Thursday's Caltrans Workshop Key to Davis Growth and Climate Future
Mace Mess: 11 Broken Promises

Unprofessional behavior from City staff and Councilmember Arnold

Poor communication continues; irregularities confirmed

Appl-received-aug-2019By Roberta Millstein

At Tuesday’s Council meeting, several Davisites and I showed up to give public comment about an item on the Consent Calendar, scheduled to be approved without discussion. The item concerned the environmental review for a new housing project proposal for Olive Drive.

We raised concerns such as: the fact that this was the first time the project was disclosed to Davisites, preventing any input from citizens prior to review; the failure of City staff to provide the project application and description, only providing them when Colin Walsh noticed that they were missing and requested them, with the result that Davisites had less than the required 72 hours to review (see article from Colin Walsh); and the likelihood that the project is not realistic as proposed, which would make the environmental review pointless at best.

This was the third time in recent days that we have had to raise concerns about items being on the Consent Calendar that should not have been, the other two times having to do with a proposed ~200 acre business park on prime farmland outside of Mace curve.

Last time, Councilmember Will Arnold yelled at us.  This time, he compared us to Flat Earthers.

He was unprofessional and rude, and he was out of line.  Citizens should not be castigated for taking their personal time to act in what they see are the best interests of the City.

Then, after Councilmember questions, it turned out that, yes, in fact, City staff had had the project documents since August and put the item on the Consent Calendar without providing them.  And that, yes, in fact, the Mayor and the City Manager could have made this a regular agenda item, where it would have gotten proper scrutiny and discussion.

It was bad night for City communication.  It is exactly this sort of poor communication that led to the Mace Mess.  For the most part, the City has been unapologetic about it.  That needs to change.

Comments

Ron O

I did not see the comment from Will Arnold, but there's certainly no need for such comments as you've described. Such comments accomplish nothing, other than to create anger in response. I have personally experienced a similar comment from Mr. Arnold. But, he's not the only council member who has made some rather insulting comments.

Overall, I'm less concerned about the insults than I am about the process (or lack thereof).

Your point regarding the absurdity of performing an environmental review for a proposal that is not realistic is spot-on.

I'm wondering if there's going to be any legal review of the developer proposal to require potential tenants to forgo automobile ownership. This appears to be the developer's questionable "solution" to avoid providing adequate parking for tenants, visitors, deliveries, and for the commercial component. It's certainly understandable (on a logical level) that the developer is seeking to maximize rental revenue, regardless of impacts on the city.

Also wondering if there are there similar concerns with the University Mall proposal.

In general, eliminating or reducing parking requirements discourages existing customers. It also ensures that surrounding residential and commercial neighbors will be negatively impacted.

Ron O

I'm also wondering about the "funding structure" of the proposed Affordable units, and whether or not it will be anything like the questionable plan at Nishi.

Roberta L. Millstein

Ron, I understand your prioritizing bad process over bad behavior. But I think they are both equally important. I'm seeing a real degeneration in the way that people in this town talk to each other, especially over land use projects. The Council should be leading the way on this, but instead, some Councilmembers are aiding and abetting this bad behavior. It discourages participation (perhaps the intent?) and also makes it hard for anything to get done. When someone is insulted, the tendency is to give insult right back, and then downhill from there. That is not a prescription for working together to get things done. I see that this Council has made a point of their collegiality toward one another. I'd like to see them extend that same courtesy to citizens.

Todd Edelman

Completely aside from the communication part of the discussion - or the real affordability or the proximity to I-80 - is the the one about "access", which is continuously referred to as "adequate parking" -- using our robust permitting systems it's possible to ensure that people who live here can only park on any available spots on site and nowhere else on Olive. There's also such a huge demand for housing that people without cars... will be adequately provided by the market. It's very close to UC Davis campus, will eventually have a crossing to Davis Depot, already has a funded but not yet constructed bike-ped connection to the path on Pole Line... and I believe more bus services are already on the way because of Lincoln40. In my opinion the I-80 Improvement Project should also include a Bike & Ride and Park & Ride for a Sac-bound express bus on the south side of the highway off Richards which can be accessed by Olive either by foot, bike or an autonomous shuttle operating on a fixed route.

