Analysis: Enterprise Endorses Nishi

Print Newspapers

Print NewspapersWhile critical details about the Nishi project remain up in the air, the Davis Enterprise editor has endorsed putting the Nishi Gateway project on the ballot and, in the final sentence of the editorial, seems to endorse the voters approving the project.

Calling the project “[a]n opportunity to put smart planning into practice,” the newspaper notes that “the Davis City Council is expected to vote on the final parameters of the plan and decide whether to put it on the June ballot.”

One of the areas of uncertainty is how the fiscal angle will play itself out. While the developer has pledged to make the project pencil out as fiscally positive, it is unclear at this point how much of a revenue generator Nishi will be.

And yet the Enterprise argues, “As unfunded liabilities and structural deficits pile up, city of Davis leaders have sought for years to bring in the sort of development that can give a real boost to the bottom line.” Nishi, they write, “offers a unique opportunity for the city not only to put its money where its mouth is, but actually to come up with some money beyond its narrow tax base.”

They add, “In addition, in an effort to avoid any sort of urban sprawl, the twin goals of densification and walkability have risen to occupy the thoughts of planning officials, at least in theory.”

They acknowledge that this land, “narrow” and “neglected,” is “crammed in awkwardly between Interstate 80 and the Southern Pacific railroad tracks” but, the accessibility issue aside, “the location is almost perfect.”

They write, “Adjacent to the east end of the UC Davis campus, and providing easy access to downtown Davis through Richards Boulevard, the project would create walking access for an unprecedented number of professionals and students. Providing a place where UCD employees could live close to where they work, and close to all the downtown amenities, would move us off the path of becoming yet another commuter suburb along the I-80 corridor.”

But “accessibility is an issue,” they acknowledge. They argue that “here the council’s ground rules for the project act to ensure that it develops along the most sustainable path possible.”

They continue, “The project’s ‘baseline’ features include commitments to build an undercrossing connection to UCD under the railroad tracks, and improve the Richards Boulevard corridor. During the first phase of the project, nothing would happen on the site until that tunnel connecting the Nishi property to the university is built. The second phase would allow construction to begin, but would not allow occupancy or private-vehicle use until the Richards Boulevard Corridor improvements are completed. In the meantime, buses and emergency response vehicles would be able to travel through the site.”

The paper notes, “In addition for pushing for a low parking allotment, the council also won a promise from the developer not to request a Community Facilities District to finance public improvements; to create a private landscape and lighting district to cover costs of park maintenance; and to place condominiums into the Davis school district’s Community Facilities District No. 2 to generate $200,000 annually in revenue for schools.”

The editorial concludes, “Add in the economic activity of so many people living and working near downtown, and the financial payout is impressive, as is the commitment to making the project align with Davis’ values and way of life. On Tuesday, Feb. 2, the council may vote to place the project on the June 7 ballot for the required Measure R/Measure J vote.”

Bottom line: “We hope the council and, after that, Davis voters recognize what a unique and beneficial project this is for our city. We’ve talked long and hard about smart planning; here is an opportunity to put it into practice.”

Vanguard analysis:

This is an editorial which likely will not sway a lot of people who are on the fence. First, one of the central points predicts Nishi “actually to come up with some money beyond its narrow tax base.”

People who have spent a far greater amount of time than the Enterprise Editorial Board disagree on the fiscal certainty of the project. Setting aside questions as to how much sales tax and property tax this project generates, most of the biggest fiscal drivers are either offline or down the line.

Dan Carson presents the most optimistic model, but that hinges on half a million from a hotel that, at best, is going to come online years from now, a CFD that has been taken off the table and savings on public safety that will likely not be enacted. The developer here has lowered the bar, promising a net fiscal positive, but not a real revenue stream.

The paper calls “the financial payout,” “impressive,” but to us it seems tenuous and uncertain at this point. It may get shored up in the next two weeks, but right now, the Enterprise seems overly on the optimistic side.

