Staff Recommends Council Deny Appeal of Ace Hardware Decision

Current Project Site

On May 10, the Davis Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit for a parking lot with solar shade at 815 Third Street, for Davis Ace Hardware customers.

According to the staff report, there would be a 2000-square-foot solar shade structure that would cover half the parking lot.  This would provide weather protection for a loading area as well as produce about 30 kWh of electricity.

The project calls for the construction of a foot path that would provide a new direct pedestrian access to a new entry into the existing Ace Hardware building from the parking lot.

“The current proposal will permit demolition of the 2,400 square-foot metal storage building and the two small storage sheds, while the 400 square-foot breezeway and the 800 square-foot storage building will be retained,” staff writes.

The decision – as has previously been reported in the Vanguard – has been appealed, but staff is recommending that council deny the appeal and allow the plan to proceed.

Staff writes, “The proposal is an appeal of staff, HRMC, and PC actions to permit onsite at grade parking lot that includes solar shade for an existing business in the Central Commercial district, ACE Hardware.

“The basis for approving the appeal would be a determination that the Planning Commission erred in its approval of the entitlements,” they continue. “Denying the Appeal would uphold the project approval. Approving the Appeal would deny the project. Any action of the City Council is final.”

Staff finds, “Based on the analysis staff cannot conclude that the Planning Commission erred in granting its approval of the applications.”

Staff, HRMC (Historical Resources Management Commission) and PC (Planning Commission) agree that the reduced project is: “still an improvement over the existing condition of the subject site relative to this portion of the parcel,” also “consistent with the DDTRN [Davis Downtown and Traditional Residential Neighborhoods] Design Guidelines, Zoning Ordinance, Core Area Specific Plan and General Plan,” and “an upgrade to the existing business and use in the Central Commercial district to accommodate the applicants’ established needs.”

The appellant argues several points in opposition to the project.

First, “The project is not being proposed in a vacuum. We are confronted with formidable climate, fiscal, housing & commercial space shortage crises. The project undermines formally adopted community policies, objectives and goals developed to meet these crises. We have many unmet needs that could be meaningfully addressed with sustainable, efficient development of the subject site.”

Second, “The project is inconsistent with the GP [General Plan], the CASP [Core Area Specific Plan] and the Design Guidelines (note: there is no exemption for multi-parcel property owners). The project fails to meet a multitude of stated principals, goals and objectives. We recognize the project was initially already approved in June 2016, but that approval was granted in error. It should be vacated now that the initial project has been abandoned.”

Third, “At initial approval, commissions and staff recognized the project was problematic, ‘The existing and intended uses of the project site do not perfectly align with the planning policy vision along the 3rd Street corridor…'”

Further, “The project is not consistent with every Design Guideline for this area…”

And, “…a project with primarily ground floor storage and parking is inherently conflicted with certain guidelines.”

Fourth, “In June 2016, City staff, recommended project approval, despite inconsistencies with planning documents, by focusing on the merits of the proposed 8,248 sq. ft. ‘mixed-use’ building. And, “…the proposal is in keeping with certain principles of Core Expansion North, such as mixed-use buildings and intensification.

“The rational for planning approval has now evaporated with the abandonment of the ‘mixed-use’ building.”

Fifth, “The project is a downtown gateway site, within the Third Street Special Character Area. It is identified as a ‘Mixed-use opportunity site.’

“The Guidelines state: “Encourage the development of opportunity sites in the Core and expansion and transition areas as mixed-use residential projects supporting sustainable development patterns.”

Sixth, “To provide perspective, the Chen Building, covering a similar area, has 24,000 SF of retail, office and residential space. The Chen Building provides economic activity, living space and attractive architecture. It is conducive to alternative transportation modes while enhancing the pedestrian experience.

“The proposed project does not.”

Seventh, “The stated purpose of the CASP is to ensure the Core Area functions ‘in a manner that enhances pedestrian activity.’ The project does the opposite; it detracts from the bicycle and pedestrian experience.”

