Davis June City Clowncil Meetings - End the 'Special Seats' for Political Exhibitionists!!!

14a19c60-e2a5-4da1-932b-b6d5db95f9b7June Davis City Council meetings were especially filled with clown-foolery.  Watch them online if you have nothing better to do.  I hope you have something better to do :-|

This post focuses on the clown-foolery of the 'special seats'.  Those visible to the camera during public comments.  Where political exhibitionists can be seen while others are speaking.  People in the *special seats* get special privileges that others in the audience do not.  Get there early, so you can make obnoxious facial expressions behind public speakers!  :-|

Continue reading "Davis June City Clowncil Meetings - End the 'Special Seats' for Political Exhibitionists!!!" »


Dangerous Depot

Depot1
The 30% Design (excerpt)

 

Necessary ADA improvements at Davis Train Station are complicated by toxic over-promise of shared infrastructure.

Facilities essential to support modern train-bike multi-modal travel a vague promise.

City Council plans to sign an MOU with Amtrak at their meeting today; a update of the “30% design” for station modifications will also be presented. 

Starting in around 2012 the City of Davis - in cooperation or partnership with Amtrak and Capitol Corridor - began to attempt improvements for multi-modal access to the Southern Pacific Railway Depot, aka. Davis Depot, Davis Amtrak etc. In 2018-2020 this continued with an outreach program to determine desires and consider possibilities. (There are some bad links there, here is the Final Study). In subsequent years and through the present day Amtrak and Union Pacific made the City aware of a national program to ensure that Amtrak stations are ADA-compliant.

I fully support the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related ideas in mobility equity, and have actively done so for a long time. I applied the general principles to a train station optimization concept I worked on when I lived in Prague nearly 20 years ago, and - back in the USA in the past ten years for a water shuttle in the Estuary between Alameda and Oakland, and in Davis in regards to continued lack of a sidewalk from Old East Davis east of L and more acutely as an overgrown lot forced people to walk on 2nd Street. 

 

Depot1a

Unfortunately, however, the absolutely late and totally necessary ADA improvements also planned for Davis Depot, while ostensibly improving the lot for people with mobility challenges will likely create not continual yet repeating complications for these users and people who use bikes or walk.

And it’s all completely unnecessary. 

While safe infrastructure for everyone moving not by private vehicle is a necessary entitlement, there’s only a Federal law for people with mobility challenges, not - yet - for people riding bikes. So while I will focus on what I now am coining as TOPoS - toxic over-promise of shared infrastructure - I will also highlight the lowlights of barely vaguely planned bicycle facilities at the train station. 

 

TOPoS

One doesn’t have to spend a long time on NextDoor forums focused on Davis to see a most often justified call for people to “slow down on Greenbelts” when riding bikes, and especially e-bikes and e-scooters. It’s anti-social when people do this, but what do we expect? Enforcement will never solve this, and technology fixes such as used on parts of UCD campus for shared micromobility devices don’t work with private micromobility devices, and may not for a very long time. The Greenbelt paths are in many parts of town the only active transportation (and dog walking etc.) corridors free from motor vehicles. While it’s an advantage that some go above or below arterial streets, I believe the actual physical and sound distance from motor vehicles that’s the biggest plus. Bike lanes do not provide this, slip lanes (free right turns) are especially good at encouraging people to take Greenbelt paths… to the detriment of other users.

I formally considered that the Greenbelt paths are underbuilt - i.e. too narrow, in too many cases with unnecessary bollards at egress points to the street grid and some bad sightlines, too - but increasing width where possible may only serve to increase the velocity of users. 

Please note that many are called “bike paths” when - technically-speaking - they are multi-use paths. More on that in a moment….

Our current Class II bike lanes on most arteries are often not enough for side-by-side riding, an insult and more when many arteries have two lanes in the same direction.

What’s necessary is protected bike lanes - cycleways - on major arterial streets, optimized for the two general cruising speeds of their users - slower bikes and some e-scooters & faster bikes and e-bikes and some e-scooters… approximately 13 mph and 20-23 mph. They need to be wide enough to permit someone a faster device to pass two riding side-by-side going slower. That’s a necessary way to get more people to cycle in Davis and do it safety. This won’t happen if we ask people on e-bikes that travel at 20 mph without much effort to be nice, etc, or some “bike lanes for everyone” campaign. 

So, how does TOPoS relate to ADA-compliance at Davis Depot?

Well, we’re not at the train station just yet….

 

Depot2
From my 2007 Concept for Prague's Main Train Station


The Davis Wall 

While developers etc name many things (proposed) in Davis somewhat to fully-fictionally - e.g. “Village Farms” - not village and ex-farms, Oaktree Plaza - removed oak trees - “Village Homes” - sorry to go anti-sacred cow but where’s the cobbler?,  “Palomino Place”  - lack of horses, you know, like Wildhorse, ‘North Davis Creek” - like it as a wild feature but not as a development, whose creators seem to have created that name… what about the huge barrier to cycling and mobility device use running east-west across the lower third of Davis?

Every existing grade-separated crossing of I-80 and/or the railroad tracks has approximately an 6.5% to 8%. The exception is the section of  the Putah Creek Parkway multi-user path going under the train tracks and up to the Arboretum.. The section going up from under I-80 to Research Park Drive is steep too, but fortunately short.

The new section of the multi-user path that’s part of the 80-Richards interchange project and which goes under its new ramps will have a 4.2% gradient. This is a standard design practice for multi-use paths, though some go to 5%. To be ADA-compliant everything above 5% needs railings and repeating short sections of max 2% gradient.  Thus, the existing over-crossings on Pole Line and even the Dave Pelz bridge are not compliant. The new over-crossing of SR-113 in Woodland is 5% or less

The planned campus side of the Promenade over-crossing will be 4.2%, but the project side - the City side - will be 8%.  

