Guest Commentary: Nishi Project Comes Up Short

Richards TunnelBy Mark Spencer

If Davis wants to remain true to its vision of itself as a small city surrounded by ag and open space land, the few ag land parcels we choose to develop should reflect the very best in planning common sense and state-of-the-art environmental technology. The current Nishi proposal falls far short on both counts.

A review of the public record supports this conclusion.

For one, the city did not accept any of the Natural Resources Commission recommendations about increased energy-efficiency standards or greenhouse-gas mitigations.

The Bicycle Transportation and Traffic Safety Commission submitted detailed traffic and bike plans — none of them were incorporated into the baseline features or development agreement. The commission also recommended an independent traffic study; this was never done.

The Social Services Commission recommended that the project adhere to the same affordable-housing requirements mandated for other projects, but sadly, Nishi does not.

The fiscal analysis of the project remains woefully inadequate. The city-county tax-sharing agreement is in limbo. A year-by-year cash-flow analysis of infrastructure costs over and above developer contributions has not been done. An analysis of the net annual cash flow if the 325,000 square feet of research-and-development space and offices are never built, or do not fill at assumed rates, remains to be done.

Finally, long-proposed infrastructure changes to the Richards corridor and freeway interchange will be foolishly and effectively torpedoed if traffic is allowed to spew out of a newly urbanized Nishi development at Olive Drive — the height of irresponsible planning!

With Nishi, as with other projects voted down by citizens under Measure J/R, project-momentum and a rush to meet ballot-listing deadlines has trumped sensible, community-driven planning.

Patience and prudence is not obfuscation. We should insist on site-sensible projects — I say this as a long-standing participant in the planning process, a former planning commissioner and liaison to the Open Space Commission, a housing task force member and an activist involved in writing Measure J/R.

Truly good proposals will happen because we insist on the best, not because we don’t. Vote no on Nishi (Measure A).

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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22 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Nishi Project Comes Up Short”

  1. Tia Will

    I want to thank Mark for laying out his reasons for not supporting the Nishi project in a concise presentation based on concerns that were not addressed to his satisfaction without any hint of name calling or nefarious intent. I shared most, if not all, of these concerns which was why I remained conflicted about Nishi for so long. I continue to wish that the project had directly addressed affordable housing and had adopted higher standards for energy efficiency.

    On weighing all of the involved factors I came to the opposite conclusion as Mark. But I fully respect his approach and find it worthy of acknowledgment  in a time when so much of the discussion has devolved into rancor between individuals who have simply come to differing assessments of the same information.

  2. Misanthrop

    “If Davis wants to remain true to its vision of itself as a small city surrounded by ag and open space land, the few ag land parcels we choose to develop should reflect the very best in planning common sense and state-of-the-art environmental technology.”

    If Davis wants to remain in Never, Neverland about the realities of living with a University that has grown and is bursting at the seams …

  3. nameless

    If Davis wants to remain true to its vision of itself as a small city surrounded by ag and open space land…

    Not everyone in town has this vision for Davis.

    For one, the city did not accept any of the Natural Resources Commission recommendations about increased energy-efficiency standards or greenhouse-gas mitigations.

    The NRC has a particular viewpoint in regard to environmental concerns, but the city has to weigh all considerations, not just environmental ones.  Secondly, the NRC also has a member who is a leader of the No on Measure A campaign, which very well might bias the NRC’s view on Nishi.

    The Social Services Commission recommended that the project adhere to the same affordable-housing requirements mandated for other projects, but sadly, Nishi does not.”

    The project was not subject to the affordable housing requirements. So the Social Services Commission request is more of a wish list of what it would like to see, but certainly not what is mandated.  We all wish for lots of things… but it doesn’t mean we should or will get them.

    The fiscal analysis of the project remains woefully inadequate.

    The Finance & Budget Commission did a thorough independent analysis of the potential fiscal benefits of Nishi, and came up with what it believes to be the potential of $1.4 million in tax revenue to the city and $400,000 for DJUSD.  It also delved into the economic benefit from construction, the increase in customers for downtown businesses and how that would benefit the city, the increase in the property tax increment to the city, etc.

    Finally, long-proposed infrastructure changes to the Richards corridor and freeway interchange will be foolishly and effectively torpedoed if traffic is allowed to spew out of a newly urbanized Nishi development at Olive Drive — the height of irresponsible planning!

