Guest Commentary: What’s Next for Innovation in Davis – Part 3

By Tim Keller

In the first installment of this commentary I pointed out how even though the specific proposal known as measure H failed convincingly at the polls, this was not a referendum on the idea of an innovation center itself, but instead was rejected for a variety of other reasons, and that evidence shows that Davis voters ARE willing to support an innovation park “if it is done right.”

In the second installment, I looked at a number of the valid criticisms of the Measure H proposal that were put forward by opponents of the measure in online forums during the campaign. I agreed with many of these criticisms, and thought that many of them were quite avoidable.

I think that whatever we do “next” in terms of innovation in this city must take those lessons we learned into account.

Today, I want to synthesize what I have presented in the previous two installments into the beginnings of a plan for “what to do next.”

Our biggest opportunity

Throughout the course of this last campaign, the biggest thing that I learned is that people who oppose growth initiatives are a very diverse crowd.  Yes, there are some hardcore “let’s shrink our population if possible” types, but if the poll I presented in part one of this commentary is accurate… that is only maybe 10% of our population.

The rest of our populace, 90% of it in fact, reports that they are willing to approve some kind of growth, to varying extents — at least in theory….  And yet, this is the same city that (in practice) kills almost all development proposals brought to it, and which grinds almost all infill and redevelopment proposals down into unprofitable dust… so something is still not lining up.

There are two answers to this contradiction which I saw in the various online comments during this campaign: First, is an element of cognitive dissonance.  I think that there is a healthy segment of voters that don’t think they are anti-growth, but they probably do have unrealistic expectations, and when projects fail to live up to those expectations, they feel justified in voting them down, while shaking their heads and wondering why the city can’t just give them a better project to vote for.

The other thing I noticed in the online debate is that a lot of people believe that any growth that is going to happen is going to end up being the worst kind of growth, which they tend to label as “urban sprawl.”   This is an understandable position given that sprawling unsustainable growth has been the dominant form of growth in North America since the end of WWII.

What is perhaps ironic about that is that these days most pro-growth activists are ALSO against urban sprawl!

The only people who are still pushing for the sprawling single-family residential model is developers, because it is the easiest kind of project to get approved and it is the most profitable.

And that is the reason why I think that there is an opportunity here:  I suspect that there may be more common ground to be found on these than we actually realize.   Nobody wants urban sprawl, everybody wants bike-ability, everyone wants affordable housing, everyone wants a city that can pay its bills and maintain its bike-paths.

The divisions that we might think exist in this town, are likely of our own making, and they are potentially born of nothing more than the fact that we have not put in the work necessary to create consensus.

Breaking the mold – Davis Style

The other reason why I think we have a chance at consensus around growth is the fact that we are indeed at a transition point in our modern society with regard to how we think about urban development.  There is now general consensus among urban planners that the post-war “suburban experiment” was largely a failure, and, slowly, cities and even our state legislature are catching on.  That turning point is happening slowly… but it IS happening

( Now, if you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about, here, I would like to invite you to explore a great series of videos on a YouTube channel called “not just bikes” which you can find here.  I consider this must-watch content for anyone who cares about development issues in this city.  In fact, I didn’t know that I cared this much about development issues in our city until after I had watched these!   They open your eyes to a reality which once you have seen it – it cannot be unseen. )

The most difficult part of this realization, however, is the fact that despite our growing societal acceptance that single-family suburban sprawl is bad, we are STILL left with two generations worth of poorly planned, car-centric cities built out into a pattern which is going to be almost impossible to “un-do”

Which brings me to a point of cognitive dissonance of my own:  While this town’s opposition to growth HAS had a wide variety of negative effects over the past couple of decades, in the long term, that resistance to growth here HAS in fact, allowed Davis to stay decently compact as a city.   Even the farthest flung neighborhoods are still technically biking distance to campus and to downtown.

Now, if you look at a zoning map of Davis, you still have to admit that our town did suffer its share of single-family / car-centric development.   Most of our city is zoned that way.  But my point is:  It could have been a lot worse.

So I think we have an opportunity to have a brand-new conversation about growth in this community.  If we start the discussion with a more sustainable model for “what growth looks like” I’m wondering where those existing dividing lines in our community might end up falling.

I suspect, and I hope, that a majority of Davis voters are willing to embrace a better-reasoned, more sustainable development model.   But the only way we can get there is through discussion and through seeking consensus.  By proactively asking the questions, discussing them together, testing hypotheses and seeing where we end up.

The fly in the ointment

The challenge with all of this however is something that I pointed out in part two of this commentary, which is that our current process for peripheral development projects is one of “approval of what a developer wants,” not any sort of “plan for what we need.”

So the difficult fact is that, despite my belief that there might be more consensus around development issues that we previously thought possible, it doesn’t actually matter at the moment, because what gets proposed is currently up to the developers, and what THEY want to do is, most likely, is to propose more single-family housing along our periphery, because that is what the machinery of state laws, and existing planning ordinances are greased up to do, and because that is what currently makes developers the most money.

So while I have been talking about new ways of thinking about growth, and an opportunity for a new vision of “what growth means for Davis” to emerge, in reality, the peripheral growth process is completely disconnected from any of that… unless we change something.

What needs to be done

As you might have noticed, this third part of my opinion piece about “what’s next for innovation in Davis” quickly evolved into a discussion of our planning process in general – and that is no accident.

Economic development is not an isolated issue in this city.  Our need for economic development has implications and dependencies on a number of other issues, including housing, transit and our climate goals.  An economic development plan cannot exist outside of a general planning process, and any general planning process would be incomplete without it.

So with all of the above commentary in mind, here are three things I think we need to start on first as we decide what is next for innovation and growth in Davis:

1) Start by asking the big (and hard) questions.

The first thing that I think is absolutely necessary is to force ourselves to stand back from the particulars of the various growth issues before us and ask ourselves some more fundamental questions.   What is Davis’s purpose?  Who is Davis for?   What does our success as a city look like?

One idea that I particularly like to frame that particular challenge is through the concept of “balance.”  From chemistry to mathematics to finance to our ecosystem, all of these disciplines seek to “balance” their equations:  to find a correct answer by evenly weighing all of the constituent inputs.

I think that the first thing we should do is attempt to look at our city through this lens of balance.  How do we balance our city with respect to the university, and with respect to our economy and with the environment?

Just like the chemists, and the mathematicians, I would want this to be a quantitative exercise.   Let’s look at the basic datapoints of our city:  The raw numbers around our population, our job base, our city finances, our transit system etc.

If we can start with the right data, we can answer a LOT of questions which are currently left to the realm of opinion and debate, such as:   If we build peripheral housing, there certainly are environmental impacts involved, water will be consumed, farmland will be lost.  But if we do NOT build peripheral housing, what does THAT future look like for the environment?   How is THAT decision different. And which scenario is actually better for Davis?

At the moment, these are issues around which there currently cannot be ANY agreement, because we simply do not understand the big picture.  So I think that our first priority should be doing THAT fundamental research.

Luckily, because we are Davis, we have no shortage of people in this town who are capable of executing this thought experiment.  In fact, I think that this kind of thing could be executed as a community and campus-based design competition.   If we resource it sufficiently to get the basic data into the hopper, we could ask both citizens and students for their inputs on how they think we might best “balance” Davis.   I think the results would be fascinating.

2) Create an economic development plan.

We need to develop a detailed economic development plan.   Something that:

  1. Develops a specific strategy that is specifically tailored to the unique strengths weaknesses and opportunities of Davis;
  2. Researches, vets, and recommends a set of best practices around that strategy; and
  3. Lays out the variety of tactical plans needed to execute that strategy.

This is the simplest of my three proposals.  There is no excuse for us not having such a plan.  This plan should be incorporated into the “balancing” of Davis as described above, and I’m volunteering to help.

3) A citizen-led planning process for peripheral growth.

With the first two proposals in mind, the last thing that I would suggest before we even think of suggesting an “innovation park” again, is the creation of a master plan for peripheral growth.