The CASP specifically states, “On-site parking shall not be placed In front of buildings along sidewalks; there shall be unbroken pedestrian walks and short walking distances between uses. This facilitates window shopping, browsing, people watching and social Interaction.”

Finally, “As a project justification, the applicant states, ‘the absence of progress on the now 3 year old Downtown Parking Management Plan and the recent announcement by the City Council of their intention to convert Downtown surface lots to long term parking.’

“It should be noted that the applicant has steadfastly lobbied to delay the implementation of the Downtown Parking Task Force recommendations and continues to do so.”

In response, staff notes that they believe “the applicant has identified its needs for the existing business, and has requested improvements to accommodate the needs, such as loading and offloading, dedicated customer parking spaces, and security.”

They add, “The City is launching an update to its Core Area policies and zoning, which is the opportunity for a comprehensive evaluation of goals and development expectations for the downtown. Future developments, including potential redevelopment of this parcel, will be evaluated in light of the new policies when they are adopted.”

Furthermore, they note that Staff, HRMC and the Planning Commission have “all found that the project complies with applicable DDTRN Design Guides, Central Commercial zoning standards, Core Area Specific Plan, and General Plan.”

They added that “staff does not believe the prior approval was made in error.”

Staff also adds, “The applicant’s position on parking policy issues are not relevant to the Conditional Use Permit and Design Review processes. Staff, HRMC, and PC decision to support the proposed onsite parking lot with the solar shade structure was based on compliance with applicable design guidelines, development standards, policies and goals.”

Staff concludes: “The Zoning Ordinance establishes surface parking lots as conditionally permitted uses within the Core Commercial Zoning District. The purpose of the Conditional Use Permit is to allow proper integration into the community of uses which may be suitable only in specific locations in a zoning district, or only if such uses are designed or laid out in a particular manner on the site or lot.”

Staff finds the proposed project appropriate in this location for the following reasons:

  • This block of 3rd Street is not identified as a “Principal Pedestrian Connection Street” in the Core Area Design Guidelines.
  • This parking lot is only a portion of a larger property containing the Davis ACE hardware building. Allowing a parking lot on the site is appropriate, while not precluding future development of more intense uses when the property owners so propose. Hardware stores are unique in that they require loading and offloading parking spaces for bulk items. For instance, Hibbert Lumber, north of 5th Street, has a private parking lot that serves customers, including loading and offloading.
  • Providing private parking to serve the hardware, lumber, and nursery uses supports existing business needs.
  • The Planning Commission majority action considered the fact that approval of this proposal is a support of existing local business.
  • The proposed improvements provide an accessible pedestrian connection to the building from 3rd Street. Pedestrians entering the store now are required to pass through or across the alley west of the building.
  • The appellants seem to want “something more” at this site than what is currently proposed. If there is a community desire to see more intense or mixed-use development at the site, then the right regulatory environment and incentives need to be present to entice such private investment. Such “big picture” visioning is ideally suited to the upcoming CASP update process wherein entire properties can be considered for their potential.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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

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

38 thoughts on “Staff Recommends Council Deny Appeal of Ace Hardware Decision”

  1. Don Shor
    • This parking lot is only a portion of a larger property containing the Davis ACE hardware building. Allowing a parking lot on the site is appropriate, while not precluding future development of more intense uses when the property owners so propose. Hardware stores are unique in that they require loading and offloading parking spaces for bulk items. For instance, Hibbert Lumber, north of 5th Street, has a private parking lot that serves customers, including loading and offloading.
    • Providing private parking to serve the hardware, lumber, and nursery uses supports existing business needs.
    • The Planning Commission majority action considered the fact that approval of this proposal is a support of existing local business.

    This response is an accurate summary of why the appeal should be rejected.

  2. Colin Walsh

    “The project calls for the construction of a foot path that would provide a new direct pedestrian access to new entry into the existing Ace Hardware building from the parking lot.” 