Roberta L. Millstein

You're arguing the merits of the project and making suggestions for it. Note that nothing I said is about the merits or demerits of the project.

I'd also ask, how much would you know about this project if Colin had not asked for the project description and if we had all not asked for it to be pulled from Consent?

Yes, by all means, let's debate the project. That is exactly my point, that citizens should be included in the discussion and given a heads up when a new project is underweigh.

Ron O

Todd: Those with cars may seek parking, beyond Olive. Even more so, when the bicycle/pedestrian overpass is constructed, providing easier access to areas where cars may be parked. Thereby impacting other residents and businesses.

This issue will occur wherever/whenever parking requirements are minimized or eliminated. Unfortunately, the city of Davis does not seem to be taking this into account, at a broader/cumulative level.

Sorry to say that eliminating parking does not eliminate driving. At this point, Davis is (still) not as challenging as San Francisco, for example. Even there, I've seen cars (apparently from commuters) parked in areas that are far-flung from downtown worksites, for example. I've heard that some workers then take public transit from the location that they leave their cars (e.g., as far away as the streets that are adjacent to Golden Gate Park).

The same thing occurs regarding residences, when parking is inadequate. Some are then willing to park quite far away from their own homes.

As a side note, there's supposedly a commercial component which is (hopefully) intended to serve more than just the development's own residents, as well as deliveries, visitors, short-term rental cars, drop-offs and pickups generated by services such as Uber, etc.

Robert D Canning

A few comments about Roberta and Ron's comments.

1. It seems to me that the implication of Roberta's article is that without Colin Walsh's sharp eye the Olive Drive Mixed-Use Project item on the consent calendar ("...only providing them when Colin Walsh noticed that they were missing and requested them"). Colin may be one of many people to notice that the planning documents were not available on the website. I contacted Mayor Lee and Councilmember Frerich on Thursday evening asking them to pull Item 6A and have staff describe the project. I heard back the next day that the documents were up on the website. It may be, if someone wants to get the emails or phone records via a FOIA, that many people contacted the council or staff for info on the project.

2. The documents were available in city hall but not the website. That's an unfortunate and preventable error on the part of staff. This could be due to a variety of reasons: poor training, new staff, poor leadership, confusion, sloppiness, or, as noted, "unprofessional" behavior. So, in my mind, unprofessional behavior is only one of several reasons that the materials did not appear on the website.

3. I find the assertion that Councilmember Arnold's comments were "unprofessional and rude" as off-base (and I don't define how he spoke as yelling). The association with "flat earthers" was meant, I believe, to suggest that the narrative implied by some commenters that staff are engaged in a developer-sponsored subterfuge to drive a policy of housing development that runs counter to a number of citizens is overblown and is not plausible. Yes, it was stated strongly and with obvious passion. Strongly worded, yes, but rude? I disagree. (And I believe that some commenters act rudely toward councilmembers at times.)

4. Ron Oertel decries "the absurdity of performing an environmental review for a proposal that is not realistic..." In fact, no one knows if the project is realistic or not. That's an opinion, not a fact. CEQA requires an environmental review (paid for by the project proponent) and the city of Davis requires a variety of staff and commission reviews. Should we just reject applications without following the process that we have set up to vet projects?

5. Ron suggests that requiring the residents of this proposed project may be illegal and certainly a disadvantage for "customers." I would offer that some experts have suggested that cities get rid of off-street parking requirements altogether. Donald Shoup says: "Requiring ample parking does give us all the free parking we want, but it also distorts transportation choices, debases urban design, and degrades the environment." I think we have plenty of time to vet the parking adequacy of this project. And, what evidence do you have to support your assertions that "eliminating or reducing parking requirements discourages existing customers"? And that "[i]It also ensures that surrounding residential and commercial neighbors will be negatively impacted"?

6. Like Ron, I also wonder about the "affordable" aspect of the project and how that might work.

7. Finally, I too am interested in how the project might tailor it's appeal so that it does not become more student housing. Given that the project proponents operate several large apartment complexes in Davis (Lexington apartments, etc.) it seems likely that at least some of the residents may be students.

