Council Receives Update on Innovation Parks, Asked to Approve Guiding Principles, Alternatives

Davis and Mace innovation Parks

On Tuesday, the council will receive a major update on the status of two innovation park applications, as well as be asked to approve guiding principles and a range of alternatives.

The Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC) application was accepted for filing on September 15, 2014. The applicant is Dan Ramos of Ramco Enterprises, a West Sacramento land developer, partnered with The Buzz Oates Group of Companies, a Sacramento real estate firm. The 229-acre property proposes 2,654,000 square feet (sf) of space which includes 1.5 million sf of research and office space, 884,000 sf of manufacturing, 160,000 sf of hotel and 100,000 square feet of retail.

The Davis Innovation Center application was accepted for filing on November 3, 2014. The applicant is SKK Developments, a Sacramento real estate firm partnered with Hines Company, an international real estate investment firm. The 208-acre property proposes 4 million square feet (sf) of space including 3 million in technical office and laboratory, another 680,000 for research and development, 200,000 sf for a hotel and 120,000 for retail.

innovation-park-grid

Conclusion of the Innovation Park Task Force

Staff recommends “that the City Council direct staff to conclude the work of the Innovation Park Task Force.” Staff writes, “The multi-year work of the Innovation Park Task Force culminated in Council adoption of a ‘Dispersed Innovation Center Strategy,’ a multipronged approach of which consideration of new innovation centers is one part.”

They add, “With the acceptance of these applications and commencement of processing pursuant to California planning, zoning, and development laws, this brings to a logical conclusion the work of the Innovation Park Task Force.”

Guiding Principles

Staff has created a set of “Guiding Principles” to “better define community values and clarify community expectations for evaluating and guiding refinement of proposed Innovation Centers. The principles provide a framework for community evaluation of the two projects. They will be used as one of several evaluation tools for assessment and comparison of the innovation center proposals.”

There are eight main guiding principles. These are: density, sustainability, transportation, work environment, uses, timing and phasing, fiscal considerations and net community benefits, and collaborative partnerships.

On density, the city encourages a minimum floor area ratio (FAR) of 0.5, a more intense use of land, and a mix of building types in order to support “efficient use of land balanced with achieving the needs of tenants.”

Sustainability figures to be a big issue. Some of the concepts that the city lays out includes street designs that minimize paved surfaces. They support a reduction of greenhouse gases through reduction of vehicle trips, alternative transportation modes, LEED/green building design, net-zero energy production and a goal to achieve 1990 emission levels.

They discuss the need for greater energy efficiency, CALGreen Tier 1 at a minimum, photovoltaic panels and the retrofit of existing buildings.

The principles include a 2 to 1 mitigation for agricultural land, research fields in agricultural buggers and maintenance and ownership of open space.

Other sustainable practices include: LEED construction, use of advanced building materials, water conservation and recycling/reuse, bio-based runoff treatment with conjunctive reuse, parking and rooftop energy generation, integration of habitat, drainage, and greenbelts, maximized connectedness of open space, and urban forest and healthy trees.

On transportation, they discuss the need for multi-modality, which includes alternative transit and shuttles, mobility for bicycles, pedestrians and alternative fuel vehicles, connectivity for bicycle, pedestrian and transit networks, alternatives for vehicle parking, and bicycling sharing programs.

On fiscal considerations, they support fiscal neutrality and economic benefit. They believe that this project will result in net community benefits including social and environmental. The project should provide substantial surplus annual revenue (over costs), positive economic impacts, and citywide multipliers. Infrastructure and construction costs should (will) be absorbed by the project.

It will create new jobs and tax revenue. It would generate revenue through an assessment district and/or pay annual per-square foot charge.

Staff recommends that the city council “direct staff to utilize the proposed final Guiding Principles in evaluating the merits of the innovation center applications and conclude the City Council Subcommittee on Guiding Principles.”

CEQA Alternatives

Staff writes, “At this early stage in the process the staff believes that the following range of alternatives satisfies these criteria and is appropriate and necessary for meeting the requirements of CEQA and ensuring legal defensibility. These alternatives will evolve based on information that will be generated from the technical studies.”

