Nishi Proposal To Be Heard by Various Commissions this Month

Back in October, the owners of the Nishi property revived their proposed project about 16 months after Measure A was narrowly defeated at the polls.  The project is back as an exclusively student housing project, and this month the developers will be presenting their plans to a number of the city commissions as they look to bring the project to the voters next June.

On Monday, the Natural Resources Commission heard the proposal and that will be followed by Open Space and Social Services next week, Finance and Budget on the 11th, Bicycle and Transportation on the 14th.

The council approved the application for a mixed-use development on the Nishi property in January 2016 on a 5-0 vote.  However, as a Measure R project it was subject to voter ratification and the voters narrowly rejected the measure in June 2016.

Litigation was filed after the city council action, challenging the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and affordable housing approach.  Earlier this year, litigation was resolved in the city’s favor with the litigant ceding the affordable housing argument, however an appeal was filed on October 10 with the appellate court.

The new proposal focuses on student housing, which includes an affordable component.

Staff notes that the narrative projects vehicular access would now take place through a crossing under the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the UC Davis campus, but not on West Olive Drive.

The project includes open space, potentially a farm to provide produce for UC Davis students, and surface parking with opportunities for photovoltaics.

Staff notes that this proposed concept would be generally consistent with the “Nishi Property – Option with Access Via UCD Only” site recommended for housing in the city council’s 2008 resolution
regarding the Housing Element Steering Committee recommendation.

The proposal calls for roughly 2600 beds in around 700 apartment units.  Surface parking is anticipated at a ratio of 0.5 spaces per bedrooms.  The R&D space and for-sale homes would be removed from this proposal.

However, the current project includes 20,000 square feet of neighborhood-serving commercial, such as a café or pub.  There would be no parking provided with that.

In the staff report provided to the Natural Resources Commission, staff has provided some comments in particular on the sustainability components.

The application narrative notes the Sustainability Implementation Plan prepared for the previous Mixed-Use Innovation District.  Originally, the Nishi property “was selected by the California Strategic Growth Council, as the #1 site for sustainable development in the State of California. As a result of that process funds were provided to prepare a comprehensive sustainability implementation plan which is incorporated into the approved EIR. Additional opportunities may be available to enhance the sustainability plans by adding PV panels in the satellite car storage areas.”

The surface parking lot provides opportunities for photovoltaic collection, staff continues. “The project would be subject to the PV-Plus requirements recently adopted by the City Council,” they write.

Staff notes that “recent apartment developments, such as Sterling 5th Street, included LEED Gold equivalency, PV optimization, and a requirement for CCE participation assuming rates are within 10 percent of PG&E rates.”

The city has contracted with Ascent Environmental to prepare an analysis of whether an addendum to the previously-certified Environmental Impact Report is warranted.

They write, “The EIR included an impact (4.3-5) that addressed ultrafine particles, included mitigation measures, and identified the impact as significant and unavoidable after mitigation. The current document will compare the revised project to the project addressed in the EIR and will determine if the impacts would change. It is noted that, since preparation of the EIR, the California Supreme Court has issued an opinion that exposure of a project to impacts from the environment is not a significant impact under CEQA, unless a project would exacerbate the impact. Preliminary calculations show that Vehicle Miles Traveled as a result of the proposed project are lower than that originally anticipated for the Mixed-Use Innovation District.”

There are some key questions that will come up.

When the project comes before the Social Services Commission, we may have a look at the affordable housing proposal.  One of the big issues from the last election was the lack of affordable housing.  The question that will arise here is what that proposal looks like.  Will it more closely resemble the Sterling proposal, or will Nishi attempt to do something along the lines of Lincoln40 and have an affordable student housing proposal?

Second is what vehicle access will look like.

Staff notes, “The previous Nishi Gateway proposal included full vehicular access from West Olive as well as a connection to the UC Davis campus. Staff and the applicant are exploring alternatives that would reduce potential impacts on the Richards Boulevard corridor, including providing only bicycle/pedestrian/emergency vehicle access from West Olive.”

However, they write: “Another option excludes private vehicles, but would allow buses from West Olive Drive. This would provide Unitrans an alternative route from South Davis to campus other than through the Richards Underpass (which cannot accommodate double-decker buses) and downtown. The interface between buses and bicyclists/pedestrians on the Putah Creek Parkway would need to be carefully considered.”