Roberta L. Millstein

Robert, I have to run off now, so more later, but I just want to say thank you for noticing that the documents were missing and for asking the item to be pulled so that the public can know about the project. Obviously, I was not aware that you and possibly others had done so, but I’m glad that you are keeping an eye on things.

Richard Seyman

Under the current Davis/UC Davis economic landscape student (effective, meaning financed) demand for housing is the whale that dtermines the rental housing food chain.

Ron O

Robert: A primary purpose of requiring developers to provide parking is to mitigate the impacts of their development on surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. It seems that some want to allow developers to "skirt" these requirements, and shift the impact onto existing residents and businesses.

If new residents are added, at least some will have cars, as will their visitors. Those cars will be parked "somewhere". Parking is also needed for deliveries, short-term rental cars, Uber pickups/drop-offs, etc.

Those who advocate the elimination or reduction of parking minimums consistently fail to address these impacts, which are not going to magically "disappear".

If it's not obvious to you that making parking more difficult in/near downtown influences customer decisions (regarding choices to obtain goods and services), I'd suggest that you're not being honest with yourself. Especially if other alternatives are available.

The city appears to be on a path to "replace" existing customers, with "new" customers who would live downtown. I'm failing to see any advantage for the city (or for existing customers), resulting from this goal.

Unlike other cities (which have allowed "big box" sprawl on their peripheries (thereby allowing their downtowns to die), Davis' downtown is still a vital destination at this point. Seems like some are hell-bent on changing this, for reasons that have not been defined.

Richard Seyman

My question would be what would prompt such a hostile response from Councilman Arnold? Any guesses?

Will Arnold

Here’s my verbatim quote, so that the reader can decide whether I was calling anyone anything:
“Whether it’s non-controversial: That’s a bit of a more vague circumstance. I used to think, for example, that the Earth being round was non-controversial. I’ve unfortunately found out recently that there is controversy to that, supposedly. So I suppose anything could be controversial.”

Robert D Canning

Ron, I'm not sure why you are (it seems to me) wedded to making sure that everybody has a parking spot. As Todd E. and others continue to point out here and elsewhere, the transportation environment is changing. Ten to 20 years ago (certainly at the time of the last general plan update) individual cars predominated in Davis and planners had no good reason to think differently. Even if this development housed a significant number of students, a recent transportation survey (I don't have the reference handy) suggested that most people who live close to campus did not use a car to get there. If this proposed project actually were able to attract and house a significant number of local workers (this is, of course hypothetical) it may be the case that they would not need to drive to work. (Which doesn't answer the point that they may still own a car and need someplace to park it.) I actually don't know the data about how many local workers do or don't own cars but I think it would be interesting data to look at. But without that kind of data it seems premature to assert that the project is not workable.

To the point about downtown parking you state that: "making parking more difficult in/near downtown influences customer decisions (regarding choices to obtain goods and services)." My hunch from your tone and comments here and elsewhere is that you think we need more parking downtown - possibly a new garage. You also seem to suggest that Davis downtown is fine the way it is. How so? What makes it fine when there are numerous empty storefronts and few sites ripe for development. It's getting worse not better and the intransigence of the business community and others to freeing up parking by implementing paid parking in a small portion of the downtown will simply, IMHO, exacerbate the citizenry's irritation with trying to find a parking spot during peak hours.

You also say you see no advantage to building more housing downtown and thereby attract "new" customers. I will quote the comment you made to me: "I'd suggest that you're not being honest with yourself." It seems fairly obvious that more housing downtown reduced auto trips to downtown and may likely draw businesses to cater to these folks. That is something touted by the new urbanism and seems to have worked elsewhere - e.g. Pinole.

Ron O

Robert: Truth be told, not having access to a vehicle limits employment opportunities. Even if some public transportation is available.

There's a certain amount of b.s. involved, when folks suggest that "cars are on their way out", or speak of "new urbanisim" or any other catchphrase. Have you witnessed all of the traffic congestion around town (and throughout the region, lately)? Or, the increased challenge to find parking downtown?

I especially scoff at any suggestion that services such as Uber, short-term rental cars, and deliveries don't generate "driving".

