Entries categorized "Land use"

Promised Nishi Mitigation Features May Never Materialize


Proponents of Nishi have made much of the promised mitigation features: the tree screen and the air filters. One has to ask, of course, why mitigation is even necessary, and the EIR for the project makes that clear: the location between I-80 and the train tracks brings with it poor air quality and "significant and unavoidable" health impacts. There is no controversy on that point, although some "merchants of doubt" have tried to turn it into one.

Questions have also been raised about whether the promised mitigation will do what it is supposed to do; for example, Dr. Thomas Cahill has pointed out that the tree screen will be much less effective because the freeway is elevated adjacent to Nishi, and the supposed 95% efficiency of the air filters has never actually been demonstrated in a real-life situation (with filters operating at a much lower efficiency in real-life situations).

But the situation is even worse than that. The promised mitigation measures might not even be implemented.

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Davis Vanguard Continues to Deny Nishi Traffic Problem and Attempts to Pour Cold Water on John Troidl's Article

Nishi-OldDavisRdBy Dan Cornford

In response to John Troidl's article of yesterday in the Davisite the DV published an article or "commentator" today entitled "Commentary: Nonsensical Argument that Nishi Project Will Make Downtown Traffic Worse."

Below I will paste in my response to David Gs arguments and his failure to address any of John's. But I urge others to post their comments on the DV today as soon as possible as the traffic issue, IMHO resonates like no other when it comes to Nishi.

It will be interesting to see if the DV allows my short post not because I briefly argue against DG's position, but because in his article DG studiously avoids making any mention of the fact that this article appeared on the Davisite (Now what could possibly be the reason for that? A prize for the right answer.), but instead says he found it on his Facebook feed.


Here is is my attempted short post on the DV:

Most unsurprisingly, David makes no effort whatsoever to summarize let alone do justice to John Troidl's article and argument. This is unlike with some of his previous adversaries who he summarizes at length. Perhaps he fears the weight and substance of John's argument. It is worth pointing out also that with Nishi 1.0, when access by Olive Drive to Nishi was permitted, David parroted exactly the same argument (and the very flawed EIR traffic study supporting such an assertion) yet now he, and most Nishi 2.0 advocates, argue that the presumed lack of access (No-one knows how long this agreement with UCD will hold up!) totally negate the real traffic problems created by Nishi. And he thus further shreds his credibility. If you want to read John's article in full and read comments on it go to:


Edit added 5/23/18 at 11:50 AM: Having originally included the link to the Davisite with my comment, they have now deleted the link that link or "edited" it which proves my point and shows that they see the Davisite as a threat.

The Nishi Project Will Make Downtown Traffic Worse

By John Troidl

I don't get it: If I read the YES ON J (pro-Nishi) material, it seems like they are saying that there will be essentially no ("limited") traffic impact if the Nishi development is approved and actually built.

 How can that possibly be?

There are 700 parking spots planned for the Nishi property. One for each housing unit, right there fronting the highway. Wait, that's just one parking space for each apartment.... 1/3 of a car for each bed located at Nishi.

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Dr. Thomas Cahill Responds to Bob Dunning

In a recent Enterprise column, "Pollution Doesn't Magically End at Olive Drive," Bob Dunning  asks:

...if this is truly all about ultra-fine metals from brakes on trains, why aren’t these same folks sounding the alarm about all the other areas in town that are similarly at risk?

In response, Dr. Thomas Cahill, UC Davis Professor of Physics and Atmospheric Sciences and founder of the DELTA Group (Detection and Evaluation of Long-range Transport of Aerosols), sent us the following information and asked us to publish it.

Continue reading "Dr. Thomas Cahill Responds to Bob Dunning" »

Getting the Nishi Discussion Out of the Rabbit Hole: Part 2 of 2 (Red herrings? No, bad planning)


By Colin Walsh and Matt Williams

In Part 1, we detailed the three main reasons to vote against Nishi 2.0/Measure J that we gave at the CivEnergy forum on May 6: 1) bad air quality, 2) costs, and 3) lack of integrity in the process. If the City and the developer could rectify these three concerns by demonstrating that the air quality was acceptable for housing with an onsite study, by fixing the budget shortfall, and by returning integrity to the process, then housing could be built at Nishi – but then the project should be far larger than it is.  The current proposal is too small and does not make proper use of the site.

