Entries categorized "Environment"

Notice of Preparation (NOP) for so-called “Shriners Property Project”

Location of proposed project

Window opens for citizen input on the scope of the environmental analysis

By Roberta Millstein

Another step has been taken for a proposed housing project to the east of Wildhorse, near the Mace Curve, using the misleading name “Shriners Property Project” (misleading because the project has no current connection to the Shriners).  The site is approximately 232 acres and is currently being farmed.  The developers are proposing a 1,200-unit residential community.

Because the land is zoned for agriculture and is outside of the current City limits, it will eventually be subject to a Measure J/R/D vote of Davis’s citizens.  But first, it must undergo environmental review to produce an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and before that happens, the scope of the review must be decided on. That’s the stage we’re at now – the comment period for citizens and groups to give input on the scope and content of the environmental information to be obtained opened on July 12 and will continue through August 12.  

Further details of the project and the scope of review can be found here:

Continue reading "Notice of Preparation (NOP) for so-called “Shriners Property Project”" »


Ten Ways to Get the Yolo CAAP Back on Track

By Juliette Beck, Yolo climate justice advocate

Yolo County recently reduced their draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) - potentially the most important document to guide Yolo County residents, businesses, farmers and decision-makers in our collective response to climate breakdown. 

As a member of the Yolo Climate Emergency Coalition that set this planning process in motion, I commend the hard work and thoughtfulness of hundreds of people that contributed their energy, time, thoughts, ideas and hopes. Our goal was - and still  is - to mobilize a Just Transition to an ecological, equitable, resilient county. 

The draft plan offers a number of important and valuable actions, but the county’s consultants - Dudek - fail to chart the just transition strategies needed to avert catastrophic climate change and the accelerating impacts.

Add your response to the draft CAAP by July 10 through the comment portal at yolocaap.org. Here are some recommended changes:

Continue reading "Ten Ways to Get the Yolo CAAP Back on Track" »


Dangerous Depot

Depot1
The 30% Design (excerpt)

 

Necessary ADA improvements at Davis Train Station are complicated by toxic over-promise of shared infrastructure.

Facilities essential to support modern train-bike multi-modal travel a vague promise.

City Council plans to sign an MOU with Amtrak at their meeting today; a update of the “30% design” for station modifications will also be presented. 

Starting in around 2012 the City of Davis - in cooperation or partnership with Amtrak and Capitol Corridor - began to attempt improvements for multi-modal access to the Southern Pacific Railway Depot, aka. Davis Depot, Davis Amtrak etc. In 2018-2020 this continued with an outreach program to determine desires and consider possibilities. (There are some bad links there, here is the Final Study). In subsequent years and through the present day Amtrak and Union Pacific made the City aware of a national program to ensure that Amtrak stations are ADA-compliant.

I fully support the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related ideas in mobility equity, and have actively done so for a long time. I applied the general principles to a train station optimization concept I worked on when I lived in Prague nearly 20 years ago, and - back in the USA in the past ten years for a water shuttle in the Estuary between Alameda and Oakland, and in Davis in regards to continued lack of a sidewalk from Old East Davis east of L and more acutely as an overgrown lot forced people to walk on 2nd Street. 

 

Depot1a

Unfortunately, however, the absolutely late and totally necessary ADA improvements also planned for Davis Depot, while ostensibly improving the lot for people with mobility challenges will likely create not continual yet repeating complications for these users and people who use bikes or walk.

And it’s all completely unnecessary. 

While safe infrastructure for everyone moving not by private vehicle is a necessary entitlement, there’s only a Federal law for people with mobility challenges, not - yet - for people riding bikes. So while I will focus on what I now am coining as TOPoS - toxic over-promise of shared infrastructure - I will also highlight the lowlights of barely vaguely planned bicycle facilities at the train station. 

 

TOPoS

One doesn’t have to spend a long time on NextDoor forums focused on Davis to see a most often justified call for people to “slow down on Greenbelts” when riding bikes, and especially e-bikes and e-scooters. It’s anti-social when people do this, but what do we expect? Enforcement will never solve this, and technology fixes such as used on parts of UCD campus for shared micromobility devices don’t work with private micromobility devices, and may not for a very long time. The Greenbelt paths are in many parts of town the only active transportation (and dog walking etc.) corridors free from motor vehicles. While it’s an advantage that some go above or below arterial streets, I believe the actual physical and sound distance from motor vehicles that’s the biggest plus. Bike lanes do not provide this, slip lanes (free right turns) are especially good at encouraging people to take Greenbelt paths… to the detriment of other users.

I formally considered that the Greenbelt paths are underbuilt - i.e. too narrow, in too many cases with unnecessary bollards at egress points to the street grid and some bad sightlines, too - but increasing width where possible may only serve to increase the velocity of users. 

Please note that many are called “bike paths” when - technically-speaking - they are multi-use paths. More on that in a moment….

Our current Class II bike lanes on most arteries are often not enough for side-by-side riding, an insult and more when many arteries have two lanes in the same direction.

What’s necessary is protected bike lanes - cycleways - on major arterial streets, optimized for the two general cruising speeds of their users - slower bikes and some e-scooters & faster bikes and e-bikes and some e-scooters… approximately 13 mph and 20-23 mph. They need to be wide enough to permit someone a faster device to pass two riding side-by-side going slower. That’s a necessary way to get more people to cycle in Davis and do it safety. This won’t happen if we ask people on e-bikes that travel at 20 mph without much effort to be nice, etc, or some “bike lanes for everyone” campaign. 

So, how does TOPoS relate to ADA-compliance at Davis Depot?

Well, we’re not at the train station just yet….