  1. No Project Alternative – This alternative assumes that existing conditions/uses continue on the project sites. This alternative is required under State law. This alternative would be analyzed at a “comparative” level but there would be considerable detail available through the setting sections of the EIR.
  2. Off-site Alternative – This alternative would assume development of the proposed project at an alternative site. The rationale for an off-site alternative generally is that it may avoid or substantially lessen the significant effects of the project. For the MRIC project the Off-Site Alternative would assume development only at the Davis Innovation Center site. For the Davis Innovation Center project the Off-Site Alternative would assume development only at the MRIC site. Because a full-scope EIR is being prepared for each project this means that the offsite alternatives analysis will be analyzed at a very detailed level referred to under CEQA as “equal weight” analysis.
  3. Reduced Site Size – This alternative assumes the full intensity of development on a smaller site. The rational for this alternative generally is to test whether a more compact urban form would avoid or substantially lessen the significant effects of the project. For the MRIC this would assume development of up to 2,654,000 sf on the 102 acre Ramos parcel closest to Mace Boulevard and I-80. For the Davis Innovation Center this would assume development of up to 4,000,000 sf on the 75-acre parcel immediately west of the Sutter Hospital property. This alternative would be analyzed at a comparative level but with additional detail provided where possible.
  4. Reduced Project – This alternative assumes 35 to 50 acres for short-term expansion of only one or two Davis businesses. It is assumes that this would include the Schilling Robotics expansion. The rationale for this alternative is to examine the comparative level of impact associated with a small project that meets only short-term economic expansion needs. For the MRIC this would assume development of the western one half of the Ramos parcel described in Alternative 3 totaling ±50 acres and assumes a maximum of 500,000 sf of research and development uses. For the Davis Innovation Center this would assume the southern one half of the 75-acre parcel described in Alternative 3 totaling ±35 acres and assumes a maximum 500,000 sf of research and development uses. This alternative would be analyzed at a comparative level but with additional detail provided where possible.
  5. Mixed Use Alternative – This alternative assumes the introduction of a balance of high-density residential uses in both projects. The type of housing anticipated would be high density (over 30 du/ac), attached, multi-story live/work units designed specifically to house and support workers within the Innovation Center. It would include a mix of ownership and lease/rental units. Designs would incorporate green technology, high efficiency, compact form, with the latest technology and lifestyle features, and emphasis on low to no-vehicle use.

Staff notes, “Housing was not recommended for inclusion in project(s) during the RFEI process, nor are the applicants proposing housing as part of their proposals. However, CEQA requires that the lead agency test alternatives that could reasonably reduce significant impacts of the project.”

They continue, “Staff anticipates that the project EIRs may identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, staff has concluded that a mixed use alternative will likely be necessary to satisfy CEQA requirements.”

They add, “There is a growing field of study that demonstrates that mixed uses can lower the traffic, air quality, greenhouse gas, energy efficiency, and related impacts of separated land uses. This alternative will test the possibility that a mix of innovation center and residential uses will generate lowered amounts of regional traffic, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the business-only proposals.”

Summarization

There are a few key things to emphasize. First, within the guiding principles, the city holds the minimum FAR at 0.5, and although a minimum, we noted a month or so ago that that FAR seemed a bit low. Nevertheless, it is sufficient to generate around 6.6 million square feet of innovation space.

Second, the city is pushing the sustainability angle – LEED Standards are low, but challenging the developers to head to net-zero energy production would be monumental. The other side of that coin of course is transportation issues – merely connecting the parks to existing alternative modes is probably not sufficient. We would really like to see the envelope pushed here and, while housing has been talked about as a death-knell, producing high-density mixed use housing here to provide for people working onsite to not have to commute might at least be worth exploring.

We also note that the principles include a stringent 2:1 mitigation requirement which is already contained in Measure R.

We will note that the Davis Innovation Parks have scoping meetings next week. In the winter of 2015, the city writes, “The technical and other studies will be completed and peer reviewed for use in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and later steps of the process.”

By June 2015, the draft EIR will be targeted for release. By October, it will prepare and release responses to the comments received on the Draft EIRs. Council will take final actions on the projects by November or December with March 2016 the target date for placement on the ballot.

One of the questions we raised this week is whether putting competing measures on the ballot in March 2016 was optimal, and how the city and city council might go about winnowing down the proposals.

