Neighbors Remain in Opposition to Project Despite New Proposal At Paso Fino

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Plan C-2 for Paso Fino submitted last week by the developers
Plan C-2 for Paso Fino submitted last week by the developers

Last week, hours before the Davis Planning Commission was set to hold a hearing on Paso Fino, developer Jason Taormino emailed city staff and planning commissioners with a revised proposal.

He wrote that the new option accomplishes three things. First, it retains the 50′ buffer on the eastern edge of the property. Second, it allows for garbage trucks to turn around within Paso Fino, per Davis Waste Management’s specifications. Third, it retains all nine Canary Island Pines and places them into the City Street Tree Program.

According to the map, the existing buffer – the greenbelt that has become the cause célèbre of this debate – will be retained. And the number of houses will be reduced from 12 units, which included four granny flats, down to eight units.

The city notified the public late on Wednesday afternoon of the change.

However, in a statement from Friends of the Greenbelt, which reportedly includes representatives from Sargent Court, Calder Court, Whistler Court, Pollock Court and other streets in Wildhorse, the Sierra Club Yolano Group and Tree Davis, as well as three former Planning Commissioners and concerned citizens from other neighborhoods in Davis, they indicated that Plan C-2 was not supported.

The group told the Vanguard, “’Paso Fino’ is not a typical private infill project on private property; the developers are seeking City approval to obtain designated public greenbelt space to accommodate their development. Plan C-2 is a ‘compromise’ only in the sense that the developer is ‘allowing’ the public to keep more public land than in the previous iterations A-C.”

“Neither Plan C nor Plan C-2 permanently protects the majestic Canary Island pines and the habitat they provide by bringing them into public ownership. Plan D proposed by City Staff does this, as did the 2009 plan,” they stated. “The Sierra Club Yolano Group and Tree Davis have both called on the City to ensure that these pines are brought into public ownership as the best way to ensure their survival.”

Instead of Plan C-2, the group supports what is being called Plan D.

They wrote, “We applaud the initiative and leadership of City Staff in bringing forward Alternative Plan D, and think it’s the best compromise we’ve seen in almost a year of discussions with the developer. Assuming it won’t require any sale of designated greenbelt, this conceptual plan has broad support in the community.”

They add, “It’s a meaningful compromise — from the four houses approved in 2009 to six houses, making the project more profitable for the developer — and giving the community something in return, including bringing the grove of Canary Island pines into public ownership, consolidating and enhancing the easterly greenbelt, and addressing traffic safety and access issues.”

However, Jason Taormino told the Vanguard on the phone that Plan D was not being put forth by the developers.

Planner Ike Njoku told the Vanguard, “Alternative Plan D is staff prepared to show how issues and some of City’s and applicant’s objectives could be achieved. It is not the applicant’s proposal.”

Community Development Director Mike Webb added, “Staff prepared this to help illustrate a POSSIBLE way to balance the various concerns and objectives for an infill project. Basically, we prepared as a food for thought exercise, and it is not intended to be prescriptive.”

Paso-Fino-Plan-D
The city alternative that the developers oppose but the neighbors support

Mr. Taormino saw this proposal as a non-starter and believes that this opposition is not simply about objections to the specifics of the site. They believe that Plan C-2 accommodates the concerns of the neighbors by protecting the trees and preserving the fifty foot “greenbelt” buffer.

Mr. Taormino told the Vanguard in a statement, “When we move into designing infill projects the constraints associated with smaller spaces and adjacent homes increase significantly. Neighborhood design is a fascinating subject and perfection is not attainable. There are many directions that one can take to either conform or push the creative boundaries.”

“In the case of Paso Fino, I find it to be a normal infill situation in that having trees, neighbors and open space is more likely than not,” he said.  “The real battle being waged in this case and in most infill situations is policy versus passion.  I respect that there are many people who value trees, not having homes built behind them and retaining open space.  I also respect the policies set by our community over the past few decades.”

Jason Taormino believes that this would be a simple matter to resolve “if it were simply a matter of applying City policies.” The challenge is addressing “the passion of the adjacent neighbors, tree lovers and open space advocates.”

He sees three plans that fall into three categories. “Plan A is a pure plan that follows City policies and makes few allowances for the passion of the opposition. Plan B compromises regarding trees.  Plan C2 compromises on trees and open space.  “

He notes, “There is an opposition to building new homes in Davis in general and in particular to Paso Fino.  Their unstated goal is to stop any building on this site and their tactics to accomplish this goal are to state the opposite while pushing the idea that there are too many shortcomings about any design I put forth to proceed. The reality is that perfection is unattainable.”

The Paso Fino subdivision is located at 2627 E. Covell Boulevard, on a 0.79-acre private property, and 2675 Moore Boulevard (a 0.75-acre public property). It is surrounded to the south by Covell Boulevard and to the north, east and west by an improved Neighborhood Greenbelt parcel.

The previous plan called for the existing residence to be demolished and the reconfigured property would result in eight units.

In 2009, the city approved a four-unit development on the subject site, which requires a land transaction between the city and the property owners for the westerly greenbelt land. That plan would have retained the greenbelt to the east. However, the land transaction was never executed and therefore the approval was never effectuated.

The biggest controversy was illustrated by the projected removal of the Canary Pines and the selling of a greenbelt to the city.

As we reported in early July, this is not a typical greenbelt arrangement.

Mike Webb, the city’s Director of Community Development, told the Vanguard that the greenbelt here is “not the typical greenbelt configuration” that the public would ordinarily envision as a long, city-maintained stretch of grass and vegetation that people can walk or bike through.

Rather, it is a stretch of trees and brown ground that was specifically designed to buffer the Haussler home from the surrounding neighborhood.

As developer Jason Taormino explained to the Vanguard, from his perspective, “the 2009 Staff report defines the land as a private buffer to benefit the Haussler property and protect them from the new homes that were built in Wildhorse in approximately 1998.  The sale of this private buffer in order to promote infill development is reasonable as it is no longer needed to protect the Haussler property from the encroachment from the new neighbors in Wildhorse.”

“The greenbelt on the east side… that was created for the Haussler family, it wasn’t created for the Wildhorse subdivision,” Dave Taormino explained to the Planning Commission.

In the staff report, it noted, “The City does not have any specific guidelines regarding elimination of greenbelt parcels, or what to do when an infill densification project involves the potential to remove an existing greenbelt space. Therefore, this becomes a policy issue to be weighed by the City Council.”

Cheryl Essex, a member of the Planning Commission, noted, “We don’t have policies in the city for selling greenbelts because we don’t sell greenbelts. If the city is going to sell a portion of the greenbelt then there must be a clear public benefit and I don’t believe that increasing housing units is a clear public benefit in this case.”

Marilee Hanson, also a Planning Commissioner, told the Vanguard that because the issue might come back to the Planning Commission, they were advised not to make comments in the press. She directed the Vanguard back to comments she made at the Planning Commission meeting.

“No one ever envisioned that the city would start selling off the greenbelt,” Ms. Hanson stated. She added, “80 percent of the neighbors here tonight bought their homes never envisioning that that land would be sold off for development except for the four houses which people acknowledged that they knew about and that they support.”

Mike Webb told the Vanguard he believed that the concerns of the neighbors and others in this regard are overstated.

However, as the Vanguard had noted, the issue of the selling of the greenbelt was giving traction to opposition to the project.

As Pam Nieberg and Alan Pryor wrote, “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.”

—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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53 thoughts on “Neighbors Remain in Opposition to Project Despite New Proposal At Paso Fino”

  1. Barack Palin

    The city’s plan looks the best and is a good compromise with the neighbors giving in to a 50% housing addition to the original 2009 plan. So the neighbors are willing to compromise with 6 houses and losing @ half of the greenbelt area, how about Mr. Taormino, is he willing to compromise?

