Where Do Mace and Nishi Stand?

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Internal View of Mace Ranch Innovation Center
Internal View of Mace Ranch Innovation Center

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.

Traffic Analysis

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

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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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30 thoughts on “Where Do Mace and Nishi Stand?”

  1. Frankly

    One of the big questions will be the traffic impacts on I-80.

    Why is that the responsibility of Davis as every other community up and down I-80 has grown and the population of the region has grown?

    That stretch of freeway across the causeway should be five lanes each way.  It is a major national artery without alternatives.

    I was just in LA traveling on I-10 between Palm Springs and Ontario.  That entire 70 mile stretch of freeway is five lanes even though most of it is sparsely populated.

    In terms of the traffic through town, the Davis Innovation Park was connectable by HW 113, and the Mace Park is connected by I-80.  There is little reason to fear giant traffic impacts in town.

    Nishi is another story.  Unless it has UCD connectivity, the Richards undercrosss will turn into a nightmare.

    One thing about Davis traffic… it is already pretty congested when school is in session.

    Driving home from work Friday, I was listening to this great James Taylor song:

    Damn this traffic jam, how I hate to be late, it hurts my motor to go so slow.
    Damn this traffic jam, time I get home my supper’ll be cold, damn this traffic jam.

    Well I left my job about 5 o’clock, it took fifteen minutes go three blocks,
    Just in time to stand in line with a freeway looking like a parking lot.
    Damn this traffic jam, how I hate to be late, it hurts my motor to go so slow.
    Damn this traffic jam, time I get home my supper’ll be cold, damn this traffic jam.

    Now I almost had a heart attack, looking in my rear view mirror,
    I saw myself the next car back, looking in the rear view mirror,
    about to have a heart attack, I said,
    damn this traffic jam, how I hate to be late, it hurts my motor to go so slow.
    Damn this traffic jam, time I get home my supper’ll be cold, damn this traffic jam.

    Now when I die I don’t want no coffin, I thought about it all too often.
    Just strap me in behind the wheel and bury me with my automobile.
    Damn this traffic jam, how I hate to be late, it hurts my motor to go so slow.
    Damn this traffic jam, time I get home my supper’ll be cold, damn this traffic jam. Damn.

    Now I used to think that I was cool running around on fossil fuel,
    Until I saw what I was doing was driving down the road to ruin.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “Why is that the responsibility of Davis as every other community up and down I-80 has grown and the population of the region has grown?”

      Isn’t the responsibility of every project in the region to mitigate its impact? That’s not Davis specific. Doesn’t it come from CEQA and SACOG?

      1. hpierce

        There are exception to the degree you have to mitigate an impact.  The CC can make findings of “over-riding considerations” and have done so.  On streets within its jurisdiction, the CC can also re-define the significance of an impact by re-defining its significance criteria (standards).

        The over-ride does open the door a bit wider to potential legal challenge, but the ability to challenge the CC certification of an EIR , including the associated Mitigation Monitoring program door cannot be completely closed (and certainly not locked), in any event.

    2. Alan Miller

      That stretch of freeway across the causeway should be five lanes each way.

      And dump out onto WHAT?  You can’t just widen the Causeway and expect that will solve traffic problems; the entire system has to be expanded if that is the route you wish to take, at a cost of many billions.  Very simplistic thinking.

      1. hpierce

        Alan is correct.

        Widening a segment in a corridor, unless the widening accommodates on/off-ramps,can actually decrease the roadway capacity due to merging/jockeying movements where the widened portion contracts.  Simplistic was much more generous than the word I might have been tempted  to use related to the concept.

      2. Matt Williams

        Alan, on the West Sacramento end of the Causeway westbound I-80 is already 5 lanes until the Enterprise Blvd. Exit narrows it down to first 4 and then 3 at the very beginning of the Causeway itself. Eastbound I-80 currently expands to 5 lanes within 675 feet of the end of the Causeway. The amount of (and cost of) infrastructure improvement on I-80 to the east of the Causeway would be miniscule. I-80 west of the Causeway is a different story with the fourth lane not appearing until the Richards Exit. With that above said, the I-80 right of way west of the Causeway has plenty of room to add 2 more lanes in its current footprint.

      3. Frankly

        BS

        First, I commuted from Davis to Sacramento and back for 25 years.

        The 3 lanes is insufficient.  The 80-80 split east of the causeway can allow a lane reduction, but these are two major traffic flows that converge on the three lanes of the causeway and clog it.

        Forced scarcity ignoring need is asinine.