 

Depot2
From my 2007 Concept for Prague's Main Train Station


The Davis Wall 

While developers etc name many things (proposed) in Davis somewhat to fully-fictionally - e.g. “Village Farms” - not village and ex-farms, Oaktree Plaza - removed oak trees - “Village Homes” - sorry to go anti-sacred cow but where’s the cobbler?,  “Palomino Place”  - lack of horses, you know, like Wildhorse, ‘North Davis Creek” - like it as a wild feature but not as a development, whose creators seem to have created that name… what about the huge barrier to cycling and mobility device use running east-west across the lower third of Davis?

Every existing grade-separated crossing of I-80 and/or the railroad tracks has approximately an 6.5% to 8%. The exception is the section of  the Putah Creek Parkway multi-user path going under the train tracks and up to the Arboretum.. The section going up from under I-80 to Research Park Drive is steep too, but fortunately short.

The new section of the multi-user path that’s part of the 80-Richards interchange project and which goes under its new ramps will have a 4.2% gradient. This is a standard design practice for multi-use paths, though some go to 5%. To be ADA-compliant everything above 5% needs railings and repeating short sections of max 2% gradient.  Thus, the existing over-crossings on Pole Line and even the Dave Pelz bridge are not compliant. The new over-crossing of SR-113 in Woodland is 5% or less

The planned campus side of the Promenade over-crossing will be 4.2%, but the project side - the City side - will be 8%.  

Why 8%? Because there’s apparently no space for a longer route on the project side. Why 8%? Because the full City Council brought what was then generally known as “Nishi 2.0” forward to a citywide vote without an agreement with Union Pacific that there would be an undercrossing (that would be under 5%). Why 8%? Because pro-Nishi 2.0 materials showed a visual of an undercrossing, whereas the actual text of the development agreement said “grade-separated crossing”. It was a con-job, and so sloppy and apparently embarrassing that it was not officially-revealed by the City until May 2023 that Union Pacific officially-rejected the undercrossing proposal that the developer and partners made in the fall of 2018, a few months after the Nishi 2.0 vote. The gradient is so unusable that City staff agreed months ago that likely nearly everyone traveling by foot, mobility device or bike from Promenade towards campus (and Downtown) will use the existing under-crossing mentioned above on the Putah Creek Parkway. (A proposed mitigation of the I-80 “Improvement Project” is a widening of the multi-user path along the Downtown side of the Arboretum, but the undercrossing (tunnel) will not be widened, so it will remain a pinch point.) 

The 'Davis Wall" is nor necessarily above-grade. It's a barrier caused by both infrastructure and institutions. Minor walls in Davis could also include the H St "Bike Tunnel" towards F St, or a lack of active transportation crossings of SR-113 - even though they are at-grade and level - or even the noise produced by all road infrastructure

 

Are we almost at the train station?

Going back around ten years, the City performed an audit and outreach process related to walking and cycling access to schools in the City. Amongst other things, it correctly and wisely revealed that children living on East Olive Drive had a huge barrier to get to Montgomery Elementary, closest as the bird flies (and to other schools such as Peregrine or in East Davis, etc).

The solution was a ramp from the east end of Olive Drive to Pole Line, thus forming an aggregate multi-path towards Montgomery heading down and under Pole Line, under Cowell Blvd, past Playfields Park, etc.

The ramp had to get up to Pole Line BUT also leave room for the Olive Drive off-ramp from WB I-80 to remain open. To be clear, the latter was not stated at the time, not when it was finally decided by Caltrans to close the exit - though it’s not yet structurally-closed: This may be an innocent contingency in case there’s a complication in construction of 80-Richards, or Caltrans may decide to change its mind.

The resulting ramp is ADA-compliant, no more than 8%. As mentioned above, everything else in the region and beyond - I scoured recent, relevant recipient designs from the Active Transportation Program, a Federally-funded program administered by the State of California and provider of most of the funding for the Olive-Pole Line connector - is 5% or less. 

From my unfortunately non-conclusive research on the issue, I provisionally-conclude that it was never, ever the intention of ADA to result in 8% ramps that are about 400 long and shared with people on bikes. The gradient and length creates multiple issues:

  • It’s difficult to control speed whilst heading down on a bike, and above 12 mph or so the ADA-required undulations cause a bike and its human to nearly jump. 
  • The relative lack of width combined with mentioned speed doing down makes collisions between users going in opposite directions a possibility.
  • The gradient makes it difficult for people on non-e-bikes to travel up; this is made worse by the undulations which make it hard to get any kind of rhythm IF one can muster the strength and stamina. 

It’s not really good for anyone except for people on e-bikes, and more or less impossible for e.g. parents taking children to school with non-electric cargo bikes. This is the epitome of non-equitable infrastructure, especially in a “family”, “bike” etc etc. Davis. 

(Why did this happen? I will take part of the blame, as I was on the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission at the time. But I am not a licensed etc. traffic engineer. The licensed etc. traffic engineering firm that designed it didn’t say a thing… the licensed etc traffic engineer for the City of Davis… didn’t exist at the time. There was no senior-level traffic engineer in Davis from 2017 until 2022.  I also think that the funder should have noticed these technical issues, and returned the grant application for revisions.)

Please think about these issues when you observe people using the Connector - How many people get off their bikes to go up? How many are actually using it at all?

 

Station Access from Olive

It’s worth noting that the approval for what was then called Lincoln40 and is now Ryder Apartments included both a below-Street Standards width for the newly-built sidewalk on the project side of Olive as well as a hard “no” to bring the bike lane up to the Street Standards minimum, and the same for the bike lane on the south side of the street. This would have resulted in less land for the Apartments. 

(As part of the promised closure of the on-ramp, there’s been some vague promise of a shared street concept for Olive. It’s also worth noting that the bike lane-ish space on most of the EB side, east of In & Out has cars parked in it. Staff has refused to change it and the police have not enforced a thing).