    Nishi will provide 2 ways drivers can avoid the Richards underpass, via an extension of Olive Drive or Old Davis Rd.

    With Nishi, as WITH OTHER PROJECTS VOTED DOWN by citizens under Measure J/R…

    This is a pretty good indication of the no growth agenda of the writer…

    1. Matt Williams

      “Not everyone in town has this vision for Davis.”

      True

      “The NRC has a particular viewpoint in regard to environmental concerns, but the city has to weigh all considerations, not just environmental ones.  Secondly, the NRC also has a member who is a leader of the No on Measure A campaign, which very well might bias the NRC’s view on Nishi.”

      Regarding your second point, at the time that the NRC conducted its hearing regarding Nishi, the No on Nishi campaign did not exist, and would not exist for a number of weeks.  I think you are falling into a “begging the question” fallacy.

       

      “The project was not subject to the affordable housing requirements. So the Social Services Commission request is more of a wish list of what it would like to see, but certainly not what is mandated.  We all wish for lots of things… but it doesn’t mean we should or will get them.”

      None of us KNOW how this issue is going to be resolved.  The legal question at the heart of this issue will be weighed and measured by the Yolo County Court System in the coming weeks.  They are the ultimate arbiter of this legal (as opposed to political) issu

      The Finance & Budget Commission did a thorough independent analysis of the potential fiscal benefits of Nishi, and came up with what it believes to be the potential of $1.4 million in tax revenue to the city and $400,000 for DJUSD.  It also delved into the economic benefit from construction, the increase in customers for downtown businesses and how that would benefit the city, the increase in the property tax increment to the city, etc.

      The first part of your statement is true, but the second part (which I bolded) is not true. The EPS analysis did not provide the FBC with an analysis of the one-time fees associated with the construction of the project.  The FBC very explicitly registered its disappointment about that.  The economic impact on the city (as opposed to our City government) was provided however.

      To remedy the shortcoming of the one-time fees analysis, I personally completed detailed research and came up with the following One-Time Fees being generated by Nishi for the City government.

      http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Nishi-One-Time-Fees-Projection.jpg

        1. Matt Williams

          Sure.

          The one-time fees paid to the City (reported to be $9 million in the public dialogue) are by my calculation actually $20.8 million.

          The $11.8 million difference comes from the following:

          — The original $9 million did not include the $3.3 million Construction Tax.  It only included Water Connection Fees, Sewer Connection Fees and Roadway Impact Fees

          — The $2 million Water Connection Fees is understated by $3.9 million because by the time Nishi is constructed each apartment will have to be individually metered (just like the condos currently are required to be)

          — The original $9 million did not include the $2.9 million of Development Impact Fees (Storm Sewer, Parks, Open Space, Public Safety, and General Facilities)

          — The original $9 million did not include the $1.2 million of Community Enhancements ($1 million for the Affordable Housing Fund and $200,000 for Civic Arts/Carbon Offset/Parking)

           

        1. Matt Williams

          nameless. can you point me to where the One-Time Fees payable to the City are in the EPS information provided to the FBC? 

          You can’t.

  4. Misanthrop

    “…as with other projects voted down by citizens under Measure J/R, project-momentum and a rush to meet ballot-listing deadlines has trumped sensible, community-driven planning.”

    So here is someone who claims to be partly responsible for Measure J/R  that admits that it is a failure because it creates a situation where ballot deadlines trump “sensible, community-driven planning.”

  5. Yes on A Fan

    Full of errors as recognized by nameless.   The fully independent traffic study was included in the EIR – with all mitigations , traffic will be less than significant.   I doubt the author attended any of the public hearings on this project nor are his comments and questions asked as part of the EIR which is open to all public comments.  An individual’s decision not to participate in the lengthy public process and then saying the project is not community driven is unfortunate.

  6. skeptical

     
    Is it really so difficult???
     
    Tia Will
     
    “thank Mark for his reasons for not supporting the Nishi project…” Mr. Spencer did not abstain from supporting the project, he opposes Measure A. 
     
