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Move the Sky Track to Community Park

image from davisite.typepad.comBy Colin Walsh

The Sky Track Saga really saddens me. It seems like every step of the process has been fraught with actions that discredit our community.

From the beginning, this equipment was a problem. Any history of an original proposal to update the playground equipment in Arroyo Park seems murky, and there doesn’t seem to have been a  specific proposal for a zipline like the Sky Track. Worse, no public notice was given to the neighbors. There was no proper approval of seating the equipment on a new playground pad and there was no study of noise impacts on the neighborhood for this equipment which was very different from what had been in the park previously.

The sound impact was terrible on neighboring houses and so, understandably, neighbors complained.

Then the City Manager sent an email to staff identifying a complainant (Janet Krovoza) as the wife of a former mayor. Of course, the complainant did not identify themselves as “wife of a former mayor” and did NOT ask for special treatment. Drawing attention to Janet’s connection to the city suggests the city manager wanted favoritism shown. It was inappropriate for the City Manager to show favoritism like this.

Action was taken; the City added lube to the track and rubber bumpers in attempts to lessen the scraping and clanging noises. It was not enough. Neighbors continued to complain (again, understandably), and the track was locked. Then locked just at night.

Someone tipped off the Sacramento Bee, and the Bee ran a dreadful story attacking Joe and Janet Krovoza, basing claims of nepotism on the City Manager’s email. Never mind that no favoritism has ever been sought, and based on the arduous process since, none given. It just happens that the Krovozas’ house is perhaps the most impacted.

Then it got ugly, and members of the community openly bashed and slandered the Krovozas on social media. NextDoor and Facebook were rife with hateful posts claiming the Krovozas hated children and far worse. The Krovozas would even hear people over their back fence say things to children like, “that’s the house where that horrible woman that hates children lives.” Who teaches their kids to hate like this? What is happening to tolerant and compassionate Davis?

Shockingly, one of the harshest and nastiest social media commenters was appointed to the Recreation and Park Commission where they might oversee next steps for the Sky Track – though they ultimately ended up recusing themselves from a vote on the equipment and resigning from the commission in a huff.

All this time, the city ineptly bumbled with locking and unlocking the equipment. 10s of thousands of dollars of staff time was being spent on the problem. Not only did it not solve the problem, but the staff actions also added fuel to the fire. Locked playground equipment is a sight no one wants to see. Coming to the park and finding the equipment locked is an inherently frustrating situation because locks are so at odds with the sense of childhood play.

Not surprisingly the locking mechanisms have been repeatedly vandalized, likely costing the city tens of thousands to repeatedly replace.

Rather than just move the equipment, the city brought in highly paid noise consultants, further escalating the price tag for this playground equipment. The initial report from the noise consultants misstated the City’s municipal code in an apparent attempt to place the sky track in a legal range. Noise from the Sky Track clearly violates the Davis noise ordinance, and the City now admits this. This is an unbelievable action by staff and the consultant to allow misquoted code to go before a commission and mislead it. How is it that this consultant even still works for the City of Davis?

The fatal flaws in the analysis pointed out, the City staff brought a sizable rewrite of the noise ordinance directly to the City Council without it going to a single commission for review. The rewrite would have dramatically increased allowable noise in the City of Davis. The only notice given to the public was the regular City Council agenda notice. There was no EIR – increase in allowable noise city wide clearly is a major environmental impact and yet there was no public discourse.

Worse, staff put the item on the consent calendar so there would likely be no council discussion on what would have been a significant rewrite of Davis law. The item was pulled from the agenda and vanished down the memory hole. No acknowledgement that what the staff did here was not at all in keeping with the principles of open government.

Why can the City not just admit that it made a mistake and fix the problem?

Now at last, years later, the City is actually looking at moving the zip track. We are now easily over $100,000 in wasted money to get here. But what is proposed? Moving the zip track just a few hundred feet across the park where the expert projections show it is borderline and possibly still violating the noise ordinance. Why not move the zip track somewhere that would be guaranteed to end this saga?

What is the City’s hang up? Why can they not actually solve this problem and fix their mistake?

And that is why the City Council needs to move the Sky Track to Community Park. Community Park is more centrally located in the City, allowing for easier access for more children, and has high density apartments on 2 sides. The park is also surrounded by an earthen berm that would reduce noise for the surrounding neighborhoods. It is also a much larger park allowing for a placement much farther from residences. It really is a very good place for the Sky Track.

I would further add, for those parents who live near the current zip track, this is a great opportunity for you. If your kid loves the zip track, jump on a bike load up the bike cart, power up the EV, grab some scooters or otherwise transport your kids to the Yolo County public library, get some books and visit the Sky Track in Community Park. If your kids love the Sky Track, they may never have been so excited to visit the library.

Please City Council, bring to an end this terrible saga that has led to some of the worst of what Davis has to offer. Move the Sky Track out of Arroyo Park.

 

Comments

Roberta L. Millstein

Great piece, Colin. I have been following the Sky Track Saga since almost the beginning and your chronicle of the City's screw ups is spot on. Indeed it would be best for everyone if the Sky Track were moved to Community Park.

