HESC after Ten Years – A Look Back at Davis Land Use

by Matt Williams

Time flies when you are having fun.

Ten years ago the Housing Element Steering Committee (HESC) convened its first working session.  A whole lot has happened since then, and I thought it would be interesting to examine how the HESC looked at and evaluated alternative housing sites.

The following is taken from the minutes of the March 22, 2007 HESC meeting.

Overview: The purpose of the discussion under Item #7 of the Steering Committee’s March 22, 2007 meeting was to identify possible factors for evaluating potential sites for housing. A comment sheet was provided for Steering Committee members to write down thoughts in regard to the following question:

What do you consider to be the most important factors that should be considered when developing criteria for evaluating the suitability of potential sites for housing?

A Steering Committee discussion then followed [resulting in] the topics [and factors] listed below.

Working Draft of Assessment Factors
Condensed from Committee Brainstorming on March 22, 2007Community Form, Land Use, Housing

  1. Contiguity to existing city boundary or urban development in City or County.
  2. Ability to accommodate higher density housing in general.
  3. Promotes opportunities for higher density housing in downtown.
  4. Provides opportunities for identified housing needs including workforce housing, young families, seniors, aging in place, and other households with special needs.
  5. Provides opportunities for a mix of housing types.
  6. Retains general land use balance of residential and non-residential uses in Davis area.
  7. Likely that any compatibility issues with existing neighborhoods can be avoided or adequately mitigated.
  8. Promotes a buffer or “community separator” between Davis and other cities.
  9. Site proximity to downtown.
  10. Site proximity to UC Davis and other employment areas.
  11. Site proximity to existing and planned shopping areas.
  12. Site proximity to elementary schools.
  13. Site proximity to existing park, greenbelt, recreation and open space areas or contribution to new opportunities for such areas.
  14. Potential timing of development of site based on needed entitlements, infrastructure or other factors.

Community Resources and Environmental Health

  1. Conserve prime farm lands (especially working lands) and gives priority to sites with poor soils, OR evaluate amount of land converted.
  2. Ability to provide opportunities for adjacent ag impact mitigation.
  3. Minimizes or avoids development on lands with flood hazards or contribute to solving existing drainage problems.
  4. Avoids existing contaminated sites or reuses / improves a brownfield site, contributes to solving existing contamination problems.
  5. Preserves viewsheds, minimizes impacts on existing scenic views, particularly from public viewing places.
  6. Avoids or minimizes floral and fauna habitat loss or contributes to creation / improvement of habitat.
  7. Consider impacts on water resources.
  8. Consider compatibility with existing noise environment and minimize need for mitigation.
  9. Proximity to potential health effects of living near freeways.
  10. Distances to community facilities promotes walking and biking rather than auto use, minimize air and noise impacts.

Community Facilities and Services (including infrastructure, transportation, public safety)

  1. Ability to accommodate project needs for infrastructure facilities of: water, wastewater, storm drainage.
  2. Ability to accommodate project needs for services of: police services, fire protection services.
  3. Utilizes underutilized capacities of existing infrastructure.
  4. Contributes to the formation of connected neighborhoods, provides opportunities for multiple connections to existing streets.
  5. Site has convenient access to public transit or would involve minimal costs of expanding transit routes to serve site.
  6. Site is well served by bicycle system or provides opportunities for improving system.
  7. Distances and response times from fire stations.

Community Economy and Fiscal Stability / Health

  1. Maintains (or converts) existing / planned commercial uses which are feasible and have potential to generate revenues for City.
  2. Provides housing opportunities for current and anticipated new employees.
  3. Minimizes impacts on local agricultural economy.
  4. Promotes the economic viability and enhancement of neighborhood shopping centers and the economic revitalization of the neighborhood.

Looking back on the HESC’s list of factors, several questions come to mind:

  • Now that ten years have passed, how well do you think this set of factors for evaluating potential sites for housing holds up?
  • Would you add any additional factors?
  • Would you deemphasize any specific factors on the HESC’s list?
  • Do you think that this list of factors helped the residents of Davis better understand the issues, considerations and trade-offs that the HESC had to wrestle with in order to come up with its final ranked listing of potential housing sites.
  • Bottom-line, if asked today, what do you consider to be the most important factors that should be considered when developing criteria for evaluating the suitability of potential sites for housing?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.



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2 thoughts on “HESC after Ten Years – A Look Back at Davis Land Use”

  1. Jim Frame

    Provides opportunities for identified housing needs including workforce housing, young families, seniors, aging in place, and other households with special needs.

    One of the most frustrating things about housing policy is that assigning priority to a specific housing type doesn’t get it built.  If there are no developers willing to address the identified need you’re never going to realize the policy goal.  The closest we’ve come to building workforce housing is enticing developers to throw in a (very) little bit of it as part of much larger projects that adds profitable housing for which there’s mostly external demand.  This isn’t a knock on developers, they’re in business to make money, not to subsidize housing.  But the “add a bunch of this to get a little bit of that” is the reason we got Measure J/R — we were getting way too much of “this” and not nearly enough of “that.”

    1. Howard P

      Excellent points… the last sentence goes to the ‘good is compromised by the perfect’ corollary…

      Like it or not, this is a free market economy, and why would a business (developers) acquire pricy davis land, spend a lot of money to go thru the ‘spanking machine’, and then provide significant ‘affordable housing’?

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