The easement on the west end of Ryder - is it too short to allow for a 5% grade from the sidewalk at Olive Dr to the underpassage? It’s not clear: The 30% seems to show a path that’s two-thirds 8% grade closer to the station and then level in its remaining third to Olive. The original concept back during the Lincoln40 approval process had some kind of corkscrew-based overcrossing. A better approach - well, from Pole Line - would have been a long ramp with a mild gradient situated in what’s now the back of the Ryder property, circling to the undercrossing. Sigh. I think a good traffic engineer could have identified it as a partial solution. 

 

OK, we’re finally at the train station!

Lack of Specific Design Experience?

WSP - designing the station improvement for Amtrak -  is a huge, multinational engineering firm with a massive portfolio even just in the train station/mobility hub sub-sector, with many prominent examples that will facilitate the expansion of sustainable mobility across the country and beyond.  That’s not up for debate. 

Based on a short discussion with its engineers present at the outreach event earlier this year, they’ve worked with Amtrak on many ADA-improvement projects. That’s great. 

What I don’t see on their website is a lot of… bikes. Cycling is just one part of a robust sustainable mobility program, but I just don’t see any highlighted examples for cycling infrastructure nor for ADA infrastructure for train station access combined with cycling infrastructure not necessarily focused on train station access. I am happy if I am in error about this… but the bottom line perhaps is that I don’t see any evidence of an earlier or under-construction WSP project relevant to our specific needs in Davis. 

I’ve not had time to research it in detail, but I don’t think Amtrak has a coherent, strategic plan for bicycle and rail multi-modality. (Again, prove me wrong!). If there’s not much there, then it’s fair to assume that WSP didn’t have a lot of direction on the matter. 

If no one cycled in Davis, and everyone arrived at Davis Depot by car or bus and walked or went by mobility device etc to the platforms, things would be okay. (As the entire station is not being rebuilt - this could include a large plaza with a very, very gradual gradient leading to bicycle parking and above that the platforms accessed by escalator or elevator - things would be amazing. This is basically the template for new or rebuilt train stations in the Netherlands. )

But okay is good. Great would be a 100% elevator path option for people in mobility devices from both sides of the station; the current plan only has an elevator between the underpassage and the new center platform. The “okay” is ADA-compliant, and for this and other reasons if I was only walking to the train I would not mind that it takes more time than in the current design (rail services will have shorter delays while approaching the station that might make up for that). 

But not everyone who is arriving at Davis Depot is coming by car or bus and foot and mobility device etc, and many people traveling this way in both directions - from Downtown or Olive Dr, South Davis, Promenade - are not going to or from the trains at all.

Their 30% Davis Depot design, however and sadly, builds upon the TOPoS qualities of the Olive to Pole Line Connector. It contains:

  • An undulating ramp on both sides of the station. 
  • A bicycle wheel gutter on the wide, expressive stairs. (This solution should only be used to retrofit existing stairs, not in new builds. The best underground bike parking facilities have very long ramps which are sometimes cycleable; platforms are accessed as mentioned above in the Dutch example.)
  • In addition, the overall design contains:
  • No hint of bicycle parking on the Olive Dr side of the station
  • Only some kind of vague mention of bike parking on the Downtown side, and nothing for large, cargo bikes, or the more expensive e-cargo bikes. (Imagine if SUV’s couldn’t be parked at the station). 
  • No provision for eventually connecting toward J St (this would enable people walking or cycling from the east to avoid any freight train blockages and in aggregate with the crossing to Olive Dr would make illegal encroachment of the track areas less likely)
    No provision for eventually connecting under H St, and even to a below-grade entrance of the new apartment building in the old Ace home furnishings space).
  • Too much regret at “losing” car parking in a City that is supposed to prioritize active transportation. We’re not yet called Not the Car Parking Capital of the USA for nothing. 

 

Here are some scenarios to illustrate the issues, with approaches from all directions and origins:

A family from South Davis heads toward the train: an adult with two kids in a fancy e-cargo bike - manages the climb up Pole Line but struggles on the way down the Connector, fortunately mostly without any other traffic. After heading down Olive they make a more than hard right onto the ramp which has a similar gradient to the Connector. They share the ramp - train departure is approaching -  with a few people walking at one speed, a single person in a motorized mobility device going a bit faster and some people on bikes originating in Downtown headed towards Olive Dr from the opposite direction. They reach the Downtown side. The kids get out of the bike and the adult pushes the heavy bike up the long steep ramp. They walk to the short-term design bike parking (Varsity racks etc which are currently used), lock their bike, walking down the stairs, walk up the ramp to the platform. When they return to Davis Depot at the end of the day the bike is, quite obviously, not there. (Option is that what’s not there is a fancy adaptive bike). 

An individual who uses a manual mobility device comes from South Davis by car via Richards Blvd. They are slowed by congestion in the Richards Tunnel, park in an ADA space and then take the ramp to the underpassage and attempt to take the elevator to the platform. The elevator is not working, so they have to take the ramp. They barely make the train. 

Two UCD students who live in South Davis travel by bike from Downtown. They’ve had a beer each, are only a bit tipsy, below the legal limit. They head down the undulating ramp, perhaps a bit too fast, but it’s steep. They don’t notice that the train has just arrived.  At the hairpin turn, one loses traction but recovers a bit just before nearly slamming into someone with a guide dog who lives on Olive Drive, headed Downtown.  The other stops at the bottom just as people from the arriving trains start arriving at the bottom of the ramp. 

A Ryder resident who uses a motorized mobility device exits their building via the west entrance, and has to immediately head to the left, using the sidewalk, turning right onto the sidewalk on Olive and then over to the ramp. Not direct and a waste of time. 

These are all worst-case scenarios, and certainly more likely when there’s a concurrence of uses: People going to or from trains, people headed to or from Olive Dr with no train objective… and multiple user types: walking, mobility device, slow bike, fast bike, heavy bike etc.). It won’t be like this all day; it might be like this at peaks. It cannot be made un-toxic with enforcement, signage or slogans. It makes the Depot more dangerous than it should be. 