  2. Frankly

    The neighbors need to consider the financial feasibility of the project from the developer’s perspective. There is a great misconception out there about the profitability of residential development. The permits and other regulatory fees combined with the high cost of materials (made more expensive by California’s onerous taxes) and the higher costs for labor (again, made more expensive by California’s onerous regulations)… all have to be funded by the proceeds of the sale of the finished homes, plus include enough profitability for the developer to debt service the construction loans and make a reasonable return.

    1. Barack Palin

      So Frankly, any developer that wants to buy land and purchase adjacent greenbelts and build more housing than is feasible for the land and the neighbors should be accomadated to ensure that his project is profitable?

          1. Davis Progressive

            the developer won’t drop below eight units, why is eight objectionable but six acceptable?

          2. Barack Palin

            Why is the developer allowed to call the shots on how many units he will agree to, he’s already being afforded something no other developer in Davis has ever been afforded in buying a greenbelt and on top of that he should be able to demand 8 units when the city and the neighbors seem agreeable to six? If four units penciled out in 2009 I’m bet 6 units will pencil out today.

          3. Frankly

            This is my point. Eight might cause the project to pencil out, but not six. If the neighbors are demanding six and it causes the project to not pencil out, the neighbors might as well demand zero homes be built.

          4. Barack Palin

            Put another way, if I buy some land in Davis is it the city council’s job to make sure that I can put as many houses on that property as possible and sell me a greenbelt so that my project pencils out and is sure to make me a big profit?

          5. Frankly

            Certainly not, but like I said if it does not pencil out your argument is effectively to not build at all.

            Let’s do the math.

            Take the cost of the land.
            Take the cost of all fees, permits, regulatory reports, etc.
            Take the cost of all construction materials.
            Take the cost of the construction labor.
            Take all the construction project administrative labor and service costs.

            Subtract all these costs from the purchase price of each home minus the real estate and mortgage broker fees.

            Now determine the return on investment.

            If that return is less than what can otherwise be made, the project will not be financially feasible. There are a lot of fixed costs for the overall project, so the fewer number of units, the smaller the return.

          6. Barack Palin

            Then maybe a developer should consider all those factors before they buy a property, not buy the property and hope that that the city will let them build enough units and sell them a greenbelt in order to make it profitable.

    2. Tia Will

      Frankly

      “The neighbors need to consider the financial feasibility of the project from the developer’s perspective”

      Should not the developer also “need to consider” the objections of the neighbors ?

  3. ryankelly

    I think the new plan addressed all of their concerns. I just don’t understand how they can keep pushing on this. It is stupid and a waste of our time.

    1. Barack Palin

      Do you live in Wildhorse? Maybe the neighbors and residents of Wildhorse think it’s totally in their interests not to have a developer come in and buy up greenbelts and in their opinion overbuild on the land. I don’t believe the people that are local to Paso Fino think it’s a waste of time.

      1. Davis Progressive

        it’s not a waste of time, but i’m not sure the neighbors should be able to hold an otherwise acceptable project hostage. can you explain to me your objection to the developer c-2 proposal?

    2. ryankelly

      This was a buffer that was created for the benefit of the existing home that was completely surrounded by the Wildhorse development. If the home had not been there, there would have been additional houses built there. Now that the home is no longer needed by the family, now houses can be built there. The compromise plan provides a buffer from the neighboring homes, protection of the Canary pines, room for garbage trucks to turn around and a bike throughway. The opposition is rapidly becoming Harrington-like. I fully expect a lawsuit to be filed with a settlement anticipated.

          1. Barack Palin

            Whatever, that’s just your opinion, or is my having different views of others that maybe you don’t agree with so you see it as an attack? If we’re going by that then I get attacked on here almost everyday. I think what you’re referring to is a discussion among people with often times different viewpoints.

          2. Matt Williams

            ryan and Barack, the term “Harrington-like” is highly subjective … and subject to wildly different reactions across the community.

