Hotel-Conference Center Plans Are Revised

Artist rendering which shows the proposed hotel-conference center with the existing Richards Blvd. and I-80 westbound onramp.

According to the city of Davis, the property owner has submitted revised plans for the hotel-conference center in response to city of Davis comments. “The proposed project is for a new six-story hotel and conference center on 2.82 acres located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Richards Boulevard and the westbound Interstate 80 on-ramp in the City of Davis located in Yolo County,” the applicants write in their project description dated March 30, 2015.

The project would replace the existing single-story 43-room University Inn and Suites Hotel and Caffé Italia restaurant with a new six-story 132 room hotel, including a +/-4,000 sf restaurant and 18,400 sf conference center. The existing structures would be demolished and the site would be cleared for the new expanded use.

According to the city, the project has 132 guest rooms (an increase from 43 at the current facility), 172 parking spaces which include a three-level parking structure, a second-story pool, and Embassy Suites restaurant and bar area.

The city website indicates that “the traffic analysis should be completed in early May. The City and its consultants will then need to confirm air quality and other CEQA assumptions before issuing the Initial Study and Negative Declaration for public review and comment. The application concept is tentatively scheduled for presentation to the Planning Commission in May.”

Last March, the hotel-conference center was a proposed seven-story building. It is not clear why the plan was revised from seven to six floors. However, the rest of the project seems to remain relatively similar.

A year ago, Mike Webb, the City’s Community Development and Sustainability Director told the Vanguard, “The project would replace the existing single-story 43 room University Inn and Suites Hotel with a new seven-story 120 room hotel including a 3,000 square foot restaurant and 14,700 square foot conference center.”

The hotel presently projects slightly more rooms, at 132 compared to 120. The other key difference is that originally there would have been a two-level parking garage with 119 spaces proposed along Olive Drive, plus 53 surface spaces for 172 parking spaces. Now there are still 172 parking spaces, but they will be in a three-level parking garage along I-80, the freeway side rather than along Olive Drive.

In the applicants’ narrative, they note, “The need for a full service hotel combined with flexible conference and meeting space has been identified for years in Davis. Such a facility is a clearly stated goal of the City of Davis Community Development Department and is listed on the City Council’s goals for 2012-2014.”

Artist rendering showing the street level view looking south on Richards Blvd.

Additionally, they write, one of the objectives on the joint list for the Davis Chamber, Downtown Davis and Yolo County Visitor’s Bureau includes supporting rapid entitlement and construction of a conference center with hotel and ample parking in downtown.

“UC Davis’ many departments conduct hundreds of group meetings and conferences during the course of the year and are forced to book many of these functions in Sacramento due to lack of appropriate facilities. Moving some of these events to Davis provides better physical connection to the Campus, while increasing sales and transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenues as these conference attendees eat and shop locally,” the applicants argue.

In recent years, they continue, “Davis has enjoyed a rapid increase in technology, manufacturing and agricultural research firms, some global in scope. These firms also have the need to host various meetings and require conference space. In addition, visiting executives expect full service lodging options. This need will only increase as more firms establish branch offices and on-going collaborations with UC Davis.”

“The closing of Freeborn Hall in 2014 further exacerbates the shortage of larger meeting space for the Campus and Community,” they continue.

The owners estimate that the annual revenue generated will be about $450,000 in transit occupancy taxes in addition to property and sales taxes generated by hotel and conference center users eating and shopping in Davis.

“The proposal requires a CUP [conditional use permit], Zoning Amendment, General Plan and Specific Plan Amendment, and Design Review,” Mr. Webb told the Vanguard last year.  “The project will require review by the Planning Commission and City Council.” That review by the Planning Commission is scheduled for May.

One of the key questions will be traffic impacts and circulation. Back in December, council allocated $160,000 in Roadway Impact Fee funds to cover the estimated costs to prepare the Project Study Report and authorize initial work on Richards Boulevard interchange improvements.

Staff at the time noted, “The Richards Boulevard corridor is a major entry to the city of Davis as well as a key connector between South Davis and the downtown. Parts of the corridor were upgraded in the 1990s, but other areas are sub-optimal for all types of travelers.”

“Approximately 400 bicyclists and 200 pedestrians cross the Richards Boulevard interchange every day. North of I-80, between the freeway and the Richards underpass, the Richards Boulevard interchange is a four-quadrant cloverleaf,” staff continues. “The interchange configuration, in which all vehicle movements are uncontrolled, results in high vehicle speeds onto and off from the freeway ramps. These high-speed movements create a safety concern for all modes on Richards Boulevard, particularly bicyclists and pedestrians.”

That will only increase with the hotel-conference center, and the proposed Nishi Gateway project will put a strain on a corridor that is already heavily congested.

Circulation issues figure to weigh very heavily upon the consideration of a potential Measure R project at Nishi, which will have the main city access at Olive Drive, literally around the corner from the hotel-conference center.

—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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  1. Tia Will

    I can personally vouch for the high speeds of cars using the Richards south off ramp as a major deterrent to walking and/or biking along this routine from north to south Davis. This off ramp is completely blinded to both cars exiting the freeway who clearly are not always expecting pedestrians and to the pedestrians who cannot either hear or see cars exiting.  The problem would clearly only increase with increased traffic at this juncture.

