Adam Morrill for Council Statement
Welcome to Al's Corner - "Pouring Gasoline on the Dumpster Fire of Davis Politics" - Volume #11

Arriving Soon: Davis’ Bigger, Better, Costlier, Extravagant Toad Tunnels

Stamped Concrete 1
An example of stamped concrete

By David Taormino

After 6 years of wrangling with Davis City Staff, Bretton Woods is under construction. The actual election process was easy compared to finalizing the details with Davis staff. We still have half-a-dozen important and extremely costly imposed conditions that impact costs to homebuyers.

The craziest staff imposition requires customizing the new drainage tunnels to make the “World’s Fanciest Frog and Toad Tunnels”, reminiscent of the 1995 famous toad tunnel fiasco that brought national embarrassment to Davis. As bizarre of a request as it sounds, that tunnel only cost $14,000, these four cost approximately $200,000. Two Davis staffers, the Open Space Manager, and a Public Works engineer, are demanding the two bigger, better, fancier, customized 110-foot-long tunnels paralleling Covell Blvd near Risling Drive, and two more in our Bretton Woods Channel to accommodate critters. Without the details, it doesn’t sound unreasonable on its face.  

To “critter customize” these tunnels will cost each senior home buyer in Bretton Woods somewhere around $600 per home. While not a “princely sum”, it is only one of a dozen unnecessary costs heaped on Bretton Woods by city staff. What does each homebuyer get in return? Absolutely nothing, nada! What do the critters get for the extra cost? Only the staff knows, and they aren’t sharing, just demanding.

Where the critters are coming from or going; no one knows. I requested the staffers produce scientific evidence, or really any evidence, that this costly customization provides any more worthwhile conditions than normal tunnels. Does the staff have evidence that critters will need the customization compared to a standard tunnel? Just like 1995, NO!

Sadly, the unintended consequence of this forced customizing may be more 2019-like flooding of Sutter-Davis Hospital. Has the staff learned anything from the 1995 Toad Tunnel debacle or the flooding of 2019? Judge for yourself.

The two city staffers’ DEMANDS require that the four new drainage tunnels be enlarged beyond their intended size and purpose and customized with adding a new bottom of 6 inches of additional hand-poured concrete, then hand stamped to look and feel like individual cobblestones. Something akin to Old Sacramento streets. Why? Apparently to create a “critter friendly feeling” so that frogs, toads and other critters will be comfortable entering a dark 110 ft long, 4-foot-tall tunnel. Previously, Davis staff added “starlight” custom tunnel lighting to “comfort” the critters. Happily, not this time.  Where are the staff’s data to show what frogs and critters prefer? None provided.

Now there’s another practical problem. After the first rain, the 110 ft long, hand impressed grout fills in with sediment and the expensive hand-stamped cobblestone surface will be no different than the bottom of a normal drainage tunnel. These real-life conditions will continue with each major rainfall. Will the Public Works staff remove the sediment in order to expose their “critter-friendly feeling pattern” and maintain the hand-impressed, customized cobblestone look? You guessed it, NO! So, why then punish Bretton Woods homebuyers with unnecessary costs?

And, like the old TV ads for Ginsu knives, “but wait… the staff has more”. The same two city staffers also DEMAND the addition of an 18-inch wide, hand-made, 110-foot-long, wooden boardwalk roughly half-way up the 4-foot-tall tunnel walls so that critters who are uncomfortable with wet feet, (mice, rats and other rodents), are provided an inviting and comforting passage into the long, dark tunnels. No expense spared, especially since its paid for by the Bretton Woods’ home buyers.

So, what are the obvious and likely consequences of the staff’s boardwalk? By creating a 110-foot-long obstacle along the channel walls, dead tules, weeds, thatch, and other typical debris from the roughly 2 miles of the unmaintained dirt Covell Channel will get entangled in the boardwalk. It was channel clogging in 2019 that contributed to the water flow back-up that eventually flooded Sutter Davis Hospital, Lake Blvd, and part of Covell Blvd. in 2019. That event resulted from the lack of Covell Channel maintenance. The tunnels under Highway 113 were at approximately 65% capacity because excess drainage water couldn’t get through the channel to the 113 tunnels. Covell Channel was backed up and slowed by years of tule, weed growth, and build-up of sediment. Bretton Woods’ lots will be built on raised land above the flood plain and will have their own drainage channel intentionally maintained by the Homeowners Association and NOT City Staff. To see photos of the Covell Channel, go to  

Finally, these same two city staffers took our voluntarily submitted, practical, 8-page engineer/landscaper prepared, common sense, Bretton Woods Channel Maintenance Manual and turned it into a ridiculous 44-page micro-managing theoretical treatise. The amount of irrelevant, redundant, and frankly unnecessary micro-managing is unbelievable. Then, they charged their time for this nonsense to us!  No such manual exists for the city’s Covell Channel nor ANY similar city facility. Believe me when I state that the city staff will fight “tooth and nail” not to have the Bretton Woods maintenance standards apply to them. I will be proposing exactly that to the City Council in the near future. Finally, there are still other items we are appealing that add up to nearly $2 million in unnecessary costs to home buyers. Now that we’re under construction we can have a fair- and open-minded review on these equally unnecessary staff-imposed costs.

