It has been a tumultuous few weeks. First, nearly three weeks ago, the city received notice from the applicant of the Davis Innovation Center (DIC) to place the application “on hold” until further notice. As a result of this request, city staff has stopped processing the DIC proposal, which includes the EIR and technical studies related solely to the DIC project.
The council on Tuesday will receive critical updates on where Nishi and the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC) stand.
According to staff, work continues on the EIR and other studies relating to Nishi and MRIC. Currently there is nearly $750,000 budgeted for the MRIC cost share.
Staff, however, notes, “Notwithstanding the change in status of the Davis IC, there is a significant component of the Davis IC share of costs in the following areas that will still be necessary for processing the MRIC: project management, economic and fiscal, public outreach, and engineering costs.”
Staff is in the process of determining the cost for processing the MRIC application. “That amount will necessarily become the responsibility of the MRIC applicant,” staff reports.
On Nishi: “Ascent Environmental is preparing sustainability studies for the Nishi Gateway effort, and also preparing the Environmental Impact Report for the proposal. Cost of the Ascent contract is being shared between the property and City under the Predevelopment and Cost Sharing Agreement approved in 2012. These local contributions are being supplemented by a nearly $600,000 grant approved by the State of California Strategic Growth Council.”
The plan is being refined. The current plan “reflects an increase in the open space area from that reviewed earlier this year. The additional park is made possible by shifting surface parking to a structure between the large R&D building and I-80. This is consistent with the desire for greater open space expressed by the Recreation and Parks Commission, and the concern over surface parking lots voiced at previous City Council meetings.”
We have an updated schedule for both projects.
For MRIC, they are expecting an early August 2015 release of the Draft EIR with the release of the final EIR in November, Planning Commission hearings in December, and a January council hearing leading to a potential June 2016 Measure R ballot Measure.
For Nishi, it is a similar schedule, with the Draft EIR in September and the final EIR in January, with Planning Commission hearings that month, a council hearing in January or February, and a June 2016 potential Measure ballot Measure.
Staff reports that they have engaged Andy Plescia to prepare economic and fiscal analyses of the Nishi Gateway proposal. Preliminary conclusions are that “there is a gap between estimated total public infrastructure cost (including the connection to UC Davis) and project supportable [of] public infrastructure improvements.” As a result, they are looking at a CFD (community facilities district) to “cover the gap without materially affecting the estimated values of the property or the development.”
Housing Creeps Into the Discussion
For some time the question has been how the city can accommodate the need for an additional 18,000 workers that the two innovation centers and Nishi were estimated to draw in. Clearly, with the removal of DIC from this equation, that number will drop perhaps by half.
However, while there are no plans for housing at MRIC, they are studying the possibility – for the purposes of mitigation at the very least.
A May 20 letter from Matthew Keasling, of Taylor & Wiley, to Community Development Director Mike Webb indicates that over the last several months in preparing the Draft EIR, “we have been increasingly engaged in a variety of discussions on the merits of the mixed-use alternative. Notably, most of the comments that we have received on mixed-use have emphasized the anticipated environmental benefits of proceeding with this project alternative. In response to these comments and to what we perceive as growing interest in providing a mix of uses in the innovation center, we have asked staff to conduct an equal level of environmental analysis on the mixed-use alternative.”
“This equal weight analysis will provide the City Council and the community with an opportunity to fairly compare the impacts of the MRIC project with and without housing,” he writes.
He notes, “The applicant is aware that this additional analysis was not included within the initial scope of work for EIR consultants, nor was it factored into the aggressive timeline presented to the Council last fall. We also recognize that conducting this additional environmental analysis will likely prolong the entitlement process and postpone the date at which the project will be heard by the City Council.” “Despite the delay to the project, we have determined that the value of this additional environmental analysis to the decision makers and to the electorate warrants extending the MRIC entitlement process. We are also assured that the elongated process will not jeopardize the plans of our identified tenant as long as any modification to the schedule still allows for a Measure J/R vote in June 2016,” he adds.
The opposition, though still centered up in the Binning Area, continues to grow despite the pull out of the Davis Innovation Center. One of the big questions will be the traffic impacts on I-80 and throughout town. Those reports will be available, it seems, by August and we can begin really assessing the total impact of the project by then.
—David M. Greenwald reporting