For some, the other advantages of Nishi may make the project worthwhile, especially if it adds housing and R&D (Research and Development) space, and therefore jobs, to the community. However, from our experience, overselling a project in Davis is almost sure to backfire, as opposition will seize on this language to throw it back in the face of the project proponents.

We agree with the Enterprise that the location is almost perfect, but accessibility is a big issue. The developers attempt to deal with that in a variety of ways, only some of which the Enterprise mentions – the commitment for a UC Davis access and the phasing to allow for Richards Blvd. Corridor improvements.

But the project also promises peak hour metering and a reduction of parking in order to adequately deal with congestion concerns on Richards. Moreover, we would like to see what the city’s solution overall on Richards looks like – something they promised on the Hotel Conference Center but which still remains a big unknown going into a vote.

The Enterprise doesn’t address probably the biggest question that will face the council on Tuesday and perhaps again on February 16 – is the project ready to go now as opposed to in November?

That remains to be seen, based on how many of the remaining questions can be resolved on Tuesday, including an additional 130 possible units that may or may not be in violation of Measure R’s baseline feature provisions.

On Saturday, at the Vanguard discussion on Nishi, Tim Ruff said that the proposal about the additional units may go away. If it does, it will remove a clear barrier to a June vote. But that still remains to be determined.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

44 thoughts on “Analysis: Enterprise Endorses Nishi”

      1. Barack Palin

        I’m thinking an asset like Nishi should be bringing us in a bare minimum of at least a million a year.  Either way, I can’t vote for this on pie in the sky evaluations, it has to be solid numbers.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I understand your position. I just want to clarify that my position on this is that right now I don’t see that this becomes ongoing revenue for the city. That’s what the Enterprise is claiming, and I don’t see the evidence that it will. There may be enough other benefits that it’s okay that Nishi doesn’t become a revenue generator. That is really up to the individual voters to decide. My beef is not to make claims that are not borne out by the hours of analysis others have done.

      1. CalAg

        “I just want to clarify that my position on this is that right now I don’t see that this becomes ongoing revenue for the city.” @ David Greenwald

        I agree, but this is from the Staff Report …

        The Baseline Project Features include establishment of a Services Community Facilities District for municipal services, to ensure positive fiscal and economic benefits for the City of Davis. Parameters for the Services CFD process will be established in the Development Agreement. Exact revenues and methodologies will be established by the City Council upon formation of the District in the future, with input from fiscal consultants and the Finance and Budget Commission.

        Setting aside the inconvenient fact that the Draft Baseline Project Features in Tuesday’s Staff Report doesn’t have any language addressing this statement, it appears that the strategy is to tax the residents and businesses to subsidize the “commitment” from the development/developers to make the General Fund whole and provide fiscal benefit to the community.

        I don’t have a problem with using a CFD to pay for new project-related infrastructure. I have a huge problem with using a CFD to subsidize the City’s budget on the backs of students and startups.

        1. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “it appears that the strategy is to tax the residents and businesses to subsidize the “commitment” from the development/developers to make the General Fund whole and provide fiscal benefit to the community.”

          I could be wrong CalAg. but I believe the entities paying the tax will be the parcel owners rather than the residents and businesses.  Given the fact that 2/3 of the residential parcels and 100% of the business/R&D parcels will be owned by the developer.  That means the developer is in effect proposing a stream of annual payments to the City in order to enhance the annual budgetary position of the City government.

          Cal Ag said . . . “I don’t have a problem with using a CFD to pay for new project-related infrastructure. I have a huge problem with using a CFD to subsidize the City’s budget on the backs of students and startups.”