        1. Don Shor

          There are two places along I-80 between Sac and Vacaville where I-80 narrows to three lanes. The other is near my property in Solano County. The 3-lane segment going East near Davis is backed up nearly every single day as I hit the freeway going (happily) in the other direction. The section near us backs up regularly on Sundays, and on every major holiday. Clearly those sections are under fit for the traffic flow.

          When we bought our place there was talk about the need for widening all of that remainder of the I-80 corridor to 4 lanes (possibly more in some places). I always assumed it would happen by now. Various bond measures have been passed to do things like fix the 80-680 interchange, make Hwy 12 safer (definitely was needed), deal with 113. But for some reason, those last parts of 80 never get the funds. And I’ve always been curious why they only widened the Causeway to 3 lanes when they did that massive 2-year-long retrofit in the 1980s.

        2. Frankly

          Agree on all of this Don.  Except that I assumed the no-gowth people in Davis somehow prevented the lane increases.  The causeway work did not add any lanes, only larger shoulders… which might help traffic flow when there are breakdowns.  I thought that it was widened so it only required new striping to add at least one more lane, but a friend of mine that works for Caltrans told me that this was not the case.  I suppose it is possible that the bridge structure is not sufficent to support the weight of more lanes.

          1. Don Shor

            I don’t think Davis is involved in that. It wouldn’t explain why there’s still a long narrower section between Vacaville and Dixon. Davis fought CalTrans about the Kidwell overpass, blocking that for something like 17 years until they got a payoff. But I don’t think there’s any history about the other.

            The Causeway project made it much safer (remember what it was like before?) and added the bike lane. Sure, that would have been a good time to add two more lanes. But it was a very expensive project as it was, and took a really long time to implement.

    3. Alan Miller

      I was just in LA traveling on I-10 between Palm Springs and Ontario.  That entire 70 mile stretch of freeway is five lanes even though most of it is sparsely populated.

      And what a paradise SoCal is.  Paradise lost, that is, to the automobile.

      Nishi is another story.  Unless it has UCD connectivity, the Richards undercrosss will turn into a nightmare.

      Agreed.  The traffic study couldn’t pass muster without UCD connectivity.

      One thing about Davis traffic… it is already pretty congested when school is in session.

      And your point is . . . let’s solve that how? . . . or, what’s a little more?  Not sure. The song you quoted seems in opposition to all you have said.

      1. Frankly

        How would you know if something is a paradise if you cannot travel there to experience it?

        I live in reality, not fantasy.  Transportation will change from markets not public policy.   Public policy trying to force change upon an economic system only causes chaos on the economic system… especially when the policy is micro because the system is macro.

        Public policy for transportation should focus on what we need, not what we want when what we want conflicts with what we need.

        So, your idea is to cut down the number of lanes on I-10 to something less so we can preserve paradise?  Sure, that sounds good to me after three whiskeys and maybe a toke on something else to impact my ability to think clearly.

        My point is that traffic is bad because we have masses of people that need to go places.  Those blocking change in this asinine emotional tantrum to try and keep things the same are failing to accept that it already has changed, is changing despite what they want… and their continued blocking is only causing a big mess.

        Nobody likes traffic.  So move somewhere where there are far fewer people and you will get much less traffic.

  2. Anon

    The opposition, though still centered up in the Binning Area, continues to grow despite the pull out of the Davis Innovation Center...”

    How so?  Where is specific evidence opposition is “growing” – as opposed to opposition exists, as it always has in this town, towards growth?

    It is important not to conflate the issue of “opposition” with issues of “concern”.  I am “concerned” the innovation parks may not generate enough tax revenue to make them worth the impacts they will cause; I may have “concerns” that there will be an increase in traffic that needs to be mitigated; I may have “concerns” that an innovation park will end up as a large industrial park with not much benefit to the community as a whole; I may have “concerns” that a developer agreement will not be advantageous enough to the city; I may have “concerns” that eventually the innovation park may not get enough business to support it and end up costing the city, etc., etc., etc.  But that does not mean I am “opposed” to the innovation parks.  It means I have a healthy skepticism, want to make sure all facets are explored, and I want proof that various impacts can be mitigated  while enough fiscal and aesthetic benefits are generated to the community to sufficiently offset those impacts.