Time will tell.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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29 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    What kind of retail are the sites going for?  Coffee and sandwich shops or are we talking about strip malls with all kinds of stores?  100,000 and 120,000 sq. ft. are the equivalent of four strip malls.

      1. Barack Palin

        It just sounds like a lot of space for that.

        What is the average square footage of a shopping mall?
        56,212.85 sq. ft. for malls in the United States

        http://www.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_average_square_footage_of_a_shopping_mall
        I’m just wondering if there’s going to be more than just ‘support’ stores for the workers.  If we’re looking at the equivalent of 4 new shopping malls I think the added traffic of shoppers other than workers needs to be calculated in.

         

        1. South of Davis

          Davis wrote:

          > It would be retail to serve the people working at the sites –

          > coffee shops, food, maybe small marts of that sort.

          With the average coffee shop, sandwich shop or small mart under 2,000 square feet with 120,000sf we would have enough space for  FORTY (40) to FIFTY (50) coffee shops, sandwich shops or small marts…

        2. Matt Williams

          BP, looking at the existing strip malls in Davis … Oak Tree Plaza (on Covell) has 40,000 sq ft in Nugget, another 20,000 sq. ft in CVS and another 20,000 plus in the smaller shops, totaling 80,00 sq ft. … The Marketplace has 40,000 sq. ft in Safeway, and probably another 60-80,000 sq. ft. in all the other stores and restaurants, with Petco and Big 5 being the biggest.  Oak Shade has 40,000 for Safeway, close to another 30,000 for Office Max, and 20,000 for Rite Aid, plus another 10,000 plus for the smaller stores.

          8th Street and Westlake and Anderson Plaza are smaller, but the above puts the proposed square feet into a more local perspective.

  2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    I’d rather see 100,000 s.f. of on-site housing for workers instead of that much square footage of strip malls.

    Other sustainable practices including: LEED construction, Use of advanced building materials, Water conservation and recycling/reuse, Bio-based runoff treatment with conjunctive reuse, Parking and rooftop energy generation, Integration of habitat, drainage, and greenbelts, Maximize connectedness of open space, and Urban forest; healthy trees.

    One of the biggest planning mistakes we made in Davis, IMO, was permitting the massive parking tarmac at the Target retail site. There is something like 12 acres of asphalt (if I recall correctly), and almost none of it is shaded (the parking lot trees are worthless). We could have, given Target’s great desire to locate in Davis, required either a multi-story parking garage which covered say 2 acres, or required the entire parking lot to be covered in solar panels which would provide full shade for all cars. Yet Davis allowed Target to do what it did, and now, like in so many retail centers, we have a very hot, huge asphalt lot, no solar generation, and really a crappy place to park.

    See” http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/our-solar-policies-are-off-target/

    I feel the exact same way about these new business parks (aka innovation centers). We should not allow them to create massive asphalt parking lots. They are not only a waste of space–a loss of agricultural land for cars to cook in all day. They also help heat up the rest of our community with a heat island effect. And they do no good for creating clean energy.

    Instead, Davis should require (on all large projects from here on out) a green parking lot. One way to do that is a multi-story parking garage; with the saved land planted in trees and shrubs which are either native species or varietals which can thrive in our climate. The other way, probably better economically, is to create a Google lot, where every car parking space is shaded by a PV solar panel. The latter is a win-win, creating much needed solar energy and creating good shade for parked cars. The only downside of the latter strategy is it still uses up a lot of land for cars to just sit there all day.

    One other concern might be the cost to the developer. However, these projects are not marginal. If Davis permits the property owners to change the use of their land by rezoning, the profits to them are enormous. Opposite of a regulatory taking, where the owners would have to be compensated by government, changing the zoning from ag to industrial would represent a regulatory giving, and thus it is (IMO) completely fair to require the owner to repay some of that largesse to the public at large by including things such as a green parking lot or parking garage.

  3. Frankly

    “Staff anticipates that the project EIRs may identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, staff has concluded that a mixed use alternative will likely be necessary to satisfy CEQA requirements.”

    It will likely kill the projects from a Measure R rejection if this happens.  I hope the EIR factors the gradual shift from having more Davis residents working outside of Davis to more living and working in Davis.    And if housing does become a requirement it is all high-density student housing… because this would more likely be supported by Davis voters.