Why 8%? Because there’s apparently no space for a longer route on the project side. Why 8%? Because the full City Council brought what was then generally known as “Nishi 2.0” forward to a citywide vote without an agreement with Union Pacific that there would be an undercrossing (that would be under 5%). Why 8%? Because pro-Nishi 2.0 materials showed a visual of an undercrossing, whereas the actual text of the development agreement said “grade-separated crossing”. It was a con-job, and so sloppy and apparently embarrassing that it was not officially-revealed by the City until May 2023 that Union Pacific officially-rejected the undercrossing proposal that the developer and partners made in the fall of 2018, a few months after the Nishi 2.0 vote. The gradient is so unusable that City staff agreed months ago that likely nearly everyone traveling by foot, mobility device or bike from Promenade towards campus (and Downtown) will use the existing under-crossing mentioned above on the Putah Creek Parkway. (A proposed mitigation of the I-80 “Improvement Project” is a widening of the multi-user path along the Downtown side of the Arboretum, but the undercrossing (tunnel) will not be widened, so it will remain a pinch point.) 

The 'Davis Wall" is nor necessarily above-grade. It's a barrier caused by both infrastructure and institutions. Minor walls in Davis could also include the H St "Bike Tunnel" towards F St, or a lack of active transportation crossings of SR-113 - even though they are at-grade and level - or even the noise produced by all road infrastructure

 

Are we almost at the train station?

Going back around ten years, the City performed an audit and outreach process related to walking and cycling access to schools in the City. Amongst other things, it correctly and wisely revealed that children living on East Olive Drive had a huge barrier to get to Montgomery Elementary, closest as the bird flies (and to other schools such as Peregrine or in East Davis, etc).

The solution was a ramp from the east end of Olive Drive to Pole Line, thus forming an aggregate multi-path towards Montgomery heading down and under Pole Line, under Cowell Blvd, past Playfields Park, etc.

The ramp had to get up to Pole Line BUT also leave room for the Olive Drive off-ramp from WB I-80 to remain open. To be clear, the latter was not stated at the time, not when it was finally decided by Caltrans to close the exit - though it’s not yet structurally-closed: This may be an innocent contingency in case there’s a complication in construction of 80-Richards, or Caltrans may decide to change its mind.

The resulting ramp is ADA-compliant, no more than 8%. As mentioned above, everything else in the region and beyond - I scoured recent, relevant recipient designs from the Active Transportation Program, a Federally-funded program administered by the State of California and provider of most of the funding for the Olive-Pole Line connector - is 5% or less. 

From my unfortunately non-conclusive research on the issue, I provisionally-conclude that it was never, ever the intention of ADA to result in 8% ramps that are about 400 long and shared with people on bikes. The gradient and length creates multiple issues:

  • It’s difficult to control speed whilst heading down on a bike, and above 12 mph or so the ADA-required undulations cause a bike and its human to nearly jump. 
  • The relative lack of width combined with mentioned speed doing down makes collisions between users going in opposite directions a possibility.
  • The gradient makes it difficult for people on non-e-bikes to travel up; this is made worse by the undulations which make it hard to get any kind of rhythm IF one can muster the strength and stamina. 

It’s not really good for anyone except for people on e-bikes, and more or less impossible for e.g. parents taking children to school with non-electric cargo bikes. This is the epitome of non-equitable infrastructure, especially in a “family”, “bike” etc etc. Davis. 

(Why did this happen? I will take part of the blame, as I was on the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission at the time. But I am not a licensed etc. traffic engineer. The licensed etc. traffic engineering firm that designed it didn’t say a thing… the licensed etc traffic engineer for the City of Davis… didn’t exist at the time. There was no senior-level traffic engineer in Davis from 2017 until 2022.  I also think that the funder should have noticed these technical issues, and returned the grant application for revisions.)

Please think about these issues when you observe people using the Connector - How many people get off their bikes to go up? How many are actually using it at all?

 

Station Access from Olive

It’s worth noting that the approval for what was then called Lincoln40 and is now Ryder Apartments included both a below-Street Standards width for the newly-built sidewalk on the project side of Olive as well as a hard “no” to bring the bike lane up to the Street Standards minimum, and the same for the bike lane on the south side of the street. This would have resulted in less land for the Apartments. 

(As part of the promised closure of the on-ramp, there’s been some vague promise of a shared street concept for Olive. It’s also worth noting that the bike lane-ish space on most of the EB side, east of In & Out has cars parked in it. Staff has refused to change it and the police have not enforced a thing).

The easement on the west end of Ryder - is it too short to allow for a 5% grade from the sidewalk at Olive Dr to the underpassage? It’s not clear: The 30% seems to show a path that’s two-thirds 8% grade closer to the station and then level in its remaining third to Olive. The original concept back during the Lincoln40 approval process had some kind of corkscrew-based overcrossing. A better approach - well, from Pole Line - would have been a long ramp with a mild gradient situated in what’s now the back of the Ryder property, circling to the undercrossing. Sigh. I think a good traffic engineer could have identified it as a partial solution. 

 

OK, we’re finally at the train station!

Lack of Specific Design Experience?

WSP - designing the station improvement for Amtrak -  is a huge, multinational engineering firm with a massive portfolio even just in the train station/mobility hub sub-sector, with many prominent examples that will facilitate the expansion of sustainable mobility across the country and beyond.  That’s not up for debate. 

Based on a short discussion with its engineers present at the outreach event earlier this year, they’ve worked with Amtrak on many ADA-improvement projects. That’s great. 

What I don’t see on their website is a lot of… bikes. Cycling is just one part of a robust sustainable mobility program, but I just don’t see any highlighted examples for cycling infrastructure nor for ADA infrastructure for train station access combined with cycling infrastructure not necessarily focused on train station access. I am happy if I am in error about this… but the bottom line perhaps is that I don’t see any evidence of an earlier or under-construction WSP project relevant to our specific needs in Davis. 

I’ve not had time to research it in detail, but I don’t think Amtrak has a coherent, strategic plan for bicycle and rail multi-modality. (Again, prove me wrong!). If there’s not much there, then it’s fair to assume that WSP didn’t have a lot of direction on the matter. 

If no one cycled in Davis, and everyone arrived at Davis Depot by car or bus and walked or went by mobility device etc to the platforms, things would be okay. (As the entire station is not being rebuilt - this could include a large plaza with a very, very gradual gradient leading to bicycle parking and above that the platforms accessed by escalator or elevator - things would be amazing. This is basically the template for new or rebuilt train stations in the Netherlands. )

But okay is good. Great would be a 100% elevator path option for people in mobility devices from both sides of the station; the current plan only has an elevator between the underpassage and the new center platform. The “okay” is ADA-compliant, and for this and other reasons if I was only walking to the train I would not mind that it takes more time than in the current design (rail services will have shorter delays while approaching the station that might make up for that). 