Instead of addressing these three serious concerns, the Vanguard spends the entirety of its May 9, 2018 article addressing the so-called “Red Herrings,” all of which were points of discussion stemming from audience questions. Here in Part 2, we show how each of the points the Vanguard raised are examples of bad planning on the part of the city, possibly due to the rush to put this matter on the June ballot at the request of the developer. Each of these concerns are real problems with the ordinance the City Council voted to put on the ballot. Clearly this ordinance should have been better vetted before going to Council. 

Continue reading "Getting the Nishi Discussion Out of the Rabbit Hole: Part 2 of 2 (Red herrings? No, bad planning)" »

Getting the Nishi Discussion Out of the Rabbit Hole: Part 1 of 2 (air quality, finances, lack of integrity)

By Colin Walsh and Matt Williams

The Davis Vanguard’s article of May 9, 2018 (“Commentary: Enough with the Weird Red Herrings”) is a disservice to the Davis Community. Instead of addressing the main body of the CivEnergy Measure J Forum (held on May 6), the article goes down a rabbit hole of answers given in response to audience questions.

Let’s start with the basics. As we stated at the CivEnergy forum, there are three main reasons to vote against this project: 1) bad air quality, 2) costs, and 3) lack of integrity in the process.

Continue reading "Getting the Nishi Discussion Out of the Rabbit Hole: Part 1 of 2 (air quality, finances, lack of integrity)" »

Why the Nishi Site is Worse than Other Sites

Nishi-overall-satelliteSouthwest-nishi-satellite Northeeast-nishi-satelliteIn a recent letter to the editor in the Enterprise, Bill Wagman asks, "What is the difference [between Nishi and Olive Drive] and why do there seem to be no concerns voiced about Olive Drive. Or are there concerns which have not been made public?"

The answer is: It is possible that there are health concerns at other near–freeway sites such as Olive Drive. Peer-reviewed studies have found elevated health risks at many near-freeway sites. But the Nishi is of particular concern because it is adjacent to where the freeway goes from six lanes to three lanes, and so there are often backups on that portion of I-80, especially during weekend Tahoe traffic. More backups mean more car and truck braking. Braking releases ultrafine particulate matter into the air, and that causes health risks such as an increased risk of ischemic heart disease, an increased risk of lung damage, an increased risk of cancer, and an increased risk of developmental problems.

Also, Nishi is of particular concern because the freeway is elevated next to Nishi, so the pollutants travel further, as peer-reviewed studies of similar sites have shown.

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What Measure O (Open Space tax) Should Be

Open space mapBy Robert Milbrodt

While on the City Council, Sue Greenwald made a motion for the City to develop an open space and habitat protection plan with a funding mechanism to be submitted for voter approval. Her proposal died for lack of a second, even for the purpose of discussion. Sue asked a group of community activists to carry the torch.

The Davis Visioning Group took up the task and built a comprehensive science based open space and habitat protection plan that was submitted to the City, Mitch Sears. That plan included a GIS model identifying and prioritizing land for acquisition, and a complete set of tools for maximizing the use of Measure O funds, with management and mapping tools to facilitate public scrutiny and accountability. The premise at the outset was for the community to contribute the funds necessary for property control or ownership and for the City to contribute maintenance and management.

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UCD's Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) for Campus Growth Falls Short

Photo credit: Davis Wiki

By Greg Rowe

 UC Davis recently released its draft 2018 Long Range Development Plan for guiding campus growth through 2030-31. Unfortunately, it lacks important detail and substance. Most important, the plan falls short of housing 50% of the anticipated 39,000 student enrollment called for in resolutions adopted by City Council, Yolo County Board of Supervisors, ASUCD Senate and the local Sierra Club.

The LRDP says 18,318 students will ultimately live on campus, or 47% of 2030 enrollment. This is 1,182 short of the 19,500 that would represent 50% residing on campus. This is not insignificant; each 1% shortfall means another 390 students seeking off campus housing in Davis and other cities after freshman year.

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The real costs of Nishi for taxpayers; misleading overstatements on ballot arguments in favor of Nishi

Matt-Williams-PBEBy Matt Williams

In the 2015-16 deliberations about the Nishi 2016 proposal, the City’s economic consultant EPS presented to the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC) its initial model of costs and revenues, which showed a $78,000 deficit fiscal impact for the City in the first year of full buildout, which later grew to $106,000 after correction of a math error in the model.  The FBC rightly noted that $106,000 annual deficit would come out of the pockets of Davis taxpayers.


In the robust discussion that ensued, some of the FBC members argued that the discussion should include a “cash accounting” approach in addition to the “full life-cycle accounting” approach EPS was using in their model.  The explanation was that many of the expenses included in the EPS model had already been “pre-spent” by the City and would not have to be immediately re-spent. FBC member Dan Carson calculated an estimated amount of $734,000 per year (out of an estimated total expense budget of $1,532,000), which was a 48% reduction.