Now, I don’t want to pre-judge the conclusions of any of the above processes.  After all, someone might pencil out that if we re-zone a significant amount of our core areas to higher density we might need much less peripheral growth than we suspect.

But for now, let’s assume two things:  1) Is it that peripheral projects are going to be proposed no matter what we are doing in a city planning process? and 2) That we have a reasonable expectation that peripheral growth is going to have to at least be part of the mix as our city goes forward.

With those assumptions on the table and the fact that I pointed out above that our peripheral growth process has zero capability for master planning, we are left with a need to get creative.

My proposal for this situation is to call for a citizen-led planning process.   A group of self-organized residents who will work together, in concert with the owners of the likely peripheral properties to come up with a master plan, and a call for a moratorium on peripheral projects until that master plan can be worked through.

While such a process would of course not be formally binding under the law, the political calculus involved serves to make it quite powerful:

If the community has gone through a process to plan these properties together, and create a vision for how they will be built, what features they have, how they work together, then a potential developer would be a fool not to comply with that plan.

In fact, I suspect that the owners of those peripheral properties who are interested in eventually developing their land will be more than willing to buy-in and support the process, because it will save them money over the alternative of waging a costly and potentially unsuccessful Measure J campaign.

I can’t tell you how many people I talked to during the measure H campaign who complained that the plan was rushed, or not fully thought through, or was something being foisted upon the city by a developer who didn’t have our actual needs in mind.

A citizen-led planning process would resolve ALL of those complaints.  Not only would we get a better set of developments which reflect our actual needs, but the developers would have a much easier path to getting their projects improved.

THAT is what we call a “Win-Win” scenario:  Better process, better results.

Conclusion:  Let’s start fresh, and let’s start planning, and let’s start NOW.

As I stated in part one of this commentary, the failure of measure H can be a good thing, if (and only if) we learn from that failure.

I have laid out a lot of the lessons that I think we should be learning from that failure and proposed a couple of concrete next steps.

My mother always admonished me to never complain about something unless you are also willing to be part of the solution.   The good news here is that not only am I willing to be part of the solution, I have been having conversations with a number of people, who are also willing to help make a difference.   I think that we have everything we need in this town to accomplish all of the above.

While I have suggested three different initiatives that we should be undertaking, I don’t actually think that I am proposing anything that is overly difficult or unobtainable.

The plans we develop do not need to be overly detailed, with EIRs and detailed traffic studies etc.   They only need to be based on good baseline data and sound analysis.

It is also worth stating that our desire for having a good citizen-led planning process should definitely not be turned into an excuse to create a process which is obstructive by design.   Everything that I mentioned above should take us no longer than a year once it starts, and it is reasonable to limit the scope of our work to be “only as comprehensive as can be accomplished in a year’s time.”

But if we can develop these higher-level plans, if we can create a process, a framework for detailing what we want and why, and if we can do that based on sound science and logic, then we can make great strides in terms of long-term planning for our city.

At the end of it, not only would we have a well-reasoned high-level plan to turn over to the formal processes of the city, but along the way we would have created a community of engaged citizens committed to seeing those plans through.

Those are my thoughts.  I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts on the above ideas.   And if you have better ideas for what we should do, I’d love to hear those as well.

Those who want to offer their own ideas are encouraged to reach out directly, and I hope that together we can figure out “what is next” for Davis in a compelling, and well-reasoned way.

I have had so many pleasurable conversations with my fellow citizens on these issues over the past few months that I am looking forward to this journey as much as I am the destination.

Tim Keller is a Davis resident and Founder and Executive Director of Inventopia.

About The Author

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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30 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    I appreciate the thoughtful article.

    We have one major point of agreement, and one of disagreement. I will start with being agreeable. Balance should be a key component in any planning. We are in a time of extreme divisiveness in our country and any plan that is not achieved through a balancing of needs, wants, interests and frankly compassionate consideration for all is going to be not a solution, but rather another bone of contention.

    Now for the disagreement.