            Mike would probably be very proud that ryan has labeled citizen activism with his name

          3. ryankelly

            Matt,
            Harrington-like = if I don’t get my way, I will file a lawsuit and, even if I lose, I will be paid handsomely. This is not citizen activism.

            It seems that I cannot say the words Harrington or Sunder here. Let me know what other terms or names I cannot mention and I’ll add them to the list.

          4. Matt Williams

            ryan, that was the Harrington end game in the water situation. There were plenty of “Harrington-like” moves that played out long before the lawsuit end-game was even considered. Some of those non-litigation “Harrington-like” tactics drove you equally crazy … Don Shor and Elaine Roberts-Musser and Octane 91 and Mark West concurred with those sentiments of yours.

            From my perspective, you should continue with your assessments of Harrington unabated. Not everyone will like what you say, but your right to say it is protected by the US Constitution.

            I can’t comment about what you may or may not have said about Sunder, as I haven’t heard you say anything about Sunder to date.

          5. South of Davis

            Any idea how much the Harrington group got from the city in the water lawsuit?

            I wonder if he would represent the Wildhorse neighbors to try and get more cash from the city if they let anyone develop the Paso Fino site?

          6. Barack Palin

            Hilarious, I thought the topic was the Paso Fino site, not about Harrington and water. Though I guess when you’re an editorial board member you’re allowed to go off topic. Well I’m back to the baseball playoff games, you should check them out, the Dodgers and Kershaw just blew a 4 run lead. Maybe Kershaw will blame Harrington?

  4. Anon

    Trust me, the opposition will fight this project tooth and nail until they get their way, and no amount of compromise will be good enough. It also highlights the environmentalists hypocrisy about infill – they only want infill if it doesn’t encroach on open space, which is an impossible position.

    1. Barack Palin

      The neighbors are okay with the city’s plan which gives the developer the western greenbelt and two more houses than were originally planned there in 2009. So that sounds like the neighbors are being more than willing to compromise. Perhaps it’s the developer that needs to back off.

      1. Tia Will

        BP

        “Their unstated goal is to stop any building on this site and their tactics to accomplish this goal are to state the opposite while pushing the idea that there are too many shortcomings about any design I put forth to proceed.”

        I have spoken to a number of the neighbors and other concerned members of our community and see no reason to believe the above, completely unsupported statement.
        I agree with you completely that the neighbors have agreed to the city staff suggestion which represents a compromise and I believe that the developer should do the same.

      2. Matt Williams

        Barack, the Housing Element of the City’s General Plan clearly states increased densification as one of its core goals/principles. What are the unique characteristics of this particular site that make it imperative that the City abandon that community-wide commitment to increased densification?

        1. Tia Will

          Matt

          Not Barack here but I do have a question for you. Do you really believe that the change of a few houses one way or the other is going to have a significant impact on the city commitment to densification ? When you weight the prospect of a few houses more or less against the sale of greenbelts regardless of whether they are green or not and the loss of trees, I believe that the greenbelts and trees should win when considering a very small scale project such as this…..especially since there was already an agreement in hand.

          1. Matt Williams

            Tia, I will answer your question by expanding it to include a co-equal partner question … specifically, “Do I really believe that the sale of this particular “greenbelt” parcel is the first step down a slippery slope which results in the sale of even a second greenbelt, much less the sale of all the city’s greenbelts?”

            My answer to both questions is “No.” However, I think the reality of “we talk the talk of densification, but don’t walk the walk of densification” plays out in our community almost 24/7/365. On the other hand, the reality of “we are going to sell all our greenbelts” plays out almost never.

            There is a third question that clearly applies in the Paso Fino situation. Why shouldn’t the City be able to (now that the Hauslers no longer live in the house and no longer need a buffer from the Wild Horse residences) declare the Paso Fino property “surplus” the same way that DJUSD has declared the Grande property “surplus”?

            Preservation of Canary Pines, I can see that. Preservation of protection for the Hausler property, not so much.