Along those lines is the fact that the original proposal provided $10 million for Richards Blvd. and the Richards-Olive intersection improvement – will that funding still be offered with the new project?

Finally, questions have arisen as to how to deal with concerns about air quality, and the question will be how the new project will deal with those concerns and how much additional study will be available.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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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.

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20 thoughts on “Nishi Proposal To Be Heard by Various Commissions this Month”

  1. Keith O

    I hope Nishi gets approved this time around along with the several new student apartment complexes (megadorms?) but a big NO to the proposed West Davis Active Adult Community.

  2. Todd Edelman

    Noise and stink significantly impacts my study
    Though I think I’ll only live here for a few years
    But we talk about that as we drive one of our 1,300 cars
    All the way to Safeway or Trader Joe’s where we can buy cheap beers
     

    The following is based on radical (maturity- and enlightenment-based) mitigation of I-80 that significantly reduces also its aesthetic impacts – sound (over-surface and sub-surface) vibration and air pollution (particles, aerosols, gases…) that makes the Nishi space actually-livable, rather than only scientifically-livable.

    I think that the developers and staff are pushing things in the right direction. Restricting private motor vehicle access from West Olive is great! Efficient, safe and predictable pedestrian, cyclist, transit user, and emergency responder access to and from West Olive and cyclist (and pedestrian) access from South Davis is essential. As this is an important cycle route, cyclists must not be required to stop at any interface with transit. This has to include those travelling between West Olive and the Creek path to South Davis in addition to the more popular routes from West Olive or the Creek path into campus and the Nishi complex itself. Much of this can be done by keeping the bike route on the north side of any transit route, but I would also suggest that the east-west Greenbelt through the complex is pedestrian-only and – quite a bit further – that this should be a robust community space. The bike routes should be on its periphery — by bike distances here are short: What’s key is that bicycle parking is both close to all dwellings  and on fully-functional bike routes to the main routes (perhaps wider than the in-between dwelling paths in West Village.) There can be some nice detailed innovation here: Imagine a cargo bike that can offload groceries directly through a portal on the side of the building into a kitchen, or similarly into a kind of dumbwaiter than accesses higher floors. (I am not clear on how tall buildings will be, but anything four stories or less should not need elevators, can have all ADA-compliant housing on the ground floor or through exterior landscaping onto the second, and furniture-movement via removable windows in housing units and at the end of corridors using pulleys for small moves and scissor lifts for larger ones).

    Yes, the .5 per bed is less than required and less than what’s gonna be at Sterling, but it’s still 1,300 vehicles using a single egress, and which are – spatially-speaking – on campus, unlike most of the housing in Davis. At the very minimum the no two-permits policy should apply here so car users/owners cannot park on campus and users/owners should pay as much as possible, and as with Sterling be required to pay to leave after a few journeys per month. Beyond that the ratio should just be reduced… and reduced… to only allow vehicles to people with verified workplaces outside of Davis. Better still would be that ALL parking places – except for a tiny amount for visitors and to be ADA-compliant or similarly-friendly – are located in a parking facility on top of or next to the 80-Richards – the goal here is to keep all vehicles off Davis streets, and only on the “Preighty” – see my introduction above: this is of course a portmanteau of “eighty” and “pretty” –  or in the parking structure and its approaches. This parking facility would be connected to Nishi and also serve Downtown and the Davis Depot with 24/7 self-driving EV-powered minibuses on fixed routes.

    But back to the top: There’s a huge problem that there’s no planned robust grocery shopping possibilities here by foot, nor within about five minutes by bike. This is a gift to nervous suburban-mentality parents of students, gas stations and to companies who cynically-depend on the business of solar-washing of  parking plateaus (parking mega-craters). This could be solved by something at the Davis Commons that is a kind of portmanteau of Trader Joe’s and Grocery Outlet.

    And again: The best development of this potentially amazingly-located piece of land starts with a serious road diet for the I-80, or – if the USDOT and Caltrans successfully sues the City, UC Davis and Solano and Yolo Counties to prevent that – a roof for this dragon… if we cannot slay this dragon.

    Without parking requirements and a thoroughly-portmanteau’d 80 the Nishi Property can be re-composed with just as much housing that’s distributed evenly within trees and greens and perhaps some thrifty water features, in addition to the better and safer walking and cycling. Support our Commissions and Council to work with the developers and empower and fortify hardworking staff to make a world-class project, not just something that might not cause increased health risks.

