Did Applicant Submit Proposal on Paso Fino That Council and Neighbors Can Accept?

Jason Taormino presents the Paso Fino project before the City Council on Tuesday
Jason Taormino presents the Paso Fino project before the City Council in February

Does Project Provide Enough Clarity on Contentious Greenbelt Issue?

Back in February, the Davis City Council unanimously supported Plan D, created by the city as a compromise on Paso Fino. They did so despite a warning from the applicant that the plan was unworkable.

“The city’s Plan D you cannot build one house on any of those lots,” Dave Taormino, one of the applicants, told council following public comment. “Yes it’s very pretty, but no one measured the driveways, no one took into consideration the 40 foot worth of easements on the western side. So while it’s pretty, it’s not buildable.”

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs made the motion to support the staff recommendation, seconded by Mayor Dan Wolk.

Staff had argued that, while they appreciate the efforts of the applicant to respond to concerns about trees and preservation of greenbelts, the latest proposal “does not go far enough to address the concerns raised.”

So here we are back to the drawing board with Plan E that has three options. Staff says it recommends Option #1, “because it substantially reflects the February 3, 2015, City Council direction regarding approvable plan.”

According to staff, this option, which is similar to Options #2 and #3, “proposes to change approximately 0.43-acre of the existing 0.75-acre Neighborhood Greenbelt parcel to Residential Low Density land use designation. This is intended to facilitate the proposed six-lot residential subdivision while retaining the Canary Island Pine trees.”

However, staff notes, “Alternative Plan E Options #2 and #3 do not reflect the two main components of conceptual Alternative Plan D, which are 1) reduction of the number of units from eight to six and 2) retention of the Canary Island Pine trees within public owned land as envisioned in the 2009 approval.”

The land transaction is a separate city council action, and would be taken up by the council on a later date, should this proposal be approved.

The council in a separate item is asked to declare the Canary Island Pines, located at 2627 E. Covell Boulevard, as Landmark Trees per the Tree Commission’s recommendation from the April 16, 2015, Tree Commission meeting.

Council last month opted to delay the decision on this item until they decide what to do about Paso Fino, though they did temporarily impose the order to protect the trees. The application was submitted by residents concerned about the trees, and would make the nine Canary Island Pines Landmark Trees, due to concerns of the area residents about the loss of canopy and potential wildlife habitat trees.

Staff notes, “The trees could meet the criteria for Landmark Trees as they are a significant grove of trees within the area.” They note, “As part of the Paso Fino project, any approved plans or proposed design alterations will include staff recommendations for the treatment of the trees during the project. This will include a tree protection plan, tree maintenance during the construction process, and any tree inspections and pruning prior to City acceptance, if the trees are placed under the City’s jurisdiction.”

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This would presumably allay fears of attempts to cut down the trees as a way to help resolve the Paso Fino development.

On the larger project, staff opines that “Alternative Plan E Option #1 best reflects the February 3, 2015, City Council direction to the applicant to return with a plan with similar components as conceptual Alternative Plan D” and focuses its staff report on that option. The other two options, according staff, do not deserve “significant review” because they “fail to meet the minimum requirements of Council direction on February 3, 2015.”




The issue of the greenbelt and the potential for the city to swap the greenbelt has been at the center of the policy dispute from the start.

At the February meeting, Councilmember Brett Lee raised the concern that, when people moved into Wildhorse, there was a city-owned buffer. “It’s reasonable to assume that a city-owned buffer will remain a city-owned buffer,” he said.

He said our first decision is, “We have land designated as a greenbelt, what is our policy for selling that?” He suggested we make a determination based not only on this parcel but also in general terms. “I’m not really comfortable with this idea that we’re selling or swapping a greenbelt, that’s my sticking point,” he added.

On the other hand, other councilmembers seemed less concerned about this specific issue. “I’m really not worried about this becoming a precedent,” Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis stated. “This is clearly a unique thing in our city.” He added, “You said it in your staff report, the city does not sell greenbelts.”

“We can acknowledge that this is a unique situation. It was a buffer designed for a very specific purpose, at a very specific point in time and that time has passed and we’re going to do something a little bit different, it’s out of the ordinary, it’s unique,” he said.

Rochelle Swanson added, “This isn’t something that’s going to set precedent.” She said there is no comment on record that would suggest “that this council or anyone is in the business of selling greenbelts.”

City staff does not really address Brett Lee’s concerns – nor the concerns of the neighbors or general public on this issue.