  5. hpierce

    “cost of Land” can be funny… someone buys the land from the Haussler Estate, for say 300k (perhaps in the middle of a real estate downturn)… then they propose a project, sink some costs in, propose a development, pay more costs, then decide not to proceed… then, with the real estate picking up, they sell it to another ‘developer’, maybe a “group”, whose members might include one or more members of the original “team”. That price is now 600k. This can happen with one or more iterations. This possible ‘manipulation’ can help bolster claims that the “project doesn’t pencil out”. On the other hand, I don’t think the community should either guarantee nor limit the profit a developer realizes.

    1. Tia Will

      hpierce

      “On the other hand, I don’t think the community should either guarantee nor limit the profit a developer realizes.”

      I am in partial agreement with this statement. If the developer’s proposal meets all the pre existing city regulations and agreements for the use of the existing land, the city should not be either guaranteeing or limiting profit. Where things become sticky is when the developer’s
      profit is dependent upon making changes in a previous agreement or is dependent upon making changes to city regulation or if it necessitates changes in policy ( or lack of policy) as in the issue of greenbelt sales.
      It is in this “grey zone” that I think the current controversy exists.

    2. Barack Palin

      It should never come down to what’s good for the developer and to make sure they can turn a profit. It should be a matter of what’s best for the city and the surrounding neighborhood. The six house plan with the partial sale of the greenbelt that the city put forward is a good compromise and fits in more with the neighborhood.

      1. Matt Williams

        Barack and Tia, what I hear you two saying is that we should “talk the talk” of our City’s General Plan, but not “walk the walk.” Am I hearing you correctly?

        1. Tia Will

          Matt

          “what I hear you two saying is that we should “talk the talk” of our City’s General Plan, but not “walk the walk.” Am I hearing you correctly?”

          Nope. As a matter of fact, on this issue I think that you are either are not hearing well, or are temporarily tone deaf.

          I think we need to weight the elements of city priorities. Densification is one. Maintenance of greenbelts is another. Staying true to previously made agreements or renegotiating in good faith when city resources are at stake is another.
          Consideration of the preferences of the existing residents yet another. One thing that I have found ironic in this situation is the repetitive ( and accurate ) statement that the greenbelt was originally intended to protect the existing property owner from the encroaching new housing, followed by the complete disregard for the fact that the shoe is now on the other foot and it is the existing residents that are asking that they in essence be given the same consideration that was given to the Hausslers. Why is it so very hard to understand that the “buffer” or greenbelt actually provided buffering not only for the one house property, but also for all the adjacent houses.

          1. Don Shor

            Every proposal, including all the compromises by the developer, the city staff, and the neighbors, is an increase in density. There is no deviation from the city’s General Plan in that regard. It’s a completely false argument, and a completely false portrayal of the position of the neighbors regarding the development.

          2. Matt Williams

            Tia, I would agree with you if buffering were provided for all Wildhorse houses when they were built, but it wasn’t.

          3. Matt Williams

            Tia, what you see below is a satellite image of the immediate vicinity around the property in question. In the upper left hand left edge of the image you see the Wildhorse Greenbelt coming in from the west. It is joined by a spur from O’Keefe Place and then splits, with the northern fork crossing Moore Boulevard and continuing on along on the north side of Moore Boulevard. Similarly, on the right side of the image, the Wildhorse Greenbelt branches to the south to provide greenbelt conveyance down Wright Boulevard to the corner of Wright and Covell, where it continues both east and west along Covell Boulevard. All the Wildhorse Greenbelt was planned and constructed as a continuous unit. Compare that to the ad-hoc gravel path that has evolved over the years on the Hausler property buffer.


            Further, if you look at a map of that same area, you will find that Wildhorse Greenbelt, with its formal connections to virtually every Wildhorse street and cul-de-sac, is clearly shown by the darker lines in the map image below. With apologies to Rudyard Kipling

            Greenbelt to right of them,
            Greenbelt to left of them,
            Greenbelt in front of them
            Volley’d and thunder’d;
            Storm’d at with bike and bell,
            Boldly they rode and well,
            Into Davis’ Belt of Green,
            Rode the Wildhorse six hundred.

