How the proposed Trackside project impacts the Integrity of Setting and Feeling of Old East Davis – a Conservation District

The proposed Trackside project would impact the setting and feeling of the Old East Davis neighborhood which is part of a conservation district. It would also result in an indirect impact, particularly to the Montgomery House, a Davis Landmark and a historical resource.

Old East Davis, while not a designated historic district, is situated within the boundaries of the Central Davis Historic Conservation District (Conservation District) and is identified as a sub area of the Conservation District and has a set of design guidelines.

The fact that Old East Davis is not listed in the California Register of Historical Resources (CRHR) or one of Davis’ local registration programs, does not preclude the City of Davis, as the lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), from determining that Old East Davis may be a historical resource as defined in Public Resources Code Section 5024.1.

The fact that there are Design Guidelines that govern development could be considered as part of the evidence to determine that Old East Davis is a historical resource for the purposes of evaluating the impacts of the proposed Trackside project.

It would appear that the establishment of the Conservation District and corresponding DesignGuidelines, suggests the need to protect a collection of resources through a wide geographic areaof Old East Davis. On December 14, 2015, the Historic Resources Management Commissiondetermined that it was appropriate to assess impacts to the Conservation District as a whole and on the Old East Davis neighborhood.

The I and J street corridor does contain a concentration of historic residences representing several decades of development, as well as some individually significant buildings. It along with some other, scattered buildings, does contribute to the historic character of the Old East neighborhood” More recently, surveyors apparently noted the adjacent area as portraying a “remnant of what appears to be a 19th century landscape” in relation to the Montgomery House.

There would not be a direct impact to the designated historic resources in that the Montgomery House (Merit Resource), Williams-Drummond House (Landmark Resource), and the Schmeiser House (Landmark Resource) would not be physically altered. However, the proposed project would result in an indirect impact to the designated historic resources, particularly the Montgomery House because of its close proximity to the project and the larger Old East Davis neighborhood, a Conservation District.

Conservation districts and their design guidelines are intended to protect buildings and conserve the traditional neighborhood character and setting of the area. The appropriate definition of setting that should be used is the one defined by the National Park Service in the bulletin How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation (U.S. National Park Service 1997). Setting is one of the seven aspects of integrity and those aspects of integrity are needed for historical resources to convey their significance. The CRHR uses the same aspects of integrity that are used for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

The bulletin defines setting as: “Setting is the physical environment of a historic property…setting refers to the character (emphasis original) of the place in which the property played its historical role. It involves how (emphasis original), not just where, the property is situated and its relationship to surrounding features and open space…”

That same bulletin defines integrity of feeling as a property’s: “…expression of the aesthetic or historic sense of a particular period of time. It results from the presence of physical features that, taken together, convey the property’s historic character.”

Currently, the location of the proposed project contains single-story buildings. Construction of a 4-story building would result in an indirect impact to the setting and feeling of the designated historic resources and the larger neighborhood.

Setting and feeling are important aspects of integrity that assist in conveying the historical significance of the three houses and Old East Davis. Setting and feeling are not necessarily limited to parcel boundaries, but also the surrounding area, which in this instance includes the Old East Davis neighborhood. The neighborhood where the historic resources are located helps to convey the property’s character and while there have been intrusions on the neighborhood there is still a strong sense of place and time in Old East Davis.

This neighborhood is characterized with predominately single-story residences. There are post World War II two-story apartments within the neighborhood and commercial buildings that are smaller in scale and massing in proximity to the neighborhood. But those do not introduce a stark visual element the same way the proposed project does.

The proposed project introduces a visual element that if allowed would diminish the setting and feeling of the area. Old East Davis was part of the original city grid and contains some of the earliest residences in the city. And while it is noted that the neighborhood was separated from its industrial neighbors by an alley, the industrial buildings were not of the mass and scale that are being proposed.

Given the implementation of the Old East Davis Conservation District and previous survey information, questions surrounding a potential historic district remain present. For clarification, it may be in the City’s best interest to specifically assess the existence, or not, of an Old East Davis Historic District for the purposes of evaluating the proposed project and potential future planning needs.

References

GEI Consultants, 12/12/16  letter to Rhonda Reed, President of Old East Davis Neighborhood Association.  Review the Historical Resource Effects Analysis Study of the Revised Trackside Center Project 901-919 3rd Street, Davis Yolo County, California 95616 (Revised September 2016) and the Addendum to the Historical Resource Effects Analysis Study of the Revised Trackside Center Project, 901-919 3rd Street, Davis, Yolo County, California 95616 (Revised September 2016).

Historic Resource Associates (HRA). 2016 Addendum to the Historical Resource Effects Analysis Study for the Revised Trackside Center Project, 901-919 3rd Street, Davis, Yolo County, California 95616

Roland-Nawi Associates. 2003. Central Davis Historic Conservation District. City of Davis Historical Resources Survey, Davis, California.

U.S. National Park Service. 1997. National Register Bulletin: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. Central Davis Historic Conservation District, City of Davis Historical Resources Survey (August 2003)

Davis Downtown and Traditional Residential Neighborhoods Design Guidelines (July 2001; Updated June 2007) (Design Guidelines)

Historical Resource Analysis Study of the Trackside Center Project 901-919 3rd Street, Davis Yolo County, California 95616 with a Memorandum Attachment to HRA Report (January 2016)

Staff Report from Eric Lee to the Historic Resources Management Commission, and attachments (December 12, 2016).


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