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 www.fletcherthefrog.com
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 www.fletcherthefrog.com