The huge straw bale bench was built in 2001 and is located at the train station. It's a great place to study or simply enjoy the outdoors. The bench is a piece of Town Art and was designed by Jonathan Hammond of Indigo Architecture. A 1983 article in Fine Homebuilding featuring Hammond helped spark a popular revival of this long-time building practice. (Early U.S. copyrights for use of strawbales as a building material date to the early 1800's—shortly after the invention of the mechanical baler.)
These benches were originally supposed to be about 50 feet to the east, but moved slightly out of citizen concern that the benches would attract people drinking/drugging due their distance from the station and relative isolation. Surprisingly, the benches remained relatively clean and free of such for about the first six years of their existence. In about 2007, a new 'breed' of homeless/alcoholics came to Davis to supplement the long time 'locals' and other ne'er-do-wells began hanging out here. About this time these benches were nicknamed "The Bunker" due ne'er-do-wells tendency to crouch down and hide on the railroad side of them when Davis Police would patrol through the parking lot, usually hiding to keep from being discovered drinking, but sometimes to hide stolen bicycles being dismantled here.
One of their principal 'hangouts' of the 'new breed' has been the straw bale benches, where for months at a time they hung out for extended hours, drinking both day and night. This 'new breed' did not get along well with long-time established and local Davis homeless, who tend to avoid them. The new breed is noted to not pick up after themselves, leaving a large quantity of litter in the bench area and around bushes across the tracks along the Calori Property, in the east corner of the Davis Wye, and along the railroad side of 203 J Street and 210 I Street where they sometimes camp or rest. Some of the Amtrak crews have nicknamed this rotating cast of people "The Davis Mensa Society" (DMS). Some of the DMS have medium-sized dogs which appear to be pit-bull mixes. There was an incident in 2009 where a passenger got off a train and one of these dogs lunged at him. In another incident, a bicycle officer was bit. The dog was taken, but surprisingly was returned to its owner.
The DMS tend to give an loud 'Good Morning' or other greetings, and sometimes are very rude and/or aggressive if you do not respond. The tend to also hang out along Olive Drive, with associates at the Cesar Chavez Apartments on Olive Drive, at Central Park, asking for money at the entrance to In-'n-Out Burger, in front of the Olive Drive Market and, before security cameras and fencing was installed, behind the computer store on Olive Drive. Officer Neves knows every one of them by name along with their rap sheet; if a new DMS member arrives in town he makes a point of learning about them.
Another bench hazard is to avoid the second or third indent from the east on the railroad side of the benches. The DMS at times sit on the eastern indent and use the next one to the west as a urinal, so it sometimes smells of urine. Many of the platform lights near the benches were busted out one-by-one over a period of time, though the powers-that-be replaced them recently so that end of the platform did not fall into total darkness.
There are mixed reports on whether the police can cite the DMS and others for loitering and drinking here under anti-public-drinking laws and/or a statute which allow removal of persons not holding tickets at the station. For long periods, the DMS seem to overwhelm police resources. As of December 2010 the DMS have been largely absent from the Strawbale Bench area for about 2-3 months for reasons unknown.
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I love this bench! —JackHaskel
I thought this bench looked more strawish. When I went to the amtrak station last Friday, I couldn't find anything that resembled a straw bale bench. Now I know what to look for. — JenniferChu
The straw is on the inside, forming the bulk of the structure. Then it is sealed off by a concrete or cob mixture. -jw
2011-08-30 03:14:40 What is this article about? Over 80% of this article pertains to local homeless and their antics. Could this page be renamed "Domestic Refugee Sanctuary Scuttlebutt"? I believe that is a more proper and accurate description for this page.
2011-09-02 00:56:04 Referred to as "The Snake" by the Homeless. —JustinYoder
2011-09-02 03:40:08 Regarding the previous comment, the name of the page is of something more permanent than the more transient people. It's interesting what has gone on there, especially since I had a personal taste of it. Something more pleasing could possibly be written here. —BruceHansen