No DiSC Baseline Features to Reduce Traffic and Related GHG Emissions will Produce even Greater Adverse Environmental Impacts than Those Projected in the EIR
Hope in Difficult Times: An Interfaith Conversation

DISC 2022 Transportation - Planning Commission falls for Developer's Trick

TrapBacThe trap was set likely shortly after "DISC  2020" was defeated by voters.  When the developers of this peripheral sprawl - or I'll be nice and call it West West Sacramento - were planning to re-introduce it last year for a vote this year - they realized that a key demand was a grade-separated crossing of Mace. So they removed it from the Baseline Features... fully-intending to agree to do it as a concession.

Back story

The City Council-approved Street Standards (2016) don't mention e-bikes at all. What this means is that the width, curvature, and proper siting of infrastructure that would optimize the use of e-bikes - in particular the Type 3 variant that has assistance up to 28 mph - is totally missing in Davis, or more immediately in concepts, plans as well as development agreements and baseline features in current and near-future projects.

To address this, over two-and-a-half years ago when I was on the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Commission (BTSSC) I got support for adding an item to the long range calendar which would address it; this first appeared on the LRC in September 2019, with a possible date of December 2019 for the agenda. (It is abbreviated somewhat erroneously as "intersection design guidelines / standards"). It has been pushed back repeatedly since then, and the BTSSC did not support forming a sub-committee about it during 2020.

What this means is that significant concepts and projects which could alleviate transportation problems, such as Reimagine Russell, the new-ish Class I multi-user path on the south side of Russell (chronically and clinically-referred to as a "bike path) or smaller projects all over the city are not future-proofed for the increase of modal share for cycling we desperately need to improve everything from climate impacts to conviviality to fitness to transportation crashes. Our city is simply too large now in size to have a significant modal share with "acoustic" bicycles. Not convinced? Look at the low bike modal share from peripheral areas of town in the UCD Campus Travel Survey, which shows low share even for people with campus destinations where car parking is not always convenient, and not fare-free. It's not hard to extrapolate - necessary, as the City has essentially refused to do its own counts for years - that almost no one regularly rides from Mace Ranch or some other peripheral areas to Downtown for a coffee or beer - sort of the most normal thing in the Universe in a bicycle-branded cycling city.

SurveyCycling
UCD Campus Travel Survey 2019-2020 (pg. 30) - By bike, DISC is just over four miles from ARC, a central point on campus when considering agricultural facilities. This distance has about a 10% modal share for cycling, and includes mostly students, many who don't have their own cars.



However, as we can see from the example above, the faster type of e-bikes are quite expensive. I've seen nothing lower than just over $3,000. Though important - or all - major arteries in Davis - should be optimized for this type of bike - the idea is not only to optimize for them but make safe for all users, including on acoustic bikes - it cannot mean that this type of bike should be essentially required to live here and enjoy the purported high quality of life. Infrastructure optimized for fast bikes is also a significant improvement for all bikes, as it's direct, requires a minimum of stops, is not shared with motor vehicles... or pedestrians and dogs.

To be more precise, the goal should be the 15-Minute City. This is a relatively new standard or classification of a very, very old sometimes organic strategy to make key locations in a city within 15 min from anywhere else, for all means of transportation. This seems to also serve as a kind of proof of the bicycle modal share results in the Campus Travel Survey. It's definitely something that should be part of our new General Plan, or even worked on earlier by a joint Commission process (BTSSC, Planning... perhaps Natural Resources and Social Services...). I would argue that it should also be about effort, so a 5 or perhaps 7-minute walk is the equivalent of a 15 min bike ride. I've said that if kids can't walk unaccompanied 5-minutes from where they live to buy ice cream cones, it's a failure (and that's just one example, a single ice cream place or a truck at DISC doesn't make it sustainable.)

It's also quite important to be reminded that the City of Davis has for over four years not had a senior civil engineer with a transportation focus. Many projects have gone forward - sometimes to completion, often with significant flaws - without the benefit of this experienced and wise counsel.

 

Last Night

At the Planning Commission review of Disc 2022 last night - and early this morning - I was actually quite impressed by the comments from multiple Commissioners regarding negative transportation issues of the planned project, and even the general discussion about its unavoidable impacts and uncertainly of benefits from transportation demand management... well, at least earlier in the discussion. Commissioner Shandy was particularly right on with her criticism of planned widening of Mace - presented by the developer as a kind of unquestioned religious observance - contradicts claimed benefits for people cycling and walking. There were other positive and thoughtful comments by a majority of Commissioners.

