Tuesday night will mark the first City Council meeting of 2015. Last week Dan Wolk gave his state of the city address before the Davis Chamber of Commerce and he recapped 2014 by calling it a good year citing the progress of a number of projects, the new city council and city manager. He also articulated a vision of Davis – he calls it “Renew Davis.”
Back in December, Mayor Wolk and Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis updated their “six-month plan” which was to address key challenges facing the community and called it “a productive six months.” While I go back and forth with Mayor Pro Tem Davis on this, he argues that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes whereas I’ve been observing the city councils for nearly a decade now and would argue this has been about the slowest period of time I have seen at least in terms of what is happening on the dais.
Part of the concern has been a lack of movement on key issues laid before the community such as the parcel tax and others. In December we held a ten minute city council meeting.
Some might argue well we have a new City Manager. But when Steve Pinkerton was hired, his first meeting was the epic September 6, 2011 water meeting which resulted in the imposition of new water rates, the triggering of a referendum drive and three months later, December 6, 2011, the rates were repealed.
So for me at least – the big question as we move into 2015 is what the workload will look like.
Nishi EIR About to Begin
As we discussed this weekend, the Nishi Gateway project is the big item on the agenda. Staff has an aggressive timeline with the plan being that Nishi is ready to go to the voters by Spring 2016 – 15 months away. Whether it does or not remains to be seen.
As we have reported, staff is proposing two equal-weight alternatives as the primary project to be analyzed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR): “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.”
According to staff, “The EIR will analyze 650 residential units and 325,000 square feet of office/research development, plus approximately 20,000 square feet of neighborhood-serving retail uses (likely on the ground floor of the residential buildings).”
Staff and the CEQA consultant are proposing the following CEQA alternatives:
- A “no-project” alternative, as required by statute.
- A office/research only alternative, which has the potential of reducing impacts from placing housing near the freeway and the railroad tracks;
- A reduced-intensity alternative, which has the potential to reduce traffic and agricultural impacts of the proposal; and
- An off-site alternative on the 5th Street Corridor (PG&E, City, and DJUSD corporation yards), as assessed in the Studio 30 Innovation Center Study.
The current schedule sees the public review of the scope of the EIR in February 2015. The draft EIR would be issued for public review in July, along with the draft sustainability plans. Staff writes, “This will allow Planning Commission and City Council the capability of holding public hearings and making a decision by the end of the calendar year, thereby allowing the possibility of a Measure R election as soon as March of 2016.”
Affordable Housing Ordinance Revisions
The city Council back in September reversed a controversial decision from 2013 to include ADUs as an option under the city’s Affordable Housing Ordinance. As staff explains, “There continue to be community concerns regarding the use of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) without deed restrictions for the provision of affordable housing units.”
The concerns include “the development of ADUs without any recorded affordability requirements under the city’s ordinance, even with the 2:1 ratio requirement.” Since the approval of the ADU provision, “the Cannery project was approved and includes the development of 40 ADUs/second units without deed restrictions to meet 20 units of its affordable housing requirement. Other projects have discussed or proposed use of this ADU option, but no other projects have been approved with it at this time.”
No other units have been built yet. Staff notes, “This provision was adopted as a means for providing an unrestricted affordable housing option that is affordable by design, while increasing housing density, promoting smart growth, and providing a diversity of housing types within a project development. The ADU provision allows for up to half of the affordability requirement for a project to be met through ADUs, which are credited on a 50% basis and are subject to specific design standards.”
This provision as of September 23, 2014 has been deleted from ordinance which means that the only project that will be impacted by this is Cannery – a fact that reinforces the suspicion from back in 2013 that the provision was really only about the Cannery project anyway.
In September as well, “Council also directed staff to consider an option for the purchase of existing housing to be added to the city’s affordable housing stock.”
Staff writes, “Any units provided under this option must ensure a unit life of no less than 30 years and may require rehabilitation prior to qualifying. Sale or long-term rental of these units would be at the sole expense and responsibility of the project developer, unless otherwise approved by the City Council.”
“While the City Council may not want to rely on this option as the primary source of affordable housing, as it is not adding new units to the city’s housing stock, it could serve as a beneficial option for smaller projects that might otherwise pay an in-lieu fee. This option would likely reinvest in older housing units in town that could otherwise go unnoticed by the city in other programs. This might also be an option for preserving affordable units that were created outside of the city’s ordinance and could otherwise be lost to market rate rents. By providing the City Council the opportunity to review and act upon these types of proposals, this option can be monitored and the effects gauged during its infancy,” staff adds.
In September, the Council directed staff to return with return with language. This marks a first reading of the revisions to the ordinance on the above to issues. Council would need to approve this item with some revisions and staff would return with a second reading.
—David M. Greenwald reporting