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Downtown Plan Needs To Listen To Davis

Dear Downtown Plan Advisory Committee, 
 
I would like share with you a video presentation I created outlining an alternative vision for public space in downtown Davis. 
 
 
I am submitting this video as comments on the previous workshop summary documents and in preparation for the workshops this week. I understand that the comment period is closed, but I was unable to summarize my comments in format provided. 
 
The presentation is extremely critical of the consultants’ “Plan A” to create an eventual square on third street. I outline a large number of intrinsic problems with this plan, including feasibility, cost, the selling off of viable public spaces to developers, poor design, lack of support for existing businesses among other obvious problems. 
 
As an alternative, this presentation outlines a new incremental plan to create a heart of Davis in an expanded E Street Plaza district. I strongly feel that some version of this plan should be the new Plan A, and the proposed 3rd street plan should be dropped entirely. 
 
I provided comments at the start and end of the last workshops and I feel those comments were largely ignored. If at the end of the workshops this week I continue to see the 3rd street plan developed as the primary strategy I will begin to form a community-based group to develop and promote an alternative plan.
 
I hope you consider this proposal favorably. I would be pleased to discuss it with you in person or to give a presentation during the workshops this week. I plan to refine the video presentation and create a website to post it for comments. 
 
Thank you for all your efforts to develop a new vision for downtown Davis. 
 
Best,
Chris Jones
Davis resident
 
 
Chris Jones is a Davis native and director of the CoolClimate Network, a research consortium at UC Berkeley dedicated to scaling up climate solutions globally. His research focuses on carbon footprint analysis, urban planning, climate change policy and environmental psychology.

Comments

Pam

Wonderful job Chris Jones. I felt from the beginning, that the downtown plan was never a ground up process. I believe that the renderings of the tall buildings around E Street Plaza originated from the consultant and were not a response to what people in town would find the most aesthetic and friendly. I completely agree that the Arcata or Sonoma examples of a open plaza that fit the scale and sensibilities of Davis would be preferred over multi- story buildings towering around a small open space. The other large issue is the gentrification one: if we allow large developer driven buildings seeking maximum rent, how do we keep our uniqueness and small independent businesses and not become a downtown of chain stores? Also, can the comment period about the plan remain open?- it seems there is no reason to shut down online comments at this point in the process.

Nancy Price

I'm glad for Chris Jones' alternative vision. In my opinion, the process has been hijacked by special commercial interests, outside planners, the Planning Department and the City Council. Having attended two meetings, seems to me the community is being railroaded by the process, stirred up by the dream that downtown redevelopment that will cure Davis' ills, especially the economic "problems," and be the city of the future.

Though the process appears to be democratic and fully participatory, the outside consultants were rude, didn't answer questions honestly and without bias, and dismissed others...treating many participants as lacking the requisite "credentials" and education on planning to participate meaningfully. How many of our tax dollars are being spent on this process?

Yes, the town square concept described by Chris Jones has historical, traditional roots with major state institutions clustered around the square or central commons: church, school, administrative and judicial offices, financial institutions, etc. But let's be honest, cities all over the world are made up of neighborhoods that replicate the same concept on a smaller scale.

Here I offer another alternative. Why create a downtown that is a central place in the economic/social hierarchy? That's how we in Davis have always thought of the downtown - the "Main Street." In fact, after a few of us "saved" Central Park from being a three-tiered shopping mall, we created the first Core Area Task Force..maybe that was 1987 or 88 or 89. We have always had a very protective attitude toward the "core" and tried to ensure peripheral malls would not compete with the core.

Maybe it's time to rethink this commitment? Let's not think of the downtown as the central place in the economic hierarchy? After all, all income - taxes, etc. go into city coffers.

What if we develop the malls...that is make them important attractive living, , commercial, entrepreneurial spaces, farm to fork restaurants with beautiful social spaces with trees and gardens, and much better parking. Turn them into attractive neighborhood gathering places to walk and bike to. Isn't this the way to cut down on the carbon footprint? Why not create what the city of Davis is: a city of neighborhoods. There must be grants, funds, Cap and Trade state money to offer incentives to the mall owners and work in partnership with them, rather than selling downtown property to the highest bidder, creating a place only for tourists? Why jam up the downtown with more cars or try to shoehorn more cars in huge garages?

In my view, the Berkeley consultants are old-fashioned... that is they are trying to sell us a Walnut Creek vision of upscale multipurpose buildings and Walnut Creek is a mess of traffic and pedestrians. If they were honest, Berkeley being much larger in geography and population, they would stress how Berkeley is made up of multiple neighborhoods: Northgate, Bancroft Ave area across the the univ., Gilman, Telegraph, etc., that's what our neighborhood malls could be with the downtown as one kind of place complemented by Central Park.

What I propose might very well lead to a truly resilient plan for the future that brings in neighborhood dollars and creates real neighborhood cores. The bike lanes and paths will link the parts to the whole.

To conclude, I don't think you can plan the core/downtown without considering the town overall and the peripheral malls in an holistic, organic plan.

Larry Guenther

Thanks for the work and the Video Chris! It was listened to and heard.

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