California Supreme Court Denies Trackside Review, Paving Way for Project to Proceed (Updated at 4 am)

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – It was always a long shot that the California Supreme Court would review the Trackside ruling that overturned the Superior Court reversal of the council approval, but on Wednesday it became final, the Supreme Court denied review.

In a statement from the city of Davis on Wednesday afternoon, “The City of Davis supports the construction of a variety of housing types, including infill near transit, to support a diverse and growing economy and community. We are pleased to hear that the litigation is now concluded and implementation can proceed.”

The Old East Davis Neighborhood Association (OEDNA) requested that the Trackside Appellate court decision be reviewed by the California State Supreme Court.

In a statement, they acknowledged, “Some were critical of our decision due to the long odds. We were quite aware of the odds, and thus the decision not to hear our request comes as no surprise. We believed, however, that enforceability of City planning documents was a battle worth fighting.”

They continued, “This was a fight for public awareness and enforceability of city planning documents – Statewide. For people to believe in the law, it must be enforceable. With the publication of the Trackside decision, the current City Council can interpret planning documents, approved by previous City Councils, to mean whatever they want them to mean – with no repercussions.

“We make plans to create certainty. OEDNA participated robustly in creating the Davis Downtown and Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines to gain certainty for developers and for residents. This decision negates that certainty. So what, then, is the purpose of moving forward with any city planning documents? The Downtown Plan, the General Plan, the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, or any other plan? The details of those plans – those things we fight for and that we believe have teeth – have no teeth.”

The OEDNA concluded, “Who loses out? The residents of our City, and of every City in California. Because with this decision, all California city planning documents have become uncertain.”

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In March, the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association requested review of the appellate court decision.

“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,” the Neighborhood said in a submission to the Vanguard.

They noted, “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.”

They added, “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.”

But the Appellate Court believed that the city council had discretion to do exactly that and that the lower court abused its discretion in invalidating that decision.

“(W)e conclude substantial evidence supports the City’s approval in that we fail to find that ‘a reasonable person could not have reached the same conclusion’ based on the evidence before the City,” the court writes. “The City therefore acted within its discretion and the trial court erred in reversing its approval of Trackside.”

They add, ““We conclude substantial evidence supports the City’s approval, and the Association’s contentions on cross-appeal lack merit. We will therefore reverse the judgment granting the petition for writ of mandate.”

The city council in 2017 approved the Trackside project, a 27-unit, mixed-use, urban infill project located on a half-acre of mixed-use zoned land in a transition area between the Downtown Core and the Old East Davis residential neighborhood.

The Old East Davis Neighborhood Association filed a lawsuit regarding the Nov. 17, 2017, City Council approval of the Trackside project, arguing that the city had violated the design guidelines and approved a project of which the size and scale was out of compliance with the city’s governing documents.

In a 22 page ruling by Judge McAdam, he sided with the Neighborhood, “Based on the totality of circumstances and a review of the entire record, it is the conclusion of this Court that Trackside is not consistent with the City of Davis planning provisions governing the transition between the Core Area and to the Old East Davis neighborhood.”

As Judge McAdam put it, “the failure here is that the mass and scale of the proposed project is not reasonable under the current law and factual circumstances. There simply is not a logical and reasoned case to be made that Trackside is a ‘transition’ from the Core Area to the Old East Davis neighborhood. Trackside would overwhelm the existing residential neighborhood. It would not respect the traditional scale and character of the neighborhood. The record lacks evidentiary support for the City’s decision.”

Judge McAdam concluded, “Trackside is not consistent with the City of Davis planning provisions governing the transition between the Core Area to the Old East Davis neighborhood.”

Following the December ruling, Kemble Pope and Steve Greenfield, the Managing Members of Trackside, LLC, the applicant in this case, issued a statement.

“We are pleased with the Court’s thorough review and legal validation of the City’s decision to approve our transit-oriented, environmentally progressive, infill project in Downtown Davis,” they said.  “Our investor group, comprised of Davis residents, is glad that this four-year legal process is behind us.”

The statement added, “We are ready to move forward with our goal of creating 27 new residences and modern commercial spaces for local businesses in the core of our community, just a short walk from a busy Amtrak station and UC Davis. The time to jumpstart the revitalization of Downtown Davis is now!”

