by Alan Pryor and Pam Nieberg
Several proposals for the development of the old Haussler homestead off east Covell Blvd. have recently been brought forward by Taormino and Associates. Dubbed the Paso Fino development, the proposal currently in line to go to the City Council for consideration would place eight residential units and four accessory dwelling units on a parcel of land currently zoned for two single-family homes.
To accommodate the additional number of units, the developer would have to acquire, by sale or swap, the entire neighborhood greenbelt abutting the property. Thus, the proposal would develop both the private property and all of the publicly owned neighborhood greenbelt surrounding the property on three sides.
The Sierra Club supports in-fill densification in urban development but believes it must be done in scale with the existing landscape and that consideration must be given to the preservation of urban habitat and wildlife. After reviewing and studying the various recent iterations for the Paso Fino development now under consideration, the Sierra Club Yolano Group opposes the development as currently proposed.
Development of a project of this size and density on this site would have serious environmental impacts by eliminating dozens of healthy, mature trees including most of nine Canary Island Pines on the private property. Canary Island Pines are particularly attractive to Swainson’s Hawks and one of those on the property contains a large stick nest that has been used for years by breeding Swainson’s Hawks pairs. The proposed development would also entail a potentially precedent-setting sale of publicly-owned neighborhood greenbelt to a private developer.
A better proposal for the site was previously brought forward by another developer in 2009 and approved by the City. That proposal addresses most of the Yolano Group’s concerns with the current project. That approved plan was for 4 single family units which fit almost entirely on the private parcel. It did entail a minor land swap of some of the public greenbelt in exchange for part of the private parcel which actually increased the width of the eastern greenbelt, saved the majestic Canary Island Pines by putting them onto public land, and provided an improved green streetscape along Covell Blvd.
That prior project proposal went through an extensive outreach process including working with the neighbors and going before several City Commissions before being approved by then-City Council. Neighbors of the project and other concerned citizens supported that proposal and the Sierra Club did not object because considerable effort was made to retain as much of the urban canopy as possible. The current proposal rescinds that consensus agreement previously accepted by all parties
In conclusion, due to the changed nature of the current project, the Sierra Club Yolano Group now has significant environmental concerns including the loss of important mature urban habitat on both the public and private property. Many of these trees are either heritage trees or trees of significance due to the presence of nesting Swainson’s Hawks.
Further, because the City of Davis does not currently have a policy addressing the sale of greenbelts and has never sold such parcels for development in the past, the Yolano Group is very concerned that this transaction to sell greenbelts to a private developer to accommodate this project could set a dangerous precedent. As a result, we urge the City Council to reject the current proposal(s) and reconsider the more environmentally friendly 2009 plan or a plan more consistent with that one in relation to preservation of the existing urban habitat and public greenbelts.
Alan Pryor is the Chair and Pam Nieberg is the Secretary of the Sierra Club Yolano Group. For more information on this issue, see www.davisgreenbelts.org.
The City of Davis Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on the proposed “Paso Fino” project in Wildhorse at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at City Hall.