Council Will Examine New Cannery Proposal This Week

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Cannery-Park-Land-Plan-Feb-2012Since the Cannery Plan has been brought back by ConAgra, the Vanguard has had several fundamental criticisms of the project.  At the most basic level, the Vanguard questions the need for the project, particularly given the continuing slumping of the real estate market.  The Vanguard has also questioned the appropriateness of the location, given the city’s goals about economic development and the lack of large parcels of land suitable for business parks elsewhere in the city.

Just as importantly, the Vanguard has criticized the specific plans for the development, including the lack of specificity on sustainability features, difficulty of hooking transportation links, the inaccessibility of the buses to residents and lack of universal design principles, among other concerns.

The city seemed ready to rush out this project in some sort of expedited schedule, however, it became clear that the project, even if we deemed the first part of our criticism null and void, was simply not ready.  So, to their credit they have slowed down and gone back to the drawing board.

There have also been questions about the fiscal model – although we always believed that could be tweaked to an acceptable level.  The staff indicates: “Since the April, 2011 City Council meeting staff has begun preliminary fiscal modeling of the project proposal using the City’s fiscal model. These preliminary runs have helped inform plan refinements and indicate that fiscal neutrality is achievable.”

The report adds: “The preliminary fiscal modeling concludes that the project, with a land use mix as currently proposed, would result in a neutral to modest negative net fiscal impact. The magnitude of the impact is heavily dependent on modeling assumptions.”

Whether it is true or not remains to be seen, though we believe ultimately that the project, with the right assumptions and stipulations, can be made to be fiscally neutral for the city.

The report continues: “The project will be subject to a Development Agreement. The Development Agreement could provide a mechanism to ensure that the project is fiscally sound and could incorporate both one-time contributions of funds or facilities, or establish ongoing funding mechanisms to ensure revenues are sufficient to cover the costs of providing city services to the project.”

We agree that this is possible and believe that this council will take steps to ensure that the project is no less than fiscally neutral.

Since last summer the staff reports that they have worked on the business park and mixed-use component, worked to refine grade-separated bicycle and pedestrian connections to the site, worked on the urban farm concept, refined housing types, worked on universal design features and sustainability, and worked with utilities.

In short, staff argued: “Staff believes that the applicant has submitted a project description that begins to appropriately integrate the city goals for housing, economic development, environmental sustainability, community character and fiscal responsibility.”

They continue: “At this stage, staff believes that the general site layout, land use mix, and quantitative components of maximum dwelling unit count and mixed square use footage are adequately defined to allow proceeding with EIR preparation. Proceeding with EIR preparation does not preclude the City from pursuing further project refinements.”

Finally they add: “Proceeding with the EIR does not bind the City Council to any particular course of action now or in the future. Ultimately, the Council must review and determine if the project proposal is one that the City wishes to proceed with or not.”

There are several key points to be made in response.  A year ago, when this project came back as basically the same project that Lewis Planned Communities had previously put forward, the staff did not do much to dissuade the developers from coming forward with an expedited schedule.  It was only when the community and council balked at what was coming forward that staff seriously engaged the developers in revisions and improvements.

The staff uses the language, “begins to appropriately integrate the city goals…”  The key phrase is “begins to,” which is not exactly reassuring.

Second, there is this mistaken notion that you move processes forward and then fix the problems.  There is a perpetual argument that nothing precludes revision or stopping the project.  The problem is that once you do the Environmental Impact Report, the developer has now invested close to a million dollars into the project – this is, once again, let us move the ball forward and stop it later, and the later, as we have learned, never really comes.

It would actually be helpful to know if the community wishes to develop housing on this site before the company sinks more money into the project.  Unfortunately, that is not possible under given constraints.  Ultimately, this project likely goes to the voters even though it is not a Measure J project.

Here is the link to their full plan – the plan itself begins on page 14 through 69. We will address a few critical revisions to their plan.

One of the issues that was brought up are linkages of the pedestrian and bicycle paths to the rest of the city.  The problem with the site is that it is pretty much cut off from the rest of the city with Covell Village on the east, the railroad tracks to the west, nothing to the north, and Covell Blvd to the south.

The developers write, “Bicycle and pedestrian connections will integrate the site into the City. The Council identified that creating strong and viable off street bicycle and pedestrian connections are of critical importance for site planning.”

