On Thursday, the city of Davis released the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC), which begins the statutory 47-day comment period extending from August 13 through September 28, 2015. The developers highlight conclusions that find that incorporating live-work housing into the project reduces its greenhouse gas and traffic impacts (to view the DEIR – click here).
The Mace Ranch Innovation Center is proposed on 212 acres located at the northeast quadrant of Interstate 80 and Mace Boulevard in Yolo County, immediately adjacent to the city limits. The project also includes the adjacent 16.6-acre Mace Triangle property owned by the city of Davis.
“The release of the DEIR is an important step in the City’s formal evaluation of the innovation center proposals,” said Assistant City Manager Mike Webb in the city’s press release. “The DEIR is an informational document that provides a detailed analysis of the potential for environmental impacts under multiple scenarios, and identifies measures to eliminate or minimize impacts.”
The DEIR analyzes impacts that may result from development of the project under different circumstances including Phase 1 of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center only, full project build-out, and project build-out in addition to cumulative growth. At the September 9, 2015, Planning Commission meeting, the city announced that staff will present a summary of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center DEIR and the public will have the opportunity to present verbal comments on the document. A schedule of additional city commission meetings on the DEIR is available on the city’s website.
The city is also analyzing other important components of the project that are not assessed in the DEIR. Additional analysis includes: fiscal and economic impacts, project design and architecture, community benefits, and overall project merit. Reports addressing these topics will be released soon.
“Community feedback is essential to the innovation center projects,” said Chief Innovation Officer Diane Parro. “City staff is scheduling additional public forums for the community to learn more and discuss the projects with City staff and project applicants.”
The press release from Gene Endicott of Endicott Communications, on behalf of the Ramco Enterprises and Buzz Oates Group of Companies, focused on the housing alternative. They note that the 212-acre project “is anticipated to generate up to 5,882 jobs, generate millions of dollars in new revenues for city services like parks and public safety, and offer more opportunity for Davis residents to work where they live.”
“After many years of visioning, the City Council now has the critical environmental analysis of its first innovation project to consider,” said Davis Mayor Dan Wolk. “This is very exciting. The potential for thousands of high wage jobs and millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the city could make this project the cornerstone of our effort to diversify our local economy while remaining wholly sustainable. Now is the time for the community to thoroughly review the analysis.”
Among the EIR’s key findings on a project alternative that includes on-site housing:
- A 13 percent overall reduction in vehicular trips, with a 35 percent reduction during the morning commute period and a 32 percent reduction during the evening commute period.
- A reduction in daily vehicle miles traveled of more than 25 percent.
- A reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions.
“Based on these findings, the study determines that the project alternative with housing is environmentally superior to the innovation center without housing,” the press release states.
According to the EIR, the mixed-use alternative includes up to 850 dwelling units which is “envisioned as a live/work environment that would allow some of the innovation center employees to live within the project site in proximity to where the employees would work.”
The developers further note that the “project incorporates drought-tolerant native landscaping to be maintained with recycled and other non-potable water sources, solar panels in parking lots and on roof tops to meet renewable energy sustainability goals, and robust broadband infrastructure.”
Sixty-five acres of the site will be preserved as publicly accessible green open space, including an agricultural buffer on the north and east sides of the project to protect the continued use of adjacent farm property. The Mace Ranch project also is designed to provide and encourage the use of alternative transportation options, including bicycling, carpooling, bus transit, shuttles, car share and other technology supported services.
The developers further note that the economic benefit report will be made public in September. That report analyzes the Mace Ranch Innovation Center’s economic benefits for the city and the region.
The project currently is expected to be considered by the city council early in 2016. If approved by the city council, under the city’s Measure R it would likely then go to a public vote on the June 2016 ballot.
According to the transmittal letter to the city, “The DEIR identifies adverse environmental impacts that may result from development of the project. It also concludes that most of the identified impacts can be mitigated by specific actions called mitigation measures. However some of the adverse impacts are likely to occur even with implementation of identified mitigation.”
The impacts range from air quality to GHG emissions to traffic and circulation issues. The transmittal letter notes, “This is not an unusual outcome. Given the size and scope of this project, this list is relatively modest. Virtually all large projects in California reach similar conclusions. This is important information for decision making but there is more to be considered.”
Again, according to the transmittal letter, there are seven project alternatives including: no project, reduced site size, reduced project, two offsite locations – one the Davis Innovation Center, and the other Covell Property, infill, and mixed use.
They write, “The Draft EIR identifies the Mixed Use alternative as the environmentally superior alternative that also best meets all of the project objectives. The DEIR notes that because this alternative includes housing it is not consistent with the City’s expressed goal of having only non-residential uses within the innovation center.”
They continue, “While the Mixed Use Alternative is identified as the Environmentally Superior alternative under CEQA the ultimate decision regarding feasibility of the alternatives lies with the City Council. The Council will make findings regarding the desirability of the proposed project and the feasibility of each alternative.”
The report notes, “The Davis Innovation Center was placed on hold by the applicant in May, with no indications of reinitiating the project presented thus far by the applicant. As such, we believe the Modified Cumulative Analysis presents a more realistic assessment of cumulative impacts.”
The modified cumulative analysis scenario assumes full build-out of: MRIC, General Plan, and Nishi. This scenario does not include the Davis Innovation Center.
The release of the DEIR is a massive document. The mixed-use alternative alone is 219 pages. The Vanguard will be analyzing this report over the next few weeks.
—David M. Greenwald reporting