          As I stated in the January 11th FBC meeting approving a CFD to pay for new project-related infrastructure does not make sense in the Nishi situation.  As we saw in the Cannery situation a CFD produces a one-time, upfront payment to the developer that is paid for by a 30-year stream of tax payments by the parcel owners.  For all the Nishi rental units the parcel owners and the developer are the same people.  That means that if a CFD goes forward the developer will be agreeing to pay 30 years of debt service in order to pay themselves an upfront payment.  As FBC commissioner Ray Salomon said on the 11th, “If they really want to do that, they can simply take out a private mortgage on their retained units.”  I added to Ray’s comment that, “The interest rates will be lower than the 6% that Susan Goodwin presented to the FBC and the $2-3 million of closing costs and reserve requirements will go away.  No CFD  is a more efficient and effective fiscal approach when paying for new project-related infrastructure at Nishi.” 

           

           

           

        2. CalAg

          MW:

          (1) The proposed services CFD payments will be passed through to the residents and the end users. While the developer’s profit margin might get squeezed, there is no magic pot of money where they eat the taxes.

          (2) Infrastructure CFD’s reimburse development projects for specific infrastructure improvements (specified upfront) after completion and certification by the City. In the absence of a CFD, these costs are recovered from the ultimate property owners via higher land prices (which translate into higher home prices in the case of residential). There are costs and benefits to either approach – and CFD’s typically lead to better civic improvements/amenities that are constructed sooner. Any insinuation that an infrastructure CFD is some kind of give-away is just political spin.

        3. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “The proposed services CFD payments will be passed through to the residents and the end users. While the developer’s profit margin might get squeezed, there is no magic pot of money where they eat the taxes.”

          I agree 100%, and would extend your point to say that “All costs are passed through to the residents and end users of every project.”  The method through which those costs are incurred/defrayed does not change the fact that those costs will be the “cost plus” basis that landlords use to establish the rents they charge tenants (unless those costs put the rents at a level that is above “market rate”).  That is true for new construction like Nishi proposes, or for resale properties like the two recent apartment complex sale transactions and the just completed sale of the Brinley properties in downtown Davis.

          CalAg said . . .  “Infrastructure CFD’s reimburse development projects for specific infrastructure improvements (specified upfront) after completion and certification by the City. In the absence of a CFD, these costs are recovered from the ultimate property owners via higher land prices (which translate into higher home prices in the case of residential). There are costs and benefits to either approach – and CFD’s typically lead to better civic improvements/amenities that are constructed sooner. Any insinuation that an infrastructure CFD is some kind of give-away is just political spin.”

          The  key word in your comment above is “typically” and I agree with you that that is typically the case.  However, both a Nishi infrastructure CFD (if one happens) and the Cannery CFD were not typical.  Why are they not typical?  A Nishi CFD is not typical because the developer and the owner of 2/3 of the residential units are the same party.  The Cannery CFD was not typical because under the terms of the November 2013 Development Agreement between the City and New Home, there was no need for additional infrastructure funding.  New Home had agreed to both construct and fund the amenities specified in the Development Agreement with a timeline specified in the Development Agreement.

          In addition, for any infrastructure CFD in Davis the fact that housing in Davis is massively a “sellers market” means that the home buyers and/or home renters are not in a position to ensure that they are not paying for the CFD amenities twice … once in the purchase price and once more in their annual CFD payments.

          That “seller’s market” is getting progressively worse for buyers and renters because of the fact that the University enrollment has risen from 30,742 in 2011-2012, to 31,396 in 2012-2013, to 32,144 in 2013-2014, to 33,428 in 2014-2025, to 36,104 in 2015-2016, and is projected to rise to approximately 37,500 this fall.

          That isn’t political spin.  That is micro-economic reality.

        4. CalAg

          I agree that an infrastructure CFD makes no sense if the developer is going to retain ownership of the development. I would make the same argument for a services CFD, for similar reasons. Under either scenario – sale or retention – a services CFD makes no sense.

          In the case of the Cannery, I am very skeptical that the Cannery development agreement required that the public amenities be front loaded. Having said that, I googled the development agreement but could not find the timeline. Do you have the section reference?

        5. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . .  “I would make the same argument for a services CFD, for similar reasons. Under either scenario – sale or retention – a services CFD makes no sense.”