Language, language: Note that the 30% design shows a “bike/ped easement” and a “bike-ped connection” for what’s formally a multi-use path that’s optimized for people using mobility devices, ideally without the presence of people moving faster than them. 

 

Depot3
From my Concept for Davis Depot

Solutions?

I sent in comments and a design concept to the BTSSC in advance of their April 13, 2023 meeting that’s referenced in the Staff Report for tonight’s meeting. That meeting was not recorded. I saw no reference to my design or comments in the minutes and Commissioner comments apparently focused only on the underpass or overpass options, nothing about gradients, shared use, bike parking etc. 

Following the outreach events earlier this year - which were quite informal and according to tonight’s Staff Report again focused only on over- or under- I drew up a more detailed concept for modifications, and discussed this in person with City of Davis Staff in March of this year. I’ve developed a bit further, so here goes nuthin’....

The main strategic elements are:

  • Separate users on the most problematic sections of the project area.
  • Create a more direct path for target users using mobility devices covered by ADA.
  • Reduce unnecessary transits through the station whilst maintaining a desire to use active transportation through and to/from the station.
  • Reduce unnecessary visits to the platform by people meeting arriving passengers. 
  • Reduce unnecessary transits by motor vehicle through the Richards tunnel
  • Plan for likely significant demand from residents of Promenade, only one intersection and a short, mostly level ride away. 
  • Amend formal agreements as necessary related to provision of private vehicle parking at Davis Depot, and negotiate use of part of the parking at Ryder.

The main implementation elements are:

  • Creating a continuous elevator choice for people with mobility devices covered by ADA. This will mean two more elevators: One on the plaza side and on the Olive Dr side.
  • Implement a 4.2% (ideal) or max. 5% grade max path on the Downtown (plaza) side prioritized for people on bikes, but as backup in case the plaza-to-underpassage elevator is out of service. It should include markings etc to maintain safety within the parking lot. 
  • Implement a 5% grade max path on the Olive Dr side, prioritized for people on bikes. (If the space is too short within the current easement, either extend the easement into Olive Dr or add length within (below the parking lot grade), or add a second back up elevator)
  • Create an ADA-compliant path directly from the west egress of Ryder Apartments to the Olive Dr side elevator. 
  • Create an inviting seating area oriented towards the elevator and stairs on the plaza side, so that arriving passengers - not heading to their cars - will know exactly where to meet. Include cover for shade and inclement weather, and space for e.g. a small food cart or two. 
  • Implement ADA-only parking on the existing Ryder lot (so people don’t have to drive through the Richards tunnel.)
  • Design under passages on plaza side to facilitate further phase under passages towards J St and G St. 

 

Bicycle parking: 

Strategy: Create an equal level of bicycle parking security for all train passengers, whether for all-day or overnight,

Implementation:

  • A small amount of short-term parking, e.g. for people doing station business or waiting for arrivals. 
  • Group-room based parking based on technology and structures used by BikeLink (operator of the current bike lockers) at BART stations such as Ashby and Embarcadero. Include space for bikes of all reasonable sizes. These parking rooms will be expandable: They will have a fixed portal area but can be extended by addition of glass and metal as demand warrants: 
  • The plaza side group room will be located close to the elevator. 
  • The Olive Dr side group room will be built over the under-passage, with access from the Ryder parking lot (note that many private properties in Davis allow transit between the local street grid and e.g. Greenbelt paths). Build close to the elevator: People who use the bike parking, Ryder residents and mobility device users will be encouraged to use the elevator. 
  • Relocate short term parking racks to Downtown or other needed areas.
  • Relocate/sell e-lockers to local or regional Park(Bike)& Ride facilities. 

Note on passive and other communication about likely under passage congestion: Users transiting the under passage will learn that if there’s no train on the platform or approaching it, there’s less likely to be users just getting off the train. While signage as a solution will not likely not be effective, it might be useful to consider some kind of active sign, e.g. a pictogram of a train etc, that is lit up during the a specific period of time, e.g. 5 minutes before every train departs and 3 to 5 min after it leaves. This may help normally better behaving people be more aware of possible issues. 

Staff told me that the ideas for bike parking on the Olive Dr side of the station were appreciated and they promised to ask some questions about gradients on the Olive side. They said they would look into a design that would allow for further undercrossings towards J St and under H St. 

In early April I corresponded about the issue with staff from Capitol Corridor. It was made clear to me that ADA-access was Amtrak’s priority, not cycling, and that funding could not be used for improving cycling, at least not as a priority of the project, but that further cooperation was possible between all the partner

My response at this juncture - which I hope I have made clear by now - is that if the station and approaches do not respect the true and equitable limits of shared space, barrier will remain for the user of mobility devices, and for ADA compliance. A lack of optimization in this area will also improve bike & rail multi-modality less than it could, and will improve conditions for cycling and walking in Davis less than it could.


Sierra Club Hosts Summer Potluck and Wetlands Talk

Image 573(From press release) Join the Sierra Club and YoloSol Collective on Wednesday, June 26 for a summer potluck and panel presentation on “Restoring Cache Creek Wetlands.”

For this free, public event, we are pleased to welcome Native Californian cultural practitioner Diana Almendariz, Cache Creek conservationist Jim Barrett, and UC Davis entomologist Geoffrey Attardo in a discussion of how the lower Cache Creek’s watershed ecosystem functioned in the past before agriculture and mining changed its current condition. Panelists will share their ideas for a restorative, climate-resilient future for the creek and its plant and animal wildlife.