But not everyone who is arriving at Davis Depot is coming by car or bus and foot and mobility device etc, and many people traveling this way in both directions - from Downtown or Olive Dr, South Davis, Promenade - are not going to or from the trains at all.

Their 30% Davis Depot design, however and sadly, builds upon the TOPoS qualities of the Olive to Pole Line Connector. It contains:

  • An undulating ramp on both sides of the station. 
  • A bicycle wheel gutter on the wide, expressive stairs. (This solution should only be used to retrofit existing stairs, not in new builds. The best underground bike parking facilities have very long ramps which are sometimes cycleable; platforms are accessed as mentioned above in the Dutch example.)
  • In addition, the overall design contains:
  • No hint of bicycle parking on the Olive Dr side of the station
  • Only some kind of vague mention of bike parking on the Downtown side, and nothing for large, cargo bikes, or the more expensive e-cargo bikes. (Imagine if SUV’s couldn’t be parked at the station). 
  • No provision for eventually connecting toward J St (this would enable people walking or cycling from the east to avoid any freight train blockages and in aggregate with the crossing to Olive Dr would make illegal encroachment of the track areas less likely)
    No provision for eventually connecting under H St, and even to a below-grade entrance of the new apartment building in the old Ace home furnishings space).
  • Too much regret at “losing” car parking in a City that is supposed to prioritize active transportation. We’re not yet called Not the Car Parking Capital of the USA for nothing. 

 

Here are some scenarios to illustrate the issues, with approaches from all directions and origins:

A family from South Davis heads toward the train: an adult with two kids in a fancy e-cargo bike - manages the climb up Pole Line but struggles on the way down the Connector, fortunately mostly without any other traffic. After heading down Olive they make a more than hard right onto the ramp which has a similar gradient to the Connector. They share the ramp - train departure is approaching -  with a few people walking at one speed, a single person in a motorized mobility device going a bit faster and some people on bikes originating in Downtown headed towards Olive Dr from the opposite direction. They reach the Downtown side. The kids get out of the bike and the adult pushes the heavy bike up the long steep ramp. They walk to the short-term design bike parking (Varsity racks etc which are currently used), lock their bike, walking down the stairs, walk up the ramp to the platform. When they return to Davis Depot at the end of the day the bike is, quite obviously, not there. (Option is that what’s not there is a fancy adaptive bike). 

An individual who uses a manual mobility device comes from South Davis by car via Richards Blvd. They are slowed by congestion in the Richards Tunnel, park in an ADA space and then take the ramp to the underpassage and attempt to take the elevator to the platform. The elevator is not working, so they have to take the ramp. They barely make the train. 

Two UCD students who live in South Davis travel by bike from Downtown. They’ve had a beer each, are only a bit tipsy, below the legal limit. They head down the undulating ramp, perhaps a bit too fast, but it’s steep. They don’t notice that the train has just arrived.  At the hairpin turn, one loses traction but recovers a bit just before nearly slamming into someone with a guide dog who lives on Olive Drive, headed Downtown.  The other stops at the bottom just as people from the arriving trains start arriving at the bottom of the ramp. 

A Ryder resident who uses a motorized mobility device exits their building via the west entrance, and has to immediately head to the left, using the sidewalk, turning right onto the sidewalk on Olive and then over to the ramp. Not direct and a waste of time. 

These are all worst-case scenarios, and certainly more likely when there’s a concurrence of uses: People going to or from trains, people headed to or from Olive Dr with no train objective… and multiple user types: walking, mobility device, slow bike, fast bike, heavy bike etc.). It won’t be like this all day; it might be like this at peaks. It cannot be made un-toxic with enforcement, signage or slogans. It makes the Depot more dangerous than it should be. 

Language, language: Note that the 30% design shows a “bike/ped easement” and a “bike-ped connection” for what’s formally a multi-use path that’s optimized for people using mobility devices, ideally without the presence of people moving faster than them. 

 

Depot3
From my Concept for Davis Depot

Solutions?

I sent in comments and a design concept to the BTSSC in advance of their April 13, 2023 meeting that’s referenced in the Staff Report for tonight’s meeting. That meeting was not recorded. I saw no reference to my design or comments in the minutes and Commissioner comments apparently focused only on the underpass or overpass options, nothing about gradients, shared use, bike parking etc. 

Following the outreach events earlier this year - which were quite informal and according to tonight’s Staff Report again focused only on over- or under- I drew up a more detailed concept for modifications, and discussed this in person with City of Davis Staff in March of this year. I’ve developed a bit further, so here goes nuthin’....

The main strategic elements are:

  • Separate users on the most problematic sections of the project area.
  • Create a more direct path for target users using mobility devices covered by ADA.
  • Reduce unnecessary transits through the station whilst maintaining a desire to use active transportation through and to/from the station.
  • Reduce unnecessary visits to the platform by people meeting arriving passengers. 
  • Reduce unnecessary transits by motor vehicle through the Richards tunnel
  • Plan for likely significant demand from residents of Promenade, only one intersection and a short, mostly level ride away. 
  • Amend formal agreements as necessary related to provision of private vehicle parking at Davis Depot, and negotiate use of part of the parking at Ryder.

The main implementation elements are:

  • Creating a continuous elevator choice for people with mobility devices covered by ADA. This will mean two more elevators: One on the plaza side and on the Olive Dr side.
  • Implement a 4.2% (ideal) or max. 5% grade max path on the Downtown (plaza) side prioritized for people on bikes, but as backup in case the plaza-to-underpassage elevator is out of service. It should include markings etc to maintain safety within the parking lot. 
  • Implement a 5% grade max path on the Olive Dr side, prioritized for people on bikes. (If the space is too short within the current easement, either extend the easement into Olive Dr or add length within (below the parking lot grade), or add a second back up elevator)
  • Create an ADA-compliant path directly from the west egress of Ryder Apartments to the Olive Dr side elevator. 
  • Create an inviting seating area oriented towards the elevator and stairs on the plaza side, so that arriving passengers - not heading to their cars - will know exactly where to meet. Include cover for shade and inclement weather, and space for e.g. a small food cart or two. 
  • Implement ADA-only parking on the existing Ryder lot (so people don’t have to drive through the Richards tunnel.)
  • Design under passages on plaza side to facilitate further phase under passages towards J St and G St. 