    “Nobody wants urban sprawl, everybody wants bike-ability, everyone wants affordable housing, everyone wants a city that can pay its bills and maintain its bike-paths.”  I am quite sure this is what everyone says they want. Everyone may even believe this is what they want. But from considering actions above words, I believe there is a small contingent for whom profit is the driving motive just as decreasing population is for a small group. Frankly, I was a little surprised you did not mention this group as they seem to hold quite a bit of power in our community.

    I think it is critical that we be aware of and take into account all groups in our community and not gloss over the motivations, needs, desires of any, and certainly not overlook or discount the existence of any group.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      You raise an interesting point Tia. On the one hand, clearly the colloquial “everyone” and “nobody” are not literally everyone and nobody, colloquially it means a general consensus, which I think is largely true. But as you point out, this may be what people say they want, but in practice, they probably don’t. Just like people say the top issue is affordable housing and yet the mechanism to get that housing is voting for projects with affordable housing that most have opposed.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The part that I found even more “odd” is how the housing activists were advocating for a housing shortage as a result of the 2,500 jobs that DiSC would have supposedly provided, without actually addressing where these folks would live.

        I’ve concluded that a lot of these folks aren’t actually concerned about housing shortages, at all.

         

        1. Ron Oertel

          There was a lack of honesty regarding the additional demand for housing that DiSC would have created.

          With some claiming that pre-existing housing plans (presumably, based upon pre-existing housing demand) would suddenly be able to accommodate the additional demand created by adding 2,500 jobs.

          And that this would have no impact (displacement) regarding the fulfillment of pre-existing demand, which suddenly “doesn’t exist” (according to the same people who, up until this point – have been crying “housing shortage”). And have since returned to that same message.

          This was actually a mistaken assumption in the EIR, itself. (Something to watch for, in any future EIRs.)

        2. tkeller

          The “where are DiSC employees going to live” discussion is a good example of the kind of balancing that we should be doing going forward.

          The city called for a business park, but as far as I know provided no detail for who they intended to build that park for – is it for manufacturing companies who will come here from elsewhere and have to bring in a workforce which already isnt here?    That was what the DiSC EIR ended up assuming.

          But that lack of detail / strategy was entirely avoidable.   If you actually look at the companies that start here in the first place, OR the companies that tend to come here from outside, they are generally doing so in order hire workers who are ALREADY HERE.    There are very few exceptions to this.    SO the quesiton of “where are the people working these additional jobs going to live” is a very different discussion when you integrate that level of detail into the project assumptions.

          If we are pursuing a “homegrown” strategy of trying to retain companies that have started here, then there is no immediate influx of housing needed to balance out the commercial space.   What you are actually doing is providing in-town space for companies that might otherwise set up their companies in west sac and have their workers commute FROM davis to there.    There are MANY companies that I know of which are currently doing that.  Many of them would love to move back to Davis.

          Long-term, creating local workspace for davis residents will indeed probably mean that fewer people end up leaving davis for elsewhere since their company is no longer in davis anyway, and it might be cheaper to live closer to work… but that is something we can anticipate and develop around.

          Either way, there is no way around having a well considered, detailed planning process which tries to anticipate and address these kinds of details.

          1. David Greenwald

            “SO the quesiton of “where are the people working these additional jobs going to live” is a very different discussion when you integrate that level of detail into the project assumptions.”

            It’s a good point Tim that got lost in weeds. But it also becomes difficult when you try to land use plan by referendum.

        3. Ron Oertel

          The city called for a business park, but as far as I know provided no detail for who they intended to build that park for – is it for manufacturing companies who will come here from elsewhere and have to bring in a workforce which already isnt here?  That was what the DiSC EIR ended up assuming.

          The reason that this is “assumed” is because it’s accurate.

          But that lack of detail / strategy was entirely avoidable.  If you actually look at the companies that start here in the first place, OR the companies that tend to come here from outside, they are generally doing so in order hire workers who are ALREADY HERE.

          Don’t know how “true” that is, regarding the companies that you describe.  But since some of them grew “in conjunction” (or thereafter) with the development of residential areas (e.g., Mace Ranch), at least there was a level of honesty regarding “where” they’d live.

          That honesty was missing, regarding DiSC. What I find particularly offensive is that this lack of honesty was coming from the same folks who typically cry “housing shortage”.

          In any case, Davis has never attempted to add 2,500 jobs from a single development, so there’s nothing to actually compare it to.

          Davis has never been a major employment center. I suspect that most voters want to keep it that way. (If I’m not mistaken, even Westley noted this.)

           

           

        4. Ron Oertel

          I dunno, I always viewed UCD as a “major employer”, along with downtown Sacramento (government workers).

          In any case, I guess you’re saying that Davis has “enough”.  Especially if it’s already providing employment opportunities for the entire region. Though I suspect that it has a few too many DJUSD employees, in comparison to what the internally-created demand actually is.

          Tim Keller implied that I have “contempt” for others, as noted in his comment below.

          Perhaps the ones who actually have contempt are those who want to create housing shortages, while simultaneously complaining about housing shortages.

          Or, maybe they just have contempt for prime farmland outside of a logical boundary for the city, but are temporarily hiding that contempt.

          Certainly, they have contempt for those who voted against proposals. They also have contempt for allowing that to occur in the first place.

          Apparently, they know more than the “unwashed masses”, as someone once phrased it. And apparently, two failures (for the one site alone) isn’t enough to convince them otherwise.

          As far as “profit” is concerned, I doubt that very many of us have the pockets that these guys do. (Outspending the opposition, 10-1.)

          I’d suggest that the $1 (vs. $10) is the best investment that slow-growthers can make.

          And that doesn’t even include EIRs, traffic studies, etc.

    2. tkeller

      Thanks for the comments Dr. Will,

      I might not fully understand what you mean by those who are seeking “profit” – but I assume you mean developers and their agents.  (?)

      I would agree that we need to resist the forces which are pushing for solutions that are driven by “quick and profitable” design goals.  Such solutions rarely optimal at the “triple bottom line” when you take environmental and long-term costs into account.

      1. Bill Marshall

        I might not fully understand what you mean by those who are seeking “profit”

        Well, think pretty much everyone seeks “profit”… aka ‘gaining’… who doesn’t use their personal resources, time and talents, to “break even” or lose the value of their personal resources, time and talents?

        Dr Will sought ‘profit’ from her personal resources, time and talents… you have… Ron O has… I have… except for some ascetics, who seek only ‘spiritual’ “profit” (still, seeking a ‘profit’)… as do animals of all sorts… being better off tomorrow than they are today… a “life-force”?

        Legitimate questions include whether “profits” are exorbitant, unfair, but ‘profit’ as a motivation is quite neutral, natural, and ‘good’…

        Look at how much CEO’s of “non-profits” earn… David and VG, seek ‘profit’…

        Has “profit” become the P-word?

        The crux is in the ‘idiots guide to life’… ‘what profits a person, if they lose their soul?’

        I believe there is a good ‘balance’… that includes ‘profits’… but just an engineer…

        1. tkeller

          Bill, I agree 100%.

          I have realized that I used a MBA buzzword that most people might not be familiar with when i referred to the “triple bottom line”, but it is an important concept that adresses Dr. Will’s concerns as well as yours:

          In economics, the triple bottom line (TBL) maintains that companies should commit to focusing as much on social and environmental concerns as they do on profits. TBL theory posits that instead of one bottom line, there should be three: profit, people, and the planet. A TBL seeks to gauge a corporation’s level of commitment to corporate social responsibility and its impact on the environment over time.

          https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/triple-bottom-line.asp

          So profit should not as you say be a dirty word.  Profit is necessary for action.   But profit in the absence of long-term social and environmental impacts is also a bad idea.

          The “balance” concept I presented above would be an attempt to put development into a rational context which takes all of these factors into account.

