Joe's Tour of Neighborhoods
The most salient feature of Davis neighborhoods is how interconnected they are. The Davis planning department excels at weaving our greenbelts, or emerald necklace (to borrow a term from Cleveland, Ohio) throughout the distinct neighborhoods, making access by bike, foot, skateboard, scooter and in-line skates (my preference) a breeze. The core area (downtown) has no greenbelts but the street bikelanes downtown are top notch. Davis has more bicycles per capita than any city in the U.S. Kids can easily navigate the greenbelt bikepaths to the nearest schools and parks. We have six parks within a short bike ride of our house, and one quickly learns which is the shadiest (Village Park) before venturing out on a 103-degree July afternoon.
Davis is known for many things apart from its bikes, not the least of which is the infamous toad tunnel under Pole Line Road built in 1995 for $14,000, (the butt of late-night talk show humor) connecting a marsh with a popular breeding ground for frogs adjacent to the post office. (The tunnel was built to transport frogs, not toads, but the misleading moniker stuck.) Supposedly, no frog ever survived the journey due to the excessive heat of the tunnel. Local HVAC contractor, Blakes, should have installed central air, I guess. Ribbit. Another bit of Davis trivia: a house on Madrid St. in the North Davis enclave of Covell Park was used to film Sorority Life, a popular MTV series. It's inconclusive whether that raised or lowered property values on the street at the time. So let's begin our journey there, in North Davis.
Its boundary line is simple enough, everything north of Covell Blvd. we call North Davis. Covell Park, a mature neighborhood with Spanish-named streets, features many mid-century modern home designs built by Streng Brothers in the 70's and early 80's, paralleling Eichler architecture of the Bay Area. Covell Park is situated close to the core area, with easy biking to the library, Davis Arts Center, Community Park and downtown venues.
Northstar is a newer community to the north of Covell Park with semi-custom and custom homes built in the late 80's and early 90's. The neighborhoods are joined by Northstar Park which features two popular bird ponds, (popular to our feathered friends, as well as birders). There is a nice kiddie playground filled with sand near one of the ponds, and a well-manicured soccer field, to boot. Senda Nueva is another smaller North Davis development to the west of Covell Park, just a stone's throw from The Marketplace shopping with Safeway, Peet's Coffee, Jamba Juice, Dos Coyotes Border Cafe, et al.
Hopping east over F Street and the railroad tracks is the site of the former Hunt-Wesson tomato canning plant, which had recently been proposed by Lewis Homes as the Cannery Park neighborhood until they pulled out. While the plant operated, trucks brimming with tomatoes would parade down Covell Blvd. To the north and east of the Hunt-Wesson site lies unincorporated farmland, the site of a contentious battle between the developers of the proposed Covell Village neighborhood and its opponents. The project was supported by Davis city council members, with the exception of then mayor Sue Greenwald, and the decision to go forward was then placed on the ballot, as is the requirement of Measure J, which forces any zoning change of adjacent county ag land to go before the voters. The project was defeated by the electorate with 60% opposed.
To the east of Pole Line Road and north of Covell Blvd. is the Green Meadows subdivision comprised mostly of attached, two-story, townhouse-stye homes with small yards. The popular Davis Athletic Club is on Picasso Ave. Moving to the north is La Buena Vida, aka the McKeon Condos. With prices in the mid-to-high $100,000s, the McKeons are the most affordable homes in Davis. In the spring and summer of '05, at the peak of the market when the inventory of condos for sale was very tight, some units were fetching over $300,000, but since then, prices of McKeons have tumbled over 40%. Between '98 and '05, the rising tide of price appreciation in Davis lifted all boats equally, from McKeons to luxurious custom homes, but condo prices have fallen more steeply than single-family residences in the ensuing years.