    The sky is not falling on innovation parks, the city is moving forward towards a 2016 ballot measure, the City Council (the entity in charge) seems to be supportive of the innovation park concept; and it is possible with the appropriate support and finesse at some point DIC will get back in the game.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “The sky is not falling on innovation parks”

      i don’t know that the sky is not falling on innovation parks.  with brazil and parro running the show, i’m not convinced we can get mace passed.  it’s a narrow margin and this council showed with the cfd they are not going to push the developers to bring us what we need.  without strong leadership from city hall, i don’t see mace passing.

  3. Tia Will

    Frankly

    Why is that the responsibility of Davis as every other community up and down I-80 has grown and the population of the region has grown?”

    One thing about Davis traffic… it is already pretty congested when school is in session.”

    You answered your own question. The fact that we have problems of congestion should be enough to cause us to want to mitigate that congestion, not add to it. Just because the region has experienced growth, does not mean that we need to double down on the same deleterious effects of that growth.

     

    1. Don Shor

      The problem is, the region is going to grow by virtue of the increased university enrollment and the increased faculty and staff to go with that. We know that: 6,000 more students between 2010 and 2020, and dozens/hundreds of staff and faculty. They’re meeting those growth projections. So the traffic is going to increase regardless, the only question is where they’re going to live and how they’re going to get to Davis each day.

      1. Barack Palin

        Don’t forget….. where are they going to work once they graduate?  The innovation parks will go along way to helping solve that problem.

  4. Tia Will

    BP

    where are they going to work once they graduate”

    I think that you have the question right, but may be making the wrong assumption. Some of them may want to stay, many others are going to go back to wherever is home for them, be it another city, another state or another country. Every day in my clinic I meet women who upon completion of their education, fully intend to go home. Some of course will stay or return as I did. But I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the city of Davis to provide employment and/or housing to every graduate of UCD.

  5. Anon

    Bottom line is that innovation parks are going to happen, whether it be in Davis or Woodland or West Sacramento or Solano County.  Do we want innovation parks to happen elsewhere where our city has no control, then end up with huge impacts from the innovation parks that surround us without reaping any of the benefits?

    1. Tia Will

      Anon

      I would say that the answer to that question would depend on where an innovation park were actually to be built. Some of those locations might be better than if it were in Davis, some might be worse. I just don’t think that we could arrive at any conclusion without knowing the plan.

    2. Davis Progressive

      innovation parks are happening everywhere regardless of what we do.  the question is whether we want to benefit from having one and the answer appears to be no.

        1. Davis Progressive

          on the contrary, i came to the conclusion that if city staff doesn’t want the innovation parks, they will figure out how to stop them.

  6. #me

    @ Tia Will  “But I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the city of Davis to provide employment and/or housing to every graduate of UCD.”

    That’s one extreme end of the spectrum.

    Here’s another way to look at the issue. UCD graduated 8,695 students in 2014 (undergraduate, graduate, and professional).

    The Cannery will provide approximately 547 dwelling units over the next five years. During this period, UCD will confer more than 43,000 degrees.

    So if you make the completely absurd assumption that 100% of the Cannery dwelling units will be purchased or rented by UCD graduates, we would only be providing housing for 1.3% of the UCD graduates.

    Nishi could provide more realistic opportunities for UCD grads – if it gets entitled – but no more than a couple of percent if you make the assumption that no students live on the site.

    Some of these kids are the best and brightest in the world. Sadly, we’ve built a city culture that basically sends an unmistakable message that we expect you to get lost when you graduate.

  7. Tia Will

    #me

    I agree with you that my statement was at one extreme of the spectrum. And yours, “Sadly, we’ve built a city culture that basically sends an unmistakable message that we expect you to get lost when you graduate.” was at the other extreme.

    Perhaps we would be better off and more likely to find consensus and a way forward if we abandoned the extremes and sought solutions.

    What has frequently been the case in the past ( I am one example, and I know many others) who could not afford Davis when coming out of school. I did not expect the city, or indeed any government agency to give me assistance in working  my way up. Now, anyone who reads my posts knows that this is not the society that I would prefer, but since it is the one we have, I believe that we should stop assisting those who are already successful ( I did have enough money to live very comfortably in Fresno to start) and use those resources to help those who have not yet achieved that status. I played by the rules of our society and was able to return a number of years later. I never felt that I was being told to “get lost”. I knew as a graduate from a major university that I was very fortunate and very successful, and that if I wanted to return, all I had to do is to work hard and save for a down payment. Do we feel that this is too much to ask of today’s graduates ?

    As Don Shor has frequently pointed out, if we really want to help those who are in need, we should be building low cost apartments, not $400-600,000 dollar homes for those who will be able to afford them within a few years without any assistance if they so desire and plan ahead.

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