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.”
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