Continue reading "The real costs of Nishi for taxpayers; misleading overstatements on ballot arguments in favor of Nishi" »

Money to sell Nishi 2.0 to voters, but no money for air quality testing for Nishi residents

Pileofmoney-croppedBy Gilbert Coville and Roberta Millstein

Davis residents have now received a second glossy multi-page mailer in support of the Nishi 2.0 project. Most likely, there will be more to come. How do proponents of Nishi spend their money? What are their priorities?

In local elections in California, campaign finance reports are filed with the local municipality. Here in Davis, these forms are viewable on the eCampaign Public Access system accessed from the City of Davis website’s Financial Disclosures page.

When trying to influence an election, corporations are required to report any related expenses as independent expenditures.

Continue reading "Money to sell Nishi 2.0 to voters, but no money for air quality testing for Nishi residents" »

Lukewarm and half-hearted support for Nishi from the Davis City Council

CityCounci-on-NishiExpensive and glossy mailers from the Nishi developer (paid for by "Davis Gateway Student Housing LLC & Affiliated Entities") have begun arriving at Davis addresses. The back of the mailer touts support from "local leaders we trust." These leaders are said to include the five current members of the Davis City Council.

But how strong is the support of those Councilmembers? Let's review some excerpts from their comments from the meeting where the Council voted to put Nishi on the ballot on 2/6/2018. The video is located here. Numbers in parentheses refer to the approximate time that the Councilmembers' words appear in the video.

Edit 4/30/2018 to add an edited version of the full video, containing just the clips where City Council members disparage Nishi 2.0.

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Ezra & Larry for City Council: Preserving Measure R, the Citizen's Right to Vote

Beeman_family Guenthers-croppedBy Robert Milbrodt

The single most important issue in this city council election is The Citizens Right to Vote, Measure J/R. This measure was approved by voters in June 2000 as Measure J; and renewed in June 2010 as Measure R with about 77% of the vote. Essentially it requires voter approval for projects that would convert our open space or agricultural land to urban use.

A 10-year renewal of this measure will automatically appear on the ballot in June 2020. We deserve council members who will support its renewal, and who will incorporate its democratic and community-oriented values into the city’s decision making. We are better served by council members who share these core values. Either the candidates believe in community-based governance, or they don’t.

Of the nine candidates for city council: one has consistently opposed the Citizen’s Right to Vote, four stated their early opposition to this measure and are now waffling, two are willing to entertain “amendments” without being specific, and two are steadfastly supportive of the measure in principle and in practice. These two supportive candidates are Ezra Beeman and Larry Guenther.

They have made my decision easy, and I urge you to join me in voting for Ezra Beeman and Larry Guenther for City Council.

What does the proposed Nishi project have to do with traffic downtown?

Nishi-OldDavisRdYesterday, Dan Cornford wrote about how the Nishi project would contribute to traffic and the deterioration of air quality downtown.  People who don't travel these roads frequently might have trouble seeing why that would be the case.  Well, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. 

If the Nishi project goes through, an underpass would be built under the railroad from the Nishi property to Old Davis Road.  As the graphic shows, there is already significant traffic from Old Davis Rd to First Street and downtown, and onto Richards Blvd.  Cars from the Nishi development – with its 700 parking spaces – would contribute to that traffic as residents drive to and through downtown.

This is just one of a number of concerns about Nishi.  As I said in an earlier post, the unhealthy air quality experienced by residents because of its location is my primary concern.  But the concerns about traffic and air quality downtown are serious ones and should not be overlooked. 

Continue reading "What does the proposed Nishi project have to do with traffic downtown?" »

What Residents of Nishi Won't Know (Yet It Will Still Hurt Them)

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 9.07.20 PMIf you read the ballot Argument in Favor of Measure J 2018 (that is, the argument in favor of Nishi 2.0, not the Measure J from 2000 that gave Davis citizens the right to vote on projects like Nishi), you will see that it is mostly focused on the issue of student housing. The Rebuttal to the Argument Against Measure J is likewise almost entirely focused on student housing.

Of course, you should also read the Argument Against Measure J (full disclosure: I am a signer) and the Rebuttal to the Argument in Favor of Measure J. In other words, if you read the arguments in favor of Nishi 2.0, you should also read the arguments against Nishi 2.0.