 

Bicycle parking: 

Strategy: Create an equal level of bicycle parking security for all train passengers, whether for all-day or overnight,

Implementation:

  • A small amount of short-term parking, e.g. for people doing station business or waiting for arrivals. 
  • Group-room based parking based on technology and structures used by BikeLink (operator of the current bike lockers) at BART stations such as Ashby and Embarcadero. Include space for bikes of all reasonable sizes. These parking rooms will be expandable: They will have a fixed portal area but can be extended by addition of glass and metal as demand warrants: 
  • The plaza side group room will be located close to the elevator. 
  • The Olive Dr side group room will be built over the under-passage, with access from the Ryder parking lot (note that many private properties in Davis allow transit between the local street grid and e.g. Greenbelt paths). Build close to the elevator: People who use the bike parking, Ryder residents and mobility device users will be encouraged to use the elevator. 
  • Relocate short term parking racks to Downtown or other needed areas.
  • Relocate/sell e-lockers to local or regional Park(Bike)& Ride facilities. 

Note on passive and other communication about likely under passage congestion: Users transiting the under passage will learn that if there’s no train on the platform or approaching it, there’s less likely to be users just getting off the train. While signage as a solution will not likely not be effective, it might be useful to consider some kind of active sign, e.g. a pictogram of a train etc, that is lit up during the a specific period of time, e.g. 5 minutes before every train departs and 3 to 5 min after it leaves. This may help normally better behaving people be more aware of possible issues. 

Staff told me that the ideas for bike parking on the Olive Dr side of the station were appreciated and they promised to ask some questions about gradients on the Olive side. They said they would look into a design that would allow for further undercrossings towards J St and under H St. 

In early April I corresponded about the issue with staff from Capitol Corridor. It was made clear to me that ADA-access was Amtrak’s priority, not cycling, and that funding could not be used for improving cycling, at least not as a priority of the project, but that further cooperation was possible between all the partner

My response at this juncture - which I hope I have made clear by now - is that if the station and approaches do not respect the true and equitable limits of shared space, barrier will remain for the user of mobility devices, and for ADA compliance. A lack of optimization in this area will also improve bike & rail multi-modality less than it could, and will improve conditions for cycling and walking in Davis less than it could.


SF Mime Troupe's AMERICAN DREAMS - A New Musical - comes to Davis

      Poster for e mailiing American Dreams SFMT summer 2024 1(From press release) The Tony Award-Winning San Francisco Mime Troupe Opens their 65th Season with: AMERICAN DREAMS - A New Musical - Was Democracy Just a Dream? July 4 - Sept. 8, 2024. They will be appearing for one show on Thurs. July 25, 2024 at  7:00 pm (Music starts at 6:30pm) at the Davis High School, Richard Brunelle Performance Hall (Indoor show) - 315 W 14th St., Davis. Ticket are FREE – but RSVP for tickets required / RSVP: sfmt.org/rsvp-davis

($20 suggested donation)


The San Francisco Mime Troupe (SFMT) are pleased to announce the full cast and creative team for their new show for Summer 2024 – AMERICAN DREAMS – A New Musical. - Was Democracy Just a Dream? - written by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Daniel Savio, Directed by Velina Brown, Music Director - Dred Scott.

       SFMT American Dreams Summer 2024 group shot 1AMERICAN DREAMS - A New Musical features a four-person cast that includes veteran SF Mime Troupe collective members: Andre Amarotico (Oliver, Harold); Michael Gene Sullivan (Gabriel Pearse, Chancellor Quisling); and features Lizzie Calogero (Meliae Higgins, Emma); Mikki Johnson (Paine Pearse).

SFMT Band: Caroline Chung (Bass); Daniel Savio (Keyboards); and Dred Scott (Drums, Percussion, additional keyboards).

The American Dream. It used to mean a job, a house, a car, a spouse, 2.5 kids, and a .4 dog. But what does it mean now? For Gabriel Pearce, a Black man tired of liberal failures, on the day after the presidential election it means victory! Giving up on progressivism wasn’t easy, but casting his vote for a Conservative who promises to be grateful could mean a dream come true. However, for his daughter Paine - a teacher at a university caught between protesting students and threats to funding - it’s a nightmare! Or was the lost election just a dream? Or will A.I. catch fire, like Paine’s boyfriend Oliver sees in his nightmares? Do androids dream of electronic voting? Can we create the utopia of justice activist student Emma hopes for, or is the present just a dream within a dream within a dream? But whether you’re asleep or Woke what some see as nightmares others see as… American Dreams.


Letter: No Confidence in the Council

By Elaine Roberts Musser

I was appalled with City Council’s response to the apprehension many expressed at the City Council meeting on June 4 about the proposed midterm city budget and 1% sales tax increase. Concerned citizens were gaslighted, accused of seeking revenge for the commission mergers and engaging in hyperbole. (Gaslighting in this context is manipulating citizens into questioning their own perception of reality to avoid accountability for questionable behavior.)

The fact of the matter is we only pointed out things the Finance & Budget Commission would’ve zeroed in on, were it still in existence (but hasn’t been for almost a year). But as we know, the current City Council (minus Councilmember Neville) voted to eliminate this commission in favor of a more generic Fiscal Commission that has not yet met, now manned with new commissioners who are mostly commission inexperienced.

Here are the problems we highlighted:

  • No city audit in three years;
  • A general fund reserve of 7.5%, half the 15% it should be;
  • One time gimmicks/delays: suspension of paying down $42 million in unfunded liability of employee healthcare benefits; reduction of $1.5 million originally intended for pavement management;
  • A 1% sales tax increase, to offset general fund reserves and to pay for additional services/programs. What new services/programs is purposely vague.

In other words, the City Council wants us to approve a 1% sales tax increase, in essence a blank check with virtually no accountability, insisting we trust them to make responsible decisions. Their conduct has hardly inspired confidence!


Sierra Club Hosts Summer Potluck and Wetlands Talk

Image 573(From press release) Join the Sierra Club and YoloSol Collective on Wednesday, June 26 for a summer potluck and panel presentation on “Restoring Cache Creek Wetlands.”

For this free, public event, we are pleased to welcome Native Californian cultural practitioner Diana Almendariz, Cache Creek conservationist Jim Barrett, and UC Davis entomologist Geoffrey Attardo in a discussion of how the lower Cache Creek’s watershed ecosystem functioned in the past before agriculture and mining changed its current condition. Panelists will share their ideas for a restorative, climate-resilient future for the creek and its plant and animal wildlife.

Almendariz is a naturalist, educator and practitioner of Maidu/Wintun, Hupa/Yurok culture, heritage and experiences. Following the teachings of renowned Wintun basket weaver and culture bearer Bertha Mitchell (1936-2018), Almendariz has been working for more than twenty years to bring to life a Tending and Gathering Garden in a reclaimed mining pit at the Cache Creek Nature Preserve.  She is a frequent lecturer at UC Davis, Sacramento State, museums and nature centers. She leads workshops on cultural burning on place-based traditional ecological knowledge.

Jim Barrett, a retired physician, conservationist and proud grandfather, has lived alongside lower Cache Creek near the home of Yolo County settler pioneer William Gordon for 24 years. As a board member of Cache Creek Conservancy and the Sierra Club Yolano Group, he envisions a role for reclaimed gravel mines in the restoration of lower Cache Creek.

Geoff Attardo, Associate Professor of Entomology at UC Davis, is passionate about mosquitos, marshes, and teaching science.  He specializes in the study of arthropod disease vector biology and the role of bio-diverse ecosystems in public and environmental health. Geoff is currently partnering with Almendariz on a project to demonstrate the benefits of traditional tule and cattail wetlands management.

Continue reading "Sierra Club Hosts Summer Potluck and Wetlands Talk" »


Oh Do *@#$%& Off, Greenwald (regarding building on a conservation-forever easment specifically, but also in general)

City-promised-to-protect-a-strip-of-land-along-a-creeCome on Greenwald.  Seriously?

When people fought decades ago to save land from development, forever, do you believe what they were really fighting for was to save the land from development 'forever, or until there was pressure to build housing, whichever comes first' ?

Continue reading "Oh Do *@#$%& Off, Greenwald (regarding building on a conservation-forever easment specifically, but also in general)" »


Wildhorse proposal must be rejected, Conservation Easement must not be violated

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City promises made, need to be kept 

by Eileen M. Samitz                                                                      

The City needs to reject the North Covell Creek housing application to develop 75 acres of the Wildhorse golf course because it would clearly violate the 1998 Deed of Conservation Easement executed between the Wildhorse property owner and the City.  The Conservation Easement unequivocally states that its purpose is “…forever conserving the open space character…” of the property.

In the early 1990’s I was one of a group of neighborhood representatives from the surrounding neighborhoods of Green Meadows, Covell Farms and La Buena Vida who spent years in a citizen-based planning process negotiating long and hard for a better Wildhorse project. We emphasized and placed a priority on the condition of a  Conservation Easement on the golf course so that it would never be developed and  would remain a golf course with its open space nature and preserving the habitat features around it.

We made it clear that this commitment needed to be permanent. Subsequently, the developers and the City agreed to this and included the Conservation Easement commitment to be solid and impenetrable into perpetuity. Since the developers, the City Staff and City Council completely committed to the Conservation Easement,  promises made then, need to be kept to our community.  Otherwise, it makes clear that our City government cannot be trusted on any agreement or any information they espouse to Davis citizens.

Regarding additional background, In 1995 there was a referendum campaign against the Wildhorse development agreement which went to a vote on the May ballot.  However, the Development Agreement included many benefits including $8 million to the City’s Major Project Financing Plan, a 9-acre dedicated school site at no cost to the school district, and  the critical Conservation Easement which the neighborhood representatives were successful in solidifying. The outcome was that Davis voters approved the Wildhorse Development Agreement which included the Conservation Easement. Therefore, any attempt now by the City to renege on this commitment would be a violation of public trust and an attempt to overturn a public vote.

The intent of a Conservation Easement  is “…for the exclusive purpose of assuring that the open space character of the Easement Area will be conserved and maintained forever, and that uses of the land that are inconsistent with these conservation purposes will be prevented or corrected.” The Wildhorse Conservation Easement also expressly prohibits any commercial, residential, or industrial use or activity on the easement area. 

The California legislature codified conservation easements as a unique public-private conservation method. Civil Code 815 clearly specifies that Conservation Easements are binding upon successive land owners.  Most important, the code states that “A conservation easement shall be perpetual in duration.”   

The permanent binding provisions of the Wildhorse Conservation Easement and State law are abundantly clear to the property owner and City. The notion of surrendering almost 75 acres of deed-restricted land to incompatible uses must  be summarily rejected. Any attempt to change or “amend” any Conservation easement is a dangerous precedent  and must be rejected, plus it would invite a lawsuit that will be financially costly for the City to litigate, the cost for which would come out of our City’s already stretched budget.

Regarding specifics on the documentation of the Conservation Easement and the development agreement, here are the facts:

On September 28, 1994, the City and Duffel Company executed a development agreement  for the Wildhorse Project, of which  Section 3.2(f) states: “Duffel shall record a conservation easement in favor of the City or a non-profit land trust selected and approved by the City on the property to be used as a golf course. The conservation easement shall preclude development of the golf course property for other urban uses and structures.” The conservation easement  was executed between Duffel and the City in March 1998, for the express purpose of “forever conserving the open space character of the subject property.”

Despite the unambiguous language in the Development Agreement and the Conservation Easement regarding the easement’s permanency , in December 2018 the owner submitted a development application that proposed to convert almost six acres of the golf course abutting Pole Line Road into the “Balterra at Wildhorse Condominium Project,” consisting of 40 – 60 homes. This was followed in early 2019 with a public meeting and strong opposition from community members, since this would also be a violation of the Conservation Easement.

