Transit-oriented development around a new Valley Link commuter rail station will continue to be on city’s agenda, regardless of the voter reaction to Measure Y on Nov. 3.
The measure would have created an exemption to the city’s growth management ordinance, allowing for development of up to 2,200 housing units, either apartments or houses, within a half-mile of the Tracy Transit Center at Sixth Street and Central Avenue. Tracy voters opposed the measure, with 18,547 votes (54.76%) against, and 15,323 (45.24%) in favor, with about 3,500 votes left to count as of Tuesday night.
Even with the measure headed toward rejection, the concept of a transit-oriented village continues to exist within the city and with the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority. Before the Tracy City Council had put Measure Y on the ballot back in July the city and rail authority had already engaged in public workshops on what a transit-oriented development would look like. The city council, as it voted to put the measure on the ballot, also reviewed a draft version of the Downtown Traffic Oriented Development Study.
Bill Dean, Tracy’s assistant development services director, said that city staff and DeNovo Planning Group, the consultant who prepared the TOD study, continue to develop a specific plan that would include the downtown area, including the Bowtie, a piece of land marked by the crossing of railroad tracks and owned mostly by Union Pacific Railroad, as well as the 760 acre “Urban Reserve 1,” which is now farmland and could accommodate as many as 5,600 units in homes and apartments.
Dean said that effort still requires a detailed plan, as well as a comprehensive environmental review.
“We’re hoping to get that scope of work to the council, probably in January, I would guess. These things take a little while to put together. It’s going to take a year-and-a-half to do a document all the way through to the environmental review phase, I would estimate,” he said.
Dean said Measure Y would have been a factor in how soon that area could develop.
“The growth management ordinance determines the sequence in which we grow and the rate, so Measure Y would have made modifications to that,” he said, but rejection of the measure won’t affect other planning efforts.
“We’re still going to go forward with the specific plan and create a vision for the future there, which is really a separate exercise than the rate at which it could develop. Having an idea of what it should be is what the specific plan is going to get at.”
Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Young is likely to become Tracy’s next mayor, based on results from Nov. 3, with votes still to be counted to reach the final result. Young said that the new council still must consider the results of Measure Y as an indication of how the public feels about downtown and transit-oriented development.
“The main thing we need to do first and foremost is find out what the real rub was for the citizens,” Young said, adding that part of it could have been that the measure would have applied to more than just downtown, with at least two other potential transit stations between Tracy and the Altamont Pass.
“I know we had a lot of support, but all the support, and the many letters we got in, was completely focused on the downtown,” she said. “We’re still focused on bringing Valley Link stops here in Tracy. I’m sure that can go forward. I think it needs to be a better plan.”
She added that the public also likely rejected the measure because it would have provided an exemption to Measure A, which voters approved 20 years ago to slow the rate of growth in Tracy.
“I get leery when it comes to things that try to go around stuff that the people have put in place,” she said. “That was something that was honored from the past and I think we still need to honor that, so when things happen to try to go around it, we need to be very careful.”
Dean said that a new downtown specific plan is still needed to govern the type of development that occurs, considering that the planning area has plenty of development potential.
“The idea for what should be in the specific plan still stems from the council direction that we received. They have directed us to pursue a particular geography that includes the downtown and areas around downtown. It also includes coming up with a long range plan for the future for that Urban Reserve 1 area,” he said.
“Coming up with that long term vision is still what that exercise is all about.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 209-830-4227.