To see photos of the city’s current maintenance of the infamous 1995 Toad Tunnel, the flooding of Sutter Davis in 2019, or the Bretton Woods Channel Maintenance Manual go to



Here's the City of Davis response:

City of Davis Statement Re: Bretton Woods Statement
Post Date:August 26, 2022 7:19 pm
The City of Davis issued a statement today regarding the building requirements of the Bretton Woods Development, a project that has already broken ground off Covell Boulevard in North Davis.

On November 4, 2020, the City of Davis Planning Commission approved the Bretton Woods tentative subdivision map during a public hearing and subject to certain conditions of approval. Among those conditions were requirements for specific pathway materials and widths, a wildlife crossing shelf/ledge and natural bottom for a culvert crossing, certain streets in the project to be maintained by the Homeowner’s Association instead of the City, and a requirement to use native plant materials. The area alongside the Covell Boulevard location is a known wildlife corridor, and the wildlife crossing shelf/ledge provides access for the wildlife when there is water in the culvert. Contrary to statements made by the Applicant, conditions for the project do not include a “toad tunnel.”

All of these conditions were considered by the Planning Commission on the night of their final approval with the Applicant in attendance at the meeting. After the Planning Commission’s decision, the Applicant had the opportunity to appeal the project to the City Council, which would have allowed the Applicant the opportunity to contest conditions of approval, but no appeal was made.

Now, in August 2022, the project has broken ground. The applicant recently filed an application for an amendment to modify the project requirements and conditions. City staff is reviewing the developer’s application and will present a report and recommendation to the Planning Commission. It is anticipated that the Planning Commission hearing for this item will occur on October 12, 2022.

Consistent with California law, Councilmembers and Commission members will not be commenting on the pending application, as this matter may come before them in a public hearing.

Karen Cohen

Quit whining. Hurts you? Those involved with the project are making lots of $$ and the potential home owners can well afford this. Think of the environment and the critters for a change.

Colin Walsh

This rant reveals far more about the developers disrespect for wildlife, the city council and city staff than anything else.

When Davis implemented the toad tunnel, it was a visionary new idea to create urban wildlife corridors even if ultimately it was poorly executed (it was a visionary new idea after all, it doesn’t always work out the first time). Since then however the idea has been refined and successfully implemented all over the country. What once seemed strange, is now well within the mainstream.

This developer is stuck in a dark past where you just kill everything in your path and destroy wildlife in one’s quest for money.

What a whiner. Since getting Bretton Wiods approved (something I personally supported) he has thus far:
- Refused to set up the foundation to take care of the trees as he promised in the projects baseline features.
- cancelled contracts with people who wanted to buy the new homes.
- sued the University Retirement Community to cancel the contract for them to develop A memory care unit at Breton Woods.
- tried to cancel the davis base buyer program promised in the election.
- and distributed pamphlets attacking the measure J/R/D law - the very process that lead to approval of his project.

Now the same developer wants approval for another development called Palomino Place?
Does the developer not understand his whiney malcontent anti-environment antics are a turn off?


It sounds like all of this had already been negotiated and sounded off on. Why is it at issue now?

Roberta L. Millstein

Spot on reply, Colin. Then people wonder why some of us are skeptical of developer promises, whether it was the DISC project or the Palomino project. The developers promise anything to get approval from citizens and the City Council, and then our City Council -- as currently constituted -- can't be trusted to hold them to those promises.

That's one reason I am really liking Kelsey as a candidate for District 1 City Council. Carson has allowed developers to have their way, even carried water for them (his lawsuit, his "Honorary Chair" position). Bapu is supported by the same people who supported Carson. Kelsey, on the other hand, saw that DiSC was a bad project for the environment and for Davis and will push for better projects.

Ron O

From article: "The craziest staff imposition requires customizing the new drainage tunnels to make the “World’s Fanciest Frog and Toad Tunnels”, reminiscent of the 1995 famous toad tunnel fiasco that brought national embarrassment to Davis."

I'm not sure how effective it is (regarding actual use), but I don't think it brought "national embarrassment to Davis". In fact, I'd say that the opposite is true.

Someone who fails to understand this probably doesn't understand Davis, itself. There was a sense of pride, even in response to the humor regarding that tunnel.

Of course, the tunnels at Bretton Woods would not be "toad tunnels", per the city's response.

