On Sunday, we noted that when the Housing Element Steering Committee ranked potential housing sites, they listed the Nishi Property with UC Davis access only at No.17, and the Nishi site with access via Olive Drive a bit lower, at No.25.
They cited poor vehicular access and potential impact on Richards Blvd. as a reason, but they also recommended that access via UC Davis “must be explored fully before any consideration of this option.”
However, city staff did not even include that option as a possibility. Instead the two equal-weight alternatives as the primary project to be analyzed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) were: “The preferred project alternative with full ped/bike/vehicle access from both west Olive Drive and the UC Davis campus; and an alternative with access from west Olive Drive only.”
As both the staff report and city staff on Tuesday explained, “Access to the UC Davis campus would require approval of the UC Regents, anticipated to be within the context of a Long Range Development Plan update. Campus staff report that a LRDP update effort will be launching within 2015 with Regents action anticipated in 2016.”
As Bob Segar from UC Davis explained in response to a question from Councilmember Rochelle Swanson, “For the roadway plan to be fully analyzed, it has to be in the context of our future growth as well as potential future growth at Nishi. Those scenarios would get fully developed this spring.
“At least for implementation of it, it would require an approval and I think it does require being part of the growth plan,” he said.
Mr. Segar said they run these processes locally in terms of the long range development plan and environmental impact reports, but ultimately the Regents are the agency that makes the call. The long range development plan is the closest thing that the university has to a city general plan, he explained.
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis said he was mainly concerned about the undercrossing, explaining, “In my view that connectivity piece is a huge piece of this from our side.”
What Bob Segar told the council implies that we may soon be locked into this approach. He explained to the council at the meeting, “We did a very high level first pass of the traffic implications of the connection/no connection but really now that there’s a preferred alternative, that can go the next level of detail of traffic analysis as you prepare for the environmental impact report.”
That really suggests that the council, by setting the preferred alternatives as either a dual access or an Olive-only access, may have eliminated the possibility of a UC Davis-only access to Nishi, or at least the process will become prohibitive to backtracking at some point.
The Vanguard reported on Thursday that there was concern raised by at least three councilmembers about three potential innovation park projects going forward simultaneously.
These concerns were pushed by Councilmember Lee, who said, “I’m a little concerned about this idea that three projects will be simultaneously on the ballot.”
“I would like to see this have its own separate spot on the ballot,” he continued. Councilmember Lee noted that the project came to council a full year before the other two innovation park proposals, and “I’d like to give it the opportunity to go first.”
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs went so far as to state, “It’s crazy actually. Not just problematic.”
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis added, “I think what we’re signaling is a real concern that the way these are lined up time wise, just the timelines, they’re pointing toward March 2016 – at this point they’re all pointing like an arrow and I find that daunting.” He concluded, “If that arrow keeps pointing in that direction, it’s kind of insane… There’s something that’s going to have to give.”
Councilmember Brett Lee, on the long range council agenda, pushed an item on the timing of various development proposals.
Dan Wolk opposed a discussion, stating, “I just think it’s premature to discuss it so I’m opposed to putting it on the agenda any time soon.”
Robb Davis was in support of Brett Lee’s suggestion. But others questioned what the item would entail and whether they would have enough information to act.
“I would like the ability to discuss the three large proposals in terms of the planned timing,” Brett Lee stated. “As of now, they’re all planned for the same date. I would like to have a discussion which allows us to (consider that)… that was not based on our recommendation to staff, that came to staff and said oh by the way, those are all planned for the same date.
“We have a status update tonight (but) we are not able to actually have that discussion because it’s not in the scope of the item,” he said. “I would like an item before us where we’re able to discuss that because this council has not approved the idea of that specific date for all three proposals.”
Brett Lee clarified that it could be in three months, but he doesn’t want it to occur in six months or a year. At that point, the council agreed.
Given the concerns about putting three projects on the ballot in Spring 2016, one question is whether the city should wait to see the analysis from the university, and whether university access is even a possibility, because that is certainly a game-changing situation.
—David M. Greenwald reporting