No one should have to live with debilitating noise. I don't want that precedent set.

Donna Lemongello

What a great piece; spot on, great SOLUTION provided, well written summation of the whole mess. I hope they will listen!!!!

Todd Edelman

I would like to see an image of the email by the City Manager.

Who is the Commissioner that resigned?

Curious about the opinions - perhaps varied - of the Krovozas to DISC 2022.

If there's a process to move it to Community Park, there should first be a simulation of how it sounds to various neighbors.

The argument for a central facility is a good one, but there's nothing wrong with having unique features distributed around the community. Davis is NOT small and many will drive anywhere there is free parking. Also if there's a unique facility not in a central location, and that facility is truly appreciated, perhaps funding etc will be sought for a duplicate, etc. You know, just like elementary schools... and Nuggets, and Starbucks and...

How to have a facility like this in a tighter area? Perhaps put it underground or inside a simple building with sound-proofed walls?

In the meantime I-80 is a vicious attack on quietude - I live close and it often makes it unpleasant to sit outside on our small balcony - and there's not a single word from any Councilperson or candidate about quieting it down.

Also - referring to the simulation I mentioned above - how 'bout every time a leafblower is used in town the Councilmember who didn't oppose them, i.e. all of them, has to listen to it? (Nope, nothing from candidates here, either....)

Let's see how much I get mocked by arguing that oppressive sound is violence.
https://diversity.ucdavis.edu/we-reject-violence-all-forms
+
https://www.fceia.unr.edu.ar/acustica/biblio/ac-viol.htm


Janet Krovoza

In response to Todd Edelman's comment, the city could easily have asked the consulting company, AGI, to run the numbers for a multiple of city locations. When we became aware of what the city was asking AGI to do, we strongly urged the city to ask them to also test locations outside of Arroyo Park, e.g. Community Park. The city studiously declined our request. They are fixated on Arroyo Park for clearly political reasons.

Alan C. Miller

I was writing up comments on the Sky Track for Al's Corner and thankfully saw Colin's piece before I was more than a few sentences in. I agree with Colin 100% here -- he made about ten of the same points I was going to make -- including suggesting moving this to Community Park. Another possible location is the very NW corner of the Wildhorse Greenbelt on Covell across from the noisy Kart course -- although that is not a city park and would require permission from the owners. But keeping it in Arroyo Park? Nooooo . . . this will just perpetuate the issue.

The smearing that has been done to the Krovoza's is a shame on Davis that eclipses even the behavior of Councilman Carson over the last few months. Why? Because it is more than one person . . . it represents a "dark underbelly" (stolen) of Davis that appears on social media, in the press and behind backyard fences. And the logic that people use that the Krovozas somehow have privilege and special treatment -- when in fact they have been repeating shat on throughout this issue -- is udderly (yes udderly) ridiculous. If anything it seems like they were purposely targeted (I don't believe that either, but it makes as much sense).

Either way, noise most affects those directly adjacent. No one small group of families should have a noise like this installed behind them and take the brunt of a noise like this on a permanent basis. One thing sound engineers in their scientific-think glory fail to take into account is that some noises are much more annoying than others. The zip track is a horrible grating metallic sound that gets on most people's nerves. A sound meter may show the same reading, but it doesn't take into account the quality of the noise -- and that is very real. I have dealt with this issue with my own ears and with my hearing doctor -- not all sound is perceived by the nervous system in the same way.

Clearly this thing needs to be located as far from residences as possible as an all-city solution. I quite suspect if the proposal was to move the zip track to say Chestnut Park or Central Park the City would say, "we can't do that, it would be too noisy!".

Peter Buggy

What is the political reason/ attraction to Arroyo Park? I clearly don’t get it. Thanks!

Janet Goldsmith

What a clear explanation of the entire sorry history of the Sky Track fiasco. And with the bonus of a suggestion for a solution that could satisfy everyone ! Thank you, Colin, for your clear and sensible contribution to the discussion. I only hope the City decision-makers are listening.

Roberta L. Millstein

Folks, this is on the City Council agenda tonight, so you can write to City Councilmembers at citycouncilmembers@cityofdavis.org to express your views. But do it soon.

Sharla Cheney

It appears to be a popular activity in that park. If it can’t be accommodated somewhere else in that park, then just take it out rather than move it to a different neighborhood. Moving it to a different park just makes it appear that neighbors of other parks in less affluent areas of town would either be more tolerant, less likely to complain, or, worse, have less political power (which is a message that we want to avoid).

I have always supported the Krovoza’s and their neighbors efforts to resolve the issue with the structure, but I wasn’t supportive of the effort to re-write the noise ordinance for the whole City to force the removal of the play equipment from that park.

My family had a noise issue with the park behind my house some years ago. I appealed to the Parks and Rec commission. A solution was found that removed the activity from near my fence line to another location in the park and I was satisfied.

Ron O

Reading this late, but it seems to me that a decision should NOT be made tonight, especially regarding any relocation within Arroyo park.