From article: "To “critter customize” these tunnels will cost each senior home buyer in Bretton Woods somewhere around $600 per home."

In general, the cost of a development does not correspond with the sales price charged to home buyers. The broader market determines the actual sales price. If projects cannot bring the sales price that developers want, they simply won't be built (as is starting to happen across the country now, due to the housing downturn).

In the absence of this requirement, for example - is there something in the sales contracts which states that the price would be reduced by $600?

Karen L Baker

The fact that the Toad Tunnel brought Steven Colbert to Davis is hardly a "national embarrassment."

Cry me a river, Mr. Taormino: if the Davis city staff are so unreasonable and onerous perhaps you should go elsewhere to make your millions.

Nancy Price

In regard to Roberta's comment about "promises" above - why on earth do we have to even talk about promises made by developers to get they way on project at any stage of the approval process or after? Maybe the P=process needs to be improved and P=promises are off the table from the start!

Alan C. Miller

Amazingly tone deaf. Does Mr. T not see that his screeds bring attention to him that will turn people off to his future projects? Making it more difficult for not only himself, but all potential developments? Not to mention pissing on the people who give you the permits is a really bad strategy whether you are replacing your backyard shed or building a subdivision.

I'm not against all developers, but how the people of Davis have such short memories that they got hoodwinked into voting for another Mr. T project is beyond me. What did you think was going to happen? Are you all stoopid? Don't answer that.

Alan C. Miller

I heard that David Taramino and Todd Edlemen will be teaming up on a joint proposal for a project that should satisfy everybody. Highway 113 will be capped with a concrete ceiling through Davis. The Hwy. 113 corridor itself will be removed from the City of Davis so that it is outside of the city limits. Bretton Woods will expand onto the cap at no charge, and being outside the City will pay no taxes and be subject to no regulation. The Covell Channel and the Bretton Woods Channel will both be diverted into a natural channel that runs through "Bretton Woods 113" south to the 80/113 interchange where the basin around the Sutter Hospital will drain into South Putah, ending flooding forever. There will be so much land to develop that Mr. T will be cool with this channel and even donate 10,000 cobblestones. A giant green statue of Fletcher will sit behind The Domes, facing the Domes, and blocking the sunset. And as an added bonus, conservative toads traveling from Woodland to Dixon can traverse the 113 channel and travel between those two towns without ever having to besmirch their smooth green hides with liberal Davis warts.

And make Caltrans pay for it!


Well if we go by the comments here it appears that Mr. T's letter has certainly backfired.

Ron O

Keith: I'm not sure it has. I suspect he's "smart enough" to know what the reaction would be on here.

I believe it's more of a "trolling" letter (as some of his others have been), for some indiscernible reason. For all we know, the guy may be an "evil developer genius".


He certainly got his development approved via Measure J - even with subsequently returning the deposits, the questionable "Davis buyer's program", etc.

But I will say that the Davisite has apparently "stolen" the conversation from the Vanguard. Partly due to the "defection" by some, from the Vanguard. Or, as in the case of a couple of commenters over the years - a result of getting "purposefully" kicked off from there - as a result of them becoming disgusted and no longer caring about the ability to comment. Sort of a "loud quitting", if you will.


"as a result of them becoming disgusted and no longer caring about the ability to comment. Sort of a "loud quitting", if you will."

When one now comments on the Vanguard you have to weigh whether the effort is worth it when your comment might never see the light of day. It can be a total waste of your time.

Alan C. Miller

"Well if we go by the comments here it appears that Mr. T's letter has certainly backfired."

I pity the _____.

Alan C. Miller

"When one now comments on the Vanguard you have to weigh whether the effort is worth it when your comment might never see the light of day. It can be a total waste of your time."

I weighed that . . . and loud quitted that joke of a blog. No quiet quitting from Alan C. Miller. Not only do you not know if they are not going to post your comment, the rules are applied inconsistently across time, persons, moods, political-leanings, and you never know if they didn't post your comment or are just selling a lot of succulents that morning. But the one thing you can always count on with the Davis Vanguard in the 2020's: they will never explain why they didn't post a comment even when no commenting policies were violated. I can explain what they can't explain though: they violate their own policies and shut down people they don't like if they are so inclined that day or not or maybe, and have no interest in real conversations when someone but not someone else, has a different political view, maybe today, maybe how one's digestive system is doing - loose or impacted today?

The Davis Vanguard is to free and open political discussions what Dan Carson is to morality on the Davis City Council .

Ron O

From Alan M., above: "Well if we go by the comments here it appears that Mr. T's letter has certainly backfired."

"I pity the _____."

". . . fool who continues to comment on the Vanguard".

(Intended in a self-deprecating manner.)

They are definitely not the "A-Team", when it comes to local political blogs.

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