    3. Richard_McCann

      Tia

      I think that Tim’s characterization of “everyone” is valid, even for those who are profit motivated. However, those who are profit motivated take the view that those goals are best achieved through decentralized decision made by individuals through actions only coordinated in the marketplace. (The Austrian school of economics (led by Friedrich Hayek) and Milton Friedman from the Chicago school are proponents.) This perspective tends to favor those who already possess wealth and are influential. They are not inherently evil (there is at least one notable exception who was President) but they confuse acting on their own self interests with being consistent with what is best for the community. (“what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”)

      So I think everyone does agree on achieving those goals, but not everyone agrees on how to achieve those goals. That’s where the divergence you note occurs. And I think part of a larger community education process needs to highlight that distinction so that we don’t label the other side as “evil”.

    4. Peter Bell

      I love Tim’s concepts here, so in the spirit of the need to be creative, here is one out of the box idea that might check some of these boxes.

      Move the highway I-80 south and 113 west so they don’t divide our town with a “river” of cars that produce massive amounts of pollution and noise, yet provide little benefit for Davis residents when compared to the problems they cause.

      The real-estate freed up would be worth at least 5x the cost to move the freeways and the “new space” would all be within the city limits. You could then likely be able to almost double the number of housing units in town and build an innovation park some of us have dreamed about for many years. The population could easily grow above 100,000 without sprawl and our city could then support extra amenities that are only found in larger cities like Sacramento, but they would all remain within biking distance right here in Davis.

      The reclaimed land could be sold to developers which would result in billions of dollars excess dollars beyond the cost of relocating the freeways. This excess capital could be placed in an endowment like investment fund to produce an enduring source of revenue so the city would never have to charge taxes ever again or be faced with a fiscal problem maintaining its infrastructure.

      Davis residents would be freed of the noise, congestion and pollution these two freeways produce as 1,000’s of people drive past our town everyday and CalTrans would save billions of dollars it has planed to invest in widening I-80. As a bonus, we would not have to endure years of traffic nightmares that will come with the planned I-80 freeway widening work as the relocated freeways could be built while I-80 and 113 remain unaffected until switch over day.

      Crazy idea or creative idea, I look forward to your feedback either way.

       

  2. Ron Oertel

    The challenge with all of this however is something that I pointed out in part two of this commentary, which is that our current process for peripheral development projects is one of “approval of what a developer wants,” not any sort of “plan for what we need.”

    There isn’t even any agreement on what Davis “needs”.

    The first thing that I think is absolutely necessary is to force ourselves to stand back from the particulars of the various growth issues before us and ask ourselves some more fundamental questions.   What is Davis’s purpose?

    Does it have a “purpose”?  It suddenly needs to “justify” itself?

    Who is Davis for?

    Those who already live there.

    What does our success as a city look like?

    Look around – it’s a pretty nice little city.

    My proposal for this situation is to call for a citizen-led planning process.   A group of self-organized residents who will work together, in concert with the owners of the likely peripheral properties to come up with a master plan, and a call for a moratorium on peripheral projects until that master plan can be worked through.
    While such a process would of course not be formally binding under the law, the political calculus involved serves to make it quite powerful:

    Right – a handful of people who:

    1)  Already believe that a lot more peripheral development should be pursued, and are participating as a result of whatever other agenda they have.

    2)  Believe that they can speak for others.  (See “Innovation Park” task force, or whatever led to the failed proposals.)

    3)  Have no legal authority whatsoever, as you already noted.

    Those are my thoughts.  I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts on the above ideas.   And if you have better ideas for what we should do, I’d love to hear those as well.

    I do.  Stop looking for reasons and ways to pursue sprawl.

    Now, if you look at a zoning map of Davis, you still have to admit that our town did suffer its share of single-family / car-centric development.   Most of our city is zoned that way.  But my point is:  It could have been a lot worse.
    What is perhaps ironic about that is that these days most pro-growth activists are ALSO against urban sprawl!
    The only people who are still pushing for the sprawling single-family residential model is developers, because it is the easiest kind of project to get approved and it is the most profitable.

    I doubt that most “pro-growth activists are against urban sprawl”.

    Though truth be told, this is the type of housing that young families want – at a price they can afford.  And surrounding communities are providing more of it.  Why is that a “problem”, given that no one is able to control what those communities do anyway?