I knew that the grade-separated crossing of Mace was a kind of sneakily-hidden prize and tried to point out in my sort of sloppy recorded comment that that a safer crossing of Mace would not on its own make DISC 2020 excellent for cycling (this is better than "cycle-friendly"), because of distance from Downtown and places further west, and besides that, safe crossings directly to the south along Mace across 80 would cost many millions and be very complicated (and at least in my head I know that Caltrans District 3 and the Yolo County Transportation District have withdrawn the earlier plan - it was supposed to be built first! - of a new bike and ped bridge across the Bypass as part of the I-80 Managed Lanes Project.)

Screenshot from 2022-01-13 02-14-21
Just an aside about the bandied about "globally-known sustainability of Davis": This was the air quality last night shortly after the meeting was over (via Purple Air)

 

 

The Trap is Sprung

Though it was fully-intended to be a positive thing and I will give credit to Commissioner Shandy, the discussion and lead-up to a vote turned sour when she proposed that a grade-separated crossing of Mace and a Class I trail across the undeveloped land south of Harper Junior High would make her feel better about the planned Mace widening and other traffic impacts. She suggested nothing about safe cycling and walking connections to other places, such as the Nugget and popular restaurants across 80. But the problem is that, for example, the area planned for housing at DISC 2022, on the north and eastern side of the project area, is more than 15 minutes away by bike from Downtown and at leat 20 to 25 minutes away from the UC Davis campus that is the raison d'ĂȘtre for DISC 2022! Moreover, the route has almost no optimized cycling infrastructure the whole way (varied from local streets to arteries, no protected bike paths, lack of priority at stops, etc... there is no proposal for any of this in any proposed development agreement or baseline features). But mainly it's too far by bike... never mind walking! Most of the time people - with free or with un-bundled parking - will take I-80 between campus and DISC, even more so to many facilities etc on the west side of campus related to agriculture. I-80 is such a fantastic route much of the day that nothing can compete with it, including shuttles and express buses, which I am sure will at best have a tiny modal share.  This creates huge challenges for any development more than 15 min away from key locations, and it means simply that they should not even be considered. (Oh, wouldn't it have been great if staff were directed to work on the General Plan and told the developers that there was no capacity to work on stuff that would very likely be in violation of a progressive outcome for it?)

So the Planning Commission has recommended the two elements mentioned above that are supposed to address problems on Mace to the City Council. My conclusion is that the developers will signal their intention to accept them - perhaps with a little drama - and the Council will praise them for doing so. But again, even with everything promised (e.g. shuttles, TDM) and not promised (e.g. e-bike-optimized infrastructure) there's still no place for DISC. Still no way to successfully do something better than I-80 via private vehicle for anything but a minority. There's really nowhere to walk to from DISC. Hopefully the voters will see through this ruse and others and reject DISC 2020.

Galadrieltempted
In the ALTERNATIVE timeline, Lady Galadriel was tempted by but in the end did not succumb to the Power of the Grade-Separation ring

 

Denethor
In the REAL timeline, Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor, was consumed by the Grade Separation Ring and driven mad.

 

 

Question

Last night I was quite surprised when the developer said with much conviction that baseline features were not necessary to enforce the creation of certain designs and programs at DISC 2022, as these would be required by CEQA. Then why have baseline features as a solution for any of these things, in all the discussion for years up until now? If a reader could enlighten me I would truly appreciate it.

Afterword

I am all for more housing - for all income levels, but with a significant proportion below market and lower income - and workplace and related development in Davis. I have never said I was against these things in any local discussions, for example in the Davis Vanguard. But they have to be infill, they have to be on greyfields such as parking lots, industrial areas along 5th St - not only the PG&E yard - and in the eastern side of South Davis and other areas much closer to Downtown and especially for what DISC 2022 purports to be about much closer also to campus. With electric shuttles on fixed routes, optimized cycling infrastructure, a new connection across 80 around L St., mixed-use above (existing) parking lots and so on many if not close to all of the actual benefits of a project like DISC 2022 can be realized. It's not impossible, it's not rocket science, it simply requires conviction, creativity and less b.s. and false claims about sustainability. Hopefully Council, Commissions... local media... and organizations such as Bike Davis and Cool Davis re-direct the citizenry towards an alternative to DISC or a truly sustainable version of it... closer to and integrated with the City of Davis and the UC Davis campus.

