On Tuesday, the Davis City Council resumes its work after a six-week summer break. Council will be asked to approve an ordinance to increase the intensity and height of an allowed hotel on West Olive Drive and Richards Boulevard – the proposed Embassy Suites.
The proposed hotel-conference center on Richards Blvd. 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.
The proposed project is expected to be a huge revenue generator for the city. Just 50 percent occupancy of the 89 net new rooms at $130 per night would generate approximately $200,000 per year in transient occupancy tax for the City General Fund, plus an additional $40,000 for the Yolo County Visitors Bureau.
Staff writes, “A preliminary market analysis was commissioned by the Redevelopment Agency in 2012. The analysis concluded that the conference facility would be expected to increase occupancy at other local hotels, contributing to additional TOT [transient occupancy tax] and YCVB revenues. The construction valuation of $37,000,000 would increase total property tax obligation by approximately $300,000; the City’s $27% share would be approximately $82,000 per year.”
Staff notes, “The intensity of the proposed project is higher than that anticipated in the Gateway / Olive Drive Specific Plan. However, the use of the property as a hotel remains consistent with plan assumptions.”
They add, “The additional hotel rooms and new conference facility will generate economic vitality downtown, support local retailers and restaurants, generate room-nights for other hoteliers, and serve conference and visitor needs of UC Davis and local businesses.”
However, given the overall congestion, the proposal has generated a series of questions about traffic. The primary vehicular access for the existing hotel is from Richards Blvd. There will be a secondary vehicle access provided through a driveway at the west end of Olive Drive.
The city staff report notes that the proposed hotel would maintain a Richards Blvd. access, and enhance the Olive Drive access for vehicles as well as for pedestrians and cyclists heading to the Putah Creek Parkway, UC Davis, and downtown.
The city contracted with Fehr and Peers Transportation Consultants to conduct a traffic analysis of the hotel conference center proposal.
According to staff, “The project proposes a set of improvements to Richards Boulevard to channelize vehicle traffic and provide additional direction to drivers and cyclists on how to traverse the corridor.”
These include a median separator that would “prevent left turns across Richards Boulevard into and from the hotel, gas station, or other uses between Interstate 80 and Olive Drive. This will reduce both risk of collision and ‘messiness’ of movements within the corridor. This median was requested by Caltrans during its technical review, and is also a mitigation measure identified in the traffic study.”
They further recommend “reconfiguration of the Richards/Olive intersection to more comfortably allow U-turns from northbound to southbound Richards, in lieu of left turns.” Finally they suggest “green paint identifying bicycle lanes and conflict areas.”
Fehr and Peers reached several conclusions. First, Fehr & Peers assumed bicycling and walking would be the mode for 10 percent of trips. This is in contrast to the current mode share of 19 percent of morning peak hour trips and 29 percent of evening peak hour trips.
Staff notes that many regional trips are likely to be by vehicle, but the city’s and hotelier’s goal is that hotel guests park once and use bicycles or walk to destinations within Davis.
They find that all intersections will operate at LOS D (Level of Service D) or better during the AM and PM peak hours under the “existing plus project” scenario. LOS D means “approaching unstable flow. Speeds slightly decrease as traffic volume slightly increase. Freedom to maneuver within the traffic stream is much more limited and driver comfort levels decrease.”
In their analysis, “‘cumulative plus project’ conditions, assuming General Plan build-out (but not Nishi or the Innovation Center proposals), the Richards/Research Park/Cowell intersection would decline to LOS F for PM peak, with or without the hotel, but project traffic would not be a significant contributor to this decline.”
They continue, “During the PM peak hour, some downtown intersections would continue to operate at LOS F (as is allowed by the General Plan within the Core Area and the Richards/Olive area) but the project would not have a significant contribution to any deteriorated conditions. Similar conclusions were made for the ‘cumulative plus Measure R plus project’ analysis, which included Nishi Gateway and the innovation center proposals.”
Level of Service F means “forced or breakdown flow. Every vehicle moves in lockstep with the vehicle in front of it, with frequent slowing required. Travel time cannot be predicted, with generally more demand than capacity.”
They add, “The project would not have a significant effect on freeway operations.”
Finally they find that the proposed on-site parking would be “adequate to serve the hotel at 85 percent occupancy and a conference of 115 on-site attendees.” However, “Events that will generate more than 115 off-site attendees will likely require valet parking to an off-site lot, in addition to requiring employees to park off-site or arrive by non-auto modes. Staff notes that conference attendees staying in other Davis hotels will have shuttles and bicycles as options to driving to the facility.”
In summary – the staff suggest that the hotel will generate significant revenue for the city, and it will provide a place for large conferences which will also enhance the downtown.
On the downside however, traffic on Richards Blvd. is not good right now and, with anticipated changes, it will get worse with or without the Hotel-Conference Center.
Staff believes, “Based on the recommendations of the traffic analysis, staff has concluded that the improvements proposed as part of the project are sufficient to mitigate impacts to a less-than-significant level.”
There is an anticipated corridor plan, but that will not be implemented until at least 2020.
—David M. Greenwald reporting