Every Monday from here until the election, the Vanguard will ask all five of the council candidates one question which they have precisely 250 words with which to respond.
Question 5: What do you think the most important pieces of the Downtown Plan are – and would you make any recommendations of changes before the final plan is approved?
District 4 Candidates
The downtown plan is an important step towards laying out a vision for the future of Davis. One of the most important pieces of the downtown plan is its move to form-based planning, which gives more flexibility by focusing on the built environment rather than the use of particular areas.
This lends itself well to building a sense of place for our downtown. It gives more certainty to developers and neighbors for what types of buildings and amenities are possible and desirable. It also streamlines the process of development making it faster to reach completion of projects which can bring cost down and help with affordability.
Using a form-based code lays a foundation that that can easily incorporate the important components we want in our downtown that will contribute to its vibrancy and resilience. Some of these include affordable housing, energy efficiency, and a mobility plan that serves all users by balancing the needs of automobiles, buses, and trucks with those of pedestrians and cyclists. Importantly there is guidance on specific needed infrastructure that would make implementation of this plan a reality.
Knowing the needs makes finding the resources easier to accomplish. Lastly the processes that went into the drafting of this plan was an excellent example of community involvement and outreach.
The downtown plan should have been updated as part of a general plan update. We need a comprehensive plan that integrates each neighborhood into a whole.
Form based zoning can be a good idea if properly grounded in a sound general plan. However we do need policies and tools in order to measure its effectiveness. Otherwise, discretion is vested in city staff and city council rather than in a community standard, and that gives rise to the problems we saw with Trackside.
City staff had one notion of the project, yet the neighbors had a very different understanding. We need to have clear standards in place to avoid such conflicts. After all, the city is supposed to deliver what the community desires, not what city staff or city council prefers.
The city has a land use plan that currently generates more public service costs than property tax revenue. We need tools in the general plan that will prevent project approvals that may conform to form based zoning or desirable design elements, but that continue to drain public coffers without an offsetting source of revenue.
District 1 Candidates
I am committed to addressing three top concerns in our community – the need to make our city fiscally sustainable, address a severe housing shortage, and counter the impacts of climate change on our community and the world. Our new downtown plan would address all three challenges, generating additional jobs and city tax revenues; adding 1,000 units of housing for an estimated 2,200 persons; and reducing climate impacts by redeveloping a location close to the UC Davis campus and the Amtrak station where reliance on automobile use could be reduced.
I have long made a personal commitment to this planning effort, including two years of service as council liaison to the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC). After DPAC sent its draft plan to council, I collaborated behind the scenes with staff and a council colleague to streamline historical and environmental review of future downtown projects. These changes in approach meant the downtown planning effort took a bit longer, but they also made it far more likely that property owners and their partners would invest in and transform our downtown after the plan was adopted.
I will await the completion of the final EIR for the downtown plan, and our receipt of additional advice from our residents and the Planning Commission, before I determine what changes I would to make to the final proposed plan, but I generally like what I see and will do all I can to see that this important effort is finished by the end of this year.
Densification, the facilitation of mixed-use development, and the movement towards shared streets are the most important parts of the Downtown Plan. I welcome the adoption of form-based planning that facilitates these changes.
I also support the openness to higher structures in the downtown. The downtown core is the area best linked to transit alternatives to cars, which mitigates traffic concerns and also creates a pathway for parking minimums to be reduced, easing the cost of development. I would support structures up to seven stories in and adjacent to the downtown core if they do not raise major shade and view-shed concerns. Three to five stories will often be more appropriate in these areas.
I also support stronger measures to disincentivize the use of fossil fuel vehicles in the downtown core and adjacent areas. Specifically, we should reduce the parking requirement minimums for new development, while assuring that such developments have adequate transit connections, and explore charging for curb parking in the core. The new revenues could be used to create the infrastructure for a range of micro-mobility options—more secure bicycle parking facilities, a public charging infrastructure for electric bikes, and pathways for scooters, trailers, and pedi-cabs. These changes must be preceded by an impartial analysis of the economic impacts of a switch to paid parking, including a collaborative process with our business community to design a plan that revitalizes our downtown core through human-centered design principles (with appropriate allowances for public transit, first responders, and those with mobility restrictions).
We lack a joint vision for the future of Davis and a roadmap for how we can move forward together. This is an important step with dense, yet diverse housing, a focus on pedestrian infrastructure, and an introduction of form-based code which provides guidelines for developers and an outline of what Davisites can expect for the future.
- Let’s explore overlay zoning for Affordable housing. This would allow for different types of development but only if a significant portion (to be determined) is affordable. Dedicated Affordable housing is an important missing piece.
- The plan could give increased attention to tree cover. There are many illustrations of nice tree-lined streets, but we must plan to actually create them.
- I would like to see the inclusion of more creative options for increasing street safety and place making. Let’s have a conversation about limiting private vehicles on Third Street.
- We should encourage quick transitions. A vacancy tax, for example, could help prevent long term vacancy while a property owner waits for an opportunity.
Finally, I believe we should have in place a schedule to regularly update planning documents, so that they continue to represent the community’s vision and allow us to remain proactive. I suggest we schedule for revisiting the planning commission and downtown plan advisory commission in 2025, community outreach in 2026, and an updated draft in 2027 which lok further toward the future.
Planning on a continual basis prepares us for the future by shaping it!