Regarding empty storefronts, retail is struggling (throughout the country), but businesses such as restaurants in Davis are not. If some business sectors are struggling (despite a growing population), why are some proposing to replace existing customers with new ones? With resulting costs to the city, to serve new residents?

And, where will existing residents drive to, when they no longer want to deal with the hassles of driving and parking downtown? (Hint, they'll just drive to surrounding communities to shop, etc.) How is that "green", in any sense of the word?

Not to mention the increased parking challenges that new residents would bring, new curb cuts (for driveways) that would further reduce street parking, etc.

Again, Davis has protected its downtown to a certain degree, but now seems prepared to change it to a semi-residential district. While simultaneously claiming a "shortage" of commercial space.

The entire issue seems much more like an excuse to provide developers with what they really want - profits from housing.

Given your concerns (some of which I share), I'm wondering what your thoughts are regarding the 4,340-parking space development proposed on Mace, and related efforts to expand the freeway. If you're also opposed to that, it would certainly add some credibility regarding your stated concerns.

Ron O

Also forgot to mention "visitors" to new residences, unless they're also "barred" from using vehicles (in the apparent imagination of some).

Roberta L. Millstein

Responding to Will Arnold's comment above:

You took your own words out of context. In context, you were very clearly responding to those of us who said that the item was controversial. Thus, you were comparing us to Flat Earthers. It was very obvious to anyone in the room.

Here are some of my prepared comments. I will let others judge if they warrant being compared to a Flat Earther, especially when they come from an elected official who is supposed to represent and take input from citizens:

The Council knows very well how the Consent Calendar works, but for those who don’t: Consent items are meant to be for things that are uncontroversial. Unless the item is pulled, Consent items do not have a staff presentation, do not have a separate time for public comments, and do not have discussion or questions from the Council. This is what makes them different from regular Agenda items.

Here’s another way to put the point: regular Agenda items are heard about and discussed during a council meeting, watched by many in person and at home. Consent items are words in a document on a website that are often not read and may or may not be reported on by the local media. Thus, they receive much less attention and exposure.

That is the sense in which big items are – yes – smuggled onto the Consent Calendar. Putting things on Consent meets the technical and legal definition of “communication,” but it doesn’t come close to meeting the expanded communication that the City said it was committing to back in September. It doesn’t inform and engage the community.

The City’s position seems to be that if they are not actually approving a project, but just putting something in motion, like an environmental review, then it doesn’t need to be a regular agenda item and it’s fine to have it on Consent.

But what about when it’s a new project that no one has heard about? Or a project with vague details? That was the case with the revised proposal for a 200 acre business park outside of Mace Curve, and that is the case with the Olive Drive proposal today.

No one suggested that the environmental review not be done. What we asked for was presentation on the project to let citizens know it was moving forward, and for clarification on the vague parts.

The sheer fact that not all the documents were up on the website 72 hours before the meeting, as they are supposed to be by law, was enough on its own to make the item controversial.

Rik Keller

Will Arnold: yep, in my view you were directly equating the commenters with Flat Earthers.

If you had a less, er, “controversial” intent, perhaps you should clarify.

Roberta L. Millstein

Responding to Robert Canning's comments at 01:39 PM, with Robert's comments in italics:

1. I contacted Mayor Lee and Councilmember Frerich on Thursday evening asking them to pull Item 6A and have staff describe the project. I heard back the next day that the documents were up on the website. It may be, if someone wants to get the emails or phone records via a FOIA, that many people contacted the council or staff for info on the project.

As I said already, thank you for being one of at least two people who contacted staff about this. I wasn't trying to make a point about Colin specifically, but rather, to make the point that a citizen had to request documents that should have been up on the webiste long ago (Thursday would have met the legal requirement, but there was no reason not to have them up there earlier, and to let the public know about the project).

2. The documents were available in city hall but not the website. That's an unfortunate and preventable error on the part of staff. This could be due to a variety of reasons: poor training, new staff, poor leadership, confusion, sloppiness, or, as noted, "unprofessional" behavior. So, in my mind, unprofessional behavior is only one of several reasons that the materials did not appear on the website.

One dictionary defintion of "unprofessional" is "below or contrary to the standards expected in a particular profession." Your explanations fit that definition.

3. I find the assertion that Councilmember Arnold's comments were "unprofessional and rude" as off-base (and I don't define how he spoke as yelling).

He yelled on a previous occasion when some of us asked for a consent item to be pulled, which is what I said in my article.

The association with "flat earthers" was meant, I believe, to suggest that the narrative implied by some commenters that staff are engaged in a developer-sponsored subterfuge to drive a policy of housing development that runs counter to a number of citizens is overblown and is not plausible.

When you are there for the third time asking that new projects be brought to the attention of citizens (which putting them on the consent calendar does not do -- see my response to Will above), and for the third time a big project is put on consent, then yes, you start to wonder. There is also history here -- I think you recall Mace 391. After awhile, you start to see a pattern. And as came out after a question from Lucas Frerichs, and as I noted above in my article, there was no reason that this item couldn't have been a short regular agenda item.

Yes, it was stated strongly and with obvious passion. Strongly worded, yes, but rude? I disagree.

Would it have been rude if he called us irrational? Because basically that is what he was saying by comparing us to Flat Earthers. We all gave reasons; I daresay they were reasonable reasons. We did not deserve that.

(And I believe that some commenters act rudely toward councilmembers at times.)

If that were true, would that justify a Councilmember responding rudely in turn? Or should they instead insist on not being treated rudely?

Your other points were directed at Ron, and since the two of you have had some exchanges since then, I'll let those items go.

Ron O

Roberta: I must say that you consistently put forth some of the most logical, carefully-constructed comments that I've seen.

Remind me to avoid getting into any debates with you. (Although I'm sure you'd be polite, if challenged in the same manner.)

You, Rik and Colin consistently provide thoughtful, well-reasoned points. Thanks for doing so.

Roberta L. Millstein

Thanks, Ron. It's almost like I argue for a living. ;)

But I'm sure if we debated, you'd hold up your end. You often bring up points that I didn't think of, so I enjoy reading what you have to say even though I don't always agree.

Likewise, thank you for your participation in community discourse.

Ron O

Roberta: In all honesty, no two people agree on everything. That fact alone should never trump respect, cordiality or even friendship. (My apologies for use of the word "trump".)

For what it's worth, I'm not quite as interested in parking as my comments might lead some to believe. But, I do see negative impacts as a result of efforts to make downtown less of a commercial center, and more of a residential one.

Regardless, if the city is hell-bent on adding residences, I'd generally much rather see infill, vs. peripheral development.

But even "smart growth" has practical limits.

Roberta L. Millstein

Ron, agreed on all counts!

Robert D Canning

Roberta:

1) As I said, your comment implied to me that if it had not been for Colin, the item would have gone unnoticed.

2) The definition you provide does equate with unprofessional. I don't know why this happened - it could be unprofessionalism, and I continue to suggest that is only one of several distinct possibilities.

3) I misread your comment about his previous response as meaning this past Tuesday night. My mistake.

I don't subscribe to the notion that when projects are first put out for environmental review they deserve a lot of discussion just to get approval at that point. Let's collect the facts prescribed by law and regulation and then have the discussion. I also don't subscribe to the notion that staff is in league with developers to push a big growth agenda. I believe staff work for the community development department, and generally but not always work to administer the city's ordinances and regulations equitably. I think that some staff are better at it than others. I also believe that developers, in general, want to build (that's by definition) and do it as economically as possible (thus increasing their margins). I also believe that developers often do not share the ethic of people in Davis who want to see more environmentally sound projects and are more focused on their bottom line or making money for their investors (Trackside being a prime example).

In my experience, rudeness implies disrespect for an individual. Skepticism about ideas that an individual puts forth can be strongly expressed without rudeness. When expressed with an apparent lack of empathy or from a position of authority (or rank, or power) may certainly come across as rude. As I viewed it, I did not take it as rudeness. I should probably take another look.

You are correct, being rude to councilmembers does not justify rudeness from the dais. And I needn't have made that comment (even parenthetically).

Ron O

Robert: I'm curious about this statement from you:

"I also believe that developers often do not share the ethic of people in Davis who want to see more environmentally sound projects and are more focused on their bottom line or making money for their investors (Trackside being a prime example)."

