The city announced last week that the Cannery project at Covell Boulevard and J Street will begin the first phase of construction in mid-April 2014. The New Home Company took title to the property, following project approval by the City Council at the end of 2013. The Cannery project includes a range of residential and non-residential uses, parks, greenbelts and an urban farm on the 100-acre property that was formerly home to the Hunt-Wesson cannery.
The City of Davis has issued a Demolition Permit to The New Home Company to begin demolition of the existing surface and below ground structures. The demolition permit is subject to compliance with conditions of approval relating to raptor and tree mitigation, noise and dust control, and storm water protection. Tree removal and protection will be conducted under an approved Tree Modification Permit issued by the City Urban Forest Manager.
The issue of tree removal was sensitive.
Back in May, the Tree Commission had a special meeting on Cannery. At that time, it was reported in the minutes, “The project site was tree surveyed in April of 2012. 365 trees were surveyed. Due to tree condition, being located in building footprints, and a new water line installation, 32 trees are proposed for retention. The retained trees are located mainly along the eastern property line and along the existing buffer between the project site and Covell Boulevard.”
The minutes of the meeting indicate that commissioners were concerned that just 9 percent of all trees on the site will be retained. According to a couple of commissioners who asked not to go on the record, roughly 900 trees would be removed.
At the same time, the project will be planting about 4100 trees. This includes public and private trees. Of those, about 2400 trees will be planted on public lands.
A letter from Tree Commissioner Laura Westrop circulated around the community on this issue last fall.
She wrote: “We are in the 11th hour in providing comment on a very complex development proposal involving The Cannery, specifically as it relates to the proposed removal of all but 9% of the mature trees. I have met with or spoken to all five City Council members and they have each expressed their hope – and provided direction at the October 22, 2013 City Council meeting – to City staff that they should work with the development team to creatively work in to the development plans more than just the retention of 32 trees.”
The original plan called for a retention rate of just nine percent of the trees on the property, however, pressure from citizens and the tree commission led to the preservation of far more. However, in the coming weeks, we will see the removal of many trees from the Cannery site.
Tonight, the council will receive a presentation on the East Covell Blvd. Corridor Plan from F Street to Birch Lane.
Two of the critical items will be whether or not to pursue a new grade separated bicycle/pedestrian crossing of East Covell Blvd. and whether or not to pursue an H Street tunnel replacement or interim improvements to the tunnel.
The costs of preparing the corridor plan came from roadway impact fees, but will be reimbursed up to $150,000 by Cannery developers, per the Development Agreement approved by city council.
According to the staff report, “This project was conceived in late 2012 at the time of the submittal of The Cannery development applications.”
“The purpose of the corridor plan is to identify improvements to the Corridor that will enhance safety, circulation, identity, and access for multiple modes of transportation. The plan sets a vision for the corridor so policy makers can make informed decisions about future improvements,” staff writes. “In addition, the purpose is to provide options for how development impact fees from The Cannery project might be allocated for infrastructure improvements if adopted by the City Council as part of the corridor plan.”
Specifically, the East Covell Boulevard Corridor Plan goals include: “Improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians on East Covell Boulevard and at intersections. Improve bicyclist and pedestrian access to major destinations, including the Oak Tree Plaza, nearby offices, schools, and parks. Complete the network of high-quality bikeways in Davis so that all destinations can easily be reached by bicycle. Provide safe crossings of East Covell Boulevard to major destinations. Improve streetscape aesthetic and amenities that add identity to the corridor. Maximize the ease and efficiency of using transit.”
As the Vanguard reported over that week, the city reached agreement with a process “that would lead to the securing the easements for the Bicycle/Pedestrian Path to the H Street Tunnel through the Cranbrook Apartments and the City’s commitment to a bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing of Covell Boulevard to the east of the Cannery project.”
Once approved and the parties agreed, “the City will commit to the construction of a bicycle undercrossing across Covell Boulevard located to the east of the Cannery development.”
Staff noted, “Prior to making the commitment to construct, the Council would have preliminary engineering and cost estimates. Construction funding is anticipated to come from impact fees and other fees paid by the Cannery development.”
The Davis City Council by a 3-2 vote back in November approved the Cannery Project, which included a plan for an easement to the south with the project applicants also agreeing to contribute to funding though the Covell Blvd. Corridor Plan that might lead to a second grade-separated crossing between J and L Street.
Staff noted, as part of the approvals for the Cannery Project, the council determined that the preferred route for the bicycle pedestrian path to the H Street Tunnel was through the Cranbrook Apartment and Pinecrest Apartment properties.
Staff reported, “City staff and the Cranbrook owners and NDLC [North Davis Land Company] have met several times to discuss this alignment and the proposed Cranbrook agreement. Cranbrook and NDLC indicated that they would cooperate with the Cannery and the City regarding the Cranbrook easement and sell the easement for this project at a negotiated price if the City committed to build a bike undercrossing to the east of the Cannery Project.”
NDLC indicated that it would dedicate the necessary easements for this east crossing.
According to staff, “This proposed agreement provides for a process to develop the information and set up the decisions necessary to implement the bike path through the Cranbrook Apartments and construction of an east bicycle undercrossing. The Cannery developers are not parties to this agreement, but have been kept fully apprised on, and have had input into, the terms of this proposed agreement.”
Staff, though, adds that, while they have been in contact with Pinecrest Apartment owners and that an easement would require their approval as well, that to date, “the Pinecrest owners have indicated that they are not interested in voluntarily selling the necessary easement to the City. However, staff intends to contact the owners to have further discussions with them.”
If council approves, the city and Cannery would work together to determine the exact alignment, fair market value, and agreement on purchase price. “The City would prepare the preliminary engineering for the East Undercrossing to determine whether the undercrossing is feasible, including technical issues, such as relocation of utilities, and the estimated cost of construction. This engineering report would be complete by September 2014.”
In September, “assuming that the Cannery developers and the Cranbrook owners and NDLC have reached agreement on the Cranbrook easement alignment and the purchase price of the Cranbrook easement, the preliminary engineers report and feasibility of the East Crossing would be considered by the City Council.”
At that point, assuming agreements were made, “the parties would proceed to complete the acquisition of the Cranbrook easement and NDLC would dedicate the right of way necessary for the east crossing landing spot on its property and any connection right of way from the southeast corner of the Cannery Property to the East Crossing and along the NDLC frontage to Pole Line Road.”
If council declines to proceed with this east crossing, the entire agreement would terminate.
The city staff further notes, “So long as the parties are working together, the City would not commence a condemnation action to acquire the Cranbrook easement. If the agreement terminates, then the City could pursue acquisition through condemnation, if at that time, it determined to do so.”
—David M. Greenwald