Planning Commission to Hear Measure J Discussion Wednesday

citycatIt was nearly a month ago that the Business and Economic Development Commission (BEDC) considered whether Measure J should have a business park exemption during their vote to place a renewal on the ballot that would sunset in 2020.  At that time, the BEDC did not feel comfortable with the vague lack of direction that the council provided them.  They would vote by a 7 to 1 vote to recommend no exemption at this point in time.  The one dissenting vote actually wanted the qualifier “at this point in time” removed.

The BEDC was reluctant to permanently recommend against this consideration based on the notion that they are in the midst of receiving a staff report on the city’s business park land needs.  Depending on the outcome of that study, they might wish to revisit the issue should the study show the definitive and immediate need for a business park.

Others suggested however even if the city has a strong and overriding need to develop a business park immediately, Measure J should not grant exemptions.  A well-thought out development would undoubtedly be approved by the voters should the need be demonstrated, but it would leave in place protections against poorly developed proposals that would encroach on agricultural land and open space.  The public would remain the final arbiters not only on the need for the development, but also on the form and location of that development.

On Wednesday, the Planning Commission will hear the same issue and consider whether there should be a business park exemption placed on the ballot simultaneous to a renewal of Measure J.

One of the interesting aspects of the BEDC’s discussion is how little thought seemed to be laid out to explain the thinking to the commissions expected to act upon it.  Staff had very vague direction and the BEDC was left to deliberate on a concept that they did not fully understand and that staff could not adequately explain.  The same problem has arisen during the discussions of the special committee expected to examine the issue of Senior Housing. 

Both of these ideas arose from Councilmember Stephen Souza.  From the standpoint of functionality, it might be helpful if Councilmember Souza would draw up a memo in advance to explain people his thoughts and what he expects from the commissions.  Both the commissioners and city staff have seem utterly lost trying to figure out what council wants in these matters.

Planning Commissioner’s Thoughts on Wildhorse Ranch Project

Two weeks ago, the Planning Commission heard the proposal for Wildhorse Ranch.  In yesterday’s Davis Enterprise, Chair of the Planning Commission, Mark Braly had an Op-Ed on his thoughts on the project.

There are a few interesting tidbits in this Op-Ed including a discussion of the Night Breeze system that they will be installing.  The most interesting piece of insight comes at the beginning however.

Mr. Braly writes:

“The city of Davis adopted a policy calling for a 44 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from new homes by 2020. It was a daring move since all our home builders told us it couldn’t be done.”

Davis’ City policy calling for a 44 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in new homes by 2020 does not even pale in comparison with that of cities like San Francisco.  Austin, Texas one of the fastest growing cities in the past two decades has a plan to become carbon neutral by 2020.

Regardless of what other cities have proposed, the fact that builders have been arguing that something cannot be done is telling.  As Mr. Braly writes:

“But most innovations since the 1960s have been resisted, understandably, by builders who are sure the green embellishments will price their product out of the market. We don’t always call their bluff since we don’t know what they know, and we have no living examples to refute them.”

So in the face of prima facie evidence comes the proposal from Wildhorse ranch.  Their project may change this entire game by showing us all what is possible.  Mr. Braly suggests that this project is a game changer because it takes away the developer’s argument that this can’t be done.

“Talbott Solar principals Dean Newberry and David Galbraith think it would be possible to reduce the development’s greenhouse gas emissions to zero, but, Galbraith says, ‘We don’t want to reduce emissions to zero since homeowners wouldn’t fully appreciate their savings unless they got a utility bill.’ Instead, the developer is committed to a reduction of 90 percent, which is twice the city requirement.”

The innovation of the Night Breeze system is intriguing two fold.  First, it was developed by a local company Davis Energy Group.  For those who look to the green energy field and the engine of possible economic growth in Davis, companies like Talbott Solar and Davis Energy Group may be prime examples.

“Night Breeze brings in outside air when it detects that outside air is cooler than inside. A bonus for hay fever sufferers is that it filters the air. Many of the houses will have no ductwork. Radiant heating and cooling or super-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems will be used. Highly reflectant roof and wall colors will reduce solar gain. “

This goes a step forward from mere orientation to utilize the delta breeze and also capture the sun in the winter and avoid it in the summer.  None of these small things in terms of energy usage in the winter and the summer.

However, Mr. Braly also tempers his comments suggesting as the Vanguard would, “Davis has always been good at talking the talk while sometimes lacking in walk.”

And for those who like me who hope that a Wildhorse Ranch would usher in a new standard for development in Davis, Mr. Braly presents a warning.

“For all its impact on the world of planning and sustainability, Village Holmes failed to influence Davis’ growth very much. Developers insisted that such a project could not be repeated because its homes would be too expensive to sell. This was despite the fact that Village Homes residences have always sold for a hefty premium above market.”

On the other hand it is interesting to note that while the housing bubble has burst, green houses are the ones selling.

“When the housing bubble burst, it left the Sacramento area with one of the nation’s biggest inventories of unsold homes. But one home builder told a UC Davis conference that his green houses were more expensive than the competition but were the only ones selling.

The stress of slow markets created good timing for a new Village Homes in Davis. “

He also lays out the dilemma of Davis that wants to be green, affordable, and neighbor friendly all at the same time.

“But Davis has many aspirations. It wants to be green, yes, but it also wants to be a bucolic college town buying organic food at its well-known farmers’ market. It wants to offer a variety of housing for all income levels. It does not want to spread out into the surrounding farms, yet loves big lawns and light traffic.

The city has a policy of growing up, not out. It has even ranked its infill sites in terms of the suitability for development. City staff nudges developers toward higher density, but requires them to work closely with neighbors of the project who want nothing in their back yards – or at least nothing more dense than their neighborhood.

The neighbors usually prevail, but they may not in the case of the Wildhorse project. Parlin Development Co. and its consultants say they want to develop a neighborhood where design wipes out the perceived negatives of density.”

Finally he discusses another green project, this one by Maria Ogrydziak, a green and innovative project that I simply could not support because of where it was located.  Perhaps had this been on the outskirts of town it might have been more workable.  Or perhaps her project was simply ahead of its time.

I am sympathetic to the neighbors concerns here as I have expressed before, but I also feel that unlike other projects, the developers have gone a long way to meet the demands of the neighbors.  This project was originally slated at 259 and has been dropped to 191.  The developers put in a huge buffer and shifted the development to the east in an effort to minimize impact on the existing neighborhood.  They have greatly increased parking as well.

Talking to both the neighbors and the developers in the past week, it seems that there is more that could be done.  There is a plan to shift the entrance to the east and away from the houses by another twenty feet that could be implemented if the two sides wanted to get together for additional meetings.  There is a way perhaps to add additional parking as well.

I know the neighbors are concerned that parking will back onto Caravaggio Street, I just do not see people walking that distance to their homes.  If there is a shortage of housing, it is far more likely that people would double-park but then they will run into a problem with the homeowners association.

On the other hand, right now, the neighbors have asked to drop the development down to 150 units, that does not seem feasible given the sustainability and density demands of this kind of project.  And while the developers dropped plans for four stories, they have kept the third story units.  However, in so doing they have nestled them in the middle of two story units with a good amount of buffer space from the existing development.  I understand the site line concerns, but eight feet difference is not going to save their site lines.

In the end, this project has done as well as could be done, changes on the margins not withstanding, of navigating between the demands of green building designs, environmental sustainability, and the demands of neighbors.

Interesting piece by Mr. Braly though gives us a little bit more insight into the project and the thinking that members of the Planning Commission take as they examine these projects.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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61 Comments

  1. Jim Watson

    Agree Measure J

    Braly Op-Ed piece:
    CIty staff “nudges” developers to higher density? The neighbors usually prevail?
    Suggest the author look at the outcome of Chiles Ranch.

    Huge buffers sound attractive.

  2. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]“For all its impact on the world of planning and sustainability, Village Holmes failed to influence Davis’ growth very much. Developers insisted that such a project could not be repeated because its homes would be too expensive to sell. This was despite the fact that Village Homes residences have always sold for a hefty premium above market.”[/quote] I think the reason that Village Homes did not establish a new norm for development in Davis was largely that VH served a niche market, whereas developments which followed served the traditional home-buying customers, looking for a traditional lot-design and so on. In that respect, the “new norm” for Davis up to now was the creation of Covell Park, which heralded in the idea of greenbelts and more park space.

    I’m not sure if the features of Wild Horse Ranch will become the new norm for new developments in Davis. It will depend (I would guess) on whether its features are what most new home buyers in Davis are looking for. My expectation, in looking at the WHR plans, is that its features are very much what the mainstream Davis buyer wants in a house. And if that is right, having a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions [i]will become the standard[/i] for all other peripheral* housing projects in Davis in the years to come. As such, WHR is very likely going to affect what is ultimately built** on the Covell Village land, as well as properties east of Wild Horse.

    ———–

    * Interior infill projects might not follow this pattern, simply because they have to contend much more with the norms already existing around them. (I think Mark Braly, who was Mario O’s biggest supporter on the Planning Commission for her B Street project, failed to understand that.)

    ** I don’t expect voters in Davis for a long time to approve any projects on the CV property. However, I do think at some point, when demand for housing exceeds supply, that land, surrounded on three sides by urban uses, will be developed.

  3. My View

    Souza is always coming up with some fly in the ointment, thinking his additional complications show how smart he is. What it really is doing is showing how obtuse and clueless he is. Citizens, including BEDC, want Measure J to stay as it, no exceptions. Are you listening to those you are supposed to be representing Mr. Souza?

    As far as Wildhorse itself goes, to me that degree of densification is tenement living. Not only that, the condos in there are going to be costing between $450,000 and $550,000. How is that going to assist in providing workforce housing, which was touted as a reason for this dense development? Who in the heck is going to purchase a $500,000 tenement? I sure as heck wouldn’t!

    I am not against the project because it paves over a horse farm/ag land. To me that is a silly argument. My problem with Wildhorse is that it does not provide workforce housing, but is instead tenement living at Cadillac prices – a stupid concept. All the smoke screen about 90% GHG reduction does not take away from the fact that this is not achieving what it was billed to do – provide affordable workforce housing, the reason for accepting its high density. If it is not going to deliver on affordable workforce housing, then there is no need for such high density, period. The concept just does not work for me as being in any way sensible or logical. Am I missing something here?

  4. David M. Greenwald

    So you want us to continue to build the current types of development that we have for the last twenty years? In what way are these tenements?

  5. earoberts

    “So you want us to continue to build the current types of development that we have for the last twenty years? In what way are these tenements?”

    No, but if you are going to build a very dense project, then for heaven’s sake, make the housing affordable! My understanding, from listening to the City Council discussions, is that the average unit will cost $450,000 to $550,000 for a condo. Who in their right mind would pay that kind of money for a small condo? And why would we want to create expensive tenement living? It would be bad enough to create tenement living for affordable workforce housing. This concept of Cadillac priced tenements leaves me cold. Someone correct me if I misheard the prices…

  6. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]the average unit will cost $450,000 to $550,000 for a condo. Who in their right mind would pay that kind of money for a small condo?[/quote] That’s why we have markets. If a seller sets the price higher than buyers are willing to pay, the price will come down.

    Also, the implication of your comment is that WHR is mostly (or even entirely) a “condo” development. If that is what you think, you are misinformed. It is composed of 73 single family detached homes; 78 townhouses; and 40 “affordable” apartment units.

    To see the proposed site plan, click here ([url]http://cityofdavis.org/CDD/projects/wildhorse/pdfs/FEIR/3.0_Responses to Comments 3.pdf[/url]) and go to page 72.

  7. Matt Williams

    My View, what is your source for the $450,000 to $550,000 price for the Town Houses? And while you are at it, what is that source saying the price for the Single Family Homes is going to be?

    I agree with you that if the lowest ownership units are going to cost $450,000 and the price will go up from there, then it is a stretch to call the ownership units “workforce housing.”

  8. Pam Nieberg

    Measure J should be renewed just as it is with no changes.

    Whether the exemption for a business park is in the ordinance itself or a separate measure, it is still an exemption to Measure J. And if we permit one exemption, we will have to permit others or face a lawsuit. We learned this during the drafting of the measure 10 years ago after consulting with an attorney from Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger–a San Francisco firm that specializes in land use and environmental law.

    Measure J was not just about residential development. It was about saving farm land and open space and slowing sprawl. A business park on farm land has the same impacts as any other development.

    The Covell Village campaign showed us that Measure J works as it should. If a really good business park proposal comes along, the people will support it. Don’t tamper with Measure J.

  9. More free Vanguard advertizing for the Parlin project

    Speaking of WOW factor, I find it interesting that the Vanguard managed to sequester another free advertising plug for the Parlin project. This time the advertising plug is under an entirely different article heading about the Measure J vote.

    The real issues about the Parlin project is that it proposes to pave over the Wildhorse site which is prime ag land, AND that that the units are NOT affordable at $425,000-$450,000, AND it would have multiple three story buildings and create a canyon effect, AND it will bring significant traffic, AND there is NOT enough parking, AND the fact that the “green”-ness of the project does NOT alter the terrible design, AND the fact that the neighbors hate the project with many good reasons. This is just to name a few problems that the project has.

    Please STOP the green washing. The only thing green about this project is the BIG $$$ that the developers are trying to make!

  10. $425,000-$550,000 is not affordable housing

    Whoops! Correction. I meant to say $425,000 to $550,000 is not affordable housing (although $425,000 to $450,000 is not affordable either!)

  11. Say NO to High Density Development

    “…the neighbors have asked to drop the development down to 150 units, that does not seem feasible given the sustainability and density demands of this kind of project” Can you define “sustainability and density demands” and by whose standards are these demands being dictated…I think if you mean, economic profit margins for Parlin, then I understand your true point of view…the number of 191 units is what the developers have decided upon as a “compromise”, despite the fact the neighbors wanted it more in the 150 range…and where is this “density” notion coming from, look at the current three-dimensional views of the project, compare them to the existing neighborhood density, and you have a high density development…the project in it’s current proposed layout with the three story apartment towers will not be supported by Wildhorse neighbors, the more the neighbors learn of the scope and size of the project, closer to the election time, the more will oppose it, that’s simple reality, and in a sure to be low-turnout election, that may enough to defeat the measure, despite all the “greenwashing” that is being done about this project by Mark Braly, Vanguard, and others….

  12. Curious?

    “Talking to both the neighbors and the developers in the past week…”

    I’m curious David as to which “neighbors” who have spoken to; were they Bill Ritter pre-selected proponents of the project???

  13. Matt Williams

    [quote]More free said . . .

    . . . the units are NOT affordable at $425,000-$550,000 . . . [/quote]
    More free, I asked this question earlier of a different poster, but let me ask it of you. “What is your source for the prices you reference?”

    In the absence of some validation of your info you could just as easily have said $825,000-$550,000 or $325,000-$450,000 or $225,000-$350,000.

    Here’s a question for everyone. “What is the appropriate price range and square footage size for affordable workforce housing?”

  14. My View

    “Here’s a question for everyone. “What is the appropriate price range and square footage size for affordable workforce housing?””

    My information about the price of the housing came from comments made at a recent City Council meeting discussion. Sue Greenwald directly asked Catherine Hess wasn’t it true that the units in Wildhorse would cost $425,000 or more? Hess relunctantly admitted “yes”. Greenwald snapped back with the question how did Hess expect to sell such expensive units in this dismal economy. Hess just lamely said it could be done, but gave no further explanation. If I am incorrect about the pricing, and misheard, please enlighten me, but I don’t think I did. I think my ears are just fine.

    I do not support densification to this degree, and not if it does not provide affordable workforce housing. Tenement living at Cadillac prices is a stupid idea.

  15. Pam Nieberg

    Re the Wildhorse Ranch project: Those homes are not going to be built for two to three years or until this economy turns around.

    Please stop referring to the homes and town houses as “tenements”. They are far from that.

    The density of this project is 7.3 units per acre. That is medium density.

  16. David M. Greenwald

    My View: You have misheard. You heard the conversation correctly except the reference that you are making is to Chiles Ranch not to Wildhorse. Wildhorse has not been discussed by council in its current form.

  17. Matt Williams

    My View, my recollection was the same as David’s, and I was going to go to the streaming video of the Council discussion of Chiles Ranch to verify that. But whether or not it was Chiles Ranch or Wildhorse Ranch doesn’t change (or answer) the second question I asked earlier, so I’ll ask it again, “What is the appropriate price range and square footage size for affordable workforce housing?”

  18. David M. Greenwald

    Seeking more information about the actual prices for housing at Wildhorse Ranch, I contacted Parlin Development Company today and they issued me the following statement…….

    [quote]For the 78 Wildhorse Ranch townhomes, the average price will be $425,000. Townhomes will range in price from the mid-$300,000’s to mid-$400,000’s. Based on current lending institution practices, an applicant must be able to show a $79,000 annual income in order to qualify to purchase a townhome at $425,000 with a 20% downpayment. Thus workforce families with dual incomes of 40K (80K combined) will qualify for a townhome purchase. To put this in human terms, a two DJUSD teacher household could afford to purchase a townhome.

    For the 73 single family detached Wildhorse Ranch homes, the average price will be $550,000. Homes will range in price from a high $400,000’s to the high $500,000’s. Again assuming a 20% downpayment, a family with a combined income of $102,000 would qualify for a $550,000 single family detached home purchase. Putting this in human terms, a Davis policeman, a local nurse, an assistant or associate UC college professor with a working spouse who earns somewhere around $40,000 could afford to purchase a single family detached home.

    After the 20% down payment, the above income qualifications include principal and interest, taxes, association dues and consumer debt.

    With a 10% down payment, the income qualifications would increase to $86,000 to purchase an average townhome or $108,000 to purchase an average single family home including mortgage insurance, principal & interest, taxes, association dues and consumer debt.[/quote]

  19. To; Matt

    The City Council has already eliminated the requirement for “middle income” housing requirements in new developments (which would apply to Wildhorse Ranch if approved by voters); therefore there is no city requirement for the developers to establish such pricing, and with this environmental WOW package that is wooing all, the economic costs to support such a project precludes offering the “townhome” models at nothing less than “fair market value”; if you look at comparable properties on the market, 3 bedrooms, roughly 1700 sq ft, you’re looking at a price range of 450-550k; it is certainly debateable if anyone would consider this price range “affordable” for the city’s workforce, especially in the light of furloughs for both UC and state workers; what is most prudent is for the Council to delay the approval of this project and see what happens to market forces/supply demand with the already approved exisiting 200+ units (Verona, Chiles Ranch, Grande); not to mention the West Village project for UC Davis

  20. AGAIN the QUESTION

    Do you consider $300,000 to $400,000 affordable? That is the question that has been posed, I’d like an answer either from “To Matt” or “My View”–I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

  21. To: Question

    I don’t think that 300-400K is a revelant number; since the market value will dictate pricing and if you look at comparable sized properties to the proposed Wildhorse Ranch townhomes, your talking at least 450K (probably add more for all the environmental “bells and whistles”) so 450K+ for a three-four bedroom attached townhome is NOT “affordable” in my opinion

  22. AGAIN the QUESTION

    It may or may not be, but my question is whether you would consider it affordable. I’m trying to understand the terms of debate before I decide whether or not to weigh in.

  23. Don Shor

    IMO $250 – 350,000 could be considered “affordable” based on California median income, housing cost @ 30% of median income, mortgage at 5 -6% interest.
    Condos in La Buena Vida are selling right now for under $200K.

  24. To: Question

    But again, where are you coming up with 250-350 price range; that is well below the market value for comparable sized townhomes in the city; if the developers priced them at that range, it would almost be charity, and I don’t developers are in the charitable business

  25. AGAIN the QUESTION

    Don, I appreciate your answer. I don’t understand “To the Question” why you will not answer whether you consider it affordable or not. It seems from your last response like you do. I think we need to be on the same page in our terms before we can discuss whether or not a development has an affordable component to it. You may be right that there are no units in that range, but for the sake of clarity, I just want a consensus for what is or is not affordable.

  26. Matt Williams

    [quote]Don Shor said . . .

    I think La Buena Vida condos are an excellent example of affordable workforce housing.[/quote]
    Don, I’m not familiar with them. What size are they (bedrooms? / square feet? / garage space?). What have they been selling for recently?

  27. Matt Williams

    [quote]To; Matt said . . .

    The City Council has already eliminated the requirement for “middle income” housing requirements in new developments (which would apply to Wildhorse Ranch if approved by voters); therefore there is no city requirement for the developers to establish such pricing, and with this environmental WOW package that is wooing all, the economic costs to support such a project precludes offering the “townhome” models at nothing less than “fair market value”; if you look at comparable properties on the market, 3 bedrooms, roughly 1700 sq ft, you’re looking at a price range of 450-550k; it is certainly debateable if anyone would consider this price range “affordable” for the city’s workforce, especially in the light of furloughs for both UC and state workers; what is most prudent is for the Council to delay the approval of this project and see what happens to market forces/supply demand with the already approved exisiting 200+ units (Verona, Chiles Ranch, Grande); not to mention the West Village project for UC Davis.[/quote]
    Workforce families are going to come in all shapes and sizes. Lets look at some hypothetical real-life examples.

    [indent]Hypothetical example #1: A married couple with no children (or children grown and in their own homes) both of whom are DJUSD teachers. That would give that workforce household an aggregate annual income in the $80,000 range. Based on current lending institution practices, a mortgage applicant with an $80,000 annual income would qualify to purchase a townhome at $425,000 with a 20% downpayment.

    Hypothetical example #2: A married couple with no children (or children grown and in their own homes) one of whom earns approximately $60,000 as a Davis policeman, or as a nurse, or as an assistant or associate UCD professor, and a spouse who earns somewhere around $40,000 as a DJUSD teacher or a UCD staff member, etc. Based on current lending institution practices, a mortgage applicant with an $100,000 annual income would qualify to purchase a home at $550,000 with a 20% downpayment.

    In both those hypotheticals I would expect that a substantial portion of the couples would be looking for a two-bedroom townhouse and probably a smaller size than 1,700 square feet. What are two-bedroom condos currently selling for in Davis?

    Needless to say there are going to be some people in the workforce with children, which will make the third bedroom highly desireable (if not a must), but the banking practices would still apply.

  28. earoberts

    To Again the Question: Personally, I would consider $250,000 affordable workforce housing for a family making median income in CA, w mortgage rates at 5-6%. Wildhorse is going to have townhomes of 1700 sq ft going for how much? DPD and Matt, I stand corrected – the $450K figure I heard at the City Council meeting was with respect to Chiles Ranch (that is why I asked if I had misheard – my mistake). However, I suspect Wildhorse is going to be no different. Correct me if I am wrong.

    So what we have is a project that is quite dense (sorry Pam, but I consider 7 1/2 units per acre to be pretty dense), that will be selling what I consider “tenement” living (slightly exaggerated term – use “close living” if you would prefer) at Cadillac prices of $450,000 and up. I personally do not support such a concept, but I want to be upfront that I am not particulary opposed to urban sprawl as others are. I think this is a matter of personal perspective. Some don’t mind living close together – I personally abhor it. I hate densification.

    However, I also want it on the record that I was against Covell Village bc it would have cost the city too much in the way of extra needed services/water. That issue is of concern to me for Chiles Ranch and Wildhorse, but to a much lesser degree since they are both relatively small housing developments.

    What I am trying to point out is if I have to hold my nose to vote for dense housing, then at least make it have affordable workforce housing in the $250,000 range. Otherwise I will not support it – despite how wonderfully “green” this project is. That is my personal perspective…

  29. AGAIN the QUESTION

    Thank you My View for your thorough answer. What about a $300,000 or $350,000 home, is that not affordable for the people in the class that Matt Williams identifies above? Just curious.

  30. Don Shor

    Matt: Here’s some recent data:[url]http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/La_Buena_Vida-Davis/594/[/url]
    La Buena Vida is just up Pole Line Rd, north of Green Meadows.

  31. Matt Williams

    [quote]AGAIN the QUESTION said . . .

    Do you consider $300,000 to $400,000 affordable? That is the question that has been posed, I’d like an answer either from “To Matt” or “My View”–I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.[/quote]
    Based on the hypotheticals I laid out above, the answer to your question is a qualified “Yes.” Qualified because not every worker is going to make $40,000 a year and not every family is going to be practicing zero population growth. For many of those workers, renting their housing is probably a better fiscal decision regardless of what city or what state they live in.

  32. AGAIN the QUESTION

    Let me throw some numbers out here, the number I see for median housing price is $548,000. For the sake of argument let’s accept that. If my math is right, that puts the 30% median at 383,600. That puts $250,000 at less than half the median price. That would seem to put it in the low income rather than the middle income affordable. And it would put the $350,000 to $400,000 range right at middle income affordable, as Matt describes the 80,000 salary range. I don’t know if that helps or muddies the water.

  33. To: AGAIN the Question

    Here is a Davis Wike link for La Buena Vida (aka McKeon Condominiums; built in 1970’s; no three or four bedroom units on the property; much different from the 3-4 bedroom townhomes that Parlin wants to build at Wildhorse Ranch; you simply CAN’T compare the two in terms of pricing); so again your hypothetical price range of 300-350K is not worthy of debate since Parlin would be committing economic suicide if they were going to sell their townhomes at that rate; so let’s get off of this “academic” debate, shall we, and focus on the reality (as “My View” is attempting to do so); there will be NO affordable units to buy for workforce families in Wildhorse Ranch, given current comparable fair market values for three-four 1700 sq ft newly built attached townhomes (or “condos”, if they decide to charge association fees to help with the costs of their environmental upgrades), so if you want to support this project as a means of providing affordable “to own” properties for Davis workforce families, I think you are sadly misguided

  34. To: AGAIN the Question

    Also Matt:

    If you look at the link provided by Don Schor, it seems that El Macero has had the largest overall drop in property values, keep up the supporting of more new development!!!

  35. Don Shor

    The units in La Buena Vida, which are quadriplexes, average 900 sq. ft. That is the point: affordable housing in Davis is only going to happen via smaller units. No, there isn’t going to be any affordable housing in Wildhorse Ranch.

  36. Matt Williams

    [quote]To: AGAIN the Question said . . .

    Here is a Davis Wiki link for La Buena Vida (aka McKeon Condominiums; built in 1970’s; no three or four bedroom units on the property; much different from the 3-4 bedroom townhomes that Parlin wants to build at Wildhorse Ranch; you simply CAN’T compare the two in terms of pricing); so again your hypothetical price range of 300-350K is not worthy of debate since Parlin would be committing economic suicide if they were going to sell their townhomes at that rate; so let’s get off of this “academic” debate, shall we, and focus on the reality (as “My View” is attempting to do so); there will be NO affordable units to buy for workforce families in Wildhorse Ranch, given current comparable fair market values for three-four 1700 sq ft newly built attached townhomes (or “condos”, if they decide to charge association fees to help with the costs of their environmental upgrades), so if you want to support this project as a means of providing affordable “to own” properties for Davis workforce families, I think you are sadly misguided.[/quote]
    Why do you believe all the townhomes will be 3-4 bedroom 1,700 square feet? That really is a very poor match to the demographics of the Davis workforce that has been under served by the types of houses that have been built in Davis over the past 10 years. If I were part of the Workforce demographic we have been talking about, and I wanted 3-4 bedrooms and at least 1,700 square feet I would be looking to purchase one of the over 200 homes that are currently listed as being for sale.

  37. Matt Williams

    [quote]
    To: AGAIN the Question said . . .

    Also Matt:

    If you look at the link provided by Don Schor, it seems that El Macero has had the largest overall drop in property values, keep up the supporting of more new development!!! [/quote]
    The 37 condos in El Macero (on 3.312 gross acres by the way for a density of over 10 units per gross acre) might be affordable for the demographic we have been discussing, but the value of the typical home in El Macero is not going to be affected by anything built at WHR . . . as long as WHR is targeted at the under served workforce demographic.

  38. Matt Williams

    [quote]
    Don Shor said

    Matt: Here’s some recent data:http://www.trulia.com/real_est…Davis/594/
    La Buena Vida is just up Pole Line Rd, north of Green Meadows.

    The units in La Buena Vida, which are quadriplexes, average 900 sq. ft. That is the point: affordable housing in Davis is only going to happen via smaller units. No, there isn’t going to be any affordable housing in Wildhorse Ranch.
    [/quote]
    Don, some quick math associated with the three sales listed on the site for La Buena Vida works out to only 763 square feet per unit.

    Using that same $223 per square foot sales price, a 1,000 square foot unit would sell for $223,000 and a 1,350 square foot unit would sell for $300,000. 1,350 squqre feet should be a comfortable two-bedroom townhouse I would think.

  39. Don Shor

    “. . . as long as WHR is targeted at the under served workforce demographic.”

    Which WHR is not.

    Again, as I’ve said before, the only way Davis will get more affordable housing is by building more units for renters: apartments, duplexes, quadriplexes, and smaller townhouses.

    By the way, rent has fallen in all cities in the Sacramento area, except Davis:
    [url]http://www.sacbee.com/business/story/2026511-a2026690-t46.html[/url]

  40. Matt Williams

    [quote]To Matt said . . .

    Here is the link on the City website for the final plan; the second SF (single family unit) listed reports the sq with the avg as 1700: [/quote]
    Thanks for that link. Although it is a year old, it gives us some concrete info to relate to. For those who haven’t seen it, here is an excerpt:

    [quote]The 78 townhomes are spread throughout the site plan, mixing in with the single-family homes. These attached homes will be constructed in buildings of 2, 3, 4 and 5 home configurations. The homes will be two and three-story and [u]range in size from 1400 to 1600 square feet with 2 and 3 bedrooms.[/u] Each town home will also have an attached 2 car garage.[/quote]
    What does that tell us? First, the statement “3-4 bedroom townhomes that Parlin wants to build at Wildhorse Ranch” isn’t consistent with the reality of the words of the document, nor is 1700 square feet per townhome consistent with the document either.

    Using Don Shor’s la Buena Vida example @ $223 per square foot a 1,400 to 1,600 square foot townhouse will cost between $312,000 and $357,000.

    Is that affordable?
    So

  41. Matt Williams

    [quote]Don Shor said . . .

    Again, as I’ve said before, the only way Davis will get more affordable housing is by building more units for renters: apartments, duplexes, quadriplexes, and smaller townhouses. [/quote]
    You are not going to get an argument from me on what you’ve said. The only word I would adjust would be your 7th word “only.” I don’t think this is an either/or situation, but rather a both/and situation. Rental is the only fiscally viable option for many of Davis’ workers, but that doesn’t mean it is that way for all of Davis’ workers.

  42. Don Shor

    Here is a wider range of condo prices:
    [url]http://sacramento.condo.com/ForSale/United-States/California/Davis-Condos[/url]
    Better figure $300/ft or more for these.

  43. Don Shor

    Here is a wider range of condo prices:
    [url]http://sacramento.condo.com/ForSale/United-States/California/Davis-Condos[/url]
    Better figure $300/ft or more for these.

  44. rick entrikin

    I thought the issue @ hand was the renewal of Measure J before the planning commission tonight. As I’ve insisted repeatedly, Measure J is the ultimate battleground facing us over the next year.

    In my opinion, debates over hypothetical developments are developer-driven distractions to divert activists from focusing on our most pressing need: the renewal of Measure J, as is, with no exemptions.

  45. Matt Williams

    rick, I think we are capable of multi-tasking. I completely agree with you that renewal of Measure J as-is is the most important issue; however, Davis has been treating its workforce as stepchildren for far too long. Paraphrasing Pogo . . . We need to face the enemy, and the enemy is us. Without open dialogue and agreement on principles we won’t make any coherent progress in addressing Davis’ workforce housing issues.

  46. earoberts

    Very illuminating discussion. Rick, I agree that passing Measure J w no exemptions is the top priority. But I have also gleaned a great deal from the discussion of Wildhorse.