    (Finally: Hey, Union Pacific is going to allow an under-crossing here but not between East Olive and the Davis Depot? What’s up with that? And on the same theme is this not a desirable location for a new train station if the Depot is not considered viable for the speeded up and much busier Capitol Corridor?)

  3. Roberta Millstein

    Finally, questions have arisen as to how to deal with concerns with air quality and the question will be how will the new project deal with those concerns and how much additional study will be available.

    And these concerns underwent considerable discussion at the NRC, with the Commission recommendation that additional air quality monitoring be done, along with disclosure to residents of the risks, as is being done in SF.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        The way that the meeting was structured, the commissioners took comments (including comments from the developers, Ruff and Whitcombe) and then made their recommendations, so there wasn’t really an opportunity for the developers to comment on the recommendations themselves.  If I recall correctly, the developers did express their opinion that further testing was not needed, in response to other commenters such as myself who advocated for further testing.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        If so, then pointless.  Possibly pointless anyway since so many people don’t pay attention to those things.  I know that I didn’t at that age (and didn’t know that I had asthma then, either, and so wouldn’t have known that I ought to pay special attention).  But it still seems like the right thing to do.  It’s just a suggestion at this point.  I don’t know what form the required disclosure takes in SF.  Probably worth finding out.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          Disclosure seems at least on the surface to be reasonable.  I’m not convinced that more testing is going to shine a lot of light.

          The more I learn into the testing the more important it seems to be.  We only looked at 10 days.  Only one of those ten days was a day when the particulate matter was high.  And yet the worst days were the weekends — when there is traffic on I-80 and adjacent braking, even though those days were not particularly bad air quality days more generally.  What happens when it’s a weekend and there is an inversion (trapping the PMs)?  How bad is that?  Can we mitigate for that?  We don’t know because we don’t know what the values are.  Also, the area at Olive Drive is not directly adjacent to the braking area and is not in an area where the freeway is elevated, so even the data we have could be unrepresentative.  We need more data.

        2. David Greenwald

          It seems to me a key question is does or probably how much does the concentration matter.  Can we calculate risk factor for a range of concentration levels?  It may be that it just doesn’t matter given the period of time we are talking about?  The first set of analysis would not even require further field tests and would just establish a range of risks along the concentration levels.

        3. Roberta Millstein

          It seems to me a key question is does or probably how much does the concentration matter.  Can we calculate risk factor for a range of concentration levels?

          It was done for cancer, and I believe it can be done for the other health conditions.  Again (as I said in my op ed) the Bay Area sets a level above which it considers the PM 2.5s to be a serious health concern.  And there is also the question of how effective the filters are at higher levels — I haven’t seen anything address that (setting aside the questions about open windows, which are also unresolved).

           It may be that it just doesn’t matter given the period of time we are talking about?  

          That’s a big assumption on your part — you are assuming that high levels over a short period of time do not have a negative health effect.  That may be true for cancer (although it could depend on the levels) but I do not think it is true for lung or even heart problems.  Citizens need more concrete information about these things, not just your and my speculations.

          The first set of analysis would not even require further field tests and would just establish a range of risks along the concentration levels.

          Sorry, I don’t know what you’re trying to say here.

        4. Roberta Millstein

          From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4372644/

          For short-term exposure, we found that for every 10-μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 exposure there was a 2.8% increase in PM-related mortality (95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.0–3.5).

           
          And I would hope that we can set a higher bar than “mortality.” Setting up someone for a lifetime of asthma or heart conditions is a serious thing even if it doesn’t happen to result in earlier death.

  4. Tia Will

    Roberta

    I agree with the recommendation for further study with the following specifications:

    1.Study should be done on location, not from near by site.

    2. Local epidemiologic studies should also be undertaken. It is one thing to cite levels of particulates. It is another entirely to demonstrate harm when extrapolating from other locations with conditions that are multifactorial and may be substantially different from the conditions encountered on/proximate to the Nishi parcel.

    3. If we are going to base planning on scientific findings, we need to be willing to look at all relevant and significant data, not just that which seems to confirm our biases.( Both sides)

    1. Roberta Millstein

      1.Study should be done on location, not from near by site.