          A services CFD made sense to the FBC on January 11th.  The first of the series of FBC motions passed recommended the use of Scenario 10 as the Base Development Plan for Nishi.  Scenario 10 uses a Parks and Open Space Assessment of $181,000 paid to the City each year by the Nishi developer.  Scenario 10 improves the EPS Calculated net margin for the City from a ($106,000) deficit to a $75,000 surplus.

        6. CalAg

          “A services CFD made sense to the FBC on January 11th.”

          After reflection, I have to concede the point on a services CFD..

          Infrastructure CFD’s can be replaced by larger construction loans. A services CFD makes sense as the best mechanism to shield the taxpayers from subsidizing the project. That being said, the proposed services CFD has to be set high enough to accomplish the task, and that won’t happen if the fiscal analysis is gamed to overstate the revenue and understate the costs.

  1. Jim Frame

    The project’s ‘baseline’ features include commitments to build an undercrossing connection to UCD under the railroad tracks

    Here’s a wrinkle that hadn’t occurred to me before:  ensuring dedicated public access to the site via the new undercrossing, particularly to the I-80 interchange at Old Davis Road.  Getting under the RR tracks is the expensive part, but there’s also the matter of legal access to the public road system.  I imagine the developers have worked this out with UCD, the county and the lenders, but I’d curious about the the nature of those arrangements.

    The current plan shows a short stretch of road connecting the new undercrossing to Old Davis Road, but is the new alignment of Old Davis Road a dedicated public street, particularly the stretch that connects to I-80?  We wouldn’t want to end up with a situation in which UCD decides to close off the westerly access and force all Nishi traffic onto First Street.

    I realize that this is an unlikely scenario, but it’d be nice to know that the appropriate arrangements have been made and just what those arrangements are.

    1. CalAg

      “I imagine the developers have worked this out with UCD, the county and the lenders” @ Jim Frame

      JF: Ask them.

      My bet is that the negotiations are much less advanced than you might imagine given the fast-tracking of this incomplete mess to the ballot.

  2. CalAg

    “During the first phase of the project, nothing would happen on the site until that tunnel connecting the Nishi property to the university is built.” Davis Enterprise

    “Construction of backbone infrastructure, including the central street, utility mains, and drainage improvements, may be commenced only after commencement of construction of both the connection to UC Davis …” Baseline Project Features (http://cityofdavis.org/home/showdocument?id=5149)

    This is a good illustration of the problem with the Nishi process – the disconnect between the reality and the rhetoric.

    Starting construction on the Nishi student housing complex before the UCD connection is complete means the entire burden of construction traffic will fall on Richards. This is completely unacceptable.

    And what about the grade separated crossing for the Putah Creek Parkway? The Baseline Project Features are silent on this piece of infrastructure. Is construction traffic going to cross the bikeway at-grade? This is also completely unacceptable.

    Is the Davis Enterprise deliberately misleading the community? How about Councilmember Davis – who said the same thing as the Enterprise from the dais during the last public hearing?

    I don’t believe they are.

    And yet, here is a fundamental disconnect between the public characterization of the commitments that are being made and the actual actual articulation of these commitments to the voters in the Baseline Project Features.

    1. Don Shor

      Phasing
      Construction of the project is anticipated to be completed in three different phases. Connection to Old Davis Road would also be subject to approval by the UC Regents and timeframes established by UC Davis. Phase 1, approximately 15 acres, is anticipated to include development of the residential and R&D structures nearest to Putah Creek, along with a portion of the open space and drainage system connection to the detention pond to be located in the southern portion of the project site (see Figure 3). Phases 2 and 3, approximately 15 acres each, would include portions of development on both sides of the primary roadway through the Nishi site. The exact timing of these phases would be dependent upon market constraints, UC Davis, and conditions of approval imposed by the City at the time of project approval.

      http://cityofdavis.org/home/showdocument?id=350

      This is completely unacceptable….This is also completely unacceptable.

      The whole project is completely unacceptable to you. You made that clear months ago. I doubt you’re the segment of the electorate that the proponents are trying to persuade at this point.

