The Cannery series
Part 1: The history and final design
Part 2: Impact on surrounding neighborhoods
Part 3: Senior housing
Part 4: Sustainability
Part 5: Cannery Farm
Part 6: Business park vs. residential
This is Part 2 of an ongoing series discussing the various aspects of The Cannery project. Each part will discuss a different aspect of the housing development.
The city’s Planning Commission is scheduled to conduct two public hearings and make a decision on the final design of the new neighborhood in September. The City Council will receive those recommendations and make the final decision on the project in October.
It isn’t only houses that would crop up in North Davis if later this year the City Council endorsed the final design of The Cannery, a 547-unit housing development ConAgra has proposed to fit into the 100-acre property that lies east of F Street and north of East Covell Boulevard.
With a new neighborhood, naturally, arrive new residents, new commuters, school-aged children, cars, bicycles, buses and all of the public safety and supporting infrastructure a city must provide. Don’t forget, in this case, the commercial space and the accompanying employees and customers, either.
For those in Davis who live near the proposed site, residents hailing from Northstar Park or Arrowhead or Covell Farms, with 1,428 new faces moving in, perhaps double that in cars, plus 500 workers and daily customers, the streets and bike paths that feed residents throughout the area could feel a bit more crowded.
The draft environmental impact report for The Cannery, which the city was legally required to draw up in order to assess all the potential impacts the development might have on its surroundings, begins to dig into how the new development would impact things like local traffic and city services if the project was approved.
But while the standards the project must meet in the EIR may be a bit looser than what ultimately local policy makers may feel will be acceptable, the numbers do begin to illuminate some of the impacts that existing Davis residents could expect to see.
City planners calculate The Cannery and its 547 units of low-, medium- and high-density housing would welcome about 1,428 new Davis residents. The mixed-use/commercial and retail space that’s sketched across the 15 acres fronting the property could attract about 500 or so employees, according to the applicant.
Together, in addition to those visiting and leaving the retail center, the project would generate about 10,595 vehicle trips per day.
That’s 10,595 cars driving into and out of The Cannery’s two vehicle access points, both located on East Covell Boulevard, a thoroughfare in North Davis that saw about 19,000 cars drive down its roads each day in 2011.
J Street and East Covell Boulevard
Once outside the neighborhood, 50 percent of all vehicles trips generated by the project (to and from the site) are expected to come from the F Street intersection, according to the EIR. One-third would come from L Street and the remaining 16 percent along J Street south from East Covell.
The segment of J Street south of East Covell — across from where the project’s main entrance has been proposed — would see the highest percentage increase of vehicle traffic: from 253 cars in the peak hours of the morning — 7 to 9 a.m. — to 383 cars and from 323 to 455 cars in the evening peak traffic hours of 4 to 6 p.m. It’s a 51 and 40 percent jump, respectively.
The project also would cause the average wait-time for cars at the J Street and Covell Boulevard intersection in all directions to climb from an average of 10 seconds or less to 35 to 55 seconds in the morning and 20 to 35 seconds in the afternoon, the biggest increase in delay out of all intersection near the project site.
As for that morning rush hour within the development, George Phillips, spokesperson for ConAgra, says that the technical analysis doesn’t reveal any problems for residents waiting to exit The Cannery, as some have suggested could be the case.
“That’s the impression that might exist, but the traffic analysis doesn’t support that,” Phillips said. “It doesn’t show that queuing and (those) significant problems.”
F Street and East Covell Boulevard
City planners expect the car volume between J Street and F Street on East Covell Boulevard during peak times to inflate by almost 25 percent, from 1,710 cars to 2,115 during peak hours in the morning and from 1,881 cars to 2,295 during afternoon rush hour.
According to the EIR, however, motorists heading towards the F Street and East Covell Boulevard intersection are only expected to see increased delays at the intersection of about 2 seconds in the morning peak and 2 seconds in the evening.
Southbound F Street from East Covell would see a jump from 837 vehicles to 907 in the morning and 1,027 to 1,101 cars in the evening, according to the EIR.
The environmental report did not cover northbound F Street, a popular route up to the city of Woodland.
Katherine Hess, the city’s community development administrator, says F Street may have been excluded because analysts didn’t feel the route would be dramatically affected by the project.
East of project site
Vehicle volume east of J Street on East Covell would increase from 1,670 to 1,946 during the morning peak and 1,846 to 2,128 in the afternoon, or about a 16 and 15 percent jump. Pole Line Road south from Covell would gain about 90 more trips, 862 up from 773 in the morning and 942 to 1,033 in the afternoon.
Perhaps the most problematic “intersection” near the site, in any direction, would be the Oak Tree Plaza driveway.
The EIR states the impact on the shopping center driveway, which already operates at a Level Of Service “F” rating, would be “significant and unavoidable.”
Nugget Market, 1414 E. Covell Blvd., and the other retail stores that inhabit the center appear to attract more vehicles to the parking lot than it can handle.