How is a 4-story Trackside so "different" than any other proposal, including the latest one on Olive Drive?

Trackside has tones of "NIMBYism", in my view. (Although I simultaneously think that the NIMBY concerns are legitimate, given its proximity to existing dwellings.)

Roberta L. Millstein

Robert,

Re: 1 - I can certainly see why you had that impression. In truth, I first wrote "a citizen," then later decided that Colin should get credit for his actions. I hate it when I do something that takes effort and then don't get credited for it. Had I known that others had done the same thing, I would have instead said "citizens." But this is probably not worth talking about any further, I would think.

Re: 2 - I see "unprofessional" as an umbrella term, and I agree that it could be one or the other of the different senses of "unprofessional" that was operating in this case.

Re: 3 - Let's compare WDAAC (a larger project to be sure) or Trackside. In both of those cases, citizens knew about those projects, and had input into those projects, prior to environmental review. Of course, in those cases, it was the developers who did outreach. (Whether they are good or bad projects is a separate issue -- I am saying that doing outreach was good). In cases where the developers don't do that outreach, I think it is incumbent upon the City to let citizens know about projects that are, in essence, "moving forward" with an environmental review. They could do this by making it a short agenda item with a presentation or through some other means -- the means doesn't really matter to me. It's informing the public that matters to me.

As for staff, I don't know that I would say that they are "in league" with developers (and I don't think I said any such thing, and I don't know where you got that), but I do think that many staff members (not all) are pro-development and disdainful of Davisite opinions. That has simply been my observation and experience.

I would certainly appreciate you rethinking whether Will's comment was rude. I definitely felt disrespected, having given reasons for wanting the item pulled, and hearing others reasons for having that item pulled, only to have an elected official sitting on a dais say (paraphrasing): well, yeah, anything could be controversial, the earth being round is controversial to some. It was dismissive, especially in light of the revelation that, in fact, not all of the documents that should have been posted on 11/14 were in fact posted (I do wonder whether that was a Brown Act violation, although none of us pushed that point).

Anyway, I appreciate having a reasonable discussion with you where we can each admit our mistakes and discuss issues that we still don't agree on in a respectful manner. :)

Robert D Canning

Ron: I'm not sure I understand your question about my Trackside example. Let me see if I can be clearer. I don't believe developers always have the environmental and design priorities than some locals and maybe even the city. I used Trackside as an example because I believe the Trackside Partners ignored and stonewalled the neighborhood guidelines. They seemed bound and determined to build their oversize project. The reason they could propose a project as big as it is proposed is because the city uses floor-to-area ratio (FAR) to determine a building's mass. This is exactly what the downtown plan consultants have recommended we move away from. Instead of simply allowing developers to build large buildings because they have a large lot (a la Trackside) the new code would require the buildings to have a form that conforms to a general pattern of mass and scale.

Also, I think Trackside is quite different than the proposed Olive Drive project. Trackside is immediately adjacent to a neighborhood of single-family homes and small apartment complexes. The proposed Olive Drive project is surrounded on three sides by commercial and mobile home park. (I am not sure what Slater's Court is, exactly - it sort of defies definition.) It is also across the street from commercial property and three-story apartments. The most historic values in that sector of Olive are the large cork oak trees that will be preserved.

Re. your comment about NIMBY. The neighborhood (as embodied by the Old East Davis Neighborhood Assoc., OEDNA) opposed Trackside as proposed - four stories with stepbacks, etc. We did not oppose the re-development of the site. In fact, we made a presentation to the Council of a three-story project that would have fit in the site. OEDNA has consistently supported infill sites within the neighborhood including auxillary dwelling units and new projects such as on J between 4th and 5th. The neighborhood may be the most housing-diverse neighborhood in town. Trackside as proposed (and litigated) did not follow the city's guidelines for the neighborhoods or transitions zones. You can call it NIMBY-ism but IMO the record belies that description.

Ron O

Robert: I don't buy it, at least not completely. And, I say that as someone opposed to Trackside at 4 stories, for the reasons you provide.

