Our View

Tightening our greenbelts

By From page A10 | June 08, 2014

The issue: “Infill” tends to lose its appeal when the shovel hits the ground

It’s the sort of idea that’s guaranteed to stir controversy in Davis: Knock down a larger “ranchette” property and turn it and the surrounding green space into multiple parcels for home construction. Paso Fino, a project approved years ago for four homes, is now being stretched to eight, and some of the 60-year-old pine trees on the edge of the property are in the crosshairs.

NEIGHBORS in the Wildhorse area, to no one’s surprise, objected, and were out in force at the recent Planning Commission meeting on the proposal. In particular, they worry that the greenbelt around the property will be sold or transferred to the developer, an unprecedented action in the annals of Davis development. The Canary Island pines were also a concern, but the loss of the greenbelt and the thought of eight homes shoehorned into the property weighed most heavily on the project’s neighbors.

City staff insist there’s no need for excitement. In an email to The Enterprise, they said there are no “active” negotiations to sell the greenbelt … and, they added, it’s not a greenbelt anyway; the green space is a “buffer” to shield the ranchette from the development around it, not the other way around. With the ranchette gone, the logic goes, there’s no need for a buffer.

That may be, but it’s cold comfort to a neighborhood about to lose that green space, along with some of the majestic trees that go with it.

WHILE THE greenbelt issue raised the most concern, to our mind the bigger problem is the narrow, dead-end street. Without a “bulb” at the end of the cul-de-sac, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for delivery vans and garbage trucks to turn around. Even cars will have to make a three-point-turn.

The developer has pointed out that with only four homes, the lots — and presumably the houses on them — will be larger than the surrounding neighborhood. Certainly, a quartet of McMansions just off Covell Boulevard isn’t desirable, either. If only there was a way to split the difference between eight lots and four …

It seems to us that a six-lot development would allow a wider street (with a real turnaround), reasonably sized homes, and a lessened impact on the neighbors and open space. “Infill” is always a desirable concept when we’re discussing urban sprawl, but it seems to lose its appeal once lines are actually drawn on the map. Here there is rare opportunity to find middle ground between development and preservation. Let’s hope the folks involved can grasp it.

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