But my point here is a different one. When I read the ballot arguments in favor of Nishi 2.0, I am taken back to the day that the City Council voted to put Nishi 2.0 on the ballot. I am reminded of the passion of the students who spoke that evening. That passion caused me to change my planned comments and to instead speak from the heart, not about the students who were there that night, who were well-informed about the project, but the students who were not there. Here are my comments in full. They are not as well-organized or as well-articulated as I would like, but they are sincere. And they still reflect the core of my objections to Nishi 2.0.

Continue reading "What Residents of Nishi Won't Know (Yet It Will Still Hurt Them)" »

A few more specific questions to ask City Council candidates

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 5.40.46 PMBy Dan Cornford

I totally agree with Roberta’s criticism about the candidates for city council refusing to be more specific and with specific reference as to how they stand on Measure J/R and if they want to amend it, how precisely would they amend it.

However, I would like to broaden this discussion to make observations about the ways in which almost all candidates for city council have campaigned since I moved here in 2000. A trend that was apparent when I arrived here has become more and more pronounced.

To put it bluntly and simply, almost all candidates are reluctant to, or more accurately often refuse, to discuss specifics especially when it comes to some of the most important and controversial issues. Their reasons for doing this are obvious. They think by appealing to as broad a constituency as possible, and not alienating any one constituency, they are maximizing their appeal and their chances of election. I could cite endless examples from the campaigns of several of our incumbent council members.

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Amend Measure R? Will Candidates come clean on how they want it amended?

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 3.03.03 PM
At the recent CivEnergy City Council forum, audience members filled out cards asking other questions of the candidates -- questions that there was simply not enough time to ask during the forum itself (with 9 candidates, it's hard to ask a lot of questions!).  It's a little grainy and part is cut off, but at the beginning of this post you can see a screen shot of my question:

For those candidates who say that they think Measure J/R should be amended, specifically how do you think it should be amended?  Please give a detailed answer.

So far, none of the candidates have answered my question (or, many of the other audience members' questions).  Dan Carson, Linda Deos, Eric Gudz, and Gloria Partida (perhaps others) have said that they are thinking about proposing amendments to Measure R, should they be elected.  I'd like to invite them – and members of the Davis community – to have a discussion about what amendments they would like to see, if any, to Measure R.  Again, specificity is good!  Information on Measure R is here: https://localwiki.org/davis/June_2010_Election/Measure_R

Seven FAQs about Nishi Air Quality

Nishi-pic1. What is the Nishi project?

Measure J/R gives Davis citizens the right to vote on whether residences (aimed at students, but not exclusively for students) should be built on the Nishi property.  Two years ago, Davis citizens voted down a project at Nishi.  That project had a commercial component and a residential component.  The new project proposal, often called Nishi 2.0, just has a residential component, plus allowances for daycare, nursery, outdoor exercise areas, etc.

2. Nishi is near a freeway. So what? A number of places in Davis are near freeways.  Do they have bad air quality too?

Studies show that all sites near freeways suffer from poor air quality.  Quoting a recent LA Times article:

Continue reading "Seven FAQs about Nishi Air Quality" »

City Council Candidates Changing Positions on Measure R

CivEnergyForumThe Davis College Democrats (DCD) have excoriated Linda Deos for her apparent change of position on Measure R* from "I am definitely for repealing" to "I support Measure R." Now, with the publication of the candidates' responses to CivEnergy's question about Measure R, we can see where the other four candidates besides Deos who were at the DCD forum now stand on Measure R.

Mary Jo Bryan to the DCD: "Repealing of course. I have never voted for it."

Mary Jo Bryan to CivEnergy: "I am neutral at this point."

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A New Strategic Plan for the Open Space Program: City Process Done Right

Source: Davis Wiki

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 20, a very important but easily missed item was presented and approved by the Council: The 2030 Strategic Plan for the City of Davis Open Space Program. I highlight it here not only because I think the issues are near and dear to many Davisites' hearts, but also because I think it serves as an excellent example of community-staff-commission-Council coordination that I would like to see more of (and I say this as someone who has criticized City processes in the past, e.g., here).

The process toward a new strategic plan for the Open Space program began approximately halfway into the 30 year lifespan of Measure O, a tax that the voters of Davis agreed to impose upon themselves in order to provide for, among other things, "Acquisition in fee or easement of open space lands within the Davis planning area...the improvement, operation, maintenance and/or monitoring of open space lands currently owned by the City in fee easement [or] acquired by the City in the future, including but not limited to the restoration, enhancement and preservation of habitat areas, maintenance of open space lands, and monitoring of habitat and agricultural conservation easements."

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