    Actually, this new breezeway leads to a faux-store front on 3rd Street. So, it is not just a path to parking, it is a direct connection from the street to the hardware building. Currently the entrance to this building is from the alley.

  3. Mark West

    The pertinent question here is not, does this project benefit Davis Ace, but does it benefit Davis. If we are going to change the zoning regulations for a parcel, we should do so only when there is a clear benefit to the City or the community. How does this project benefit either the City or the community?

    Let us step forward a year or so and imagine how things will have changed. The City will have implemented paid parking on the city-owned lots adjacent to the Davis Ace store, so all those customers who Don and others believe need free parking in order to shop at the store, will be circling the block  (or idling in 3rd street) waiting for one of the precious few free spots to open in the private lot. How does that help the traffic flow downtown? How do all those cars crossing the bike path and sidewalk on 3rd street help with pedestrian and bike traffic entering the downtown? Does it make that access point more inviting? Safer?  Finally, the City is implementing paid parking in part to better manage the downtown parking situation (as well as a potential source of income). How does a large private lot help with that effort?

     

    1. Ron

      Mark:  “The City will have implemented paid parking on the city-owned lots adjacent to the Davis Ace store, so all those customers who Don and others believe need free parking in order to shop at the store, will be circling the block  (or idling in 3rd street) waiting for one of the precious few free spots to open in the private lot. How does that help the traffic flow downtown?”

      Well, according to “some” commenters, no one minds paying 50-cents for 30 minutes (as if that’s a realistic rate to begin with), along with the extra hassle of making payment.

      Regarding “hassle”, this is probably even more of an issue for those who don’t use smart phones to make such payments.

      Unless paid parking (and/or other restrictions) are implemented on all nearby streets, that’s where people who don’t want to pay will park.  (Unless one of the free spots is available.)

      Not sure how many spots ACE is planning, but perhaps they should be encouraged to create even more, to ensure continued viability (and to avoid the problems described here). (Or, perhaps the city should consider dropping the whole idea of making significant changes to that one public lot.) Is 50-cents really a money-maker, or is it just a way to discourage parking and commerce, downtown?

    2. Howard P

      No Mark… the pertinent question is does the project benefic Davis ACE (the property owners’ call), and would it ‘injure’ the City.  Using the litmus test of “does it benefit the City” in order to be OK is flat out wrong.

      That said, contradicting or diluting existing policies and standards, does raise the bar a bit, if true… then, why would we change/modify/ignore/give exception to those, unless there was a positive reason for the City to do so?

      But the blanket approach of ‘no approval unless the City “gains”‘, borders on corrupt/extortion…

      1. Mark West

        Fair enough, Howard. I accept your friendly amendment. Change my comment from ‘benefits’ to ‘does not harm’ and for me the conclusion is the same.

        1. Howard P

          Readily acknowledged.

          I can see both sides of the argument, but lean to ‘denial’ if that means an ad-hoc dilution/refutation of the policies/etc. currently in place.

          The corollary (although opposite) of ‘extortion’, is favoritism/patronage…

           

        2. Mark West

          “The corollary (although opposite) of ‘extortion’, is favoritism/patronage…”

          Which brings up the question: ‘does this project get approved for any other downtown business?’

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I have not weighed in on this issue, but I am a little disturbed that there appears to be discrepancies between the CASP and what is called for here that is glossed over by staff.

        3. Howard P

          Facts identical, results should be as well… otherwise, we have a problem even more serious than the budget (which, indeed, is a serious issue)… sometimes, I wonder… if our staff, advising bodies and decision bodies do not have integrity, the City is truly screwed.

          [Although in the ‘ideal plane’, applicants should have integrity, we can’t count on that… they actually do (my experience) more often than not [ ~70-75%of the time].. the old Reagan term, “trust, but verify”, comes to mind.]

        4. Mark West

          “Facts identical, results should be as well”

          Completely agree.

          “if our staff, advising bodies and decision bodies do not have integrity, the City is truly screwed.”

          Completely agree.

