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.
This originally appeared as a comment and was reposted as an article with the permission of the author.