They propose three linkages, first at J Street: “The East Covell Boulevard/J Street intersection will be reconstructed to improve turning movements and accommodate easy and safe at-grade pedestrian and bicycle movements. With the improvements, bicycle and pedestrian connections will be available from the southeast corner of the project, across East Covell Boulevard to link to existing east, west and southbound movements.”

The problem is that “at-grade” is precisely what I do not believe Mayor Krovoza wanted to see there.  They, however, are proposing an undercrossing on the southwest side which would link the project to the existing bicycling facilities.  And they are planning one at the Commerce Drive intersection, which would be at-grade.  There is still no plan for crossing to the west.

The transit plan remains problematic: “Unitrans and Yolobus will provide future transit services to The Cannery neighborhood. A new transit center, with a route map, shade structure and seating, will be constructed along the The Cannery frontage on East Covell Boulevard, immediately west of the J Street intersection. The transit center will be directly accessible from the mixed use area.”

This does not fix the problem that the neighborhood goes a half-mile deep and while the bus stop location would be accessible to the front portion of the residences, it would be a long trek for those living in the northern half of the project.

Regarding affordable housing: “Twenty percent (121 units) of the residential units within the project are designated for moderate, low and very low income households, as defined by the City of Davis. The intent is to provide a mix of housing choices and prices that will serve a variety of households and lifestyles, particularly the needs of local employees.”

And finally, on the sustainability features, they argue, “The project’s practical and responsible application of measures represents the boldest approach to sustainability of any neighborhood in the City and is setting the bar for a privately developed community.”

They continue: “The project will comply with the Davis General Plan policy and Tier 1 of the 2010 California Green Building Standards Code (adopted by the City January 1, 2011) and proposes a carbon reduction plan in furtherance of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions standards, thereby reducing the project’s carbon footprint and contribution to global climate change.”

So, it will comply with, but not exceed.  I have still not seen an estimated figure for GHG reduction like we saw with both Wildhorse Ranch and also UC Davis’ West Village.

The design strategy to reduce GHG emissions includes a range of measures in three components:

  • Utilize passive solar design and tree shading to reduce energy demand;
  • Design building systems and equipment to further reduce energy use;
  • Mitigate remaining GHG emissions with on-site renewable energy, such as photovoltaic systems

They further argue: “The residential buildings in the project will exceed California’s 2008 Title 24 Energy Code by 40%, which is equivalent to 33% greater than 2010 Cal Green Tier II requirements.”

They achieve this through high-performance windows, walls and roof, ducts in conditioned space, high-efficiency heating and cooling along with water heating equipment, high-efficiency lighting, ventilation cooling, energy star appliances and high-efficiency heaters.

“The passive design and energy efficiency strategies associated with the project will reduce energy demand of homes, office and commercial uses. Most of the remaining residential energy use (and hence GHG emissions) would be further reduced through photovoltaic (PV) systems or solar panels,” they write.

They add: “Residential units would be built to accommodate and be wired for a rooftop PV system. Rooftops of residential units and commercial buildings could be used for PV systems through a combination of lease and/or ownership programs.”

The developers deserve credit by going forward, but do they go far enough?  We will examine that question more closely this week.  And even if they do, does Davis really need this large a development at this time?

—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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27 thoughts on “Council Will Examine New Cannery Proposal This Week”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]The bottom line is: “The preliminary fiscal modeling concludes that the project, with a land use mix as currently proposed, would result in a neutral to modest negative net fiscal impact. The magnitude of the impact is heavily dependent on modeling assumptions.”

    We agree and believe that this council will take steps to insure that the project is no less than fiscally neutral.[/quote]

    Note the words “neutral to [i]modest negative net fiscal impact[/i]” and “magnitude of the impact is heavily dependent on modeling assumptions”. Read that to mean: [b][i]this will cost the city money[/i][/b]…

    [quote] Ultimately this project likely goes to the voters even though it is not a Measure J project.[/quote]

    Why would this project go to the voters to decide?

  2. Rifkin

    [b]COUNCIL WILL EXAMINE NEW [U]CANNARY[/U] PROPOSAL THIS WEEK[/B]

    Now [i]that[/i] is a bird of a different feather!

    [img]http://www.mydomesticbirds.com/images/canary/canary-6.jpg[/img]

    [b]ca·nar·y[/b]: ”Any of several Old World finches of the genus [i]Serinus,[/i] especially [i]S. canaria[/i] (common canary), native to the Canary Islands and often kept as a pet, in the wild being greenish with brown streaks above and yellow below and in domesticated varieties usually bright yellow or pale yellow.”