Roughly a decade ago, the large Wildhorse community was developed to the north and west of Green Meadows and McKeons. Wildhorse features a hilly, eponymous golf course whose inhabitants include burrowing owls. If you take a brief walk along the path to the east of Rockwell Court just before sunset, you'll discover these protected birds standing guard over the abandoned squirrel holes they call home. A few years ago, I golfed in a Kiwanis charity tournament, and hopefully no owls were lost due to my errant hooks and slices.
With the exception of custom and semi-custom properties along Rockwell Court built by a variety of local contractors, the Wildhorse homes were built by production builders including Meritage, Morrison, Greystone, Forecast and Ryland. Many of the homes have scenic views of the course, or views of the horse ranch to the east of Caravaggio Drive. On any given Saturday, Sandy Motley Park and Nugget Field adjacent to Pole Line Road are teeming with kids playing soccer. A new bike tunnel under Covell Blvd. connecting Wildhorse with East Davis is a welcome addition.
In November, 2009, another Measure J ballot measure, Wildhorse Ranch, was put before the voters in a special election. It failed, with a resounding 75% of the voters opposed. The developers of the project, Parlan, sought to build 191 solar-powered homes on a relatively small parcel of county land directly east of the larger Wildhorse neighborhood. Clearly, the electorate will likely reject any new development on adjacent county land, no matter how green or revenue neutral it may be spun.
North, West and South Davis are clearly delineated from Central Davis by Covell Blvd., Highway 113 and I-80, respectively. For East Davis, no well-defined boundary exists. However, L St. is as good a candidate as any. East Davis follows a growth pattern typical of many city neighborhoods with older sections closer to the downtown business district composed of smaller, older dwellings.
A large swath of older East Davis offers production homes built by Stanley Davis in the 60's and 70's. Named for California counties, Stanley Davis built six plans, the El Dorado, Shasta, Marin, Sonoma, Alpine and Trinity. The plans differ in size from 900 to 1,600 square feet, with most in the 1,200 to 1,400 range. A few notables: the Alpine is the only two-story plan; the Trinity, the only plan featuring a detached garage; and the El Dorado, the only plan with just one bath. Stanley Davis built these plans in smaller quantities throughout North, West and South Davis, as well.
Chestnut Park and Slide Hill Park are two of the larger parks within older East Davis. The re-designed Manor Pool complex at Slide Hill is a blast in the summertime. Both Birch Lane Elementary and Valley Oak Elementary lie in older East Davis. The school board has voted to close Valley Oak due to to shifts in enrollment. Many Davis residents opposed the closing of the school, and continuing its operation as a charter school had been proposed. Davis Manor Shopping Center, (aka the Popsicle Mall), Davis Cemetery, and Rancho Yolo, a senior mobile home community, are other neighborhood landmarks.
With the exception of Sunnyside Village, a little development of approximately sixty homes built in the late '90s just east of the cemetery with its streets branching out on either side of E. Eighth St., the newer development in East Davis is the large master-planned community of Mace Ranch. Most Mace Ranch homes were built in the mid-to-late 90's. Lake Alhambra Estates features large custom homes surrounding a man-made lake, (the lake is smaller than Davis' other man-made lake, Stonegate Lake). Beautiful Mace Ranch Park is the community's centerpiece, with athletic fields, playgrounds, a picnic area and protected open space for burrowing owls, jackrabbits and other Davis critters. Korematsu Elementary is adjacent to the park, and Harper Junior High, the newest of Davis's three middle schools, is on the neighborhood's northeast corner, near the Covell Blvd./Mace Blvd. curve. A "green" Target store opened in October of 2009 just northwest of the I-80 Mace Blvd. exit. Like the Covell Village proposal, the decision was put before the voters. Big-box won at the ballot box by a razor-thin margin. Many voters opposed Target due to fears of it drawing shoppers away from downtown stores.