    One thing to keep an eye on… staff having any influence on this part of the EIR.  Because the open space crusade has infiltrated city staff, and there are CC members vested in interest to kill one or more of these innovation parks.

    FAR at 0.5, while a minimum, we noted a month or so ago that that FAR seemed a bit low.

    No, it is not too low.  And I think we are really quite stupid on this point.  We like open space, yet we want to cram as much development onto the land as possible.  Really, is our need to bolster our environmental correctness credential and fluff up our echo-friendly self importance so important that we eliminate the opportunity for parks and green space?  If the 2-1 mitigation is used for parks and green space and not preserving more peripheral farmland for our farmland moat project, then it makes sense.  Otherwise it is a brainless thing to do… trading away the potential for valued community amenities and ascetic benefits only to pat ourselves on the back as being members of the extreme environmental crusade.

     

    1. Tia Will

      Frankly

      Otherwise it is a brainless thing to do… trading away the potential for valued community amenities and ascetic benefits only to pat ourselves on the back as being members of the extreme environmental crusade.”

      And I would agree with you completely if this were the only purpose. But it isn’t. What we have here is a fundamental difference in values. I value what I perceive as vital environmental protections more highly than I value what I perceive as growth for the sake of growth in the erroneous ( in my view) belief that more is always better. I realize that you perceive these values differently from me and I respect your point of view. What I would appreciate is that you would acknowledge that there are different values at stake here and that each world view has its own unique set of pros and cons, rather than your persistent insistence that yours is the only valid way to see the world and your dismissive and derogatory twisting of the beliefs of those who do not agree with you.

  4. Anon

    “On fiscal considerations, they support fiscal neutrality and economic benefit. They believe that this project will result in net community benefits including social and environmental. The project should provide substantial surplus annual revenue (over costs), positive economic impacts, and citywide multipliers. Infrastructure and construction costs should (will) be absorbed by the project. It will create new jobs and tax revenue. It would generate revenue through an assessment district and/or pay annual per-square foot charge.”

    It is crucial that 1) the projects be a net neutral to the city in terms of ongoing costs; and 2) that an assessment district create significant tax revenue to the city.

    “They continue, “Staff anticipates that the project EIRs may identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, staff has concluded that a mixed use alternative will likely be necessary to satisfy CEQA requirements.””

    Okay, so staff is insisting that in order to satisfy CEQA requirements, residential housing must be included as part and parcel of the innovation parks.  Yet including residential housing most likely will result in an innovation park not getting past a measure R vote, especially because including housing is likely to result in a project that is not a net fiscal neutral but a net fiscal negative to the city.  Developers were instructed not to include housing in their proposals was my understanding, and it is what developers promised in order to get their projects around the Measure R vote.  Sounds like an innovation park is DOA if we go by city staff’s analysis.  Am I missing something?

    1. Don Shor

      Is staff insisting, or suggesting, or predicting? Is this a state requirement that they feel the current guidelines won’t fulfill? All new commercial development requires a housing component?
      Also, somebody should probably explain in clear terms what FAR means.

        1. Don Shor

          Thanks; now I recall that’s what was used to determine my parking stall requirements when we developed.
          So, David, you are saying that you think there should be taller buildings on the site? Or more of them, with less open area within the park? There are tradeoffs as to the viability of lease space, landscaping and shading of hardscape, and the aesthetics of the project.

    2. Tia Will

      Anon

      I don’t really think that you have “missed anything”. But I do have a different perspective.

      On a now long past thread, one commenter had spoken about the pitfalls of not having / or not utilizing a comprehensive city plan for development. I think that we are seeing some of the consequences of this lack in recent decision making. As an example, there might not be so much controversy over mixed use ( including housing) development of the “innovation parks” had we not just approved the zoning change which enabled the housing development “The Cannery”. In my view, this was a huge mistake.

      On the one hand, we decried the lack of affordable housing near work places.Yet we chose to change zoning and approve a bedroom community largely for high earning individuals by placating certain groups such as seniors with such perks as “universal design” and the community by such supposed “innovations ” as urban farms. These features which  may be new to Davis, could hardly be considered “innovative” and do not come even close to being “ground breaking” in terms of environmental conservation much as the Target ( as pointed out by Rich) does not even come close to its semantic vision of “green” used only to convince the community that it was embodying community values.