  4. Todd Edelman

    I am less of an expert than I’d like to be on the specific elements of the appeal and proposed rejection from the staff, but it’s clear to me that the proposal is against the spirit of the current Downtown Care plan and the likely improved future Plan.

    Yesterday at checkout the Ace employee asked me if I was an Ace Rewards member – I was – and if I knew about their proposal for the above and asked me if I would “sign the petition”. I denied them the opportunity.

    I was buying something small not available at Hibbert: One of those belt attached key chain things with a retractable leash. Mine broke – I also purchased the previous one at Ace – and normally carries the little keychain card that shows I am a Rewards member. Read more…

  5. Howard P

    Whether it was Todd, or the VG… the new “Read more” (or, not) feature is very welcome… and can be very appropriate.

    To all Dads out there, have a great day.  Any guy can father a child… takes something special and real to be a “Dad”…  although he passed 15 years ago, Dad is part of who I am.  Am remembering him fondly today.

  6. Michael Bisch

    The provisions in the GP, CASP, Design Guidelines and zoning ordinance “prohibiting”, “discouraging” or otherwise describing why various aspects of the Ace project are detrimental to the downtown amount to approx. 7,400 words. Yet, the applicant and city would have us believe the project is compliant. Alternative facts are the rule of the day unfortunately.

  7. Ron

    If Michael and Mark have any valid points whatsoever (and I’m not sure that they do, nor have they discussed their underlying interests – other than relative “fairness”), then the potential “problem” might be with the guidelines and ordinances (especially regarding a key hardware store, located on the edge of downtown). In fact, the city’s “goals” might need to be examined, as well.

      1. Ron

        Howard:  I’ll leave it to others (e.g., the city) to determine if the rules are in question, here.  And, if so, the city might want to re-examine what those rules are, and the impacts upon local businesses.

        Regarding “greenies”, I don’t really know who you’re referring to.  (I think you’ve deleted that reference, since I started writing this response.) Michael and Mark seem to be laying claim to the “greenie” argument.  (But, perhaps it doesn’t matter if one believes, or doesn’t believe that those two are actually “greenies”.)

        I would hope, however, that those with “true” greenie concerns question the motivations and goals, here.  (Of the appellant, and the city itself.) Hopefully, with a dose of reality, regarding the needs of a key hardware store (and its customers), located on the edge of downtown.

        1. Mark West

          “Hopefully, with a dose of reality, regarding the needs of a key hardware store (and its customers), located on the edge of downtown.”

          The one thing that would benefit this store the most, is the one thing that Ron and his friends oppose the most, growth. Home goods and home improvement stores flourish when the population around them is expanding, not when it is static. The true irony in this discussion is listening to the ‘no growth/no change’ crowd crowing about their ‘helping’ Davis Ace when it is their basic advocacy that is the greatest threat to the future of the store.

        2. Ron

          Mark:  You and Michael are the ones who are going out of your way to try to cut-off EXISTING customers from Davis ACE.  Directly contradicting ALL of your previous pro-business, private-enterprise arguments.

          Why?

  8. Ron

    By the way, Michael and Mark might want to be “careful for what they wish for”, lest some new green requirements (e.g., “robotic, Bluetooth-controlled delivery systems”), be required for new developments – instead of a simple parking spot.  (A simplified reference to another commenter’s post.)

  9. Michael Bisch

    It appears Ron has a very short memory. I’m pretty comfortable with my sustainability creds and have no reason to fear “green requirements”. I’ve already set the bar pretty high. I and my Davis Hyatt House teammates have de facto set a new sustainability standard for commercial development in the City of Davis (a project Ron opposed). We were the first team to propose a LEED Gold, Net Zero Electric commercial project, a standard that the City then required the next two projects to meet. I’m looking forward to the 2018 Cool Davis awards. While some of us actually advance sustainability, others yippity yap.

     

    PS: Sustainability advocates oppose the Ace project because it’s not sustainable.

    1. Ron

      Michael:  Someday, perhaps you and Mark will reveal your true motivations, regarding your attempt to overturn the recommendations of city staff and the planning commission regarding another party’s business operations.  But, I’m not holding my breath.