  3. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Either the council will do it themselves like they did target or the voters will do it themselves like the water referendum.[/quote]

    To pick up on Rich Rifkin’s analogy, the water referendum was a bird of different feather than housing inside city limits would be. Again, I ask by what mechanism?

  4. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Referendums are definitely a nice little vehicle to stop the council from pushing projects that the voters don’t want.[/quote]

    Be careful what you wish for – sometimes it come back to bite you on the backside in very surprising ways!

  5. rusty49

    “Be careful what you wish for – sometimes it come back to bite you on the backside in very surprising ways!”

    ERM, I too would like you to expound on that. Are you referring to the water referendum? Hmmmmmm

  6. Matt Williams

    David and rusty, I don’t specifically know what Elaine’s reference was, but I would say that the [i]Little Boy Who Cried Wolf[/i] fable probably applies.

  7. Don Shor

    There is no demand for this housing.
    There is no need to rezone this property for residential at this time.
    There is no need to proceed with the EIR.
    This company is not going to build houses. They are land developers. If they don’t wish to develop all or any part of this property for its current zoning, they can just sell it to someone who does. They should stop putting forth project proposals that violate the zoning and the general plan.

    [i]”Ultimately, the Council must review and determine if the project proposal is one that the City wishes to proceed with or not.”[/i]
    They could just go ahead and make that determination now. The answer is [i]not[/i].

  8. DT Businessman

    Don, isn’t the residential vacancy rate somewhere around 2% right now?

    DT Businessman (aka Michael Bisch, Davis Commercial Properties, DDBA Co-Prez for 1 more week)

  9. Matt Williams

    Michael, the residential rental vacancy rate is as low as it is because UCD has dragged its feet on complying with its commitment to the UC Office of the President to provide on-campus housing for 40% of its student population. West Village is a step in the right direction, but it will take a whole lot more than West Village to rise from 25% to 40%. So if UCD does what it has committed to do, then the vacancy rate will rise substantially as students who are currently housed in the City will be housed oncampus.

  10. Don Shor

    What Davis is short of is rental housing for low and very low income residents.
    Here’s the Lewis proposal:
    Total Dwelling Units: 610 units
    Total Affordable Units (20% of all units): 121 units
    Very Low Income: 30 units (25%)
    Low Income: 31 units (25%)
    Moderate Income: 60 units (50%)

  11. JustSaying

    Doesn’t 20% for very low, low and moderate income seem more than adequate? How many houses are in the present affordable inventory in Davis at this moment, and how does it compare with the 121 units that this project would add? Do we have any hope that the city would manage the next affordable housing project in a way that benefits moderate income people or the city? And, why are we worrying about poor people when they have their Safety Net?

  12. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]ERM: “Be careful what you wish for – sometimes it come back to bite you on the backside in very surprising ways!”

    DGM: Please explain[/quote]

    Wasn’t there a complaint in the Vanguard about the initiative system? Isn’t Prop 13 a result of that system? The Three Strikes Law?

    Or as Matt points out, if voters keep being asked to vote down everything, the voters might stop listening…

    All sorts of scenarios where direct voting on everything can come back to haunt…

  13. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]There is no demand for this housing.
    There is no need to rezone this property for residential at this time.
    There is no need to proceed with the EIR.
    This company is not going to build houses. They are land developers. If they don’t wish to develop all or any part of this property for its current zoning, they can just sell it to someone who does. They should stop putting forth project proposals that violate the zoning and the general plan. [/quote]

    And I would add there is a desperate need for a business park…

  14. Matt Williams

    JustSaying said . . .

    “[b][i]Doesn’t 20% for very low, low and moderate income seem more than adequate?[/b] How many houses are in the present affordable inventory in Davis at this moment, and how does it compare with the 121 units that this project would add? Do we have any hope that the city would manage the next affordable housing project in a way that benefits moderate income people or the city? And, [b]why are we worrying about poor people when they have their Safety Net?[/b][/i]

    JS, I think you have misread Don’s point. What I believe he is saying, is that at this point in time Davis needs 0% new SFRs, and that there is a desperate need for apartments, so one very compelling option for the housing component of The Cannery is 100% apartments.

    With respect to your closing sentence/question, for the most part I don’t think the people who work in the service businesses in Davis are poor people. That group of [u]workers[/u] who contribute to the quality of life we all enjoy in Davis are squeezed out of the Davis housing market much more than any other group.