I'm referring to "NIMBYism" as sort of a natural reaction, when a 4-story building is proposed next to a 1-story building, for example.

Most folks are more concerned about it if they live right next to such a proposal, or are concerned that it sets a precedent that will ultimately impact them, personally. (That's a form of NIMYism, but that doesn't mean that such a reaction is "bad" - at least in my view.)

But from a broader point of view, Trackside (even at 4 stories) isn't much different than the effort to residentialize downtown (or even the Olive Drive site, which is apparently zoned for commercial usage). But at least Trackside acknowledges that people "drive", even if it doesn't provide Affordable housing.

And sorry to say, but I also don't "buy into" the suggestion that downtown is better-off by not providing parking - especially if there's simultaneous efforts to residentialize downtown. This will simply discourage existing customers, which include both Davis residents and visitors.

Someone (not me) noted that those opposed to Trackside are sort of being provided a "pass", perhaps because they're relatively well-connected, politically. Have to admit that I kind of agreed with that person. (Even though that political connection wasn't sufficient to prevent the council from approving Trackside.)

In any case, I'm hoping that the neighbors are successful in their efforts to prevent a 4-story Trackside.

For what it's worth (as I don't view myself as particularly "important"), I think that "smart growth" is simply another way to avoid addressing practical population limits, for a given area. While simultaneously making life worse. (Still, it's better than sprawl.)

I also (generally) don't think that people are going to give up their cars in the Sacramento region (including Davis), simply because parking isn't provided by developers. That approach might work in San Francisco, but not here. (And even in San Francisco, it doesn't prevent "driving" via services such as Uber - which may be "temporarily under-priced", as noted by another commenter.

Robert D Canning

Ron, you say you "don't buy it" but I'm not sure what the "it" is that you don't buy.

One of the main issues for most of the OEDNA folks was that Trackside didn't play by the rules as they had been established by the city years ago. And if you remember, a judge agreed (at least in part).

The notion that Trackside "isn't much different than the effort to residentialize downtown" suggests to me that you buy into the notion that the Trackside parcels are part of downtown. They are and they aren't. Would you like to see downtown spread? That would seem to be the logical extension of your comment. Trackside parcel and the others along the tracks are considered a transition between the downtown and the neighborhood.

I'm not sure where the idea came that the Old East Neighborhood got a "pass" because somehow we are more politically connected. I'm not sure who got a pass given that the Council voted for the project. Let's say the OEDNA got lucky in that the judge agreed with our carefully crafted argument in court. We'll have to see what happens on appeal.

You keep bringing up the issue of banning cars as if that is something I have advocated. I'm not sure where that came from. I emphatically do not endorse banning cars. Cars are not going away. As I have said here and elsewhere transportation options have been changing and will continue to change. I advocate for changing requirements for parking and I am an advocate for paid parking in the downtown. I also think that there should be sections of our downtown that can be redesigned to better accommodate cars, bikes, pedestrians, and buses.

Robert Canning

Roberta,

"Re. 2 - I see "unprofessional" as an umbrella term, and I agree that it could be one or the other of the different senses of "unprofessional" that was operating in this case."

Maybe as a former staff member of a too-large government agency, I define "unprofessional" more narrowly than you. My take on the term (and how I used it) was that there was some aspect of intentionality or willfulness in the behaviors I ranked as unprofessional rather than those due to poor training, lack of direction, general sloppiness (which is a term that Keller used in a comment on the Vanguard and that I like), or misunderstanding. I certainly understand how you would use it as an umbrella for all the above.

Re. the issue of comment before review (and "in league with")

First, I used the term "in league with" as short-hand. It was simply my way of suggesting that some citizens believe in conspiracy theories about secret deals between city staff and developers. (I've heard some of these ideas bandied about by neighborhood activists over the years.) I do agree with you that some of the Community Development staff appear to have a pro-developer bias.

A number of projects on the city’s development website document outreach to the community (B Street residences being one example). I could not tell whether they were done prior to application or not. I don’t see a requirement for that in the project application paperwork that the Olive Drive proponents filed. And I don’t know when outreach to the community is required to happen.

