This fall, the city of Davis released a draft EIR for the Nishi Gateway Center where the community had 46 days to provide comments ending on October 26.
The Nishi Gateway Innovation District is a collaborative planning process among the city, UC Davis and Yolo County, and is proposed on the 47-acre Nishi property adjacent to the city limits and UC Davis. The Innovation District also includes West Olive Drive and is designed to complement adjacent uses on the UC Davis campus.
The city in September also released the economic analysis of Nishi which showed it to be a net negative in terms of fiscal impact on the city. Staff however writes, “Although the Nishi project is estimated to result in an annual net fiscal deficit at buildout, the project is envisioned to contain land uses that contribute to a successful innovation ecosystem. In addition, the annual net fiscal deficit of the Nishi project may be mitigated by actual conditions that are more favorable than those modeled in the analysis.”
Staff adds, “The analysis concluded that all Nishi DEIR project alternatives are estimated to have a positive effect relative to the impacts of the Base Development Program, especially the inclusion of a hotel as part of the mixed-use development.”
Tim Ruff, the project developer, told the Vanguard, “We are committed to building a project that provides the maximum benefit to the community through this collaborative process. Inclusion of a small extended stay hotel creates a annual revenue SURPLUS of $400,000 annually for the project as a whole.”
The project anticipates development of a mixed-use innovation district on the Nishi property, complemented by potential redevelopment of properties on West Olive Drive and adjacent UC Davis lands. Components of the Nishi proposal include:
- 650 high-density apartment and condominium units (440 rental and 210 ownership units)
- 325,000 square feet of office and research & development uses
- Ancillary retail to serve residents and employees and to complement Downtown Davis
- Parks, greenbelts, and stormwater detention areas
- Enhancements to the Putah Creek Parkway
- Vehicular access to West Olive Drive and Old Davis Road via an anticipated undercrossing to the UC Davis campus
In their update, staff notes that the final EIR is anticipated to be released in December. The preferred alternative has full pedestrian/bicycle/vehicle access from both West Olive Drive and the UC Davis campus.
Any commitment to a UC Davis connection requires approval from the UC Regents. Staff notes, “While UC Davis staff have been supportive of analyzing this concept, a formal commitment to such access would not be anticipated until after UCD’s Long Range Development Plan update and completion of the campus environmental review.”
Comments and concerns have focused on issues of traffic and circulation, especially the impacts on the Richards Blvd corridor. Staff notes that the environment reviews for Nishi as well as the hotel conference center will “require mitigation measures to improve operations on the Richards Boulevard corridor, including a median to prohibit left turns across Richards Boulevard between Olive Drive and the I-80 on/off ramps. Nishi is also required to make improvements to the Olive Drive/Richards Boulevard intersection, and fair-share contributions toward improvements to the interchange.”
The city anticipates putting the measure on the ballot for June for the required Measure R vote. The latest date for Council action would be February 16, 2016.
The staff report summarizes both what could be placed on a June ballot as baseline project feature as well as what would have to be deferred.
General Plan Amendment and Planned Development Zoning: This would include overall development uses and intensity as well as locations of streets, greenbelts, and parks. A hotel has been proposed as a possible project alternative; staff anticipates that this would be a conditionally-permitted use subject to subsequent market analysis and Planning Commission review. Development standards such as setbacks would be established through the Final Planned Development, which would likely go to Planning Commission with the tentative subdivision map application. Provisions for adoption and amendment of the Sustainability Implementation Plan and Design Guidelines could be included in the either Development Agreement or the Planned Development Zoning.
Development Agreement: The Development Agreement would ratify and require compliance with the baseline project features. The Development Agreement could also address the anticipated Community Facilities District for infrastructure improvements; requirements for agricultural mitigation; impact fee structure; and other contributions.
Access and Circulation: The baseline features would reflect significant EIR mitigation measures, including fair-share contributions to Richards corridor improvements. Staff anticipates limitations on development phasing until access to Old Davis Road is approved by the UC Davis campus. The baseline features could also establish conditions relating to improvements to the Richards Boulevard corridor to be implemented prior to development phases.
Elements that would need to be deferred to after a June 2016 ballot measure include:
Tax-Share Agreement with Yolo County, required prior to annexation. Without a completed tax-share agreement in place, the final fiscal impacts of the proposal are unknown.
Commitment to UC Davis Access. Campus staff have anticipated that the connection to the Nishi site will be analyzed as an alternative in the EIR effort, beginning in spring 2016. The collaborative planning efforts for Nishi Gateway and adjacent UC Davis lands have anticipated the possibility that land-use planning and environmental review for City and campus efforts might occur on different schedules. City and campus planners have incorporated mechanisms for separate analysis to allow either option to proceed independently, such as the equal-weight EIR analysis of the Nishi Gateway proposal, with and without access to campus.
Affordable Housing Contribution. The current affordable housing ordinance exempts vertical-mixed use rental housing and stacked-flat condominiums from inclusionary requirements. This was reflected in preliminary draft deal points presented with the predevelopment agreement in 2012. More recently, staff and UC Davis representatives have had preliminary conversations on possible partnership opportunities for creating affordable student housing in conjunction with the Nishi development, whether on that site or elsewhere. Conversations have been positive, but it will be difficult to reach a resolution outside of the comprehensive LRDP effort.
Richards Boulevard Corridor Plan and Interchange Improvements. The engineering work for interchange improvements is now underway. Staff anticipates including a Corridor Plan for Richards Boulevard as a requested Capital Improvement Project in the City’s 2016-17 budget.
—David M. Greenwald reporting