Mayor Gloria Partida said in the city’s release, “The Court of Appeal supported the decision of City Council to review thorough staff analysis of adopted city policies and take action after focused deliberations.  I look forward to seeing a project move forward that will bring more vibrancy and residents to downtown Davis.”

Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs added, “Prioritization of infill projects has been a priority of Davis land use policy as we promote them through our various adopted policy documents.  Bringing additional people downtown to live, work and recreate, just a short distance from our major transit hub at the train station, is good for both our environment and economy, and it is also something we want to encourage more of in the future.”

The original ruling caught the city off guard.

“The ruling in this case is perplexing and runs contrary to the standard of law that applies to decisions by local jurisdictions,” said Mike Webb, City Manager said at the time of the ruling.

The denial by the Supreme Court ends what has been a very lengthy process and will allow the developer to proceed with the project.

This is a developing story.

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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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15 thoughts on “California Supreme Court Denies Trackside Review, Paving Way for Project to Proceed (Updated at 4 am)”

  1. Ron Oertel

    Well, sorry to hear that (in regard to the old East Davis neighbors).

    Turns out that it matters, regarding “who” is on the council – even with Measure J in place.

    Though personally, this is my least “least-favorite” development proposal. (Am I saying that correctly?) In other words, on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the worst), this one is (personally) a 2.

    Though I wouldn’t feel that way if I lived in one of those little adjacent cottages, unless I was looking to sell. Same thing with those nearby, who will eventually experience the same impact.

    Watch for this neighborhood to change, and for the old-timers to eventually be forced out (willingly, or otherwise).

    1. Bill Marshall

      Watch for this neighborhood to change, and for the old-timers to eventually be forced out (willingly, or otherwise).

      Duh!

      I question the word “forced”, but neighborhoods change… people make choices, have life events… that neighborhood is not exempt from that reality… when I first came to Davis in 1972, the neighborhood was different than it is now…

      The adjacent properties were differently occupied, as well… it’s called “life”… those who want “stasis” — well that’s not real.  Nor is going back to a Davis that had a < 5000 population… nor dirt streets [well, that could happen again]… nor horse drawn carriages being a major source of transportation… nor natives fishing, hunting and gathering on land that had only temporary structures…

      Most of the “old-timers”, who were old-timers 50 years ago, are no longer in that neighborhood.

      Duh.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Yes… and ‘battles’ were won, at least somewhat, in the scope/size of the project … the legal portion of the “battle” was pyrrhic, at best.

      It remains to be seen whether the economy (materials costs/inflation/borrowing cost) will dictate if/how any project will re-develop the Trackside property…

      The trial judge erred… appeal court affirmed that… State Supreme court basically affirmed the appeal court…

      The major parts of the ‘battle’ were won prior to getting all the attorneys involved, and making $$$.

      My opinion.

      [following another thread, when will we see the parties cross-suing for “legal fees”? Likely soon, as attorneys want to get paid their $$$]

        1. Bill Marshall

          The reductions from the initial proposal… which were probably overstated, to allow ‘room’ to downscale, and show “collaboration” and/or “compromise”… key words to some…

          It’s unfortunate that it has come to that… where if you want X, you start out asking for 2X…

  2. Ron Glick

    It will be interesting to see the how the building fits into the community upon completion. Will it all become much ado about nothing or a monolithic eyesore of discontinuity with the surrounding community?  I hope for the former but fear the latter. Time will tell.

    1. Alan Miller

      What I do know is that anyone from outside the neighborhood should think twice about coming up to me and at 3rd and I Streets one day and casually say, “It’s not that bad”.

      [ingratiatingly-ridiculous reference to a violent act — meant to be taken as a joke — removed by comment author]

  3. Keith Olson

    It was a valiant effort by OEDNA.  But it’s hard to take on the MAN and win.

    I have to wonder how many of the original investors in Trackside remain and if there has been a big turnover?  Is there a list somewhere of who is currently invested?

  4. Bill Marshall

    David… it would be helpful if when you do updates on stories, if the VG could highlight, bold, italicize, or whatever, what is updated… just might avoid some needless confusion… just a thought…

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