      Yes, that’s the whole point.  The only reason it was done near the site rather than on site in the first place was that time was short and near the site was the best they could do.

      2. Local epidemiologic studies should also be undertaken. It is one thing to cite levels of particulates. It is another entirely to demonstrate harm when extrapolating from other locations with conditions that are multifactorial and may be substantially different from the conditions encountered on/proximate to the Nishi parcel.

      Well, there are models to which levels of particulates can be input, models that are themselves based on epidemiological studies.  I am not sure what you are proposing.

      3. If we are going to base planning on scientific findings, we need to be willing to look at all relevant and significant data, not just that which seems to confirm our biases.( Both sides)

      Of course.
      To what you have written above, I would add that the studies need to be done for longer than 10 days, being sure to include winter inversions and weekend days, the days of greatest concern (based on the preliminary studies, the weekends were particularly problematic, probably due to the braking in that area from Tahoe traffic hitting the lane reduction.  But, of course, ideally other times of the year should be included as well.

    2. Roberta Millstein

      The other thing that I emphasized at the meeting was that we should not solely focus on the cancer risk but consider other risks in addition.  Quoting from SF’s ordinance (as I did at the meeting):

      Scientific studies show that exposure to particulate matter from air pollution leads to significant human health problems, including: aggravated asthma; chronic bronchitis; reduced lung function; irregular heartbeat; heart attack; and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Exposure to air pollutants that are carcinogens can also have significant human health consequences. For example, exposure to diesel exhaust is an established cause of lung cancer.

       

       

  5. Tia Will

    Roberta

    Well, there are models to which levels of particulates can be input, models that are themselves based on epidemiological studies.  I am not sure what you are proposing.”

    I would propose looking at the epidemiological data for relevant medical conditions over a prolonged period of time over our portion of the I-80 corridor compared to adjacent communities as opposed to just comparisons with distant communities. This would of course have to be retrospective but should be available through county health statistics. While the information would not be exact because of variation in wind patterns, elevation, dual presence of freeway and tracks, etc., modeling based on epidemiological studies in other geographical locations is also not exact. I think that both are important in attempting to assess risk.

    Two points of agreement:

    1. I agree that risk assessment should include conditions other than just respiratory & cardiovascular effects if there is strong supporting data. My previous approach to the issue of autism including expert consultation ( such as Dr. Cahill’s expert opinion input) did not indicate a strong correlation so I do not think this should be a matter of “and there might be a suggestion of…”

    2. I agree that 10 days is too short a time frame. Ideally this could have been a grad student project done with multiple sampling periods during each month over the course of a year. Impractical & I don’t know who would have been willing to fund such a project as they are expensive and time intensive.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      I would propose looking at the epidemiological data for relevant medical conditions over a prolonged period of time over our portion of the I-80 corridor compared to adjacent communities as opposed to just comparisons with distant communities. This would of course have to be retrospective but should be available through county health statistics. While the information would not be exact because of variation in wind patterns, elevation, dual presence of freeway and tracks, etc., modeling based on epidemiological studies in other geographical locations is also not exact. I think that both are important in attempting to assess risk.

      That would certainly be useful information, although ideally it would need to be correlated with air quality measurements at those sites, so now we are talking about even a more massive undertaking.

      Two points of agreement:
      1. I agree that risk assessment should include conditions other than just respiratory & cardiovascular effects if there is strong supporting data. My previous approach to the issue of autism including expert consultation ( such as Dr. Cahill’s expert opinion input) did not indicate a strong correlation so I do not think this should be a matter of “and there might be a suggestion of…”

      I think voters need to have the information presented to them in as clear a way as possible so they can make an informed decision about the risk of autism as well as the other potential health concerns.

      2. I agree that 10 days is too short a time frame. Ideally this could have been a grad student project done with multiple sampling periods during each month over the course of a year. Impractical & I don’t know who would have been willing to fund such a project as they are expensive and time intensive.

      I don’t know that it is a huge amount of money compared to other aspects of the project, but I could be wrong about that.  Also, I think this needs pretty specialized equipment.  Also, the 2015 study mentioned the need to schedule scheduled the samples into “the active analysis queue,” noting that “The synchrotron analysis is run in large batches which occur approximately every 4 to 6 months due to scheduling logistics.”  It is a real shame that the measurements weren’t taken since the last vote, as some of us have repeatedly called for.

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