Recent discussions regarding the proposed Aggie Village Mall (i.e. the Borders Debate)
have given little attention to the traffic impacts of this project. The General Plan, the Gateway
EIR, the UCD EIR (and related documents) and the recent vote on Measure E are among the
many public documents that stress the importance of minimizing the traffic impacts that Aggie
Village might impose on 1st Street. The developer wants to fill this project with businesses, like
Borders, that rely upon a huge traffic flow. The community never expected that such an
inappropriate use of that site might be proposed. Now it hangs imminently over us.
The City Council hesitates to rezone for fear that the developer would sue the City to
recover losses he would incur for expenses already committed to the project, based on an
unconditional Central Commercial zoning for the site. I think another local legal issue illustrates
why the City would not be in jeopardy if such a claim were made.
Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning reported that he is currently suing his former
employer, a local radio station, for breach of an unwritten contract. Dunning cites verbal and
written communications that show a clear intent of the station to retain his broadcasting services
on a contracted basis. When new owners bought the station, they decided that without a written
contract, he had no guarantees of any kind. They chose to disregard his claims of completed
work and of future engagements. The substance of Mr. Dunning's argument is that his
discussions and agreements with the radio station show a clear intent, one that must be honored
by the new owners of the station.
The City of Davis is in a position similar to Mr. Dunning's -- they mistakenly assumed
that the new owner of Aggie Village would respect the community's oft-stated intent of
minimizing traffic impacts. Instead of recruiting tenants who could succeed there and limit
traffic impacts, he offers tenants like a huge bookstore/coffeeshop and an ice cream shop. The
traffic impacts of such stores are as large as a retail store's can be. To illustrate, compare which
retailer imposes the least traffic impact while generating $20,000 in sales per day (the anticipated
anchor store's share of sales, per the Aggie Village Fiscal Impact Analysis by the city planning
department.) An electronics/appliance store might average $150 per sale. An apparel store
might average $75 per sale. A bookstore/coffeeshop might average $15 per sale. Dividing the
expected income by the average sales shows an electronics/appliance store adding about 130 trips
per day to 1st Street, whereas a bookstore/coffeeshop would be adding 1,300 trips per day. The
ratios may vary a little, but the principle remains the same -- higher ticket items require less
traffic. Any reasonable person reading the relevant planning documents would know that
minimizing traffic impacts on 1st Street is among our highest priorities.
The developer is buying the Aggie Village site, having had full access to all documents
and official discussion of intended uses for the site. If he has chosen to disregard the
community's concerns about impacts of the project, then we will have to create a conditional
zoning for that site to enforce our intentions. Perhaps the study zone being considered by the
City Council could add clarity to the issue, if some believe the issues are still unclear. If the
developer sues the City, he loses. Traffic impacts, like pollution impacts, are an important part
of city planning. We owe it to ourselves to make sure he takes us seriously.