Almendariz is a naturalist, educator and practitioner of Maidu/Wintun, Hupa/Yurok culture, heritage and experiences. Following the teachings of renowned Wintun basket weaver and culture bearer Bertha Mitchell (1936-2018), Almendariz has been working for more than twenty years to bring to life a Tending and Gathering Garden in a reclaimed mining pit at the Cache Creek Nature Preserve.  She is a frequent lecturer at UC Davis, Sacramento State, museums and nature centers. She leads workshops on cultural burning on place-based traditional ecological knowledge.

Jim Barrett, a retired physician, conservationist and proud grandfather, has lived alongside lower Cache Creek near the home of Yolo County settler pioneer William Gordon for 24 years. As a board member of Cache Creek Conservancy and the Sierra Club Yolano Group, he envisions a role for reclaimed gravel mines in the restoration of lower Cache Creek.

Geoff Attardo, Associate Professor of Entomology at UC Davis, is passionate about mosquitos, marshes, and teaching science.  He specializes in the study of arthropod disease vector biology and the role of bio-diverse ecosystems in public and environmental health. Geoff is currently partnering with Almendariz on a project to demonstrate the benefits of traditional tule and cattail wetlands management.

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Oh Do *@#$%& Off, Greenwald (regarding building on a conservation-forever easment specifically, but also in general)

City-promised-to-protect-a-strip-of-land-along-a-creeCome on Greenwald.  Seriously?

When people fought decades ago to save land from development, forever, do you believe what they were really fighting for was to save the land from development 'forever, or until there was pressure to build housing, whichever comes first' ?

Continue reading "Oh Do *@#$%& Off, Greenwald (regarding building on a conservation-forever easment specifically, but also in general)" »


Sierra Club and Environmental Council of Sacramento Sue Caltrans over Environmental Deficiencies of Yolo I-80 Freeway Widening Project

I-80 Widening Logo
(From press release) On May 29, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) filed a lawsuit against Caltrans alleging legally inadequate environmental analysis of the I-80 freeway widening project through Yolo County.

The lawsuit’s goal is to stop Caltrans from widening 17 miles of the I-80 freeway from six to eight lanes between Davis and Sacramento through the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area until Caltrans conducts a valid analysis of adverse environmental impacts threatened by the project and implements appropriate mitigation for these harmful effects.

Caltrans’ Environmental Impact Report (EIR) grossly underestimates increased vehicular travel, which would emit far larger quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) and air pollutants than claimed. The EIR fails to consider viable alternatives, such as increased public transit or alternate tolling strategies. Therefore, the project neither adequately manages demand nor produces adequate revenue to fund needed transit alternatives. Also, Caltrans’ proposed mitigation is woefully inadequate to offset the resulting increased GHG and air pollutant emissions.

Caltrans violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to acknowledge that freeway widenings do not produce less congestion but, in fact, result in increased traffic -- leading to worse congestion and pollution - due to “Induced Demand”.

Continue reading "Sierra Club and Environmental Council of Sacramento Sue Caltrans over Environmental Deficiencies of Yolo I-80 Freeway Widening Project " »


Get a Front Row Seat to the Green Revolution Taking Place in Yolo County

Tuesday 5/28 - This Yolo County Climate Action Commission Meeting is a must-see - 4:00 to 6:30 pm

BigShift

By Scott Steward

Big plans. The Commission (and UCD) turn plans into implementation. Big dollars are going to be spent (UCD plans on spending $58M a year for the next 17 years), and if you are an EV enthusiast, a water protector, a Green House Gas Reduction professional, activist or a professional activist - at least get the meeting agenda notes to read if you can’t attend - 4:00-6:30 on Tuesday, May 28th.

As many of our regular Council meeting attendees know, these are necessarily procedural meetings. This is just a courtesy to new attendees: the meeting has Zoom access, and brief constructive comments are encouraged.

Item 5a: Request for Proposal for the County’s conversion to a ZEV fleet - Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Action Plan RFP Release

Item 6. Kristin Sicke,  Executive Officer of Yolo Subbasin Groundwater Agency, will deliver a report on the Agency’s status and progress toward rational regulation of water in the area.   You might recall the Davisite.org OPED about our county’s water situation.  We are now at a point where well permits are allowed, and for the interim, the Groundwater Agency has not finished its methodology for sustaining water levels in the area.  

The big worry is that in the “study area” (Capay Valley and North and other areas), farmers and residents are experiencing sustained drops in water levels and have given much of their time to tell the County about it.  Drops associated with existing wells, even after these last 3 average/wet years.

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Transparency is Part of Inclusivity & Diversity

YoloTD cac false equity 1

What message will the CTC send Thursday?

By Alan Hirsch

Letter to California Transportation Commission [email protected]

Chair Carl Guardino and Members,

CC  CTC Equity Committee  Chair William Walker

Re: Disagreeing Better on Transportation Projects

 

Mr. Guardino:

 

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say:

    “You are entitled to your own opinions. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

The California Public Records Act (and the Brown Act) were designed so we work from the same facts---that there is sharing of information - so in dialog agencies don’t strategically withhold information to put electeds official as well as the public at an unfair disadvantage in reviewing projects.

Transparency is Inclusivity.

However, I want to bring to your attention a situation where Caltrans seems to be strategically withholding information from the public on a $1/2 billion project.

In June 2023 the CTC staff report recommended NOT to fund Yolo80 toll lanes out of TCEP funds, rating it medium priority. In that staff report CTC staff rated Yolo80 31st out of 48 projects.   Caltrans rated Yolo80 last in priority (24th) out of 24 of their projects. (extract from June 2023 staff report attached)

This of course raises question why it is now rated a priority for advance funding. In the CTC discussion on 5/16. Would not you and other commissions like to know? 

In fact 11 months ago, I tried to find out.

Continue reading "Transparency is Part of Inclusivity & Diversity" »


Yolo officials like Diversity & Inclusion-- except when big money is Involved

YoloTD cac false equity
By Alan Hirsch

DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) is given lot of lip service in progressive circles in Yolo County. But it can turn performative - especial if those in power have already made up their mind on a solution and don’t want to be contradicted- i.e. surface and take in to account diverse opinions.