    Misanthrop
     
     “… Davis should reflect the very best in planning common sense and state-of-the-art environmental technology.”  If Davis wants to remain in Never, Neverland about the realities of living with a University that has grown and is bursting at the seams
     
    Non-sequitur?  Oops, that means this comment does not logically follow from its preceding statement.  Whether UCD is growing or not, should Davis reflect the best in planning?
     
    So here is someone who claims to be partly responsible for Measure J/R that admits that it is a failure because it creates a situation where ballot deadlines trump “sensible, community-driven planning.” 
     
    Wrong.  Here is someone acknowledging that the City has failed to follow a community driven process as envisioned by Measure J/R.  The City sacrificed good planning for its own reasons.  The City chose to place a poorly planned project before the voters.
     
    Pugilist  
     
    Mark Spencer wrote Measure J.”
     
    Wrong.  The City went through a process of crafting the language for Measure J. 
     
    Nameless
     
    If Davis wants to remain true to its vision of itself as a small city surrounded by ag and open space land…”  Not everyone in town has this vision for Davis.
     
    True, “not everyone”, but this is the vision expressed by the community and reinforced through several elections (Measure J/R, Measure O (open space), and the rejection of each Measure J/R project)
     
    For one, the city did not accept any of the Natural Resources Commission recommendations about increased energy-efficiency standards or greenhouse-gas mitigations.”  The NRC has a particular viewpoint in regard to environmental concerns, but the city has to weigh all considerations, not just environmental ones.  
     
    This is an example of the City ignoring the interests of the community as expressed by its own commission. 
     
    The Social Services Commission recommended that the project adhere to the same affordable-housing requirements mandated for other projects, but sadly, Nishi does not.” The project was not subject to the affordable housing requirements. So the Social Services Commission request is more of a wish list of what it would like to see, but certainly not what is mandated.  We all wish for lots of things… but it doesn’t mean we should or will get them.
     
    Here is another example of the City ignoring community interests.  This project was absolutely subject to the affordable housing requirements!!!  The City, however, is seeking project approval with no affordable housing and no in lieu fees.
     
    The fiscal analysis of the project remains woefully inadequate.”  (Absolutely and irrefutably TRUE)  The Finance & Budget Commission did a thorough independent analysis of the potential fiscal benefits of Nishi, and came up with what it believes to be the potential of $1.4 million in tax revenue to the city and $400,000 for DJUSD.  It also delved into the economic benefit from construction, the increase in customers for downtown businesses and how that would benefit the city, the increase in the property tax increment to the city, etc.
     
    Wrong.  The Finance & Budget Commission did not do a thorough analysis, independent or otherwise.  They did not have the data to perform such an analysis, and their requests for a more thorough analysis went unheeded. 
     
    Nishi will provide 2 ways drivers can avoid the Richards underpass, via an extension of Olive Drive or Old Davis Rd. 
     
    Nishi does nothing to relieve a bottleneck at Richards and Olive, it will merely pile up cars hoping to make a left turn through Nishi to UCD.  Furthermore, there is no analysis of the traffic conditions that will be generated by further development at UCD, which may increase significantly with the prospect of another access point to Olive/Richards/I-80. 
     
    With Nishi, as WITH OTHER PROJECTS VOTED DOWN by citizens under Measure J/R…”  This is a pretty good indication of the no growth agenda of the writer…
     
    How so, and relevance???  The writer is clearly expressing a few of the many planning flaws in the proposed project.  I don’t know if he opposes all growth as you imply, but if so, that’s a legitimate position. 
     
    Yes on A Fan
     
    I can’t quibble with the moniker, which says it all.
     

        1. Michael Harrington

          And we have an amended R in the works now, to be announced next week.  The bad Nishi process will never happen again.  R will be permanent.  Mitigation location and quality and quantity will have to be disclosed in the application.  There will have to be a habitat and species inventory for the proposed mitigation.  There will be a mitigation ratio (ie., 2/1) in the R, with most likely the amount of mitigation reduced the closer it is to the city borders.  If super high quality habitat, maybe a reduction.  We love free enterprise, and incentives to developers to do the right things!

          Most of the original drafters of J are going to be at the table, again.  But no one from government.  This is a citizens based initiative.

          Cheers and only 5 more days of this “A” madness.  (Brett or Rob: if either of you had voted NO, it’s not ready, you would have prevented this crap.)

        2. hpierce

          So, Mr H, if a citizen of Davis also happens to work for the City, or another government agency, they will NOT be allowed to participate in YOUR process?  They will be declined a seat at the table?

          Hello Michael Trump… let’s build that wall and let make City government pay for it!

          At least you are ‘transparent’, while being exclusionary.  Even if not a government employee, suspect anyone who is moderate or pro-development will not find a seat at your table, either.  Nice.

    1. nameless

      It is just too much work to debunk the comments to my comments, so I’ll just list one glaring one: “This project was absolutely subject to the affordable housing requirements!!!”  Repeating this often enough doesn’t make it so…

  7. Yes on A Fan

    Both the Natural Resource commission AND the Bicycle commission submitted detailed comments on the draft EIR which were addressed point by point in the Final EIR by a fully independent environmental consultant: Ascent Environmental. This is a very thorough process and involves the public every step of the way. Individual comments were also submitted. There were 7 pages of comments from Natural Resourse and 38 pages of greenhouse gas summaries and mitigations.  The CC strikes a balance of all the varying environmental documents and voted unanimously for Measure A. The independent EIR consultant hired by the City concluded the project will serve as a model for sustainable development for the region– comments supported by SACOG and State grant money. These comments from the author, in light of the facts, are suspect. However,  he and the voters ultimately get to decide as per Measure J/R; meanwhile, in an attempt to disrupt the vote they helped institutionalize- No on A has filed a lawsuit against the City

  8. DavisforNishiGateway

    As Yes on A Fan correctly points out, the EIR addressed the comments submitted by the Natural Resource Commission and the Bicycle Commission. Any commission member or Mr. Spencer was free to comment on the EIR. There were dozens of opportunities for him to raise his concerns with staff or the EIR. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Spencer chose not to be part of the process, and is now complaining about being ignored after the process is well-under way. Mr. Spencer may not be aware, but an independent traffic study was conducted–as part of the EIR.

    Nishi will invest $2 million into creating a bridge over Putah creek with a bicycle undercrossing so that bicyclists on the Davis Bike Loop will not have to negotiate with cars. It also expands the Davis Bike Loop and will allow bicyclists to access south campus through the new railroad undercrossing the project will construct. As part of its improvements along Richards, Nishi will create a barrier separated bike and pedestrian path to improve safety along this currently dangerous interchange. Nishi is a great boon for bicyclists.

    Even though Nishi is exempt from affordable housing requirements due to its vertical mixed-use construction, it will contribute $1 million to the City’s Affordable Housing Fund–money the City will not receive if the project is voted down.

    The project’s fiscal benefits have been laid out by the Finance and Budget Commission which estimates that Nishi could produce up to $1.4 million annually for the City’s budget. I would hardly call this situation “woefully inadequate.” Of course the City-County tax-sharing agreement has not yet been finalized. The project has to be approved before it makes any sense to spend time on this. Nevertheless, in the event that Nishi is approved, the City holds the advantage in these negotiations because it can refuse to annex the property. The suggestion that we need to pay for another economic study assuming 0% occupancy of the R&D component is truly bizarre.

    Nishi invests $23 million in infrastructure improvements–including $5 million to Richards. If Nishi does not pass, the City will face a $5 million deficit. The best way to torpedo improvements to Richards is to vote No on Nishi. If Nishi passes, it will make it easier to receive funding from state and regional sources.

    Nishi is the result of 8 years of planning and community outreach. It has involved soliciting, incorporating, and responding to the comments of hundreds of community members and stakeholders. There is no way this process could be considered rushed. Simply because Mr. Spencer chose not to engage in the process until Nishi was placed on the ballot does not impugn the process.

      1. Michael Harrington

        Does Yes have a writing robot?  All this verbiage is the same post after post, reads like  rapid fire glib verbiage from a sweaty vacuum salesman blocking the front door in the hot sun.  (If the writer is not a robot, please come to our party and introduce yourself.  (Wear a lapel sticker:  “I am NOT a writing robot!” so we will know who you are?!)

        1. hpierce

          Certain No folk are probably writing robots as well, but they might need some screws tightened.  I say this as someone who voted No, but on the single issue of a primary connection to W Olive.  Had that been eliminated, I would have voted an enthusiastic Yes.  There are a significant number of Yes AND No folk who seem to be using “talking points” and “scripts”… seems pretty ‘robotic’ to me…

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