    These folks want a place to park at least two cars, for example.

    Also, what makes anyone believe that those who live in (say, “North, North Davis” – e.g., Spring Lake) are looking to move to Davis?  A lot of these folks work at UCD, and have nothing to do with Davis, itself.  Believe it or not, Davis is not the center of the universe.

    And you’re proposing to put the densest housing of all the furthest from the urban core?  Usually, housing developments become less-dense, the further they are from the core.  (That was one of the strange things about DiSC – dense housing, adjacent to the existing low-density developments that already exist between it and downtown.)

    For that matter, everyone seems to forget that ALL existing housing eventually turns over. There are opportunities for people (including families) who want to move to Davis, even without building a stick of new sprawl. I’m sure that I can find examples of this RIGHT NOW (and at any other given point in time).

    If folks are looking toward continued sprawl to solve “problems” that they claim exist BECAUSE OF the urban sprawl that already exists, what does that say about your chances of solving those problems with MORE urban sprawl?

    1. tkeller

      “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”― Thomas Paine

      1. Bill Marshall

        Most famous work of Thomas Paine… “Common Sense”… yet, not that common today… witness some of the ‘frequent flyers’ here on the VG…

        ‘ Tis a pity…

        My favorite quote from Tho Paine…

        These are the times that try men’s (everyone’s?) souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he (they?) that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated”…

        That includes the freedom to exercise “the rights of  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”… which includes the rights to own, decide how to use property, to make a profit, to NOT have folk deny liberties, other rights, to fit their agendas…

        Again, a two-edged sword…

        One could easily assert, , reasonably, that the JeRkeD measures are a form of ‘tyranny” by “the will of the people”… lot of historical evidence that the “will of the people” can be tyrannical…

         

  3. Todd Edelman

    Tom Paine, hooray!

    Please define

    technically bikeable

    The “15 Minute City” should be core in the General Plan. Just Google it.

    Also the forums in any local media – especially non-profit media – should be as free and open as possible.  It they are not they they work against a good community process.

     

    1. tkeller

      Todd,  Totally agree with bikeablity as a core value in all of our plans.   It’s kinda low-hanging fruit for these discussions actually because bikeability is a core indicator of sustainable development AND it is part of Davis’ cultural DNA.

      There is a related question that I’m interested in learning more about as we chew on all of this, which is how e-bikes are going to change the bikeability calculus.   With e-bikes, a 15-minute city is actually a 10 minute city.. and I think that if we can really do a good job with protected /separated lanes so that people feel safer, E-Bikes and the ability to bike without arriving in a pool of sweat might really change mode share towards the 2-wheel camp.

       

      1. Todd Edelman

        Bikeability

        is not low-hanging fruit. It requires significant investment,  extremely competent design and other complementary features such as a matching urban scale and reduction of competition mass (aka motor vehicles). Davis has failed and is continuing to do so with these complements.

        It is low-hanging compared to highway construction, okay, at least in terms of happiness-per-dollar!
        Please forgive my aversion to “cultural DNA”, as it’s one of those terms that’s been usurped for suspect reasons by many. Like “equity”, unfortunately, which is sometimes weaponized, at worse, in Davis.

        E-bikes at this point are so expensive and un-supported – e.g. with adequate parking – in Davis with none to barely some of the subsidies given out for both electric motor vehicles and driving in general (i.e. subsidies from general taxes for infrastructure whose users vary dramatically depending on economic means) that they cannot be used to make up for poor distancing (sprawl design). It’s similar to automobile normalization, that everyone arrives by car because everyone has one.

        I am not sure if the Ford Model T really allowed the majority to own a car for the first time, or if this was really the finance industry developing at the same time (?). But in any case the e-bike industry and milieu and gestalt and “ecosystem” is for very far from any such point, mythical or otherwise. In sum the “15 minutes” have to apply to a new or novice rider on an “acoustic” bicycle and should… forever. Also because “15 minutes” is actually just as much or more about walking. E-bikes are intended to replace motor vehicle and transit trips, and increase the overall amount -and joy, etc. – of cycling.