That is what has been at play for Yolo County on Yolo80 widening with local electeds having made up their mind 3 years ago to add toll lanes to a 17 mile stretch of I-80.  After that they have worked to turn the legally required public process into a  check the box exercise, excluding diverse view point from being considered-- even when the diverse  viewpoints are backed by top transportation experts from UC Davis.

We are now at the end-stage where Davis Mayor/Yolo Transportation District Chair Josh Chapman is overtly discouraging public participation: he said openly it don’t matter what members of Davis public think -- hiding the fact the project is not yet fully funded and public input to the California Transportation Commission (CTC) can still make a difference.

This DEI hypocrisy in Yolo County will continue unless people call out the hypocrisy. The  public can be heard at the CTC’s Equity Committee meeting Wednesday. It is especially focused on this behavior like this by  in local transportation jurisdictions.

Emails are needed to the “CTC-EAC” (California Transportation Commission- Equity Advisory Committee) to note the performative nature of Yolo80 Environmental process (Caltrans District 3 and YoloTD) – and also to oppose funding the new toll lanes  until the process is made truly diverse and inclusive in the search for a solution.

Write to  [email protected]   Subject: Equity and: Funding widening Yolo80 with Toll Lanes.

Issues to note to the Equity Committee: (cut and paste into email?)

 

Continue reading "Yolo officials like Diversity & Inclusion-- except when big money is Involved" »


Final I-80 EIR released - an embarrassment of errors that sets up Caltrans for Legal challenge

I-80- causeway narrower lane cross section
By Alan Hirsch

On Wednesday May 1, the 1971 page (plus 345-page appendix)- final EIR for yolo80 was released. The 139 comments take up nearly 71% of the pages.   – 108 of the 139 were from individuals, not government agencies, cities or  environment groups with paid staff.  This highlights the  fact this science-defying proposal from Caltrans has become “the most controversial freeway project in the state.” 

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 NOTE: The last chance to comment on the funding will be at California Transportation Commission Meeting Thursday May 16, By Tuesday send any comments. (esp inadequately funded mitigation plan, induced demand negates any congestion relief, no environmental justice plan for tolls)
to [email protected]
Subject: Widening I-80 with a Expensive Toll lane.
Pro-Tip: use 14 or 16 pt font for short email.

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The EIR concluded that despite the widening the freeway will generate 158M more miles of driving (VMT) a year...equal to adding over 11,000 more cars to the road and should be built based on “Statement of  Overriding concern” as it has benefit to reducing congestion- Even  though everyone agree this is wrong as congestion will return within less than ten years.  It is also strange given  their VMT Mitigation plan only offsets 55 Mil VMT miles year of the additional driving and ignores the nearly 50Million of additional a truck.

Adding capacity via toll lanes only guarantee richest member of community- and groups of Tahoe travelers  never faces congestion.

The EIR also ignores any analysis of increased danger from narrowing lanes and permanently removing shoulders. (see diagram)   

The ability of the proposed mitigation plan to provide a carbon/VMT offset is taken to higher degrees of absurdity to somehow claim the project tolls will fund adequate mitigations- and have money left for a social equity/environmental Justice  program into perpetuity.

Public not told about public hearing on toll levels.

Continue reading "Final I-80 EIR released - an embarrassment of errors that sets up Caltrans for Legal challenge" »


Four Million CA Households Fleeced for Utility Profits and Never-Ending Rate Hikes.

Objecting to cpuc

By Scott Steward

State leadership is about to let utilities gouge you. Three days before the end of the 2022 legislative session, legislators passed AB 205, a utility flat tax introduced by Newsom as a rider. The bill passed without public discussion.  

Now, the CPUC is allowing utilities to hit four million ratepayers with a $24/month utility tax. The hardest hit will be those with a small energy footprint, working families and seniors living in apartments and small homes, as well as people with rooftop solar. (Find out more about the STOP THE UTILITY TAX here). (CALL TO ACTION, MAY 9TH IN SACRAMENTO).

The Utility Tax will add to the pain that these four million households are already feeling from never-ending rate hikes, which have increased by over 30% in California in the last two years.

The CPUC is letting the utilities increase taxes, electricity, and gas rates without a cap, which means the pain will only get worse in the years to come. The $24/month tax is just the start. Utilities have made it clear that they intend to raise the utility tax to $80 a month or more.

More than 250 nonprofit groups and 20 legislators supported AB 1999, which would have capped the Utility Tax at a sensible $10/month and pegged any increases to inflation. But Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas pulled the bill out of the Assembly Utility and Energy Commission (that had the votes to pass the bill).

Continue reading "Four Million CA Households Fleeced for Utility Profits and Never-Ending Rate Hikes." »


Stop PG&E from Robbing us Today, Climate Action Everywhere Tomorrow!

Our only homeBy Scott Steward

The necessary actions to combat climate changes are too slow - obvious.  Here is some of what the youth had to say to us adults on April 19th.  Our local youth from Fresno, Davis, and Sacramento made their voices (short movie clip here) heard at the Capital this past Friday.

California has made good progress, and Yolo County has made more progress. We hope Davis will be as focused and insistent on necessary changes as well.

What can adults do today to help our children's tomorrow?  There are many, but one thing stands out in our State, and that is to reverse the 2022-2023 damage inflicted by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), shielded by Governor Newsom, to raise our rates and just about crush the last 25 years of residential renewable energy progress in California. 

Your utility bills have gone up 30% to pay $5.7 Billion to PG&E to cover climate change costs that an energy judge has already ruled are twice the $2.7 Billion needed.  Please consider taking action and reading the op/ed written by Loretta Lynch, former Chair of the CPUC, who got us out of the Enron crisis 20 years ago. Paywall - so the article in full requires a temporary subscription to SF Chronicle - here is an excerpt.