  15. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine: I’m not a huge fan of the state initiative system, but I do think it has some usefulness. Your position on this seems to be that you either have to support all initiatives or no initiatives. From my perspective, Measure J has been a very reasonable measure to give citizens protection against development interests co-opting local governance. I have supported Measure J both when I have agreed and disagreed with the outcome of the process. But at the same time, I think it’s a little arbitrary to suggest that because Cannery is technically in the city limits that we can change land uses without a vote. So I think that we should have a Measure J style vote for Cannery whether it is initiated by the council or the voters themselves.

  16. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Your position on this seems to be that you either have to support all initiatives or no initiatives.[/quote]

    No that is not my position. I am just pointing out there are downsides to the initiative process, that needs to be recognized by those who would advocate that [i]everything[/i] go to a vote…

    It would seem to me to make much more sense to be judicious about applying the initiative system rather than invoke it for every project as some appear to be advocating…

  17. DT Businessman

    “With respect to your closing sentence/question, for the most part I don’t think the people who work in the service businesses in Davis are poor people. That group of workers who contribute to the quality of life we all enjoy in Davis are squeezed out of the Davis housing market much more than any other group.” Spot on.

    DT Businessman (aka Michael Bisch, Davis Commercial Properties, DDBA Co-Prez for 1 more week)

  18. JustSaying

    [quote]“JS, I think you have misread Don’s point. What I believe he is saying, is that at this point in time Davis needs 0% new SFRs, and that there is a desperate need for apartments, so one very compelling option for the housing component of The Cannery is 100% apartments.”[/quote]You’re correct, Matt, I didn’t realize Don’s figures were for apartments. But, I think you misstated Don’s comment at least as much as I misread it. While it’s fair for you to [u]assume[/u] some things from his comment about “rental housing for low and very low income residents,” that doesn’t necessarily translate into an “apartments only” policy.

    To say we don’t need to build more housing in Davis suggests we’re satisfied with what demand and supply forces have left us with today. Even with the housing bubble collapse, is there enough housing here to allow any moderate, low or very low income people to buy?

    Are there adequate numbers of vacant rental single-family houses or condos or apartments available to make Davis a “renters’ market” now or in the foreseeable future? Yet, we keep hearing we don’t need to build more housing in Davis.

    My guess is that the cannery property eventually will end up in housing. This partly will be due to increasing pressure we’ll be under to allow Matt’s moderate workers entry into our town at an affordable price. It also will be due to the lack of potential housing developments without Measure J requirements.

    We need to plan for the time that housing developers will find it in their interests to build all of these types of housing. At the same time, we need to keep working with UCD to have them continue building to meet their on-campus housing needs.

    With respect to calling for an unrequired citizen vote, isn’t it possible that the Davis student/renter coalition might beat out the Davis homeowners looking to protect the upward trajectory of our home values in a class warfare election?

  19. pravihrvat

    The Cannery project has been 8+ years in the making. It has undergone many, many well-attended public workshops, given prior presentations to many City commissions and the Council, and from the public, staff and Council’s input has refined and expanded the amenities, mix of housing & mix of other land uses, ecological integrity, transit corridor planning, creative site re-use, and umpteen other elements. Not least of the improvements made over time are the inclusion of universal design and aging in place.

    The Cannery is neither so small as to be window dressing against our needs, nor so large it overwhelms us by inviting growth beyond those needs.

    It may not be perfect, but nothing is — and perhaps that is why many agree that perfection is for amateurs. Nor does this project float all boats — nor at this point in our community’s evolution can any single project supply all of every need. But, certainly in the compact space available, The Cannery achieves a broader utility than any single project in or around Davis that one may care to match against it.

    Some say that if we just keep saying no to everything Davis will be a happy little village again, and somehow by that blanket rejection we’ll all enjoy great property values simultaneous with tons of affordable family homes on the market. Based on experience juxtaposed against the new present fiscal realities — especially at the County level — a more likely outcome of refusing to at least let this project proceed to pay for its own EIR and ramp up increased scrutiny and input from public, staff and Council alike, is that burying our heads in the sand will result in the Yolo County Supervisors ramming a super-sized “Covell Partners” type project down our throats.

    I suggest that the wisest, best choice is to engage with the applicant, continue to help make a good project a great one, and have its build-out timed to be absorbable.

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