      1. CalAg

        The text you quote is over a year old and is certainly not reflected in the draft Baseline Project Features – which is essentially the developer’s contract with the citizens. And even if this text was included in the Baseline Project Features, it’s full of weasel words and is non-binding (but I suspect you already know this).

         

        1. Don Shor

          Jan 6 baseline features for planning commission:
          1. Phasing Commitments
          o  No project on the site until connection to UC Davis campus is approved through UC Davis Long Range Development Plan, environmental review, and agreement with City Council and UC Davis.
          o  No occupancy until Richards/I-80 interchange improvements are complete

          Feb. 2 baseline features in staff report:
          1. At the January 19 meeting, the City Council discussed whether there is a mechanism that would allow phased development of the site, so that a portion of the construction could occur prior to completion of all infrastructure. We are now recommending that all backbone infrastructure, the grade-separated crossing to UC Davis, and the improvements to the Richards Boulevard interchange, be completed prior to any occupancy on the Nishi site. Construction on the Nishi site could begin only after construction has begun on the interchange and the grade- separated crossing.

          1. Don Shor

            Isn’t it concerning to you that none of these requirements have made it into the draft baseline project features in the 2/2/2016 Staff Report?

            No, because I expect the council to give the staff final directions on Tuesday.

        2. CalAg

           

          We’ll see. It’s pretty unprofessional that the council has to do this in real time from the dais – particularly since they gave clear instructions to the staff at the last hearing and there is a Council subcommittee (Swanson and Davis) providing oversight.

    2. Matt Williams

      CalAg said . . . “Starting construction on the Nishi student housing complex before the UCD connection is complete means the entire burden of construction traffic will fall on Richards. This is completely unacceptable.”

      I do not believe that construction traffic will use Richards/West Olive drive much at all.  My understanding is that until the UPRR Underpass is completed, the principal access to the site for construction vehicles working on the UPRR underpass will be using the existing farm road that goes from the farthest southwestern point of the Nishi property, under I-80, and then to Old Davis Road south of I-80 just north of the Raptor Center.

      That farm road is how farm machinery currently gets on site to maintain Nishi.

  3. Tia Will

    I find myself in an unusual situation. I am an avowed slow growth advocate. I also am a strong advocate for paying for any desired amenities ourselves and not pawning the costs onto anyone else whether it be future inhabitants, visitors, or our own children. And yet, especially after yesterday’s forum on Nishi and actually visiting the site while focusing on its suitability for this particular project, I am leaning heavily in favor of the project due to the housing and R&D merits of the project with a few caveats as follows :

    1. We must know the details of city/county tax agreements prior to proceeding. This would be entirely unacceptable to be left as a “we will work it out later” reassurance as Brett Lee has pointed out.

    2. All access and transportation issues must be resolved and specified in non legalistic jargon before this is put to the voters. Hopefully this will be made clear at Tuesday’s presentation and discussion by the CC. Again, no room for “we will work it out later”.

    3. All issues regarding the number of housing units must be decided definitely prior to a vote. No wiggle room for “we can add more later” if that turns out to be favorable to the developers and investors.  Basically, no blank check for the future without a new vote of the people, not the CC.

    4. Some concerns have been raised about adverse health consequences given the proximity to the tracks and to the freeway. Brief communications between the county epidemiologist and myself have led to my belief that there is a protective factor ( which may or may not be prevailing wind patterns) which is a contributing factor to the lack of a statistical increase in ER visits for respiratory illnesses as a marker for acute respiratory illness such as asthma and COPD for the residents of Olive Drive which would be the population most geographically similar to the Nishi site as compared to the remainder of Davis. This evidence coupled with the proposed mitigation of an “urban forest” as advocated for by Brett Lee would further lessen my concerns about the adverse health consequences of this location for housing, especially for the intended population which would largely be young adults of college and junior faculty age.