Continue reading "Stop PG&E from Robbing us Today, Climate Action Everywhere Tomorrow!" »


Little Publicized Hearing on I-80 Tolls

$10+ at rush hour  - but Tahoe Groups go free!

By Alan Hirsch

Cartoon- induce demand can't wait for road to be widenedPolicies that will  decide how hi the tolls will be on new I-80 lanes will be discussed at little publicized hearing Tuesday April 9th  5:30 at the  West Sacramento Public Library.  Zoom will be available. This may be the first - and maybe last- chance for most members to make oral public  comments as future toll agency meetings will be held during the day in DT Sacramento SACOG offices, where zoom-in comments are not allowed.

Staff for this new agency members have also shared they believe, under the proposed policies, they expect tolls on I-80  for Davis commuter  may typically be $10 each way at congestion times-- or even more when congestion is worst -even $40). But they are proposing 3-in-a- car will go toll free- a policy that seems to differentially favor Tahoe recreational travelers over commuters.

The hearing by the California Transportation  Commission (CTC) will take input on  setting up a new agency and making policies for the proposed 17 miles of new toll lane that run from I-80 in Dixon to both I-80 and I-50 Sacramento River Bridges. The agency will decide how  tolls are set, who get  discounted tolls,  and how the toll revenue will be used. The Agency sponsors are SACOG and  Yolo Transportation District. YoloTD is  chaired  by Davis Mayor Josh Chapman who is also the Davis’s representative on SACOG.

Continue reading "Little Publicized Hearing on I-80 Tolls" »


Council’s Non-Scientific Reasoning on I-80

Why Didn’t  YoloTD share the facts?

By Alan Hirsch

Congestion photo old car_texas59_traffic_jam_1962My beloved Davis has failed to accept the science out of UC Davis on climate change.  I worry for our future if even Davis  can’t face the urgency of our situation.

I urge everyone to watch the March 5th video of Davis City council and listen to their rationalization not to align city policy with UC Davis scientists on the freeway I-80 policy. The city council discussed sending a letter to state officials noting the city’s agreement with Caltrans’ own policy that freeway widening is contrary to the State’s climate action plan and won’t solve congestion. The city council rejected sending the letter, even though no one challenged its substance.

I know a few readers here still might think freeway widening works to fix congestion--  for them  I wonder who they are listening  to if Caltrans policy itself accepts UC Davis research? 

Begin watching council rationalize the “settled science” away beginning at 1:07:41 as Councilmember Donna Neville withdraws her letter and offers two unscientific  reasons: 1) there was no community consensus, and 2) the letter would not make any difference.

Is consensus the way to measure scientific validity in Davis? Should we accept at face value Councilmember Gloria Partida’s argument that her survey of people she talked to on her walks takes precedence over findings from the UCD Institute of Transportation Studies?   Or Neville’s statement that until we have consensus, we “should not speak to the highest level of government.”  I note the council managed to take a position on the Israel Gaza war before a polarized audience.

Continue reading "Council’s Non-Scientific Reasoning on I-80" »


Seeds of Justice Reading and Reflection Group

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By Ooti Maxine, Maidu artist

(From press release) The Seeds of Justice learning community started in 2021 as a project of the Episcopal Church of St. Martin to study the backgrounds for establishing land-based ministry in Yolo County; that is, an approach to ministry that considers the racialized history of the land including its uses, original inhabitants, labor and immigration, ecosystem health, and environmental threats, to be a key component of the church’s mission. We have in the past two years hosted lively conversations with Native Californian cultural practitioners, historians, and professors: Diana Almendariz, Melissa Moreno, Melinda Adams, Beth Rose Middleton Manning, John Liu, and Alan Taylor.

This year, we are partnering with YoloSol, a cultural arts and ecology collective, and the Yolo Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice to read the book Know We Are Here, edited by Terria Smith, a tribal member of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians.

We will meet once a month on Tuesdays from 6:30-8pm at St. Martin's  to reflect on how these stories shape our understanding of the Native Californian past, shed light on our current climate crisis, and might suggest pathways to a restorative future for the web of life here in the Yolo bioregion.

Continue reading "Seeds of Justice Reading and Reflection Group" »


Davis Chooses Popularism over Science

YoloTD is going to CTC for I-80 money

By Alan Hirsch

Image001 1656
YoloTD Chair/Mayor Chapman

On Tuesday March 5, Davis Council let stand a 2021 policy to “strongly support” I-80  widening for cars—ignoring 34 letters and public comments asking for  reversal of  city policy adopted with no commission or other input.

The city council, at least temporally, seems to have joined the science deniers on freeways with a majority of members  claiming we need “consensus” before simply accepting UC Davis research, affirming settled science, or even simply adopting policy that  just restated Caltrans and the state climate plan on sustainable transportation.

This also means science supporting Davisites must turn their  attention to a more sympathetic body to stop I-80: the California Transportation Commission (CTC). This body once in the  past  blocked funding Yolo80, rating it 24 out of 24 in priority and might do it again next week. Emails  on CTC agenda item 19 are needed ideally  by Monday to ask them to block a $105 Mil grant  for more I-80 auto widening in Yolo County.  They, unlike YoloTD seem concern with induced demand’s climate impact, as  described in this article “Managed Lane Expansion Project  Not Approved by California Transportation Commission

Who spoke in favor of the Widening in Davis?

Continue reading "Davis Chooses Popularism over Science " »


75% fossil fuel reduction by 2030

As the group of students, staff, and faculty whose meeting with Chancellor May in December 2021 led to a plan to eliminate fossil fuel use by UC Davis (Fossil Free UCD), we are pleased to see the release of the Fossil-Fuel Free Pathway Plan (FFFPP), as reported in the Davis Enterprise.  We are grateful to Chancellor May for his continuing dialogue and leadership. 

