throw.  So it is very much an Old East Davis issue and my neighbors supported us that are nearby.  Trackside would not have affected me personally 100th as much as Lincoln40 does, but I am supporting my neighbors and my neighborhood.  Our neighborhood does that.  All for one and one for all!

          The lawsuit against Lincoln 40 was of a completely different nature.

          I always appreciate that being pointed out, because that important fact seems lost on many people.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Our neighborhood does that.  All for one and one for all!


          But yeah, I can’t even imagine Lincoln 40 being on the “closer” side of the tracks. Even if there was room for it, it would have a bigger impact (e.g., access to it, etc.).

  3. Ron Oertel

    If there’s a “lesson” to be learned here, it’s that it’s a lot easier to support council members who care about their own constituents’ concerns in the first place.

    And are perhaps a little less-focused on subsequently removing school board members who have a non-preferred skin color, or “smoothing over” outrageous comments from leaders of particular religious organizations while in office.

    I’d also suggest that folks question those who accept SACOG money, which then turns out to be quite the Mace “mess”.

    This is also evidence of the continued need for Measure J – even in “supposedly-slow growth” Davis.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      This is also evidence of the continued need for Measure J – even in “supposedly-slow growth” Davis.

      Wait…weren’t you telling me about all the commercial infill opportunities in Davis?  I’ve said in the past that infill development is often financially prohibitive….or limiting might be a better way of putting it.  But yeah…I guess I forgot to include politically difficult too.   So infill ain’t easy and Measure J makes peripheral development nearly impossible.  Damned if you do and damned if you don’t….or damned if you don’t either way I guess….such is Davis.

      1. Ron Oertel

        It was a general comment, in that those on the council are consistently more-supportive of development than constituents are.

        That’s not just limited to Davis, either.  And in other cities, candidates are usually dependent upon developer money to run a campaign for council in the first place.

        Those on the council in Davis don’t strike me as developer lackeys, but they’re clearly more supportive of growth and development than their own constituents are.

        In any case, the neighbors are objecting to the size of the residential component, at Trackside.

        Trackside doesn’t bother me, personally.  I think it’s an attractive-looking plan, but it overwhelms the cottages near it.  And apparently sets a precedent for that neighborhood.

        For that matter, even the fact that it’s “luxury” housing doesn’t bother me, personally.  Rich people need love (and a home), too!  🙂  Locations in/near downtown are probably a good place for them.  (Well, them – and the homeless, apparently.)

        But overall, infill has its limitations, as well. I don’t see why it’s presented as an “either/or” choice, when “none of the above” is also an option.

        I’m a supporter of “existing” housing.

    2. Bill Marshall

      And are perhaps a little less-focused on subsequently removing school board members who have a non-preferred skin color, or “smoothing over” outrageous comments from leaders of particular religious organizations while in office.

      When the “f” did that happen in Davis?  The second one is somewhat questionable as well…

      You need to find another bridge to lie in wait under… the Davis CC cannot remove school board members… no more than the DJUSD Board can remove CC members…

      1. Ron Oertel

        Never said that the school board did so.

        However, a former council member/mayor was involved with both of these things.  I’m quite certain that you recall this, as both were discussed multiple times on this blog.

        Meanwhile, he never understood why OEDNA was opposed to Trackside. He said something to that effect, on the evening that the council made that decision.

        I’d suggest that his priorities were misplaced.

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