I don’t agree that having an item on the consent calendar indicating that a project has been accepted and the environmental review process is starting is NOT enough. I think it is fine. It seems to me that, let’s say, the Olive Drive project was a regular item. Folks get up and express opinions pro and con; and Council asks staff questions and staff answers the questions. Then what? Council can’t really put more requirements on the developer prior to environmental review because that would change the application process for everyone. Environmental reviews of projects like Olive Drive are required by law and making the item a regular agenda item does not change that. And obviously, there are a number of people in the community who read the agenda and look for project documents. My hunch is that there will be plenty of public comment about this project. I remain unconvinced that these sorts of items need to take up valuable time from other items on the council’s agenda.

And at what point in the process should the city be required to “inform and engage the community”? It seems that you want it earlier in the process rather than how it is now.

And by the way, smuggling is defined (see http://bit.ly/2XFZPgG) as an illegal act as opposed to just sneaky. Is that what you meant to imply in your comment to Will?

Ron O

Robert: My reference to a "pass" is essentially in regard to allegations of NIMBYism. Again, I agree with the concerns of OEDNA, while simultaneously viewing them as a form of NIMBYism.

I view downtown as a place of business, and not as a place for residences. As such, downtown needs adequate, convenient, and free parking to remain viable and competitive with other options. Unlike other towns, Davis has (for the most part) protected its downtown from peripheral big-box stores, but it does compete with options in surrounding communities.

Already, some claim that Davis has a "shortage" of commercial space, while simultaneously trying to destroy its existing space. (For that matter, the residential proposal on Olive is currently zoned for commercial usage, I understand. Based upon its proposed location and lack of parking, it appears to be targeted at the student market. I suspect that some new occupants and/or their visitors would simply park in nearby areas.)

It might be noted that downtown is within walking distance of old East Davis, but this is not the case for other residents and visitors.

I think we're going to have to "agree to disagree" regarding the essential purpose of downtown.

Roberta L. Millstein

Robert,

I'm not saying that there is a requirement for outreach to the community. I'm saying that it's good practice, and if the developer doesn't do it, then the City should at least let citizens know some details about the project that is being approved by making it a regular agenda item. The point isn't to give pros and cons -- I agree that comes later (a point that seems to have gotten lost in all of these discussions -- none of us on the Olive Dr item or the ARC items were trying to argue pros and cons of the project). Rather, the point is to have enough of the details of the project clear before the environmental review so that the review could be done properly. There were some serious questions about both the ARC proposal and this Olive Drive proposal that would make doing an environmental review problematic -- vagueness of the descriptions being one of those.

So, what could they City Council do? They could get answers to those questions, and then either be satisfied with those answers or put the item on hold until they got answers. Instead, their inclination seemed to be 1) complain about citizens giving public comment, and 2) rubberstamp.

I think having a presentation on the item at Council serves another purpose, and that is to inform the community, to let them know what is happening if they wish to get involved. Again, this is not a legal requirement, but it would contribute to an open, democratic government.

I don't think it should be up to citizens to scour consent items for news of large projects. I think that's an unreasonable ask. There are a ton of people who watch the Council meetings live or on video later, and I bet a lot of them don't read the Consent calendar beforehand. There is an opportunity to inform here -- and as I keep saying, back in September the City said it wanted to improve communication. I am still waiting.

As somewhat of an aside: if you, Colin, and possibly other citizens hadn't noticed that the project description was missing, would any of the Council members have noticed? I have to admit I am somewhat doubtful. Consent item => environmental review => uncontroversial => vote yes. But it shouldn't be up to to citizens to be making sure that City staff does its job. If this had been a regular item with a presentation on the project, then I think it would have become obvious that the project description wasn't available, and it would have been added.

As for smuggling, if you click on the link you provided and then click on the first link after that, the link for the Miriam Webster dictionary, the second definition of "smuggling" is "to convey or introduce surreptitiously." That is the meaning that I meant. If you look again at my comment to Will, you will see the very next sentence is "Putting things on Consent meets the technical and legal definition of “communication,” but it doesn’t come close to meeting the expanded communication that the City said it was committing to back in September." So obviously, no, I never meant to imply that anything illegal was being done -- I explicitly stated that they were following the law. But they can do better than that.

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