The FFFPP calls for eliminating 95% of fossil fuel use from university operations by 2040.  Equally important is the shorter-term goal contained in the plan: a 75% reduction of fossil fuel use by 2030. 

This shorter-term goal is essential because deep and swift emission cuts from burning fossil fuels is the only appropriate response to the dramatic consequences of climate change we are already experiencing.  To meet this 75% reduction target, UCD will need to work together with other UCs and our state and federal legislators to secure funding.

As a leading university, UCD educates our students for a successful future. Our teaching mission comes with a responsibility to ensure that we graduate our students in a world where they enjoy a stable climate. UCD is showing by example that we can greatly reduce the use of fossil fuels within years, not decades. This leadership will hopefully inspire other universities and government entities to swiftly enact plans to go fossil-fuel free as well.

UCD affiliates who wish to join our ongoing efforts are encouraged to contact us via our website at https://fossilfreeucd.org/

Cort Anastasio
Patrick Cunningham
Mark Huising
Brianna Mcguire
Helene Margolis
Elizabeth Miller
Roberta Millstein
Emma Saffel
Suzana Sawyer
Stephen Wheeler
Sandy Xie

On behalf of Fossil-Free UCD


State Protections Sought for Vanishing California Burrowing Owls

(From press release) Conservation groups petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission today to protect five imperiled populations of the western burrowing owl under the California Endangered Species Act.

The petition seeks endangered status for burrowing owls in southwestern California, central-western California and the San Francisco Bay Area, and threatened status for burrowing owls in the Central Valley and southern desert range.

“These fascinating ground-dwelling owls need relief from being bulldozed or evicted to make way for urban sprawl,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’ve witnessed the disappearance of burrowing owls from much of California over the past two decades, and it pains me to watch their extinction trajectory. They need immediate protections if we want to keep these owls around to grace our grasslands and open spaces.”

The only owl species that nests and roosts underground, the burrowing owl was formerly widespread in California and commonly nested in grasslands throughout low elevation areas of the state. Burrowing owls have suffered significant habitat loss due to urban development, conversion of grasslands to agricultural lands, and large-scale wind and solar energy infrastructure. They are also killed by rodenticides and collisions with wind turbines and cars.

The owls rely on burrowing mammals such as ground squirrels to excavate underground burrows for nesting and roosting. Urban development removes suitable nesting and foraging habitat, while ground squirrels are routinely eradicated from ranching and agricultural lands.

“When a formerly common species disappears from our landscape, what does it say about the health of our ecosystems? Abundant burrowing owls once brought so much joy to residents of our valley, but development has pushed them to the brink of extinction,” said Shani Kleinhaus with Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society.

Protecting the burrowing owl under the California Endangered Species Act would require state and local agencies to manage threats. That would include ending the state policy of allowing owls to be evicted from lands slated for development and requiring adequate mitigation for habitat loss. Regional planning efforts, and in some cases direct intervention to boost owl abundance, are needed to prevent the imminent disappearance of burrowing owls from many areas of the state.

“State protections are urgently needed since the environmental review process hasn’t meaningfully protected or conserved burrowing owls,” said Catherine Portman with the Burrowing Owl Preservation Society. “We’ve tried to get mitigation for owl habitat destroyed by scores of development projects in Yolo County, but owl colonies are routinely evicted without requiring habitat protections. For example, 103 acres of prime burrowing owl breeding habitat in Yolo County were developed in 2015 in exchange for only 19.5 acres at a mitigation bank that has never hosted nesting owls.”

Continue reading "State Protections Sought for Vanishing California Burrowing Owls" »


Tonight at City Council: Weigh in on I-80 widening

By Roberta Millstein

Just a quick heads up to let folks know about an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed I-80 widening project.  The subcommittee of Councilmbers Arnold and Neville have drafted a letter for City Council consideration that recognizes the objections raised by many Davisites to the project and expresses concerns.  See proposed letter here: Download 04-Subcommittee-Recommendation-Transportation-Letter

I think it is a fairly weak letter, and would urge something stronger, but I think it's also important to acknowledge that it is at least more of a stand than the City Council has been willing to give prior to this.  So a comment on the order of, "thanks, this is good, but we can do better" seems appropriate.

As a reminder:

  • In person public comment: This is item #4 on the agenda, tentatively scheduled for 6:55 PM.
  • Submit written public comments to [email protected]. Emails are distributed to City Council and staff. To ensure the City Council has the opportunity to review information prior to the meeting, send emails by 3:00 p.m. on the meeting date.
  • Submit comments by voicemail prior to the meeting: Call the city’s dedicated phone line (530) 757-5693 to leave a voicemail message for public comment. Staff will play comments during the appropriate agenda item. Comments will be accepted from 12:00 noon until 4:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Voicemail public comments will not be accepted after 4:00 p.m. Speakers will be limited to no more than two minutes.

I-80 A Threat to Housing Affordability?

Blinder siloVideo: A Widening Goal is for More Bay Area ”Super Commuters”

By Alan Hirsch 

The Davis  General Plan is on Tuesday’s city council agenda- not just in the item so labeled, but reverse  of the city policy of “strongly supporting” the I-80 widening.

I-80  is not just about climate, it also impacts having housing, affordable housing for local residents.

While we in Davis can zone in more density like Cannery,  push Davis developers to increase their affordable set aside a few percent points, and even  vote a tax on ourselves to fund a housing trust, the benefits for current resident will easily be diluted by demand generated from over  ten thousand commuters a day  the 33% increase in freeway capacity enable.

 Prices are set by demand vs supply,  If  more people have access and want housing here the prices will go up- as will demand for subsidized affordable units.

Continue reading "I-80 A Threat to Housing Affordability?" »