    1. CalAg

      “We must know the details of city/county tax agreements prior to proceeding. This would be entirely unacceptable to be left as a “we will work it out later” reassurance as Brett Lee has pointed out.” @ Tia Will

      This is exactly what will happen if they vote on 2/7 or 2/16 to put it on the ballot.

      From the Staff Report …

      The City Manager and Assistant City Managers have met with the County Administrator to begin discussions of concepts for the necessary tax-share agreement with Yolo County. Staff anticipates returning to City Council later in February with proposed “principles for tax-share agreements” for Council consideration, which would establish the City Council’s expectations for tax-share discussions moving forward.

      It’s nice that Brett Lee put the staff on notice, but they haven’t even started the actual negotiation. There is no chance that this will be worked out before proceeding if the Council approves the project in Feb as planned.

      1. Matt Williams

        Tia and CalAg, looking back at the November 3, 2005 Measure P ballot for Wildhorse Ranch the date when it was put on the ballot by the Council (the equivalent of our current 2/16/2016 date) was in early July 2005.  The actual ballot language is very limited and read,

        “Shall Resolution No. 09-132, amending the Davis General Plan to change the land use designations for the Wildhorse Ranch property from agriculture to residential uses, as set forth in the Resolution and establishing the Base Line Project Features for development of the Wildhorse Ranch Project be approved?”

        The ballot support language, which included baseline features language, which contained some (but not all) of the financial terms was not finalized (as best as I can tell) until September 15, 2005.  So finalization of the City/County split realistically has a soft deadline on February 16th and a hard deadline somewhere shortly after April 1st.

        I suspect that neither Mayor Wolk nor Supervisor Saylor want to have a failure on this City/County agreement as a center piece of their respective Assembly campaigns.

         

        1. CalAg

          How exactly do the desires of Wolk and Saylor or the history of Wildhorse Ranch square with Lee’s statement’s at the last hearing that he will not support a “work it out later” approach on the key issues like tax sharing?

        2. Matt Williams

          Neither Wolk nor Saylor want to see the May/June portion of their Assembly race be about their individual failure to get the City/County tax sharing agreement done.

          With that said, the definition of “work it out later” is important.  If “work it out later” means after the June election date, I agree that that is 100% unacceptable.  If “work it out later” means between the February 16th Council meeting and the early April deadline for ballot support documents like the final Baseline Features language, and the various arguments and rebuttals, then that is a different story.  I don’t actually KNOW what Brett’s definition of  “work it out later” is.  Perhaps he will clarify that on Tuesday night.

        3. CalAg

          To my knowledge, the final Baseline Project Features language will be set on 2/17 if  the Council approves all the various planning documents. Do I have this wrong? Do the Baseline Project Features also fall into the “work it out later” category?

        4. Matt Williams

          I can not answer your question definitively; however, my memory is that the Baseline Features terms and language for Wildhorse Ranch that appeared in the ballot support materials mailed to each voter by the Yolo County Elections Office, did not get finalized until  September 15, 2005 for the November 3, 2005 election.  September 15 is 50 days prior to November 3.  For a June 7 election, 50 days prior is April 19 and February 16 is 113 days prior.

          I am going up to the Elections Office this morning on another matter, and I will try and get a clear explanation.

        5. CalAg

          The reason the baseline project features were not finalized is that approval of the development agreement was continued until the Sept 15th public hearing.

          In other words, Council approved the special election on July 28th without completing a development agreement or baseline project features under the premise that they would “work it out later.”

          We all know how that turned out.

  4. Eileen Samitz

    I agree with CalAg on a number of points but particularly on the question about, where did the Putah Creek Parkway Bridge go that was supposed to be in the baseline project features? Staff’s language in the last paragraph on page 6 of the new Feb. 2 Staff report “We are now recommending…” and then talks about the UCD connection and the Richard’s improvements being in the baseline features, but the words “Putah Creek Parkway bridge” are not even mentioned. I submitted a written question on this yesterday at the forum  and it never got answered. My understanding from the last City Council meeting is that this second connection was also to be in the baseline features.