If you're west of Highway 113, welcome to West Davis, home to the following communities: Stonegate, Village Homes, West Manor, Westwood, Aspen and Evergreen. Stonegate is the furthest west, so we'll begin there. Stonegate has it's own Country Club, sans golf course. Its pride and joy is the man-made lake of the same name. At night the twinkling lights reflecting onto the water from the lakefront homes are a beautiful sight. The club features tennis courts, a soccer field, a fitness room, outdoor swimming pools and a community center. Sailboats and canoes are available for use, too. Stonegate was built over a span of many decades, so the established homes on the southside near Russell Blvd. share little with the relatively newer homes of the 80's on the north end. Stonegate includes two rather quiet condo developments, Lakeside Greens, and Stonegate Woods, aka Woods Circle.
Village Homes is a world reknowned passive solar neighborhood built on a former tomato field. Built in the late 70's, the developers, young Michael, later to become mayor, and Judy Corbett fought the city planners on a number of issues, from streets perceived to be too narrow for emergency vehicles (in an attempt to reduce summer temperatures with less pavement), to lack of storm drains, (the common back yards dip into swales to catch storm runoff). Supposedly, the year after Village Homes was completed, much of West Davis flooded with the exception of Village Homes. The Village has been visited over the years by a few traveling dignitaries, Rosalyn Carter and Francois Mitterrand to name a few. Village Homes is replete with orchards, community gardens, common lawns, an outdoor swimming pool, plus a handful of apartments and an Italian Restaurant. Far from cookie-cutter production, no home is replicated more than once in the neighborhood, and in an attempt to de-emphasize the auto, most homes were built without garages.
The West Manor neighborhood, sandwiched between Village Homes and Stonegate, features homes built by Stanley Davis in the 70's. The street names are rivers of the world, such as Tiber, Feather and Ganges (Eel Avenue and Eel Place are peculiar choices). West Manor Park is surprisingly large, due to the fact that it's rather hidden from any main street. It features tennis and basketball courts, a playground, a picnic area, an athletic field and a roller hockey ring. The West Davis pond, another great birding spot, lies to the northeast of the neighborhood.
East of West Manor is Westwood, a collection of larger homes on spacious lots, built in the 70's on streets named for U.S. presidents - Buchanan, Eisenhower, Fillmore and the like. The neighborhood's southern boundary is Russell Blvd. and its scenic black walnut tree-lined bikepath which connects to the campus. A new mixed-use UC Davis community, West Village, is under construction south of Russell and west of Highway 113 to accomodate more faculty, staff and student housing. Many of the West Village residences will be "affordable," in that buyers can purchase at prices below fair market, but their equity appreciation will be capped.
The newer Evergreen neighborhood lies at the northeast corner of West Davis, just west of Hwy 113 and south of Covell Blvd., and traversed by Shasta Drive. The majority of homes have a Mediterranean style of exterior with stucco walls and tile roofs. Arroyo Pool, with its highly popular water slide, and Arroyo Park are at the southern edge of the community. Patwin Elementary sits west of the pool. The eastern portion of Evergreen is within the Willett Elementary boundary line and there's a most convenient bike and pedestrian bridge over Highway 113 leading to the school and adjacent park.
Tucked to the west of Evergreen is the Aspen Neighborhood which includes Muir Commons, "the first cohousing community newly constructed in the United States," according to its website. The remainder of Aspen is mostly larger, custom and semi-custom homes on cul-de-sacs bordering either a greenbelt, or the West Davis pond, nice choices to have.
South Davis, the portion of Davis which lies south of I-80, is a veritable smorgisborg of desirable neighborhoods connected by greenbelts. No one master planned community dominates, a la Mace Ranch in East Davis. Even though separated by I-80, traveling by bike to and from South Davis is a snap. The most scenic route is the path leading from the south end of Davis Commons (Borders, etc) parking lot and the eastern edge of the UC Davis arboretum. The route, which includes a $4.5 million I-80 bike underpass, constructed in 2000, follows Putah Creek, and is arguably the most beautiful path in all of Davis. This author frequently straps on his skates and breezes along the Putah Creek path - 20 minutes round trip from Putah Creek Park to the cul-de-sac at Da Vinci Court.