        1. tkeller

          I meant low hanging fruit in terms of easy consensus.   – Its a point on which we are likely to find people agreeing.

          And i think you are right in pointing out that its not actually going to be “easy” or “cheap” to have REALLY good bike infrastructure.   But I wasn’t promising that anything involved here would be easy or cheap… just “possible” if we put in the work

        2. Todd Edelman

          easy consensus

          It’s not happening. Seriously for years – the whole time I’ve been here and a couple years previous are about what I am most familiar – there’s been nothing but mistake after mistake in all sorts of designs that ignore BEST practice. And most people don’t seem to care too much, including the Council, the relevant Commissions and the public.  We didn’t have a senior transportation engineer for five years: Imagine if it was an attorney or accounting person.

          There are some exceptions such as many elements of the bike share system when it was working – not its anti-equity age restrictions – and also the efforts on their own dime, for design, from Bike Davis with 5th St between L and Pole Line.

          There is consensus, but it’s unfortunately just that of complacency, because Davis is still better than most towns in the country. But the bar is low for that.  So the consensus is that things are fine here, and we have other priorities. I am not going to argue that conditions for cycling are more important than housing, but the ability to move around efficiently, joyously and safety is a feature that improves the lives of many directly and less so.

        3. tkeller

          Todd, we should have a direct conversation offline.  I dont think that any planning / vision setting process for a city which likes to think of itself as bikeable could, in good faith, be conducted without a hard look at bike infrastructure best practices.   And I think there are ways to prioritize that discussion and its implementation.

  4. Dave Hart

    Okay, I may not make it to the community planning meeting so here’s my list.

    1.  15 minute city concept (basically what we have now if our edges don’t get much further out.)

    2.  Traffic that can’t move faster than 25 mph anywhere within city limits and 20 mph on 80% of the streets.  (Why can’t we have nice things like speed cameras?)

    3.  Expedite multi-story housing.

    4.  Empty lots designated as public nuisance with a tax surcharge that ramps up to highest and best use over a five year period.

    5.  No four lane streets.  Medium or long range plans convert extra width to planted medians, protected non-motorized traffic.  Yeah, I’m talking to you, Covell Blvd and even you, Russell Blvd.

    6. Replace four-way stops and traffic lights with rotary-style intersections wherever possible (it is doable at many locations and won’t hamper emergency vehicles).

    7. Make it easier with city permits, etc., to build housing over retail on ground floor in residential areas.

     

     

    1. Richard_McCann

      Dave

      I’m with you on 6 out of 7. A city wide 25 mph limit isn’t feasible with the sprawl that we’ve already inherited and the number of commuters who leave town. That said, we can reduce the number of such roads.

      Also speed cameras are a bad idea for several reasons. Posted speed limits have little deterrent effect–traffic calming, e.g., narrower lanes with physical separation of bike and transit lanes, roundabouts, are much more effective. We also don’t want constant surveillance. It hasn’t worked out well for the Chinese.

       

      1. Dave Hart

        25mph or even less is feasible when paired with roundabouts, narrowed pedestrian crossings and all those kinds of things that just make it too hard to keep racing your engine.  You start leaving home earlier and plan for it.  As far as speed cameras go, they are prevalent in U.K. and Norway and the pace of life there is less frenetic.  The cameras don’t discriminate based on any driver characteristic other than a desire for exceeding the speed limit.  When you know the result of speeding will result in a ticket, regardless of your super ability to scan for the presence of police cars, you start to slow down.  The camera doesn’t care how much of a hurry you’re in.  I think it’s interesting to talk about social culture in China, but then, bring in other countries as well and compare them in the mix.

        1. Ron Glick

          Good luck with that. Maybe the locals will go 25mph in the neighborhoods but every year you have thousands of new comers that have no idea that they are in a residential community. In the last two days I have seen five cars fail to stop on a yellow light at intersections on Russell Blvd. only to have the light turn red before entering the intersection. Five red lights run in two days!

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