    I would support the development as it is only if there were some safety mitigation for those of us who prefer not to use our cars.

  2. Frankly

    I agree with Tia to a some degree here.  The Richards overpass is not a place for bikes and pedestrians.  A 132 room hotel with entrance and exit on Richards between Olive and the I-80 onramp will just add to the bike and pedestrian unfriendliness.

    Though frankly (because I am), this problem is one of Tia’s making (Tia representing the people in town that have shared her opposition to peripheral growth).  When you opine for that farmland moat to prevent “sprawl” (the word used as hyperbole not based on any real definition) and demand that we keep densifying the city and compress a growing quantity of humanity into a same-sized land area, we are going to have modes of transportation conflicts.

    The problem with this area is that it cannot be made more bike and pedestrian-friendly without significant greater unfriendliness to auto traffic.  And to compound that problem, it is absolutely essential that it remain auto-traffic friendly given that it is the main corridor of connectivity into and out of Davis.

    It seems the best solution is to require a routing of bike and pedestrian traffic around the Putah Creek bike trail that is South of Richards.

    1. Miwok

      When you opine for that farmland moat to prevent “sprawl”

      I see they built one on the North side of the Cannery, but a few months ago it started collapsing. I see they are making repairs.. 🙂

    2. Don Shor

      “sprawl” (the word used as hyperbole not based on any real definition)

      It is a well-defined term.

      Urban sprawl or suburban sprawl describes the expansion of human populations away from central urban areas into low-density, monofunctional and usually car-dependent communities. In addition to describing a particular form of urbanization, the term also relates to the social and environmental consequences associated with this development.

    3. Dave Hart

      Frank, if you say it’s all Tia’s fault, it must be.  I was wondering who I should be mad at.  But you are wrong that it cannot be made more bike and pedestrian friendly.  Visit the Watt Avenue interchange in Sacramento sometime (it’s too new to be easily visible on Google Earth) if you are interested in how it can be done.  The Watt Avenue interchange is a much larger and nastier interchange but it facilitates pedestrian and bike traffic across Highway 50 beautifully.  So, it is fixable without any negative impact on automobile traffic.  I am guessing your main objection is you just don’t want to spend the money to have your auto cake and eat it too.

      1. Miwok

        Since No one has learned the lesson about traffic, take a look at the I-80 anytime at the start and end of each day in Davis. It is a parking lot, and the walls and even more development wants to squeeze every inch closer to the present traffic than ever. Maybe an elevated freeway with no exits from the big Dixon wide out to the bridges going to Sacramento can get the thru traffic really through Davis?

        Recently a head on collision on 50 was restricting three of the five lanes on one side, and we have more examples when the whole thing is blocked. I-5, even both sides get blocked with a big rig. Make the highway wider, and all you get is MORE of a jam, with more drivers affected, or even injured, than if an alternate route were constructed. We have already seen people drive through those walls.

        But then, the Innovations Parks will generate even more of this commuting, since the City does not think they need more housing.

        1. Davis Progressive

          the simplest answer is to change where people enter the university and the city.  if they could distribute the entrance between richard, uc davis, and the two entrances off 113, this problem would be significantly less.

    4. hpierce

      Actually, a better solution is to have the project, Nishi, UCD, City proportionally fund and implement a ‘tight-diamond’ re-configuration of Richards/I-80, close Old Davis Road @ First, and require Nishi to have all non-emergency vehicular access to UCD.  But none of those options will occur.  ‘The powers that be’…

    5. Alan Miller

      It seems the best solution is to require a routing of bike and pedestrian traffic around the Putah Creek bike trail that is South of Richards.

      Besides being an auto-centric comment (assume the automobile simply must rule transportation), it is not legal to restrict such traffic, and the trend is clearly to the “complete streets” concept.

      When you opine for that farmland moat to prevent “sprawl” . . . and demand that we keep densifying the city and compress a growing quantity of humanity into a same-sized land area, we are going to have modes of transportation conflicts.

      As we would we a much larger population with growing peripheral population.  Witness:  tons of places everywhere as examples.  The issue is the number of people and the design of transportation systems.



  3. hpierce

    Now I get the new sign-in… asking me if I was human, it asked me what 10 + 19 was… I typed in 47… got in.  Suspect if I had typed BS, I would have got in.   Will try that next time…

    1. Alan Miller

      What is this about a new sign-in?  I am not seeing any such.

      I am still typing out comments, and on occasion when I hit “Post” it says “You must be logged in to post a comment”, and when I go back everything I wrote is gone.  I’ve complained about this and no one seems to know what I’m talking about.

  4. TrueBlueDevil

    I’ll leave the traffic concerns to others.

    1. This seems just as cold as the many other new buildings going up all over campus. Nothing like the warmth of North, South, or Dutton Hall.

    2. I don’t see the need for such a large, or any, conference meeting rooms. Most hotels I’ve gone to, such rooms are empty 80% of the time.

    3. Good idea to move the garage to the freeway side.

    1. Davis Progressive

      on two, the need for 140 rooms is if they want to have a big conference there, it’s inconvenient if you can’t house everyone in that hotel.

    2. Alan Miller

      I’ve seen renderings of buildings, but not maps.

      What happens to Murder Burger, 3rd Space, Lawnmower Repair & Dutch Bros.?

      All consumed or outside the property line?

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