The City responded in July 2019, noting that “…the property in question is covered by a Conservation Easement that preserves the property as an open space.” This means that once again, the golf course owner applicant was clearly advised that the property must remain as undeveloped open space. 

Yet, here we are with another proposal to attempt to violate the Conservation Easement and the Development Agreement conditions with paving over 75 acres of the golf course wiping out that open space and the  protected habitat around it as well.

One wonders why the City even accepted this current application knowing that this attempt to violate a Conservation Easement and Development Agreement which Davis citizens fought long and hard for is astonishing. Further, here is absolutely no language that allows any kind of land swap in the Conservation Easement, nor the Development Agreement as the applicant is trying for. Moreover, if the City violates these promises and agreements, what next? Will the City now start paving over our parks, greenbelts and habitat areas?

In summary, the City of Davis, the City Council, and the Wildhorse developers agreed to the hard negotiated Conservation Easement and Development Agreement. Anything other than  a solid rejection of this application would be a horrendous precedent and a complete violation of trust by our City government to our community and would invite a costly lawsuit. For community members concerned about this issue and want more information please email [email protected] or call (530) 756-5165.

Eileen Samitz is a former City of Davis Planning Commissioner and served on the subsequent Housing Element Steering committee and the 2001 General Plan update land use committee.


Al's Corner June: Committee Rise, Committee Set

CRCSIt's June, and the City of Davis is in mourning.  People are visiting the Davis Cemetery to visit our fallen committees.  To celebrate this misery, Alan C. Miller sang "Committee Rise, Committee Set" at the City Council meeting last night, sung to the tune of "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof.  Mr. Miller was brought to tears by his own performance.

     This can be viewed at this link:  https://davis.granicus.com/player/clip/1703?view_id=6&redirect=true

     At this time signature:  38:10

Here's the lyrics from Tuesday night's (June 4th) council meeting:

Continue reading "Al's Corner June: Committee Rise, Committee Set" »


Police Surveillance and Military Equipment Acquisition Policies t

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MRAP 2014-08-29 at 9.42.39 AM

To be Discussed and Possibly Decided at Tuesday, June 4th Davis Council Meeting

By Scott Steward

Right when Davis is in full graduation mode - the City is to consider items that have everything to do with how free you are to express your views without being recorded and traced, with or without your knowledge.  Is this servail increasing our safety or providing more tools that have to be maintained and that have to find an excuse to exist?

Military equipment in a civil city?  Where Davis has been resistant, other communities are less so, and the armaments that our police department does not have, it can leave them wondering if they have to borrow the highest gauge shielding and firearms.  Or is that true?  Is keeping the peace more about relationships and not over-arming to defend against community breakdowns that erupt in bizarre and tragic ways?  Ways that no shielding can defend.  A teenager hidden in a house, a gun owner deciding he does not like a police officer, a gun owner whose roommate does not suspect he has lost it. Or a knife held by a young man whose mind and body go feral?

Disarming those whose weapons are for organized crime and premeditated harm, this is part of peacekeeping, and how that can happen safely for the police officers is to be heard and understood.  What are the tradeoffs? What is necessary, and what is contributing to escalation?

Item 5 (7:15) - agenda is here: https://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/2024/2024-06-04/City-Council-Agenda-06-04-24.pdf


Service for Delaine Eastin

Greetings friends and colleagues,

Join us in downtown Sacramento for a tribute to the life and legacy of Delaine Eastin. Through reflection, remembrances, music, and community, we will honor her contributions to California and generations to come. A reception will follow the formal program.

The fifth woman in California history to be elected to statewide constitutional office, Delaine remains the only woman to serve as Superintendent of Public Instruction empowering six million K-12 students in more than 10,000 schools. Delaine's legacy lives on in each of us through her mentorship and friendship, and her courageous leadership in local, state, national, and international realms, which still sets the foundation for public policy in our state.

To RSVP and receive full details, please visit the link below.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebration-of-life-for-the-honorable-delaine-eastin-tickets-915820442597?aff=odeieiemailshare&utm-campaign=social%2Cemail&utm-content=attendeeshare

Sincerely,

Family and Friends of Delaine Eastin


Sierra Club and Environmental Council of Sacramento Sue Caltrans over Environmental Deficiencies of Yolo I-80 Freeway Widening Project

I-80 Widening Logo
(From press release) On May 29, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) filed a lawsuit against Caltrans alleging legally inadequate environmental analysis of the I-80 freeway widening project through Yolo County.

The lawsuit’s goal is to stop Caltrans from widening 17 miles of the I-80 freeway from six to eight lanes between Davis and Sacramento through the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area until Caltrans conducts a valid analysis of adverse environmental impacts threatened by the project and implements appropriate mitigation for these harmful effects.

Caltrans’ Environmental Impact Report (EIR) grossly underestimates increased vehicular travel, which would emit far larger quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) and air pollutants than claimed. The EIR fails to consider viable alternatives, such as increased public transit or alternate tolling strategies. Therefore, the project neither adequately manages demand nor produces adequate revenue to fund needed transit alternatives. Also, Caltrans’ proposed mitigation is woefully inadequate to offset the resulting increased GHG and air pollutant emissions.

Caltrans violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to acknowledge that freeway widenings do not produce less congestion but, in fact, result in increased traffic -- leading to worse congestion and pollution - due to “Induced Demand”.

Continue reading "Sierra Club and Environmental Council of Sacramento Sue Caltrans over Environmental Deficiencies of Yolo I-80 Freeway Widening Project " »


Get a Front Row Seat to the Green Revolution Taking Place in Yolo County

Tuesday 5/28 - This Yolo County Climate Action Commission Meeting is a must-see - 4:00 to 6:30 pm

BigShift

By Scott Steward

Big plans. The Commission (and UCD) turn plans into implementation. Big dollars are going to be spent (UCD plans on spending $58M a year for the next 17 years), and if you are an EV enthusiast, a water protector, a Green House Gas Reduction professional, activist or a professional activist - at least get the meeting agenda notes to read if you can’t attend - 4:00-6:30 on Tuesday, May 28th.

As many of our regular Council meeting attendees know, these are necessarily procedural meetings. This is just a courtesy to new attendees: the meeting has Zoom access, and brief constructive comments are encouraged.