       

        1. Ron

          Mark:  It’s not intended to be personal, although I understand that it can easily be seen that way.  It’s just quite surprising to see you making the type of arguments that you have made over the past week or so, given your previous arguments.

          I will try to refrain from pointing this out any further.  I realize that you and Michael (and anyone else) have a right to challenge these types of decisions (and are under no obligation to state anything else).

           

        2. Mark West

          “It’s just quite surprising to see you making the type of arguments that you have made over the past week or so, given your previous arguments.”

          My comments are completely consistent with my previous advocacy. They just do not conform to your black/white world view.

          “It’s not intended to be personal”

          Sure it is, that is your MO. When you lack the ability to understand someone’s position you attack them with repeated misrepresentations and innuendo. You really are rather boring.

          “I will try to refrain from pointing this out any further.”

          No, you will not, if your history here is any example.

        3. Ron

          Mark:

          Whatever.  Your previous comments have continuously derided “noisy neighbors” butting into private business decisions, regarding developments that you support.  And, your comments have continually focused on the need to create a friendly business environment, for the benefit of the city.

          Your advocacy here (along with Michael Bisch’s advocacy) completely flies in the face of almost everything else you’ve stated.  Worse still, you’re wrapping it in a false “green argument”.

          You’re probably the rudest commenter on the Vanguard, when it comes to points which contradict your own statements.  (Actually, both you AND Michael.) Unbelievably so, actually.

          Hard to believe that you’re winning any “friends”, to support your goal (whatever that might be).

           

           

  10. Tia Will

    listening to the ‘no growth/no change’ crowd crowing about their ‘helping’ Davis Ace “

    I may very well have missed some of this discussion being out of town and distracted, but I am not sure what was meant by anyone “crowing about their helping Davis Ace”. I don’t know who you are referencing. It seems that the owner of Davis Ace believes that this will be helpful for business. I do not know if that is true or not, but it does seem to me that in the past Mark has been a very strong advocate for land owners getting to do what is in their perceived best interest.

    The issue of parking, I can seeing cutting both ways. Having spots on site will allow Ace customers to park on site thus not taking up spots needed by other downtown shoppers. On the other hand, it is possible that there may be some “circling” to get that one valuable space. I doubt that anyone actually knows how this will play out although some are opining as though they do. As someone who has advocated for and against various projects around town, I certainly believe that everyone has the right to put forth their own position without be constantly grilled about what their “true motivations” are or worse yet being told that their true motivation is selfishness. I think that we should all work on making our own positions known without speculating about those of others.

     

    1. Ron

      Tia:  “On the other hand, it is possible that there may be some “circling” to get that one valuable space.”

      The one useful point that Mark made, if the “free” spots are insufficient and the adjacent lot is no longer free and relatively unrestricted.

      I plan to park on a nearby street, most likely.  (As long as that’s free, allowed and available.)

  11. Alan Miller

    I am a huge bicycle advocate. The attack on this project is foolish. You provide for and incentivize biking by building bike infrastructure, not by starving car infrastructure.

    This sort of attack only serves to aliente the vast majority who drive, losing them as potential allies. It also plays into the hands of those who want to develop every inch of downtown claiming green incentives and getting starry-eyed greenies (SAGs) to dance on their side.

    This will lead to the same problem so many urban cores are experiencing: cars circling the blocks round and round, burning gas, searching for scarce parking, because the SAGs wanted no place for cars, when the auto is still used, and most ESPECIALLY to pick up large items at a hardware store.

    There are only two hardware stores in town. This isn’t a place for mixed use — I’m all for going up in downtown with retail below and a few stories of residential above, but it doesn’t have to be forced on an existing business of half-a-century that is one of the largest businesses in town that virtually everyone uses and many have to drive to.

    Pushing out or stifling Davis ACE isn’t the intent, nor a sane interpretation of, the various City planning documents.