What a fiasco. And what's with some of the people in Davis, in regard to what's apparently been stated on social media? Sounds worse than the Vanguard comment section (or what's left of it).

I don't know - Davis used to seem "friendlier" to me, than it is now. And I don't think it's just "me" who has changed.

Alan C. Miller

Wow . . . it goes even deeper! For those of you who haven't, be sure to find a copy (or get it published here) of Krovoza's email from today. He straight up accuses staff of violating state contract law, with emails to back it up. Yow!

S.C. - the rewriting of the noise ordinance was proposed by the City to allow them to KEEP the zip track where it is, not the other way around!

Sharla Cheney

A.M. - From what I read, there was disagreement with the City’s interpretation of the existing ordinance as applied to the Sky Trak and Krovoza wrote an article urging for a change to the ordinance.

Karen L Baker

What is really infuriating about this entire debacle (good summation, Colin)is that thousands of dollars were spent with no thought to the outcome(extreme noise). These are the dollars that could have gone to fixing the sections of the unsafe bike path on 5th St.

What irritates me the most is the lack of due diligence by the city: as I recall, a Sky Trak employee told the Davis Enterprise that the company had quieter versions of zip lines but the city never bothered to look into those models. It's almost like the Mace Mess on a smaller scale. Anyone else seeing a pattern here? Perhaps it's time for some new and more competent folks on our City Council.....

Sharla Cheney

It has been voted on. The Sky Track will move 300 feet away from the fence line into the middle of the park. What is not noted in the article above is that over 600 families in West Davis responded to a petition and wanted to keep it in the park. The new location will be as far away from homes as any location in Community Park might have been. I hope this resolves the Krovoza’s problem, because they are clearly suffering with the current placement.

Alan C. Miller

S.C.: "From what I read, there was disagreement with the City’s interpretation of the existing ordinance as applied to the Sky Trak and Krovoza wrote an article urging for a change to the ordinance."

Maybe we are getting lost in semantics. I'll let the Krovoza's clear it up. The fact is the ordinance is poorly written and open to interpretation (which the Councilmembers, staff and City attorney did in spades tonight, all the while declaring "I'm not a sound expert").

Tonight's meeting was beyond sad. It was beyond disgusting. It was sadsgusting. G.P. almost made an opening for another Councilmember to jump in and suggest a move to Community Park. But Carson was stroking his microphone as G.P. was concluding, cocked ready to bend it erect and mouthward in order to speak before another councilmember could weigh in support of G.P.'s tiny Community Park suggestion window. With W.A.'s jumping on the Carsonwagon, the Arroyo relocation was zipped into place.

From what was stated this afternoon, my read is this isn't over and that situation gets REALLY ugly.

Roberta L. Millstein

Carson must figure that moving the Sky Track out of Arroyo Park would be bad for his election chances. The rest of the city be damned. Yay district elections.

Colin Walsh

Last night the City Council "reinterpreted" the noise ordinance changing the meaning of the word "Maximum" to average in order to claim the Sky Track was in compliance with the Noise ordinance and could be moved only 300 feet but still be in Aroyo Park.

Think about that an average taken over an hour means someone can come right up to your property line, bang pots and pans and blow horns like they want to bring down the walls of Jerricho and as long as they only do it in short bursts they will be in compliance with the new interpritation of the City noise ordinance.

The Council “reinterpreted the noise ordinance for the entire City in order to keep a piece of playground equipment in the park.

Is it legal? You may ask. Well we will only know if someone is willing to take on the massive expense of suing the City to put the matter before a judge.

Further, the City is paying over $100,000 to move the equipment about 300 feet. You would think if the City is going to spend that kind of money, they would =make sure what they are doing is legal.

In the words of the consultants advising the City Council the Davis Noise Ordinance has “unfortunate wording.” Meaning the noise ordinance does not allow what the consultant wants it to allow.

It was another sad display of the City Council with Council Members showing little interest in a real inquiry into the matter and Dan Carson rushing to make a motion before all of the council members even had a chance to discuss the issue.

I doubt this is the end of this sad Saga.

Janet Krovoza

According to the Lmax figures (the ones the city tried to keep from us) from AGI, we will still hear plenty of noise in its new location -- they estimate as high as 55.9 dBA but it could go much higher depending on who is using it. It's not like the more or less steady sound of a dishwasher or washing machine - the noise the Sky Track makes has at least a 5 dBA range between the scraping noise and the clanging noise - and completely depends on the velocity and weight of the person who is swinging on it, or who is being flung by an energetic dad. (I've measured as high as 66 dBA.) Even buying into their conceit that the "real" limit is an AVERAGE (completely papering over the loud clanging at either end), they are predicting noise as loud as 49.5 dBA, a mere .5 dBA from the nighttime limit of 50 dBA. It's obvious that it will take no work at all to get it above 50 dBA, especially at night when the ambient noise is low and sound travels better, so basically they are saying on one hand they need to move it because where it is now requires locking and unlocking and invites vandalism to on the other hand a new spot 50 yards away where it will also need to be locked and unlocked and invite vandalism. Sheer lunacy.

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