Comments

Alan Miller

If an e-bike can go 28mph, why not share the road with cars?

"a new connection across 80 around L St." - say what? There's Olive Drive in the way.

PG&E is private and is investing in their yard - no plans to leave.

How does infill even if possible equal DISC?

The only similar site I can conceive with business park near campus is Nishi under plan #1, rejected and not coming back. Which is sad.

Todd Edelman

Thanks, Alan!

If an e-bike can go 28mph, why not share the road with cars?
> Because motor vehicles go much faster on the arteries I mention, and have a lot more mass... so they are subjectively and to a certain extent objectively scary as fuck.

"a new connection across 80 around L St." - say what?
> This would help connect the industrial and commercial areas on both sides of 80 to each other. There's a lot of parking lot space and a lot of synergy - the latter is something the DISCvelopers correctly identify as important. The benefit here is these companies already exist... e.g. who wants to be a short distance from companies x, y and z? Pelz could be more viable if things were further developed to the west of it in South Davis.

PG&E is private and is investing in their yard - no plans to leave.
> Threaten eminent domain, offer them part of the DISC space for free while making them pay to clean up the site -- DISC is also much closer to the I-80 they need. PG&E is still a bit on their back foot re wildfire death liability, but this won't last forever.

How does infill even if possible equal DISC?
>It can probably come close when you include greyfill.

The only similar site I can conceive with business park near campus is Nishi under plan #1, rejected and not coming back. Which is sad.
> Well at some point Nishi #2 will be cancelled because nothing has happened there. But we don't "business parks", we need businesses that are close to each other, and to where people live. These industrial areas on both sides of 80 back up against residential areas.

Bottom line: The world is littered with billions of tombstones where it's written "was convinced that things they loved were impossible."

Alan C. Miller

The world is littered with billions of tombstones where it's written "was convinced that things they loved were impossible."

Well, I'll give you that, Todd: your tombstone will definitely NOT say that!

Aaron Wedra

Thank you Todd. Bringing up all of these points will help me to have intelligent conversations with other locals as well as parties on both sides of the project in the days to come.

I remember the first time a friend and I rode our bikes to Taco Bell in South Davis when we were still in Junior High. We had been riding bikes for years in other neighborhoods around town, but the experience of riding the two overpasses and amongst so much traffic was emblazoned in my mind as unexpectedly high risk riding.

Todd Edelman

... and in the final Davis Enterprise article prior to the Council meeting about DISC 2022 this Tuesday, a full 1/3 is devoted to the grade-separated crossing issue, as well as the related connection to the network of "trails" in Davis. https://www.davisenterprise.com/news/council-to-decide-tuesday-whether-to-put-disc-on-june-ballot/?

What's bizarre is that Davis doesn't have trails or bike paths, per se, but the second term appears all over the staff report, with additions such as "Class I..." -- but a Class I path is by definition a multi-user path.

Beyond these nuances of language chronically slopped around in our oh-so-educated small city, there's that "network". What are they describing? From the proposed connecting point at the east end of housing in Mace Ranch, there's a motley variety of local streets, paint-only bike lanes on major and minor arteries all the way to Downtown and UC Davis. It will always be a tiny minority of people at the proposed DISC 2022 who will regularly visit Harper Junior High or the more distant and circuitously-connected Korematsu Elementary. A connection to these places does not significantly improve the project.

Despite the recommendations of the BTSSC and the NRC, there's nothing in the draft DA to connect the project to the east end of South Davis for the purpose of active transportation. It's unlikely that the Council will push for these recommendations, and even if they do, the detail is that funding for this critical element - and also a Class IV path along 2nd St, per the BTSSC - will only be proportional to use by residents, visitors and workers at DISC. As there is no plan from Caltrans to do anything here - e.g. there's no mention of it in the I-80 Managed Lanes project and the City's not pushed for it - what it means is that it will possibly not be built for decades. (Note that several years ago the Lincoln40/Ryder developers pledged a large proportion of the funding necessary for a crossing of the train tracks from Olive to Davis Depot, but applications for complementary funding have not been successful.) The DISCvelopers shouldn't be responsible for paying all of it - though it would be a nice show of their commitment to stuff they go on about, i.e. carbon neutral this-or-that - but that's not the only issue. The other significant issue is that no one from DISC will ride a bike to the closest and most attractive shopping center. It's appalling that no one on the Staff and apparently the Council realizes how anti-"Davis" this is.

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