“The addition of project traffic (from The Cannery) would exacerbate LOS F conditions and increase the overall intersection’s volume from 1,976 to 2,225 during the p.m. peak hour, which is a 12.6 percent increase,” the EIR said.
The EIR describes several solutions to address the intersection, such as adding a traffic signal either in front of the driveway entrance or on L Street, or prohibiting left turns out of the drive entirely.
The City Council likely will have the final say on the matter.
For every bicycle that’s ridden out of The Cannery, it could mean one less trip by one of those 10,595 cars. But some in the community are concerned that the bicycle access to and from the neighborhood would not adequately accomplish pulling residents out of their cars and onto their bikes.
While the neighborhood’s internal bicycle infrastructure appears to be up to snuff, according to bicycle interests in town, the connectivity to the surrounding infrastructure on foot or on bike, for some, leaves a lot to be desired.
Planners estimate about 1,000 trips per day for bicycles and pedestrians combined, or an 8 percent mode share compared to Davis’ 22 percent citywide bicycle mode share that has, in part, earned it honors as a platinum-level bicycle-friendly community from the League of American Bicyclists.
The area of concern that has received the most attention regarding connectivity for bicyclists has been the southwest corner of the property, near F Street and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
Under ConAgra’s proposal, those leaving the site from that corner who want to reach the south side of East Covell Boulevard would have to take a grade-separate crossing, adjacent to the train tracks, underneath the East Covell overpass and meet up with the existing greenbelt on the south side of the road.
Anyone heading west towards Community Park or North Davis Elementary or the Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library, for example, would then have to travel east — in the opposite direction of their destination — along the bridge until meeting up with the path that climbs back over the bridge heading west.
Bicyclists or pedestrians looking to travel east, then, would have to take the same route, but simply continue on the south side of East Covell. They could also leave from the southeast corner of the site and cross East Covell at the J Street intersection that the project team has said will be reconfigured to be more bicycle friendly.
Robb Davis, Bicycle Advisory Commission member, said that the commission rejected the plan that would force bicyclists to cross under the East Covell overpass and then climb over the East Covell overpass, as far as the southwest corner bicycle access.
“The intent is to swiftly connect people there to other neighborhoods,” Davis said this week. “(There’s a) significant constraint right on the edge, which is the railroad. Kids are not going to easily be able to get over into the Northstar area for example. There’s not going to be a quick and easy way to do it.”
Speaking generally, Davis added: “If you don’t get the connections out of there right, it’s going to be difficult for people, especially if there are children involved. It’s going to be difficult to get parents to feel comfortable.”
Phillips says, however, that the ConAgra team believes they have proposed bicycle connections into and out of the development that will encourage residents to bike, rather than drive.
“It’s just a fundamental difference in opinion,” Phillips said. “We do think the neighborhood has been designed to connect to the city’s existing bike system really well.”
Mayor Joe Krovoza disagrees.
And if the project team doesn’t make improvements to the bicycle connectivity points on the southwest and southeast sides of the property, it will have to look for one of the three votes it needs from the council in October to approve the project somewhere else.
Krovoza said this week that he is currently opposed to the project because of the connectivity issues.
“I want to ensure that the design of (The Cannery) enhances the Davis lifestyle,” the mayor said. “(And) I do see outstanding circulation for both bikes and pedestrians and cars as lessening (the impact on traffic).”
Meanwhile, a possible solution has surfaced in recent weeks that could help with the connectivity issues.
Representatives of the North Davis Land Trust, the same folks who proposed Covell Village back in 2005, have approached ConAgra and the city with a comprehensive bicycle infrastructure concept they believe could better serve The Cannery and the area in general.
The plans would include an off-street bike path on the north side of East Covell, a separated-grade crossing over or under Covell near the Oak Tree Plaza, a bike/pedestrian over-crossing over the tracks along F Street for access into The Cannery from further north on F Street, an off-street bike path on the west side of Pole Line Road and a grade-separated crossing under Pole Line Road near Nugget Fields.
Lydia Delis-Schlosser, a representative of the company, says that North Davis Land Company has absolutely no interest in developing the land any longer and that the plan is only for the betterment of the community, if not The Cannery.
But no matter the merits of the plan — North Davis Land Company would donate easements on the adjacent property and expect ConAgra to front the cost of the work — it appears that the ConAgra project team isn’t interested.
Phillips says that it would be “very difficult to accommodate” the changes proposed by the land company this late in the process, citing specifically that the plan, which they’ve estimated would cost them $8 million to $9 million, would require additional environmental impact analysis. Phillips also said adding the infrastructure to its proposal would make the project infeasible for ConAgra.
The land company’s lawyers say, however, that if the city wrote the appropriate changes into the Final EIR, it would not require a new environmental review process.
“NDLC’s infrastructure proposal is intended to provide safe bike and pedestrian connectivity between The Cannery project and surrounding areas, to improve traffic conditions along Covell Boulevard, to improve drainage, and to provide a better emergency access option,” wrote Whitman Manley, attorney for the land company, in a letter to the city.
“The Cannery project will benefit from these changes. So will the city as a whole.”
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash