Planning Commission Gives Final Approval Of Carlton Plaza Davis Over City Staff Objections

By E Roberts Musser –

Up for final consideration before the Planning Commission on the night of January 13, 2010 was the Carlton Plaza Davis assisted living facility, to be located next to the Konditerei and the Davis Police Department. The project was approved as is by a 4 to 1 vote, despite opposition by City Staff on behalf of Davis Waste Removal and the Davis Police Department.

The proposed building itself is designed in such a way that the social center and support functions are located on the first floor. Residences are located on the second and third floors. Strategically located elevators and building design minimize walking distances for the frail elderly. Even though the facility is an institutional use, building colors, window styles and architectural features give it a residential feel. And of course the project is energy efficient in various ways to meet the city’s new sustainable standards.

Commissioner Terry Whittier stated he was normally inclined to assume City Staff’s assessment of a project was correct, and in the best interests of the city. But in this case, he was not inclined to agree with Staff. He weighed the pros and cons, determining there was a need for this project according to the Senior Citizens Commission, it was the right time for building such a facility, and the location was acceptable and conducive to collaboration with Eleanor Roosevelt Circle. However, he did have noise concerns in regard to both Davis Waster Removal and the Police Department.

The sticking point for him was the Carlton Plaza Davis building was massive, and too close to the street. Commissioner Whittier was not willing to approve the design unless there could be an increase in the setbacks. Apparently he had similar objections to a building located on Tenth and F Street, which still bothers him to this day. He voted against approving that building on a 6 to 1 vote in favor, so was considerably in the minority then as he was this particular evening.

The developer of Carlton Plaza Davis noted that to set the building back too far would lose too many units, which would result in the project not being cost effective. A denser project of four stories was not possible because of Davis fire code restrictions. However, the proponents of the Carlton Plaza Davis project are rethinking the issue, to see if they cannot somewhat improve the aesthetics to mollify Commissioner Whittier’s concerns.

Commissioner Kris Kordana felt the facility would only enhance an area previously zoned industrial. He noted there was no demand by anyone to build an industrial facility at that location. There was a reiteration of the need for the facility according to the Davis Senior Citizens Commission, especially one with a dementia unit. Nor did Commissioner Kordana want to eliminate parking spaces in the rear to enable larger setbacks in the front of the building, as Commissioner Whittier had suggested.

Commissioner Chair Mark Braley gave an extensive written statement, commenting on the necessity for this facility. He also mentioned the problem of mixed uses in the general area, which were inconsistent with the General Plan, such as the independent residential facility Eleanor Roosevelt Circle. It was also pointed out that Davis Waste Removal was unlikely to be allowed to sort raw garbage in light of the odor and noise that might generate, which would interfere with its already existing neighbors. And how likely was it that light industrial was ever going to move into the site in question where Carlton Plaza Davis wishes to locate?

As far as Commissioner Braley was concerned, the city needed to do more in assisting entities like the developers of Carlton Plaza Davis to locate suitable sites. Five years was overly long for a developer in having to look for an appropriate location within the city to build. This particular project and others like it raised serious questions about the General Plan and zoning changes. The esoteric hair splitting that was necessary for City Staff to engage in to deny this project because of perceived incompatibility concerns with the General Plan should not have to be engaged in.

Commissioner Lucas Frierichs felt Carlton Plaza Davis was an excellent project, the need for it was definitely there. It was unfortunate that it had taken the developer five years to find the necessary site to build it. Its current proposed location was a patchwork of zoning, which will tend to occur when the electorate demands infill and densification in order to avoid urban sprawl.

The only commissioner to vote against the design of the project was Terry Whittier, who wanted the developer to come back with a revised plan with greater setbacks. Since the project was approved by the planning commission on a 4 to 1 vote, it now goes before the City Council for approval as is on February 2, 2010.

I have never been present at a Planning Commission meeting before, and found the process to be extremely interesting and informative. Each commissioner gave thoughtful consideration to the project, paid close attention to public comment, including what the Senior Citizens Commission had to say. I was very impressed with each Commissioner, who independently came to their own conclusions with careful thought and personal expertise. It will be interesting to see what transpires at the Feb. 2, 2010 City Council meeting.

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1 Comment

  1. toyon

    This build out protends the future of Davis as a retirement community. But does anyone else see this as an result of Davis’s failure to ensure a demographically diverse population? Sad irony, considering that trend is opposite most citizen’s (stated) liberal ideals. Reminds me of the old Phil Ochs song that my dad turned me onto some years back.

    Hasta nunca vez, D-town. Good luck retrofitting the streets for electric granny chairs.


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