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.
Buried in the "Nishi Project Baseline Features" is this statement:
"There are other additional requirements for the Nishi Gateway project, including but not limited to, the mitigation measures set forth in the Final Environmental Impact Report, and the Development Agreement that, while important to the Project, are not Baseline Project Features and may be modified with the approval of the City, after the appropriate public process" (emphasis added; see p. 46* of your ballot guide).
* Edit: I've now learned that there are small differences between voter guides within Davis, so the quote might be on p. 45, or maybe even another nearby page, in your ballot guide.
We have seen with the Cannery project the way that developers have no shame in coming back to the City Council shortly after project approval to ask for changes. Why should we expect this project to be any different? After all, the promised mitigation measures will be expensive to implement and will require ongoing monitoring and maintenance. In the best case, making sure that the monitoring and maintenance actually happens would require considerable staff and Council diligence and oversight amongst all the other things that take staff and Council attention.
But it is not a big stretch to imagine that, if Nishi 2.0/Measure J passes, the merchants of doubt will soon be in front of the City Council with hat-in-hand, saying, really, do we have to do all of this mitigation? And if that City Council is pro-Nishi – as many of the current Council candidates are, with the exception of Ezra Beeman and Larry Guenther – is it hard to imagine a 3-2 vote that weakens or even eliminates the promised mitigations?
And that would leave future residents of Nishi with an even higher risk of cancer, permanent lung damage, heart disease, and developmental defects than what they would be facing with inadequate mitigations.
If this concerns you, vote accordingly: No on Measure J, Yes on Beeman and Guenther.