            Open space, it is. Buffer for the Hauslers, it is. Part of the Wildhorse Greenbelt, not so much

          4. Barack Palin

            I live in Wildhorse and there are many greenbelts that don’t connect. There are several greenbelts like the ones that are in question at Paso Fino that serve as paths and links from one area to another.

          5. Matt Williams

            BP, do me a favor, go on Google Earth and take a snapshot of the satellite image of one or more of those non-connecting greenbelts. We can then post those supporting examples here. What you are describing is evidence that supports continued retention of buffer status for the western portion of this property, which is the real issue given that the eastern portion is being preserved in the proposal.

          6. Barack Palin

            Matt, using your map of a partial snapshot of Wildhorse look at the greenbelt links for streets to the larger greenbelt:

            Sargeant Ct.
            Pollock Ct.
            Bearden St.
            Carravagio Dr.

            There are many more but just using the map you provided supply these examples.

            The two Paso Fino greenbelts serve as links from Moore Blvd. to the larger greenbelt along Covell.

            Anyway, either way they are still a greenbelt and as far as I can tell the city has always referred to them as greenbelts and even if they didn’t link up to a major greenbelt it doesn’t really matter. They are still used as a greenbelt and a passageway from Moore to to the Covell greenbelt and people still enjoy the public open space. So people trying to use other semantics to try and change what they are is well, just semantics.

          7. Matt Williams

            BP, those four links you have noted all do appear on the map as part of the Wildhorse Greenbelt system, so there is no question about them. Do you have other examples that don’t appear on the map (the second of the two images)?

            As I said to Tia, there is no question in my mind that the Paso Fino pathways are buffers and open space and habitat. The question (which I discussed today at the Farmers Market with Claudia Morain) is whether (with the passing of the Hauslers) they have reached the stage where their mission as buffer has ended, and they should be declared as surplus property.

  6. Tia Will

    Matt

    I agree that you are factually correct in the layout as can be confirmed by your photos.
    What is missing here is the just because this strip is not a part of the Wildhorse greenbelt design does not mean that it doesn’t serve a buffer, open space and habitat function.

    1. Matt Williams

      Tia, I have said all along that it was created as a buffer for the Hausler property, continues to serve as a buffer for the Hausler property, and clearly provides open space habitat for the Canary Pines. The first two of those purposes have been rendered moot by the march of time within the Hausler family. The third of those purposes has been honored by the proposal.

  7. Tia Will

    Matt

    “The first two of those purposes have been rendered moot by the march of time within the Hausler family. The third of those purposes has been honored by the proposal.”

    I am going to try again since I am clearly failing to make my point clearly.
    A “buffer” does not work in only one direction. It buffers each side from the other.
    While I agree that the original intent was to protect the Hausler family, that is not the only benefit of what is a two way buffer. This open space also serves as a buffer for the houses on the other side from the Hausler property just as it buffered the Hausler home. This is the reality on the ground regardless of initial intent.
    So now we have a situation that has been reversed from the initial intent. Where once the Hauslers were the intended beneficiaries of the “buffer”, the current residents, in my mind, are due similar consideration. They are now requesting maintenance of this same buffer from whatever will be built on the Hausler property. In the interests of consistency in consideration of current property owners ( whether named Hausler or not), the policy of not selling greenbelts, and yes, in this very small instance favoring maintenance of open space over the competing value of “infill” I feel that the best option on the table is that presented by staff.

  8. Tia Will

    “their mission as buffer has ended, and they should be declared as surplus property.”

    Their mission as a buffer has ended only if you believe that only Hausler’s have the right to be buffered. Just because the names of the current Wild Horse home owners do not appear on the original document of intent does not mean that their properties are not “buffered” by the existing open space area and does not mean that they should not be given the same consideration that was provided to the Hausler’s.

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