At 7:40 pm Saturday evening (6/12) Janet went out to our backyard to pick greens for dinner. She heard a man say "...and that's where the nasty terrible people who hate the zipline and hate children live." [best possible paraphrase] Janet looked over the fence at who was saying this and there was a man standing there with his dog and children. He saw Janet and said something like, "and there's the terrible nasty woman who hates children." She said, "Excuse me? Would you like to talk?" (not threatening, certainly incredulous) but he ignored her and continued walking and talking to his children, repeating "that's the nasty terrible woman who hates children."
She was deeply shaken. Is this okay? Can’t we respectfully agree to disagree?
Casual zip track users and park visitors have no way of knowing how the sound of the zip track travels through our backyard and home. It comes, uninvited, into every room of our house every single time someone is on one of the two tracks. It is not a pleasant sound. It is metallic and jarring. It is impossible to focus on ordinary tasks while it is happening. Or to sleep.
When it’s not locked at night, we live with it 24/7. When it was recently left unlocked for about 40 days, carousers on the zip track with their talking and screaming woke our household up during 18 nights, often multiple times each night. Would that be okay in your household?
Say a dog was barking on and off for thirty minutes of each hour 10-12 hours a day two doors down from your house and you could hear it in every room of your house. Would you be fine living with that with no end in sight? Or with someone banging on a metal trash can with a rubber mallet persistently and randomly throughout the day? No way the city would permit that. But when the city’s own equipment is the source of the noise, their rules apparently don’t apply.
We have worked politely and patiently with the city and anyone who will talk to us to try to find a solution for over two years now. During this period we have been attacked with hate and vitriol on social media, which probably most of you have seen. The facts are we love children (for Heaven’s sake, Janet’s a doula, we have two, and I coached AYSO for years), love the park, have volunteered to maintain the path behind our house since the park opened, planted many of the now-mature trees with Tree Davis in the early 2000s, and have lived and enjoyed the sounds of the park for nearly 20 years since the park was put in – which was after we moved in, counter to what some allege.
We have never asked for special treatment on this issue. Never. That idea was invented by others to belittle us, repeated with no basis by the Sac Bee, and now somehow it's fact. We do have the same rights as every Davis citizen to ask that the city follow its adopted processes and noise ordinance, and not create a nuisance that it would otherwise abate.
This is a fiasco of the city's making. For starters, the Noticing Guidelines and Standards for Impacts to Parks weren’t followed one bit before the zip track was rushed to approval (more on that below). The city never ran this by the Rec and Park Commission, never noticed neighbors within 500 feet as required, and never put up a web site or posted on Nextdoor until it was announcing the zip track’s imminent arrival. Signs posted at the site just before installation shared what staff had unilaterally decided, not what was proposed.
The city has said that they "canvassed parks residents in the park" prior to their Arroyo Park zip track decision. We formally requested any information to support this, but nothing was ever provide to establish any level of public input. Even granting that it did happen, "canvassing" isn't one of the noticing requirements.
The Guidelines and other materials are here: https://sites.google.com/view/pickleball-zip-track-noise-rep/home
Yes, there is a zip track half the size of the Arroyo zip track in the NW corner of Pioneer Park. It is further from homes, behind an earthen berm, and it gets much less use. Neighbors within 1000 feet were noticed and a public meeting was held before it was approved. That’s what community notice looks like in Davis. The only “notice” for Arroyo that the city claims was the city posting a sign on Thursday, 3/7/19 before installation started on Monday, 3/11/19. The equipment had been purchased months earlier, the staff decision was made months before that.
The project the Arroyo Park zip track was part of was intended to replace existing equipment at Arroyo, Covell Greenbelt and Slide Hill parks. At Arroyo, the city staff went far beyond replacement, taking out oaks (without checking with the Tree Commission) and grass, and expanding the play area by 30% in order to add the zip track.
City staff proposed purchasing the zip track in a $100,000 “grant application” to equipment maker GameTime in September 2018. The company then conditioned the “grant” on city council approval by October 31, 2018 (staff rushed the approval through on 10/30/18, and at that time the city dismissed the bids of seven other companies). Months later the Arroyo Park zip track decision was revealed to the Rec and Park Commission. And as it turned out, the “grant” was actually a discount, and the full value wasn’t even credited to the city via the GameTime invoices. Further, in all the rush, city council didn’t approve the level of funding staff ultimately spent on the equipment. 221K was spent for the equipment at all three sites, not including installation which was much higher for Arroyo since it wasn’t just a replacement job, but rather a whole new concrete border, 30% expansion; 185K was approved by city council for the equipment. I’ll spare you other improprieties we have found.
Mitigation measures we hoped would reduce the noise of the zip track have had no effect. The installer told us there was nothing more that could be done. Nighttime use violates the city's noise ordinance, and instead of admitting this (City still hasn’t), the city and its consultant (Bollard Acoustical) misrepresented the city’s noise ordinance in reports they continue to refuse to retract (see documents at link above), and then when we pointed out the consultant’s and staff’s mistakes, the city attempted to amend the ordinance citywide to bring itself into compliance. Is this how the city addresses its own violations? (By the way, last weekend’s middle-of-the-night firecracker bursts in South Davis that woke up so many wouldn’t have been a noise violation under the city’s proposed “hourly averaging” scheme that’s now been tabled, thank goodness.
What's happening is unbecoming a city of Davis's stature. Attacks on me and my family on FB and Nextdoor over the last two years are unfair when all we are asking is for the city to follow its own rules and take responsibility for this situation. We have been completely civil in all of this, hoping the city would do the right thing. We could easily describe the man from tonight so that plenty would figure out who he is, but I won’t go there. It’s time to end this acrimony.
The zip track’s a blast; no question. And there is a great spot for it somewhere in Davis, away from homes. Nobody living next to a city park could expect this amusement park type of noise to be okay. Seriously, it’s hard rubber banging on metal the same as a roller coaster. As the loudest piece of park equipment in the city that must be locked at night to meet the city's noise ordinance (and at a city-estimated cost of $10K per year not including staff management time; no city play structure comes with such a cost), placing it close to homes simply wasn't the right move. There is nothing like it in size or intensity of use anywhere in Davis. Notice to all neighbors within 500 feet, as required, would have prevented all of this. After all, the GameTime sales representative told Janet she wished she had known there was a noise concern because there are other fun structures she would have recommended.
I am guessing the man this evening was frustrated his children couldn’t use the zip track. I totally get that. Under the current practice the zip track is to be open until sundown (8:32 pm for 6/12). The city must have locked it early since it was closed at 7:40 pm. That’s not on us, and still the zip track ruined our evening even when it was locked.
I respectfully ask that the online and public attacks on my family end, and that the city take responsibility for its actions.