Vanguard 2022 Council Candidate Questions – Question 5

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

Gloria Partida

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.

Adam Morrill

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

Dan Carson

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.

Bapu Vaitla

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).

Kelsey Fortune

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.

Specific Improvements:

  •  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!

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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  1. Ron Glick

    “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 did this a decade ago with a citizens task force and found out that the cost-benefit of paid parking didn’t pan out. In the end, in addition to serious push back from the community, even some who served on the commission came out against paid parking. The Parking task force recommended paid parking ten hours a day six days a week but the city found it required implementing paid parking 12 hours a day 7 days a week, for a parking congestion problem of two to three hours a day, to be even marginally profitable for the city. The free cash flow revenues to the city that could be used for improvements was small with most of the money going to the parking meter industry for meters and maintenance. Paid parking is one of those bad ideas that will never die.

    I spoke with Bapu about this and he said he would get back to me. To date he has failed to do so.

    1. Richard_McCann

      Conceptually, paid parking can be beneficial to a downtown area by both allocating scarce space for other revenue generating purposes and for increasing customer turnover for businesses. But it turns out that Davis doesn’t really have a parking problem–it has a walking from one’s car problem. Parking is available 3-4 blocks away the most congested areas but people complain about not being able to park right in front of where they are going. There’s really no scarcity on which to build a financial model. The high transaction costs of the infrastructure required puts the kabash to the concept.

      This action also is included in the climate action plan. I have stated that I believe that the potential emission reductions are greatly exaggerated because the Davis downtown is too small and 95% of the vehicle emissions are from interurban travel. Those coming to downtown from out of town will either be quite willing to pay the fees or will just park outside of downtown and walk in, which will have a negligible impact on emissions. This paid parking is only effective for emission reductions where the transit network is a truly robust alternative driving such as in the central Bay Area.

  2. Ron Glick

    Interesting that nobody spoke about historic resources. My understanding of the draft is that the historic resources part of the Downtown Plan was written so broadly that most of downtown would be off limits to redevelopment.

    1. David Greenwald

      I fail to see the problem – the city is using the CEQA definition and not putting them off limits to redevelopment.

      From page 114: “As currently defined, Landmark and Merit Resources are considered historic resources under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as evaluation criteria for such resources aligns with that of the California Register of Historical Resources (CRHR) and have such been evaluated for historical significance. Contributing properties to the Conservation Overlay District (that are not Landmark or Merit Resources) are not included in the official Davis Register of Historical Resources, and therefore are not currently considered historic resources under CEQA and are not subject to CEQA review solely because of their presence in the district.”

  3. Don Shor

    The council shouldn’t even be discussing the downtown plan until the replacement for the current council member representing District 3 is seated. This is the problem with district elections.



    1. Ron Glick

      District three is currently represented by the most senior member of the City Council who is also the current mayor.  If anything this CC should try to get as much done as possible before Lucas moves up to Supervisor. Lucas knows the issues and whoever replaces him is likely to need to come up to speed on many aspects of city governance that Lucas thoroughly understands after a ten year tenure on the CC.

      I find the notion that because he won an election and will be moving up to Supervisor in January he should stop governing or doing the work he was elected to do now is absurd.

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