For those who prefer bridges to tunnels, a pedestrian/bike overpass will transport you to and from South Davis. The bridge connects Cowell Blvd. (just north of Willow Creek Park) in South Davis with a path extending north of Second St. leading to Mace Ranch Park. The Pole Line Road I-80 overpass nicely accomodates all forms of transportation, while the other two links over I-80 into South Davis, Richards Blvd. and Mace Blvd. are best left to pedestrians and autos.
The Oakshade neighborhood, built in the early 1990s, lies to the north of Putah Creek and its path. Oakshade's many cul-de-sacs and quiet U-shaped streets feature exsquisite southern views of the mature trees along the creek. The neighbood of custom and semi-custom residences is dissected by a greenbelt running north-south. Homes on Oakshade's eastside can be accessed via Montgomery Ave., and auto access along the western side utilizes Valdora St. Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School and Walnut Park sit to the north of Oakshade homes.
As you follow Montgomery Ave. to the east, over a narrow bridge, you find yourself removed from suburban-esque Oakshade and Davis, more generally. To the north lies the oldest section of the Willowbank neighborhood, technically in unincorporated Yolo County. To the south is Solano County farmland. Old Willowbank homes are eclectic in design, with large shady lots. Like the elegant ranch homes of the El Macero Country Club community to the east of Davis, Willowbank is within the boundary of the Davis Joint Unified School District. Newer Willowbank homes are to the east, abutting Mace Blvd.
There is a wonderful little pedastrian/bike bridge over the creek connecting Willowbank with the Woodbridge neighborhood, a nature trail, and a park to the north. Other older South Davis neighborhoods connected to the path are Rosecreek, El Macero Park, El Macero Vista and Rancho Macero. Newer neighborhoods sprinkled among South Davis include Diamond Park, (so named as it lies adjacent to the ball fields of Playfields Park), Willowcreek and Parque Santiago.
South Davis continues to the east of Mace Blvd., featuring older homes from the 70's, Pioneer Park and Pioneer Elementary School. Traveling east along Cowell Blvd., you'll find a neighborhood of large, newer properties, most of which were built by Warmington Homes in the early 2000's, along Davis's most eastern edge. To the east, a vast stretch of farmland and the seasonally flooded Yolo Basin (Yolo Bypass) featuring its incredible variety of shorebirds, ducks and bats. At the eastern horizon one glimpses the Sacramento skyline, and on a clear day, the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains.
So here's where the tour ends, Central Davis. The most central part of central Davis is known as the core, (go ahead, picture Davis as an apple). The core, unlike many central business districts today, is thriving. As mentioned, Target opponents argued that the proposed big-box to be constructed near Mace Blvd. will destroy downtown businesses, and whether that happens remains to be seen. The core has its share of great restaurants, bike shops, art galleries and boutiques. A prized landmark is the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer House, located at 604 Second St., listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Central Park and its Farmers Market, with streets B and C, and 3rd and 5th at its borders is one happenin' place on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The price per square foot for homes in the core is generally at a premium relative to the rest of town. Many of the properties are charming cottages from the 1910's, 20's and 30's. The residential area between 5th and 7th and B and the tracks, Old North Davis, is prime real estate, shouting distance from the Davis Food Co-op on G St., and all the downtown venues to its south. The UC Davis campus joins downtown at A St., and their proximity to one another infuses downtown with campus staff, faculty and students throughout each day. As UC Davis enrollment for its summer sessions continues to grow, the core remains vibrant throughout the summer, whereas in years past it was quieter when the mercury soared.
East Central and West Central Davis are neighborhoods featuring many homes built in the 50's and 60's, abundant with mid-century moderns built by Streng Bros. on streets named for U.S. colleges, rather befitting of the second-most highly educated city in the country. College Park, just west of downtown, is the most prestigious address in town, with older homes representing a variety of architectural styles, eg. Colonials and Tudors, situated among beautiful gardens and shady lawns. The UC Davis Chancellor's residence is on College Park, as well. I hope you enjoyed the tour!