They note that the disposition of the City Neighborhood Greenbelt parcel “is not part of this project review and discussion.”

They write, “The City does not have specific guidelines for projects that include proposals to reduce or eliminate adjacent greenbelt parcels. As a general rule, the City does not entertain the sale or transfer of greenbelt parcels. However, in the unique circumstances of this site, such a swap/transaction was approved by a prior City Council in 2009.”

They add, “It is a policy issue to be weighed by the current City Council. If the project is approved, it would be subject to completion of an agreement for transfer of land or land swap at the discretion of the City Council at a later date.”

Staff quotes from the 2009 approval: “(The) greenbelt buffer around the Haussler property was dedicated to the City as part of the Wildhorse development to provide a buffer between the existing Haussler home and the new Wildhorse homes for the benefit of the Hausslers. The land was not needed for greenbelt purposes, but did provide a location for underground utilities on the west and access/maintenance of the private driveway to the old home.”

They now write, “While not a ‘traditional’ linear greenbelt, the U shaped City owned property does serve as a buffer between properties and does provide for bicycle and pedestrian connectivity between Moore Boulevard and Covell Boulevard.”

The question is will this be enough to satisfy the council and the neighbors?

—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. zaqzaq

    Do the owners of the land get compensated when trees on their property are designated landmark trees?

    Taormino should have cut them down when he had the opportunity or given $8,600 to Wolk’s assembly campaign when he had the chance.

    1. Gunrocik

      Da Mayor isn’t going to cross the tree people.

      Laura Westrup, tree activist, Wildhorse resident and former chair of the Tree Commission has a son, Evan, who happens to be Governor Brown’s Press Secretary.

      The machine isn’t going to cross the Governor.

      1. Davis Progressive

        i think you’re barking in the wrong direction of this one – the council was unanimous on denying the proposals from the developer because it was a flawed proposal.

  2. Tia Will


    Laura Westrup, tree activist, Wildhorse resident and former chair of the Tree Commission has a son, Evan, who happens to be Governor Brown’s Press Secretary.

    The machine isn’t going to cross the Governor.”

    Wow !  How many degrees of separation would be needed before someone would not qualify as part of “the machine” for you ? Family members, friends, acquaintances, currently worked for, ever worked for, ever knew anyone who worked for ?  Just what degree of association meets your criteria ?  And do you believe that all of these people that you seem to see as a vast conspiracy have the same opinion on every issue ?  Do you and all of your family members agree on every issue ? I know that my partner, my children and I are not on the same side of every issue. I don’t think that independent thought is precluded by acquaintance.

  3. Gunrocik

    You are correct, the connections don’t always matter.

    I don’t automatically assume the worst.

    However, when I see patterns of behavior related to the treatment of specific individuals in the community — I then do a little research — and amazingly find these sorts of connections in Davis all of the time.


      1. hpierce

        Well, if a family member who has income from the City and is contributing to a CC member’s financial interest, you can find it here…  http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.php?id=592

  4. Tia Will


    I see patterns of behavior related to the treatment of specific individuals in the community”

    Now this is an important point, however, there may be some of us who are not in possession of specific information that you apparently have. Would you care to share what specific individuals you feel are “ getting worked over by posse member Brazil right now.” as you posted on a separate thread ? You are after all speaking from the relative safety of anonymity.

    1. Gunrocik

      I would prefer not to pass on confidential information.

      However, I can give you one example of what Mr. Brazil is doing, which I mentioned on another thread.

      It is a best practice in the public sector these days to have all of your top executives work with contracts.  This actually is good protection for the employee and for the government/taxpayers as well.  Even though all of upper management are “at will” employees, it is much cleaner to part ways with an employee if there is a contract in place to protect each side.  It minimizes the threat of future employee litigation — which can be prohibitively expensive even when the City wins — and it provides protection for the employee by including a modest severance package in the contract.

      Nowadays, you are more likely to attract and retain the best department heads — often at a slightly lower cost — by having them work under a contract.

      Most of the current Department Head contracts are set to expire on June 30, 2015.  It is my understanding that he is having all of the contracts lapse.

      Posse member Brazil has now eliminated the delicate balance between employee and employer and can fire anyone who exhibits any independent thought — even if that independent thought is in the best interest of the City.

      This is a perfect example of the legislative office mindset he functions under – since he has no legitimate experience in City Management.

      In a small town like Davis, you need to have highly qualified department heads to run your operations.  This isn’t a big city where you have plenty of depth and breadth of experience at the staff levels.  You need highly qualified working managers.  Those people are hard to come by, and can easily find better working conditions, if necessary.

      Let’s hope they stick around despite this alpha move on Brazil’s part.  He has just exposed the City to far more potential litigation down the road, and potentially chased off some of his best professionals — which hopefully, he won’t replace with the rest of Don Saylor’s legislative staff!

      1. Don Shor

        [moderator] I understand that you were replying to a specific question, but this is getting pretty far off topic now. Back to Paso Fino, please, from this point.

  5. hpierce

    I find a certain irony about the fuss about Canary Island pines… they are not a native species (like eucalyptus, which I consider to be a dangerous “weed” — ask anyone in the Oakland Hills…)… the pines also have chemicals in their needles, that when they drop, tend to stop anything else growing within their drip-lines (much like eucalyptus).

    Non-natives, resisting anything that intrudes upon their perceived living space.  By all means, let’s support that faction of people, as we don’t want to hurt that species, “itsallaboutmi interventionus”.

    BTW, the project is poorly laid out, and should die as proposed, but not because of the trees.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i don’t think it’s that ironic – although you’re certainly correct about the non-native component.  people like trees and they are quite accommodating for shade and privacy.  so i get that.  if you’re arguing that the status is misplaced, i agree.  i think the council should think long and hard about that.

    2. Don Shor

      Some pines are allopathic (preventing growth of plants below them), but I don’t find any evidence (nor have I observed) that to be the case with Canary Island pines. They also don’t share the combustible properties of eucalyptus. These are healthy trees that could live for many more decades in that location if protected and cared for properly. The fact that they’re not native doesn’t reduce their intrinsic value nor the benefits they provide to the community and to wildlife. In fact, the list of tree species that would be native to this locale is surprisingly short.
      The staff report, at least the draft that I’ve seen, is excellent. The council should adopt Alternative Plan E, Option #1. The arborist’s recommendations that protect the trees during construction are incorporated into the proposal staff has presented to the council. Landscaping is to be approved with the long term health of the trees in mind. Landmark Tree status would help protect the trees after construction.

      1. hpierce

        Re:  allopathic  (thank you, I learned the term 40 years ago, but then forgot it)… have you walked that area?  I have.  I do not claim to have your training/education in this matter, but I know what I see.

        My personal opinion is that Canary Island pines are a non-native, destructive, allopathic (Lake Boulevard bike path, and adjacent curb and gutter), ‘trash’ tree.  Just my opinion.

        1. hpierce

          Don, I defer to you as to the problematic trees on Lake.  The pines on the Paso Fino site appear to be allotropic.

          Looked on webisites showing Canary Island pines, saw no ground cover, just like the Paso Fino site.

          1. Don Shor

            There are some Canary Island pines growing along Pole Line with ivy under them. I have also seen lawns under them. But that isn’t definitive; allelopathic responses are variable by species. Walnuts are well-known as allelopathic, but some things grow under them just fine while other plants don’t.
            Those Italian stone pines buckling the bike path on Lake are a huge liability.
            Spell-check keeps changing allelopathic to allopathic for me and I have to manually correct it. I knew what you meant.

          2. Matt Williams

            Spell-check keeps changing allelopathic to allopathic for me and I have to manually correct it. I knew what you meant.
            I had the same problem, and when I right clicked on the typed word to see what spelling options were available, allelopathy was nowhere to be found. Does anyone know how to add a word to the spell check lexicon?

      2. Matt Williams

        Allelopathy is a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemicals that influence the growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms.

        Allopathy is an expression commonly used by homeopaths and proponents of other forms of alternative medicine to refer to mainstream medical use of pharmacologically active agents or physical interventions to treat or suppress symptoms or pathophysiologic processes of diseases or conditions.

        Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine based on his doctrine of like cures like, whereby a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people.

        Osteopathy is a type of alternative medicine that emphasizes the physical manipulation of the body’s muscle tissue and bones.


          1. Matt Williams

            It was plenty sufficient. My post was more my curiosity in action.

            I worked for two years at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and “Allopathy” and “Osteopathy” were terms used a lot in conversation, but often with both the misspelling and mispronunciation of the former as “Alleopathy” which is remarkably close to “Allelopathy” (a term I had never heard before yesterday). It was all too much for my curious brain. Had to sort it out.

            Then when I got to the Wikipedia definitions of Homeopathy and Osteopathy I got a chuckle. They clearly were written by an Allopath. The condescension in those two write-ups is palpable.

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