    I also wrote a question about the 130 additional units that the developer wants to add to the baseline features, which were not included in the original draft EIR which studied 650 units, not 780 units. You can’t add on stuff like this later after the EIR is done, that needed to be included in “cumulative impacts” of the EIR in the beginning. So the 130 units should never had been admissible at this point to the baseline EIR by Staff, to begin with. Hopefully, that will go away by the City Council meeting.

    Also, the project claims to be exempt from building any affordable housing. For one thing, I am not understanding how Nishi Gateway housing is supposed to be affordable by students, or average workers for that matter. One response was, “there will be small units.” Size of a unit will affect cost relative to larger units but, small units can still be expensive. These units are all likely to be expensive given all the expensive infrastructure costs involved for Nishi Gateway.

    Second, the project does not seem to qualify for that since the entire first floor of each apartment structure would need to have commercial with uses which are not ancillary to the housing above it. That is the condition to be met in order for any project to be exempt from providing affordable housing. I am  not seeing how that is being provided given the footprint of each of the apartment buildings and given the renderings so far. I asked this question yesterday on a card,  but Hess was not able to answer this technical question at the time. So I hope that it does get answered before Tuesday’s Council meeting before this project is allowed to go forward with no affordable housing when it may not qualify to do so.

    One observation that seemed concerning from this forum, was that it appeared that Staff was dropping a real load on the Council to figure out. Staff’s job is to provide all the information needed and presented clearly, so that the Council can make informed decisions.

     

    1. CalAg

      Samitz raises a couple of interesting legal points that warrant further discussion.

      (1) The 130 extra units were not included in the cumulative impact analysis of the DEIR. Accordingly, I don’t believe the Council can certify the DEIR under CEQA. Without a legally defensible environmental document the project is in trouble should it move forward with a contingency for 130 additional units. An additional EIR for these units would not wash away the fact that the cumulative impact analysis in the original EIR was inadequate.

      (2) I can’t find any analysis of the rationale for the project’s exemption from the City’s affordable housing requirement. The $1M proffered by the developers is a tiny fraction of their obligation for a project this size under our Affordable Housing Ordinance. Anyone have a link?

      1. CalAg

        Regarding the question that was raised about the validity of the affordable housing exemption, the Davis Municipal Code states:

        18.05.080 Exemptions from affordable housing requirements.

        (b)    Residential developments constructed as exempt condominiums are exempt from the requirements of this article.

        (c)    Residential components of a vertical mixed use development are exempt from the requirements of this article.

        It appears that the developers are claiming an exemption for their 210 for-sale units under 18.05.080(b). That seems pretty straightforward.

        More problematic is that they appear to be claiming an exemption for their 440 rental units under 18.05.080(c). The issue is that the Nishi project does not meet the standard of vertical mixed use as defined in the Municipal Code:

        18.05.020 Definitions.

        Vertical mixed use development means mixed-use structures that vertically integrate residential dwelling units above the ground floor with unrelated non-residential uses on the ground floor, including office, restaurant, retail, and other nonresidential uses. For purposes of this article, vertical mixed use does not include structures that vertically integrate uses ancillary to residential units, such as resident parking, laundry rooms, community rooms, or common space on the ground floor with the residential units above.

        There is not enough “unrelated non-residential uses” in this project to satisfy this first floor requirement for more than a small fraction of the 440 units. My estimate is that maybe 50 units could legitimately claim exemption if the land plan was modified to concentrate into one or two vertical mixed use building(s) all of the 5,000 sq ft of retail allowed under the PPD in the residential sub-area.

        Accordingly, approximately 390 rental units of the Nishi project should provide their fair share of affordable units as required by the Municipal Code:

        18.05.060 Rental development affordable housing standards.

        A developer of rental housing developments containing twenty or more units shall provide, to the maximum extent feasible, at least twenty-five percent of the units as affordable housing for low income households and at least ten percent of the units as affordable housing for very low income households.

        … Such housing shall be provided either by the construction of units on-site or by land dedication.

        With density bonus units, that translates into approximately 100 on-site affordable units – which would be a great thing for the City.

        To set a value on this affordable housing obligation from the City’s perspective, the in lieu fee for a single affordable unit is $75,000. Therefore the approximate loss to the affordable housing program due to this questionable exemption would be roughly $7.5M.

        Councilmember Frerichs has been pushing the affordable housing question, and now we know why. The $1M payment proffered by the developer to make this issue go away should be rejected out of hand by the Council.

  5. Tia Will

    Matt

    With that said, the definition of “work it out later” is important.  If “work it out later” means after the June election date, I agree that that is 100% unacceptable.  If “work it out later” means between the February 16th Council meeting and the early April deadline for ballot support documents like the final Baseline Features language, and the various arguments and rebuttals, then that is a different story.  I don’t actually KNOW what Brett’s definition of  “work it out later” is.  Perhaps he will clarify that on Tuesday night.”

    I agree that this is an important distinction to make. I agree with your interpretation that “working it out after the June election date would be totally unacceptable. I am thinking that your suggestion of between February 16 th and early April would allow time for public review and consideration prior to the vote.

    This should be a very interesting Council meeting !

    1. Matt Williams

      I agree Tia.  It will indeed be a very interesting Council meeting.  It would be very useful (and transparent) for Staff to come to the meeting with a very clearly laid out timeline of the various milestones of the electoral process between now and June 7th.  Milestones like:

      — Date Rebuttal arguments are due

      — Date Arguments For/Against are due

      — Date the Independent Opinion (often written by the City Attorney) is due

      — Date the Ballot Supporting materials (things like the final Baseline Features language) are due

      — Any other key Dates

      1. CalAg

        You do realize that the Council will be voting on a the EIR certification, annexation, general plan amendment, development agreement (including baseline project features), etc? This all happens in rapid succession at the end of the meeting. There’s a second reading, and then they don’t get a do over.

        As a candidate for City Council, are you comfortable with this body approving the collection of legally binding documents with all these “work it out later” loose ends? Just punt to staff to clean up the mess before April?

        1. Matt Williams

          The EIR certification is not contingent on the results of the Measure R vote. Based on everything that I have heard in the Planning Commission certification deliberations and the many other Commission deliberations, I am comfortable with the Council certifying the EIR.

          The annexation, general plan amendment, development agreement, and baseline features are all contingent on the Measure R vote, so nothing on those four is final until the vote is cast.

  6. CalAg

    … so nothing on those four is final …

    That’s incorrect. They are final at the second reading – but can be vetoed by the voters.

    The Council gets one shot. If they blow it they own it.

    There are no good outcomes if they approve a flawed proposal – either it gets voted down in the Measure R vote or the community is forced to live with a flawed development. Brett Lee understands this and has spoken several times about nailing down the details so the community doesn’t wind up in a situation where expectations are not met. If we do, that’s on this Council.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      I respectfully disagree CalAg.  The outcome of the vote determines the final disposition of the annexation, the general plan amendment, the development agreement, and the baseline features.  A “No” vote voids any decision that the Council has made on those four.

      1. hpierce

        And, to amplify where I think CalAg is coming from, there is only one “at bat” here…

        I have strong reservations about the project as presented today… I can’t see those being resolved in the next two weeks…

        A premature vote (June) is likely to doom the current proposal, and ‘poison the waters’ for 5-10 years for ANY project on the Nishi site.  Just my opinion, but based on past experience… (not in Davis)

  7. CalAg

    The point is that the Council relinquishes much of it’s power to continue to positively affect the outcome as soon as they approve the entitlement documents. Obviously the voters can void the entire project via Measure J/R.

    If your goal is construction of the best project possible, rather than simply killing Nishi at the ballot box, the Council’s best course of action is to stay engaged until the details are ready for prime time. This is simply not going to happen before 2/16 – and they all know it. Anything that moves forward this month will be incomplete; and a wasted opportunity to get it right.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for