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From: Jim Dent jdent AT erols DOT com
Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 00:13:08 -0400
Subject: Davis, CA
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From the Sacremento Bee
Masterpiece or muddle? Critics say the Davis
depot's new $800,000 landscape is cluttered and
By Matthew Barrows
Bee Staff Writer
(Published July 18, 2001)
A gravel mess.
Two years ago, that was the consensus on the land surrounding the historic train depot at
Second and H streets in Davis.
Now, after the completion of a nearly $800,000 landscaping project, the dusty gravel and
tangle of weeds have been removed, but not everyone agrees the mess is gone.
"It's very confusing and there's a lot of pavement," said Scott Neeley, a Davis architect
and member of the town's Historic Resources Management Commission. "It just leaves a
lot to be desired."
"My preference would have been to keep it a little simpler there," said Richard Berteaux,
another Davis architect and co-vice chairman of the historic commission.
One of the commission's biggest concerns has been several large granite outcroppings
in a grassy area in front of the depot.
"They are a little bit more than what is necessary," said Berteaux, who said he wasn't
sure what the rocks are supposed to represent.
During a brief tour of the grounds Tuesday, Jonathan Hammond, the architect on the
project, defended the design, saying that the rocks are meant to symbolize the Chinese
and Irish workers who helped blast through granite while building the railroad through the
Sierra in the 1860s. He also said the boulders mirror the granite gravel found along the
"That was what was in my head and heart when I did that," he said. "I'm personally very
pleased with the results and I hope others are, too."
Hammond said the goal of the project was to make the Davis depot more inviting to
passengers and passers-by without overshadowing the Mission Revival building
constructed in 1913.
Critics, however, counter that too many elements were incorporated into the design,
creating a muddled landscape for those getting on and off the trains.
Interim City Manager Jeanie Hippler noted Tuesday that the historic commission
approved the design. She said that after changing architects and designs midstream, city
officials are happy the project has been completed.
"We spent years trying to get it completed and went through a lot of architects," she said.
"We think it's going to be a great amenity to our downtown."
Another objective was to provide more shade for passengers waiting on hot, summer
To that end, the gravel and weeds were replaced with 40 valley oaks, and the granite
boulders were placed alongside paulownia, a quick-growing Asian tree with large,
heart-shaped leaves. Poppies and a rose garden also were planted.
But perhaps the most striking addition to the landscape is a series of serpentine benches
located just behind the tracks on both ends of the depot grounds.
The benches curve and twist around palm and oak trees, and artist Sayako Dairiki said
they were painted to match the seasons -- pastels for spring, light blues and greens for
summer, browns for fall and darker colors to represent winter.
But the benches, too, have attracted a few negative comments.
"A lot of people say it looks like Santa Barbara; that it doesn't really match Davis," said John Murphy III, who has
been working at the depot selling tickets since 1992.
Murphy said he would like to have seen more parking and perhaps some covered seating for when it rains.
And like Berteaux, he said he didn't understand the granite motif.
"The building was built in 1913," Murphy said. "Why didn't they look back and see what they had in 1913?"
Hammond took the criticism in stride.
"The historic board has its narrow interest, which is preserving the historic intent of the city," he said. "We just
wanted to create a great place for the public."
Then he added: "This is Davis -- there are a lot of people with a lot of strong opinions."