      What we could have chosen was to leave the zoning on the Cannery site as it was, and consider that any housing need engendered by “innovation parks” should be incorporated into the site design. This would have had the advantage of placing the possibility for housing of different types close to the source of employment. Instead, we chose to follow the current model of bedroom communities distant from employment locations and providing a little window dressing to gain approval, much as has been happening around the country for the past 40 or so years.

      1. Don Shor

        That raises one possibility. Cannery is about mid-point between the two peripheral business parks. I wonder if the housing stock Cannery is providing could be used to satisfy state CEQA requirements for the traffic impact of those parks. Somebody should probably get staff’s reasoning on this, and give an objective interpretation of the actual CEQA requirements.

  5. DurantFan

    This sure makes the massive Covell Village proposal of the recent past  look like small potatoes! It appears that external, developer driven forces are prowling our periphery again.

    1. Matt Williams

      DurantFan, I don’t follow your point.  What do you see as the similarities and what the differences between the How do you see the Measure X-defeated Covell Village project proposal and these Innovation Park project proposals?

  6. Anon

    To Tia: It sounds like you aren’t aware of the history of the Cannery issue, or perhaps I should say aren’t aware of what many of us have concluded from years of watching the political landscape in Davis.  The Cannery site sat vacant for literally years, as certain political folks and others persistently called for a business park there (including the Vanguard).  But no businesses seemed interested.  Most likely because the parcel is not close enough to freeway access, and too near residential housing.  As time went on, it became pretty clear that those who are against any growth in this town would continue to push for business parks where they knew it would never happen, e.g. Cannery site, PG&E site.  Finally some of us more pragmatic citizens finally caught on to the no growth political gambit, and realized if we were going to fulfill our SACOG/RHNA housing requirements, the Cannery was the next logical place to locate such residential housing.  I was originally for a business park on the Cannery site, until I finally wised up to the political realities of the situation.

    At the time of the Cannery controversy, IMO there was zero chance for any new economic development.  Trust me on this.  It has really taken the latest financial crisis to get citizens to realize the long neglected economic development element in this town must be addressed, or the town will be in dire fiscal straits.  Would it have been better, as you have suggested, to have had a more comprehensive plan for the Cannery site and innovation parks now being proposed?  Absolutely, in an ideal world.  But the reality is that we still don’t have a General Plan update, the success of any innovation park in this town is highly in question, and almost every issue that comes before the Davis City Council somehow becomes controversial to some group of citizens, that bend the ear of the Council.  West Sacramento does a much better job of comprehensive planning, but I also know for a fact that Mayor Cabaldon is loathe to pay attention to public input he does not want to hear.  One of the problems with “the Davis way” is there is a cacophony of voices that tend to stifle any attempt at comprehensive planning.  City staff is often unnecessarily vilified in the process.  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what I’ve said…

    And by the way, the Cannery won an award for its innovative inclusion of Universal Design. Just sayin’…

    1. Don Shor

      Actually, the impression I got was that no business park proposal for the Cannery site ever went anywhere because the owners said, emphatically and repeatedly, that they would not develop anything but housing on that site. I don’t disagree with your assessment of some of the political realities, but it’s clear that business park development there was never going to happen under the current ownership of the site.

      1. Matt Williams

        I could be wrong, but what I remember the owners of the site saying was not that they would not develop a business park there, but rather that all the market studies that they had been presented by potential developers and/or the City of Davis showed that the interior location of the Cannery site with the only truck/auto access to the site being on Covell eliminated the site from consideration by potential commercial/industrial/business park tenants.

        With that said, Lewis Homes, which had a long standing option on the property from the property owners, did “emphatically and repeatedly” state that they purchased the option from the owners in order to build homes there … which is not a surprise given the name of their company includes the word “Homes” in it. When the City insisted on a dual EIR at Lewis Homes’ expense for both a mixed use alternative and a commercial/industrial alternative, Lewis Homes chose not to spend their money that way and returned the option to the property owners. Between the time when Lewis Homes abandoned their option and The New Home Company purchased its option from the property owners, no proposal was made by a viable business park developer to option the property for the development of a business park.

  7. Michael Harrington

    The usual mitigation is to allow the developer to buy junk land out in the county  that has zero chance of development.  This leaves the city border areas open for continued expansion, decade after decade.

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