Whether you’re old, young or anywhere in between, there’s a good chance you’d enjoy something about living in downtown Davis.
With an ever-expanding supply of amenities in a condensed area, the heart of the city offers a lively, convenient and overall fulfilling quality of life. Just ask the roughly 550 people who live there already.
“It’s a real luxury to be able to roll out of bed and walk a block or two,” said Sue Greenwald, former Davis mayor and council member who’s long advocated for living downtown.
“I can get a cup of coffee, do my grocery shopping and even buy light bulbs. I think the best part, though, is because I am downtown so often I bump into more people I know and that’s tremendously fun.”
There are at least seven coffeehouses, three grocery stores and two hardware stores for Greenwald to choose from while running her errands in the Core Area. On the way, she might pass one of three movie theaters, the post office, three art galleries, several bike shops, more than 10 banks, five hotels and dozens of restaurants, bars, shops and other retailers.
Really, there’s just about everything but a miniature golf course.
And because it’s all centralized — and walkable — there’s almost no need for a car. In fact, when asked, many of those who live downtown, about 1 percent of all Davis residents, pick its walkability as their favorite aspect.
With good reason.
Search any address in the downtown on the website WalkScore.com, an online service that rates the walkability of a specific location relative to nearby amenities, and it will produce a “Walker’s Paradise” rating.
The Enterprise office, at 315 G St., for example, scores a 94 out of 100. By contrast, North Davis Farms Road in North Davis receives a 28 and is considered “car-dependent.”
Considering that 40 percent of people in the United States believe their neighborhoods are “unwalkable,” according to a nationwide survey released earlier this month by Kaiser Permanente and reported by www.theatlanticcites.com, those living downtown with that high walk score should consider themselves lucky.
Meanwhile, that active yet accessible lifestyle is becoming more and more attractive to many walks of life.
‘Where we can do everything’
Recently, it was desirable enough for four older couples to make plans to pack up their larger homes, buy some available land downtown and build a place where they could enjoy the walkability of the Core Area without ever stepping into a car.
Called the Parkview Place apartments, the couples’ new three-story complex will feature four single-story units designed to accommodate them, essentially, for the rest of their lives.
Located at Fourth and D streets downtown, where the Peña house once stood, the project was approved by the City Council in June 2012.
“Despite really loving where we were living, (we looked) ahead realizing that all of our parents, within the prior 15 years, had gone through the end-of-life phase, and they hadn’t made the moves early enough that they could have and should have to really enjoy their last years as much as we want to,” said Dick Bourne, who will move into his new home with wife Carol once it is finished this fall.
Added Carol: “There comes a point at which you can’t use a car at all because you lose the ability to drive it properly, so here we’ll already be … where we can do everything.”
David Hosley, who will move into Parkview Place with his wife Gayle Yamada, also looks forward to the practicality of living downtown.
“Senior citizens don’t want to mow the lawn anymore, they don’t want to service the swimming pool,” Hosley said. “And they want to be close to the services.” Hosley also is excited for the opportunity to walk to UC Davis for sporting events and performances at the Mondavi Center.
There are also grandkids to consider.
Because of the location, despite not having much of a yard, Parkview Place sits only half a block away from Central Park where the soon-to-be downtown residents can take advantage of the grassy expanse, the playground and, of course, the Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
“When you can just go out the front door with visiting kids, and the park is right there, that’s heaven,” Dick Bourne said.
But it’s not only the older generations who have fallen in love with the downtown and its walkability.
For UC Davis students, living just a jaunt from both class on campus and downtown nightlife carries along with it myriad advantages.
Maris Kali, a senior who lives in the newly rebuilt Phi Delta Theta fraternity house on C Street, has lived in inconvenient locations in Davis before. After moving into the house a few weeks ago, he says those experiences really made him appreciate where he lives now.
“You’re a five-minute walk from class and five minutes from every restaurant in town,” Kali said, who also noted the pleasure of being able to pick up breakfast at the Farmers Market on Saturdays.
The Phi Delt brothers can see the Farmers Market pavilion from their front door.
Many of the members also said they appreciated the convenience of being in walking distance of the bar scene in downtown Davis, which cuts out the need for cab rides. That’s also advantageous because the fraternity members live in a “dry house.”
“We have one of the best locations,” Martin Guo added.
Is more downtown housing needed?
But while only a small segment of the Davis population lives downtown, if its popularity continues to rise, so may the need for more housing.
As it stands, there are about 350 single-family and multi-family residences in the Core Area, according to city numbers, which house those 550 or so residents.
Hosley, who worked on growth issues in the Central Valley before his retirement, says the two demographics who most prefer to live downtown are young professionals and seniors.
Should those two segments of the population continue to grow as they are expected to — studies say Davis will be home to 39,607 college-age residents (18-24 years) and 78,674 residents age 65 or older by 2060, as reported in The Enterprise earlier this month — more housing likely will need to be built downtown.
Bourne says he could see somewhere down the road adding a second level atop all the one-story buildings throughout Davis’ Core Area to accommodate more housing.
Greenwald, on the other hand, fears jeopardizing the charm of the downtown, and would prefer to build larger complexes on peripheral downtown sites like the Nishi property, a large vacant parcel of land that’s wedged between Interstate 80 and UC Davis, or at the PG&E yard that’s long been discussed as a potential location for future development.
In either case, it seems Davis will need to increase that housing stock. There’s probably a good reason for that.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash