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08-17-20 | Feature

A Community's Vision Realized on Third Street

Davis, California
by John Martin and Nathan Loizer, RHAA

On Third Street in Davis, California, the self proclaimed bicycle capital of America, an Eco-totem bike counter is made with an aluminum frame, and a shock-resistant polycarbonate graffiti-proof and rust-proof powder coating. The 7'-6 A 1/2 " tall x 1'-6 A 1/2 " wide bike counter captures and displays the high volume of bike traffic on a daily and yearly basis, creating an interactive experience by marking the passage of cyclists through this gateway and measuring the successful growth of cycling through this corridor. The counting mechanism relies on traffic loops underneath pavers to detect bicycles.
The roadway, sidewalk, and most straight sections of the street are 80-millimeter interlocking concrete permeable pavers, with colors of Tuscan gold in the field, a charcoal grey blend that delineate the circular form, and yellow that is intermixed with the gold in the center of the circle. The circular paving pattern in the roadway is reminiscent of bicycle tires and gears. To maintain the structural integrity of the roadway, a herringbone pattern from Ennis-Flint, Inc. was used. A sailor coursing acts as a trim and provides a clean edge border that securely holds cut pavers in place.
Existing mature London plane trees were preserved and new Quercus coccinea, red oak trees were added. Planted at the base of the new trees are Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' and Agapanthus 'Peter Pan'. The benches in this area are constructed with steel end frames and seating panels.
Aligned truncated dome pavers were used in the transition points between the sidewalk and the street. These pavers are a collection of 12 by 12-inch squares composed of precast concrete and face mix with a French gray finish. Ironsmith supplied permanent cast aluminum bollards, which are colored in a glossy powder-coat black, and placed on the corners of the walkways.
Located in the center median at University Avenue is the unique 16-foot high oblisk - the Davis Needle - constructed from children's recycled bicycle components. The obelisk, designed by the artist team of Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector integrates LED lighting, making the column come to life in the evening.
This project had an architectural emphasis on the improvements desired by the community that expand the pedestrian and biking experience, while creating a strong connection to the University. Consistent paving across the entire street creates the sense of a single shared space. A flush intersection, a tight radius, and wide sidewalks reduce the crossing distances and heighten the pedestrian experience. During project reconstruction, bollards in the middle of the roadway were removed to improve safety for cyclists moving along the corridor.
The biking culture in Davis, California is a prominent characteristic of the community. The landscape architects accounted for this in their planning and incorporated circular bike racks with permanent footings within the street. The stainless-steel racks have a brushed finish.

The Project
Located in Davis, California, the narrow section of Third Street between A and B Street links downtown Davis with the west entrance to UC Davis. This two-block segment is home to numerous businesses, and future development plans will further increase the density of this neighborhood. RHAA, a landscape architecture firm based in Mill Valley and San Francisco, California, developed a master plan and prepared construction documents for Third Street and its adjacent alleys to create a beautiful and sustainable destination that invites people to enjoy the street life, provide a memorable gateway experience between the campus and downtown, and enhance the area for its primary use by pedestrians and bicyclists. In 2019, the project received APWA Sacramento Chapter's Transportation - Streetscape Project of the Year.

Scope of Work

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RHAA's involvement dates back to 2010 when it was hired by the City of Davis to assist in preparing a master plan. This segment of Third Street serves as a primary gateway between the University and downtown Davis, but it was difficult to visually draw a connection. Narrow sidewalks, poor lighting, and non-descript materials gave little indication of the important academic institution and vibrant downtown nearby. Furthermore, the lack of a storm drain system rendered the street prone to flooding while steep cross slopes and bollards in the roadway presented obstacles and hazards for nearly 4,000 daily bike commuters. When a decision was made to move the project forward, RHAA in tandem with the City and University, led a robust public input process which was key to the project's success. Public involvement was an emphasis in the early planning stages. It was understood that participation from a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives would prove valuable in every step of the process. For this reason, outreach efforts were conducted which included public workshops, stakeholder interviews, a public oversight group, a project website, and online surveys. The team worked to ensure the community's voice and values were heard throughout the project's planning efforts and reflected in the street's final design. The research showed the community prioritized sustainability, a more pedestrian-friendly street, smoother surfaces for bicyclists, improved safety at night, and a stronger visual connection between the University and the downtown area. Upon completion of the master plan, construction documentation moved forward in two phases. Phase one involved the relocation and installation of major underground utilities and phase two focused on the visible surface improvements. The streetscape was completed in the spring of 2019.

The Street
Third Street's 50-foot right-of-way between A Street and B Street runs approximately 850-feet in length. To increase the amount of space dedicated to pedestrians moving to and from the campus, curbside parking was removed which allowed sidewalks to increase in width from 8 to 15 feet. The use of Tuscan gold-colored interlocking concrete pavers across the entire public right-of-way improved the user's visual experience adding richness and warmth, and creating a stronger sense of place. Additionally, the change in color and texture warns drivers turning onto the street to slow down as they've entered a pedestrian and bike-oriented space. The paving design used Ennis-Flint, Inc.'s herringbone pattern bordered by a sailor coursing, creating the appearance of a grander street with a pedestrian plaza feel. Grey pavers are laid out within the field of tan pavers in a circular or wheel pattern - a nod to the City's biking culture.

Both permeable and non-permeable pavers were installed in the entire length of the street, and proved an ideal solution to the functional, sustainable, and aesthetic goals of the project. The straightaway sections of the roadway and sidewalk use 80-millimeter permeable pavers allowing stormwater to enter directly into the permeable soils, taking pressure off the drainage system installed to assist with large storm events. Installed at intersections and alleyway driveways were 80-millimeter non-permeable pavers over an AC slab.

Not that installing pavers came without challenges. Working closely with the installer helped find elegant solutions to cut paver slivers at the project extents. Concrete collars were sized accordingly to allow for full and half paver widths, sailor coursing were used around utility lids when possible, and adjustments to layout were made in the field to minimize cuts and small pieces. Streetside business owners were involved and supportive throughout the project. Many of which expressed interest in extending the pavers beyond the right-of-way up to their front doors as the project moved into construction. This further expanded the appearance of the pedestrian realm, creating a more unified streetscape experience and connection along the two blocks.

New full cut-off LED lighting on decorative poles provide consistent pedestrian-scaled illumination running the length of the two blocks and improving the safety and visibility for all modes of traffic at night. Other streetscape furnishings include new benches, bike racks, trash and recycling receptacles, strategically placed Ironsmith bollards at the flush intersection of Third St and University Ave, and custom tree guards and posting kiosks.
Of equal importance to the future success of the street will be the contributions of newly planted trees. In Davis, the urban forest plays a significant role in creating memorable experiences as one moves through the streets and neighborhoods, and Third Street is no exception. Multiple large canopy trees were saved to help the street transition from old to new, while newly planted red oak and purple ash trees will contribute a healthy canopy for years to come. To assist new trees in reaching their full potential, a suspended pavement system was installed at each tree to provide access to high quality soil and expand the volume of uncompacted soil.

In the end, the benefits of the project became apparent soon after as businesses began making property improvements. Tables and chairs for outdoor dining populated the sidewalks, and bicyclists meandered happily down the street. Now, one can better enjoy the Third Street experience, watching the daily bike counter increase while at the 3rd & U Cafe sipping a beer after taking an exam.

As seen in LASN magazine, August 2020.

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