Item 5a: Request for Proposal for the County’s conversion to a ZEV fleet - Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Action Plan RFP Release

Item 6. Kristin Sicke,  Executive Officer of Yolo Subbasin Groundwater Agency, will deliver a report on the Agency’s status and progress toward rational regulation of water in the area.   You might recall the Davisite.org OPED about our county’s water situation.  We are now at a point where well permits are allowed, and for the interim, the Groundwater Agency has not finished its methodology for sustaining water levels in the area.  

The big worry is that in the “study area” (Capay Valley and North and other areas), farmers and residents are experiencing sustained drops in water levels and have given much of their time to tell the County about it.  Drops associated with existing wells, even after these last 3 average/wet years.

Continue reading "Get a Front Row Seat to the Green Revolution Taking Place in Yolo County" »


Tenth Davis Pride kicks off on June 1

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A drag queen interacts with a young festivalgoer at the 2023 Davis Pride Festival. (Wendy Weitzel/Courtesy photo)

By Wendy Weitzel

The rainbow crosswalks are being painted Sunday in downtown Davis, signaling the path to a month full of Davis Pride celebrations ahead in June.

This is the 10th year of Davis Pride activities, organized by the nonprofit Davis Phoenix Coalition. For 2024, highlights include the Davis Pride Community Fair and Music Festival, an after party, a fun run, skate night, comedy night, and plenty of drag.

This year’s theme is “Davis Pride – Because Yolo County is for Everyone!” It follows the Davis Phoenix Coalition’s recent lawn sign messages “Davis is for Everyone” and “Yolo County is for Everyone,” to counter the far-right actions experienced in the community.

The 10th annual Davis Pride Community Fair and Music Festival has a new location this year: Civic Center Park, at Sixth and B streets. The community-focused, family-friendly event includes a music festival, resources, vendors, food, drinks and more – from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 1.

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CTC joins Davis in rejecting science & climate realities and funds Yolo 80

CTC's $105M highway widening grant shows it has lost the plot when it comes to following Governor Newsom’s and the Legislature’s stated climate directives.

By Carter Rueben (NRDC) and Alan Hirsch

On May 16 the California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved $105 million from the State’s Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP) to widen a stretch of Interstate 80 from Davis to Sacramento. In the room and on the Zoom feed, dozens of Davis and Sacramento-area and statewide advocates called in to ask CTC to reject the funding and push Caltrans to provide real congestion relief and reduced environmental impacts.

NRDC identified TCEP in a 2023 report, "Closing the Climate Investment Gap," as the state program that most heavily invests in highway widening in contravention of our state’s climate goals.

 A study commissioned by the California State Transportation Agency came to a similar conclusion. 

By NRDC’s latest estimate, CTC has granted over $2 billion total to more than 50 highway expansion projects since the TCEP program was created in 2018, even though the program is able to fund projects that are wins for both goods movement and the environment, like truck and train electrification projects and rail grade separation projects.

We're at a pivotal time when the state’s climate laws require the state to dramatically scale up rail lines, bus routes, and active transportation corridors, while investing in electrification efforts that zero-out tailpipe pollution. Yet, the TCEP highway widening projects are doing just the opposite – collectively adding hundreds of millions of additional vehicle miles traveled (VMT) across the state per year. This is a trend we can and must reverse, as our friends at NextGen Policy detailed in their report, California at a Crossroads.

The Yolo 80 project is indicative of the systemic issues at Caltrans and CTC and retro-thinking by Yolo County and city elected officials that reject their own climate action plans drawn up by 5 local citizen climate to enable Caltrans.

What makes the Yolo 80 highway widening particularly striking?

Continue reading "CTC joins Davis in rejecting science & climate realities and funds Yolo 80" »


Past honored in 10th year of Davis Pride

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Gloria Partida, left, Jessica Uzarski, Yolo County Supervisor Lucas Frerichs and Mily Ron jump for joy after volunteers complete the rainbow crosswalk painting in downtown Davis on May 30, 2023. This year’s painting will be from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 26 around Central Park in Davis. (Courtesy photo)

By Wendy Weitzel

As the Davis Phoenix Coalition marks its 10th year of Davis Pride activities next month, its members also want to honor those who painted that rainbow road.

Pride celebrations in Davis go much deeper than a decade. Every June from 1996 to 2006, local LGBTQ+ activists Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac coordinated the Yolo County Lesbian and Gay Picnic Day. After it took a hiatus, the event was revived in 2015 by the nonprofit Davis Phoenix Coalition, which rebranded it as Davis Pride. Rising from its origins as a single-day event with 500 participants in the 1990s, it has become a monthlong June celebration, drawing close to 10,000 people. These participants come from all segments of the local population, happy to gather in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

This year, highlights include the Davis Pride Community Fair and Music Festival, an after party, a fun run, skate night, comedy night, and plenty of drag.

Gloria Partida founded the Davis Phoenix Coalition in 2013 after her son, Lawrence “Mikey” Partida was brutally beaten in an anti-gay attack. She and other organizers started Davis Pride with the idea of a fun run, and added a family-friendly festival for the whole community.

Despite successes like the federal legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, they knew Davis Pride would be controversial. She saw what Bailes and Pontac went through. “They had a lot of pushback when they were doing the work,” Partida said.

Continue reading "Past honored in 10th year of Davis Pride" »


Open Discussion: Library vs. Mom's for Liberty: Library Loses -- Free Speech Wins (of course)

LibraryTransferring a few comments from Al's Corner, to open the discussion:

Beth Bourne and M4L have been vindicated.

The library has to change its policies and pay $70,000 in damages and fees.

Continue reading "Open Discussion: Library vs. Mom's for Liberty: Library Loses -- Free Speech Wins (of course) " »


Davis Downtown names Brett Lee as executive director

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Brett Lee (Courtesy photo)

(From press release) Former Davis Mayor Brett Lee has been named executive director of the Davis Downtown Business Association, effective June 3.

Lee replaces Brett Maresca, who stepped down from the role on Jan. 26 to pursue other opportunities. Former Davis City Manager Dirk Brazil has been interim executive director since Feb. 12.