    Clearly the townhomes to be sold are small and overly expensive in WH, and not affordable workforce housing, which is what I suspected but was not sure of. I will most likely not be supporting this project. I don’t like densification just for the sake of “GHG reduction” or “saving ag land”. “Urban sprawl”, to me, is not an awful concept. I grew up in the suburbs of a large city, and am quite comfortable with and like the idea of everyone having a little space between their neighbors.

    I might have held my nose and voted for WH if it addressed the need for affordable workforce housing. Since it does not, but instead offers small overpriced townhomes at Cadillac prices, the concept leaves me cold. I just fail to understand the strong support by some for this project, just bc it has “green” features, which are not of paramount importance to me in light of other considerations.

    If you are a strong proponent of WH, please explain your reasons why, in light of the discussion that clearly shows WH will not be offering affordable workforce housing, but rather expensive townhouses or expensive small homes in a very dense project. What is the point? I am getting the feeling it has more to do w a fear if you don’t flood the market with enough new housing, it will give more impetus for big developments to be built? Can’t say I agree w that logic…

  47. Matt Williams

    My View,

    1) What do you consider the affordable workforce housing price range to be?

    2) What range of # of bedrooms and square feet do you believe should be purchaseable in your selected price range?

  48. Im not following

    “Clearly the townhomes to be sold are small and overly expensive in WH, and not affordable workforce housing”

    When was this determined?

    “”Urban sprawl”, to me, is not an awful concept. I grew up in the suburbs of a large city, and am quite comfortable with and like the idea of everyone having a little space between their neighbors.”

    The problem is then we are talking about $600K plus houses rather than in the 300 or 400K range (which I think are affordable for middle class folks at this point).

    The other question is how important is protection of ag land, reducing carbon emissions by keeping development near the center of towns, and other environmental features to you. If they are not important at all then of course a project like this loses much appeal. However, if you are like me and think that we need to change the way we develop neighborhoods and build cities, then you see this as a key first step.

    Finally there is a point that needs to be raised that setting 90% emissions as a standard, it becomes a barrier to bigger projects like Covell Village and I’m sure that’s why some want to see this killed off.

  49. earoberts

    To Matt: I would consider $250,000 to $300,000 at 1500 sq ft affordable workforce housing I think. If you make the price any higher, even if a couple could technically “afford” a larger mortgage, they are forced to take ARMs to afford $400,000 + priced homes, which will eventually get them in a whole lot of financial trouble when the ARM “readjusts”. Only fixed rate mortgages should be encouraged (IMHO ARMs should be outlawed).

  50. Matt Williams

    [quote]My View said . . .

    To Matt: I would consider $250,000 to $300,000 at 1500 sq ft affordable workforce housing I think. If you make the price any higher, even if a couple could technically “afford” a larger mortgage, they are forced to take ARMs to afford $400,000 + priced homes, which will eventually get them in a whole lot of financial trouble when the ARM “readjusts”. Only fixed rate mortgages should be encouraged (IMHO ARMs should be outlawed).[/quote]
    My View, thanks for the answer. I personally would expand your price range to $250,000 to $350,000. I am surprised; howeer, by your square footage choice. That puts (for your range) the price per square foot between $166 and $200. When was the last time new construction anywhere in California was that low? The City of Davis Entitlement Fees alone would eat up close to $66 of that, leaving the construction costs and land acquisition costs only $100 to $134 per square foot.

    The information Don Shor provided would seem to indicate that $250 to $300 a square foot is probably more reasonable, which would make the square footage 1,000 square feet.

    Taking into consideration David’s follow-up post, how does a two-bedroom 1,000 square foot Townhome for between $250,000 and $300,000 sound?

  51. earoberts

    “Taking into consideration David’s follow-up post, how does a two-bedroom 1,000 square foot Townhome for between $250,000 and $300,000 sound?”

    I think I could live with that, altho 1,000 sq ft is awfully small. Sometimes builders can get quite clever with inside arrangements, but I admit the lack of sq footage makes me a bit queasy.

    So let’s say $300,000 at 1200 sq ft? So is that what is going to be offered at Wildhorse? And if yes, what percentage of the houses will be in this price range and square footage? In order for me to personally support WH, it would have to provide no less than 1/3 within that price range and sq footage, for me to hold my nose and vote for it. Does that sound remotely reasonable?

    Now I am going to throw in another issue just for argument’s sake, since this discussion has remained quite civil, very interesting, and very enlightening. I am approximately 60 years old, and come from the East Coast. I am used to even small houses being placed on no less than 1/4 acre lots. It allows for better neighbor relations, no need for maintenance of open space/huge # of parks.

    The downside of course is the GHG emissions business, which I really don’t care about as much as others do. (Probably part of the reason is bc I came from a place where the air was not as polluted as it is out here)

    I often wonder if we could really develop better alternative fuels that don’t pollute, wouldn’t we all be better off with a little bit of property, where we can have children playing in their own yards, have our own backyard picnics, be a little bit away from bad neighbors, grow our own little vegetable gardens. I suspect the drive (pardon the pun) to densify has come from developers/cities bc it saves them money – but it degrades our quality of life.

    I know, I know, the next thing I am going to hear is the argument against paving over ag land. I am not convinced there is such a dearth of ag land that requires such extreme densification. If the East Coast allows the houses to be spread apart more, why not in CA?

    I realize another part of the issue could be the lack of water out here – which is definitely a real problem. Not sure I have an answer for that one, other than we need to do away w term limits, so we can get someone in Congress that will push for more water projects out here. Wishful thinking perhaps!

    I guess I just wax nostalgic for those better times, when everyone had more yard space, and bigger houses – a little bit of elbow room.

  52. Matt Williams

    I grew up outside Philadelphia, and if one of your alter egos is Tallulah you grew up outside DC. My wife grew up in Baltimore, so I’m very familliar with the roots for which you wax nostalgic. With that background let me try and address your thoughtful post.

    In 1989 we moved to Dallas, then in 1996 to Nashville, then in 1998 to Davis. What I have found to be the case in Davis is that our human activities are much more centered on places that are away from our residence. As a result the activities we perform within the walls of our homes (or within the boundaries of our fenced yards) are more heavily weighted toward the basics (like sleeping and eating). Carson Pass, Tahoe, Point Reyes, Mendocino, San Francisco, Berkeley, myriads of places in the Sierra, Lassen and Shasta, Ashland, Napa, Sonoma, Santas Barbara, Carmel and Monterey, Big Sur are all extensions of our homes . . . as are countless outdoor hours putting in daily road miles on bicycles. Those options simply don’t exist in the East where the thought of driving 90 miles is enough to whither the soul, nor do they exist in Dallas where they have the same heat we do in the summer, but with oppressive humidity, and seriously cold winters. Bottom-line, human entertainment there is centered on the house, and (if Mother Nature cooperates) on the patio. Human entertainment here in Davis isn’t that way, so why pay for lots of indoor space that you are rarely going to use? Pretty soon we won’t be allowed to have a fire in our fireplaces because of air quality. Can you imagine how that would be received in the East?

    Needless to say, not everyone in Davis rides a bike, or goes with any regularity to Carson Pass, Tahoe, Point Reyes, Mendocino, San Francisco, Berkeley, myriads of places in the Sierra, Lassen and Shasta, Ashland, Napa, Sonoma, Santas Barbara, Carmel and Monterey, or Big Sur. However, many more do than don’t. So with that in mind, how many rooms does the typical workforce couple need in Davis? A Formal Living Room? A Formal Dining Room? A Den? One bedroom for themselves and one for guests?

    Another lifestyle difference is how we eat when at home. From your old home in DC how many miles did you have to drive to get to a Farmers Market like the one we have here in Davis? How many miles to a grocery store with fresh produce like Nugget Markets or the Co-op? Because of the abundance of high BRIX fresh fruits and vegetables entertaining guests is more often than not done in the kitchen if it has an attached eating/entertainment area. Converstions are intermingled with chopping and dicing and stirring and carving. How often was entertainent done that way in the East or Texas? Thanks to Martha it is more than it used to be, but much less than here in Davis. So how big a Family Room do you need? Do you need it to be away from the kitchen, or would you rather have it be an integral part of the kitchen?

    The answers to these questions will vary from person to person, and from couple to couple, but I suspect that a workforce couple, each having full time jobs, will believe that less is more.

    I haven’t even talked about the responsibilities and costs of a yard?. How much time do you have to mow your grass, weed your garden, prune your oleanders and pittisporums? If you don’t have the time, what is the cost to have someone else do it? I suspect that for a dual-working couple less is more applies to yard choices as well.

    Two bedrooms and 1000 – 1200 square feet starts to sound pretty appealing.

    Thoughts?

  53. earoberts

    Matt, you make good points. Unfortunately, I am medically disabled and spend a lot of time at home. I miss the space and my big yard.

    One interesting thing I note in your post is talk of how much Californians travel to parks for entertainment. You attribute that to a desire to do so. Is it not perhaps possible that it becomes mandatory bc the house becomes so claustrophobic? I know I have to take a day trip every once in a great while, when I can afford it, bc the small walls of this house close in on me. I used to have a shop in my basement to do stained glass, or I could walk around on my half acre of property that was half wooded. Oh how I miss it. No stained glass work now – there is no room for it.

    Fresh fruits and veggies are plentiful in the stores back East as they are here. Don’t know about Farmer’s Markets, but the one in Davis has limited produce and mostly food vendors. It is more of a crowded entertainment venue – I don’t much care for it and stopped going years ago. I also got stiffed by a few vendors who sold me (at prices the same as if I had bought them at the grocery store) some defective produce that looked good but tasted awful. What I really miss from back East is the huge number of “pick your own” farms I used to take my kids to. Here, there are too many roadside stands, that pawn off produce bought in the local store as “locally grown”.

    I also miss my vegetable garden out back, where big red tomatoes and yellow or white corn were actually sweet. The tomatoes here are inferior, as are the strawberries. However, you can’t beat CA citrus fruit – lemons, oranges, grapefruits. I love my lemon tree out back in my tiny yard. The yard is so small, half of it serves as my dog’s outdoor potty. Yuck. I hate the fact that my backyard neighbor w a two story house can look right into my backyard and bedroom window – no real privacy. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

    By the way, I’ve made homecooked meals since I was about 14, and slice and dice with the best of them. And it was great when I had a nice big kitchen to do it in. I could be preparing dinner w friends, while other guests (especially the children) were entertaining themselves in the Rec Room. Close the kitchen doors, and the food smells could be kept out of the rest of the house. We would all sit in the dining room overlooking woodland, a gorgeous view, while we dined on fine china. It was optimal living. Where would I put my fine china and dining table now? There is absolutely no room for it. Most people have to store stuff other than their car in the garage, while multiple cars are parked on the street. Our street is so crowded w cars, only one car can get through at a time. Ugh!

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