The developers for Paso Fino are back with a new proposal that will go before council a week from Tuesday. The new plan seeks to leave in place eight units while preserving the greenbelt and keeping the Canary Island pine trees on public land.
This represented a key sticking point for the previous Plan C-2, which caused neighbors and the planning commission discomfort because that plan protected the trees but put them into private hands.
As a result, the commission in October voted 3-2 to ask the developers to consider Plan D which would allow for six homes, despite developer Jason Taormino’s statement that the plan did not work and would not allow the developer to build on three of the lots.
Plan D would preserve the greenbelt, reduce the number of lots from eight to six, and preserve all nine Canary pine trees in public ownership.
Will the compromise be enough to satisfy neighbors, some of whom have argued that eight units is too dense, and ultimately the city council?
Jason Taormino told the planning commission, as he told the Vanguard, that Plan D was unworkable. He told the planning commission, “What we see is you can’t build on three lots and one lot would have a house with no yard. It doesn’t work.”
Greg McPherson, a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service, addressed the issue of the Canary Island pines which, he argued, “do warrant being a heritage grove because of their stature, because of their age, and because of their health.”
“I have some concerns with C-2 which has those trees inside the property in the backyards,” he explained. He called it a “lose-lose” proposition in the long run. “I can imagine moving into those homes and waking up in the morning and seeing those pines and thinking I’m living in Lake Tahoe and not in Davis, because they’re so beautiful. But I think that someone, after having lived with those pines for awhile, their opinion may change.”
He argued, “Pines and people that close together don’t really mix well.” Both he and the next speaker expressed concerns that the mess from dripping sap would ultimately lead to people wanting to remove the trees.
The new plan seeks to address those concerns, shrinking the size of Lot 8 to allow the pines to be on the other side of the property line.
Commissioner George Hague in October said he was sensitive to the concerns of the community about the buffer zone, as well as the nine pine trees. He said, “I learned something about the difficulty in doing business in Davis. But at the end of a very long discussion… the bottom line is that the residents wanted the buffer zone protected. It is protected. They wanted the trees preserved, they are preserved.”
He said eight homes plus a bunch of ADUs “might fit on the lot, but I don’t think that the lifestyle they generate would have been supported by the limitations of the lot.” He said, “I believe the developer has addressed those concerns. There are no more ADUs.”
However, for Cheryl Essex, another member of the planning commission, the development “is supported in this area as long as the public good is retained. We’ve heard that over and over again.” About the public good in this instance, “the citizens are willing to give up some of the greenbelt in order to bring those majestic Canary Island Pine Trees into public ownership. That’s what we’ve been told.”
Marilee Hanson flat out stated that she cannot support plan C-2, that the Canary pines need to be on public land. She said, “I can’t support (C-2)… the public has been speaking for years that, in order for those Canary pines to truly be saved, they need to be on public land.”
She made the motion, that would be adopted on a 3-2 vote, to support something like Plan D. Chair Rob Hofmann joined Merilee Hanson and Cheryl Essex, with George Hague and David Inns in dissent.
At that time Dave Taormino, one of the developers, said he was willing to compromise. He said, “What I’ve heard tonight, it sounds like overwhelmingly, is that you want the trees, or as many of the trees as possible, into public ownership. If that’s the direction you want to go, give me that instruction.”
He said they could go back to the drawing board and, prior to going to the city council, “we’ll come up with as much as possible with the trees on public land. I think I can do that for six trees and maintain the eight dwelling units with the eighth one being a senior cottage. I can live with that.”
“I never said the plan that keeps the most trees as possible in the public ownership,” Merilee Hanson stated. “I said something like alternative D which keeps the Canary Pines in public ownership is preferable.”
The question now is whether the latest proposal, which keeps all trees on public land with eight lots, will suffice.
—David M. Greenwald reporting