     

  12. Don Shor

    In the past I believe Mark has advocated on behalf of peripheral retail, which is arguably the greatest threat to downtown retail. More to the point, he has stated that Davis downtown is becoming an entertainment destination (paraphrasing). I don’t know if that is something he advocates or simply is stating what he perceives as a reality, although I did provide him with a long list of the downtown retailers in response.

    But it’s worth pointing out that entertainment venues, restaurants, and bars increase the demand for parking compared to retail, and specifically for longer-term parking.

    There has, in fact, been an increase over the last few years of the number of such sites. There has been no increase in the number of parking spaces. I would guess we are short dozens to hundreds of spaces as the number of small restaurants has increased.

    So in response to one particular threat to their long-term business success, the owners of Davis Ace have decided to provide a small increase in the number of parking spaces, particularly available to their own customers. The circling the block will happen regardless of whether the parking is paid or not, and it will increase if no more parking is added. This project would make Davis Ace, a major downtown anchor, more viable.

    I can think of any number of projects over the last decade-plus that have required variances, zoning changes, that have requested abrogation or amendment of development agreements, and that have grossly violated neighborhood guidelines. Or, in one conspicuous case, required creation of an entirely new zoning category and blown a hole in the General Plan big enough to drive a Target truck through. It would be interesting to see how the appellant and supporters of this appeal came down on each of those many projects.

    Enhancing the viability of our major retail anchor store and making a modest improvement in traffic circulation are obvious benefits to the city overall. This appeal is a waste of the council’s time and I urge them to dispatch it quickly. There is plenty to discuss about form-based planning, perhaps in the context of the update of the General Plan. I haven’t noticed much respect for the General Plan on the part of some folks in the past. Maybe now they’ll see the benefit of a community-wide discussion and plan revision.

    1. Alan Miller

      I can think of any number of projects over the last decade-plus that have required variances, zoning changes, that have requested abrogation or amendment of development agreements, and that have grossly violated neighborhood guidelines. Or, in one conspicuous case, required creation of an entirely new zoning category and blown a hole in the General Plan big enough to drive a Target truck through. It would be interesting to see how the appellant and supporters of this appeal came down on each of those many projects.

      Here here!  Yup yup!

  13. Dave Hart

    I don’t know Mark West (appellant) but I cannot see why anyone would want to stop ACE from developing this area for parking for ACE customers.  I ride my bicycle there most of the time, but now and then I need to transport more stuff than the bike can handle.  The lot in question is a bit of an eyesore now being vacant and all. What are we “saving”?  I’ve lived in town for 40 years and I remember about 15 years ago I was astounded to learn the city lot next to the ACE garden entrance was a city lot.  I thought it was a hardware store lot up to that point.  It only makes sense that they have some spaces dedicated to their business instead of relying on city parking spaces considering the number of customers that are in the store at any point in time.  I think the only points of public discussion should revolve around the traffic flow in and out of the lot.  As a citizen, I would like to see an entrance off the alley and the exit onto Third Street.

  14. Jim Hoch

    Perhaps the city council is hoping ACE will move out of town and they can use the space to build the “Social Justice Warrior Hall of Fame” that will generate huge revenue for the town.

    “We have many unmet needs that could be meaningfully addressed with sustainable, efficient development of the subject site”

  15. Eileen Samitz

    It is disappointing to see this appeal and it needs to be denied as Staff recommends. It is also hard to believe that anyone could argue with Davis Ace Hardware trying to respond to the impacts and inconvenience to customers with the City recently deciding to charge a parking fee for three City parking lot’s downtown, two of which are near Davis Ace Hardware. Personally, I hope that the City reverses that parking fee plan because it will simply result with discouraging customers from shopping downtown and reducing sales. That in turn will only backfire on the City by reducing the needed sales tax and encouraging customers to shop perhaps out of town where they would get free parking.

    In any case, I fully support Davis Ace Hardware moving forward with their plans and commend them for investing in this parking plan which helps the downtown and our City as well.

     

     

     

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