Lee served on the Davis City Council from 2012 to 2020 – the last two of those years as mayor. He’s a third-generation Davis resident and is raising his 15-year-old son here. Lee has degrees from UC Berkeley and the London School of Economics. For the past nine years, he has worked as a process improvement engineer for Farm Fresh to You, a subscription-based organic produce delivery service of Capay Organic farm.

Kevin Wan, president of the Davis Downtown board of directors, is thrilled to welcome Lee. “His existing relationships with city staff and his experience with the politics of Davis make him the perfect fit to lead Davis Downtown and champion our mission. Since his days on City Council, he has always been an advocate of our downtown, especially for clean and safe streets, which – year after year – is a top concern with our membership. His skill set will be a tremendous asset to help us navigate an evolving economic landscape.”

Continue reading "Davis Downtown names Brett Lee as executive director" »


CITY COMMISSIONS IN CHAOS! SPEAK UP ON MAY 21, 2024

Commissionsby Elaine Roberts Musser,

It appears that our long established city commission system is in chaos!  

Look at what happened in the month of May - many cancelled commission meetings.

Because of Councilmembers Vaitla and Chapman refusing to appoint applicants to commission vacancies, the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC) has appeared not to be  able to meet for nine months and counting. Nor is the Senior Citizens Commission (SCC) meeting anymore, for lack of a quorum. Many commissions have not been able to meet on a regular basis because of quorum problems.  

 

To add insult to injury:

    • In a staff report written by Councilmember Vaitla and Chapman, they prematurely and presumptuously claimed to be recruiting applicants for “newly merged commissions”, even though the City Council hasn’t weighed in on merging any commissions.
    • Councilmember Vaitla has said publicly that commissions are dysfunctional, don’t give the City Council information it wants, and commissioners are somehow “privileged”.

 

159 commissioners, former City Council members and concerned citizens signed a petition to stop the mergers. Councilmember Vaitla did make the rounds of the commissions to be merged, and many commissioners voiced their concerns.

    • Commissioners are not well versed in two disparate subject matter areas.
    • There will have to be more meetings/longer meetings to cover all the material required.
    • Critical issues will get less attention because of time constraints.
    • Recruiting qualified commissioners will become more difficult since they will be expected to be well-versed in two subject matter areas.  Commissioners are apt to quit from burnout and frustration at the heavy workload. 
    • The proposed scopes of the merged commissions are vague and unclear to the point of being almost meaningless.
    • Once commissions are merged, it is highly unlikely the former commissions can be resurrected, if things go wrong (which is likely - 2 commissions are already defunct).
    • Fiscal oversight of the city budget will be minimal, endangering any city tax measure. 

 

This issue is to be heard on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 @ 6:30pm.  SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE MERGERS AT THE MAY 21 CITY COUNCIL MEETING. Express your discontent. Either: 

    • Preferably come in person to the City Council meeting on May 21; or
    • Record a message ((530) 757-5693); and/or
    • Write a letter to City Councilmembers (citycouncilmembers@cityofdavis.org). 

 

See petition and updates at the following link: 

https://www.change.org/p/reverse-city-council-decision-to-move-forward-with-merging-commissions-1e9f0d8d-0697-4f45-85ad-6a7720e2b8b3/u/32599079   


Transparency is Part of Inclusivity & Diversity

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What message will the CTC send Thursday?

By Alan Hirsch

Letter to California Transportation Commission [email protected]

Chair Carl Guardino and Members,

CC  CTC Equity Committee  Chair William Walker

Re: Disagreeing Better on Transportation Projects

 

Mr. Guardino:

 

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say:

    “You are entitled to your own opinions. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

The California Public Records Act (and the Brown Act) were designed so we work from the same facts---that there is sharing of information - so in dialog agencies don’t strategically withhold information to put electeds official as well as the public at an unfair disadvantage in reviewing projects.

Transparency is Inclusivity.

However, I want to bring to your attention a situation where Caltrans seems to be strategically withholding information from the public on a $1/2 billion project.

In June 2023 the CTC staff report recommended NOT to fund Yolo80 toll lanes out of TCEP funds, rating it medium priority. In that staff report CTC staff rated Yolo80 31st out of 48 projects.   Caltrans rated Yolo80 last in priority (24th) out of 24 of their projects. (extract from June 2023 staff report attached)

This of course raises question why it is now rated a priority for advance funding. In the CTC discussion on 5/16. Would not you and other commissions like to know? 

In fact 11 months ago, I tried to find out.

Continue reading "Transparency is Part of Inclusivity & Diversity" »


Yolo officials like Diversity & Inclusion-- except when big money is Involved

YoloTD cac false equity
By Alan Hirsch

DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) is given lot of lip service in progressive circles in Yolo County. But it can turn performative - especial if those in power have already made up their mind on a solution and don’t want to be contradicted- i.e. surface and take in to account diverse opinions.

That is what has been at play for Yolo County on Yolo80 widening with local electeds having made up their mind 3 years ago to add toll lanes to a 17 mile stretch of I-80.  After that they have worked to turn the legally required public process into a  check the box exercise, excluding diverse view point from being considered-- even when the diverse  viewpoints are backed by top transportation experts from UC Davis.

We are now at the end-stage where Davis Mayor/Yolo Transportation District Chair Josh Chapman is overtly discouraging public participation: he said openly it don’t matter what members of Davis public think -- hiding the fact the project is not yet fully funded and public input to the California Transportation Commission (CTC) can still make a difference.

This DEI hypocrisy in Yolo County will continue unless people call out the hypocrisy. The  public can be heard at the CTC’s Equity Committee meeting Wednesday. It is especially focused on this behavior like this by  in local transportation jurisdictions.

Emails are needed to the “CTC-EAC” (California Transportation Commission- Equity Advisory Committee) to note the performative nature of Yolo80 Environmental process (Caltrans District 3 and YoloTD) – and also to oppose funding the new toll lanes  until the process is made truly diverse and inclusive in the search for a solution.

Write to  [email protected]   Subject: Equity and: Funding widening Yolo80 with Toll Lanes.

Issues to note to the Equity Committee: (cut and paste into email?)

 

Continue reading "Yolo officials like Diversity & Inclusion-- except when big money is Involved" »