Is it possible to have a non-controversial project that is a Measure R project? Will WDAAC be that project?
Coming fresh off what appears to be a rather resounding Nishi victory, very quietly and without controversy or much fanfare, the council voted to put the West Davis Active Adult Community senior housing project on the ballot.
How remarkable was that? I was there when Wildhorse Ranch was approved by council on a 3-2 vote. There was uproar from the citizens and neighbors. The council was split and the project went down to defeat 75-25.
In 2016, Nishi was the first project to even come close to approval via Measure J/Measure R. Still, that was a late night meeting, there was a ton of opposition and ultimately it went down to defeat by about 700 votes.
The second Nishi project did not have a lot of opposition at the meeting – but there was some and it was a lengthy public comment and the project was approved by council and it appears by the voters.
Contrast those processes to what we have seen with WDAAC. There just hasn’t been opposition that has come to either the Planning Commission meeting, the first council meeting or this recent one.
There is some opposition out there. We have seen it, ironically more on the Vanguard than at public meetings. Some have complained about the exclusive nature of senior housing. Some are concerned about the lack of density and the fact that it is basically a peripheral subdivision. Some have complained about the lack of connectivity and see commonalities with the Cannery in terms
of being able to get bikes and pedestrians across Covell.
But that hasn’t translated to community opposition. Unless there is a group that will organize, that will lead the push back, that will mau-mau against the development, it is hard to see a way that this project will be defeated.
That is probably an enormous change in the last few years, that we have gone from questioning whether any Measure R project can pass a vote to believing that this project is going to be tough to defeat.
I view this project differently from how I view Nishi. With Nishi, while there were other designs I would have preferred at the site, including more commercial and innovation space, at the end of the day the driver was what I saw as a crisis in the need for additional student housing in this community.
There are college students crowded ten to a five-bedroom house, sometimes even more. Students are sleeping in their cars. They are sleeping in libraries. They are couch surfing.
While housing in general is a problem in Davis, I don’t see that level of urgency for senior housing. So I am not going to take the same approach with this project.
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the project in general.
The first thing I will say here is that I think the developers are to be commended on several things. First, they have really walked the walk on outreach to the community. Whatever criticisms that Nishi generated, a lot of them I feel unwarranted due to the recent project being the second bite at the apple, the Taorminos have really gone out of their way to engage public outreach.
They have really set the standard for what public outreach and planning process should be on a Measure R project.
Second, they have done some really innovative things with their approach. They have proposed 150 affordable housing units, when they were not required to go about 62. That’s a big deal and they should be commended for that. I say that as someone who understands why we need to go down to 15 percent for most projects.
I find the Davis-Based Buyers Program interesting. Some see this as a way to be more exclusive and keep Davis for Davis. What I see is the developers trying to find a way to make sure that, at least in the first wave, the housing is built for existing residents, freeing up existing housing stock for other demographics.
With that said, I agree with some of the criticism of the buyer’s program and the project as a whole. I have no idea if the program will fly legally. That will remain to be seen until and not unless it is challenged in a court of law.
We have seen some opposition, not at official meetings but on the Vanguard – the question I have is whether those will transform into a formal opposition. I don’t know where that formal opposition is going to come from when the usual groups seem at worst split on the issue, and they may lack energy and resources to mount another challenge to a Measure R project.
Despite my positives for the project I will say I am not totally sold. Senior housing is probably lower on my list of needs and I don’t completely buy into the idea that large scale downsizing would lead to housing for families (and if we want housing for families, why not directly build it)?
I am in agreement on the concerns about density and the fact that this is basically a traditional subdivision on the periphery with some twists rather than high density, urban housing for families and workers.
That is not enough to garner my opposition, but it has pushed me to sit back and watch this unfold.
At this point, I see this project passing easily unless opposition mobilizes shortly; I just don’t see enough here that is going to inspire the masses to revolt.
This would make the record on Measure R projects 2-3, with a two-project winning streak. Given where things were not that long ago, that’s kind of remarkable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting