On Tuesday, Davis city staff informed the city council that they were continuing to operate under a schedule that would allow the city council to put the proposed Nishi Gateway project on the June 2016 ballot. The Davis City Council unanimously moved to continue the process, while directing city staff to provide answers to questions the council had regarding accessibility to the Nishi Gateway from the UC Davis campus, the developers said in a press release.
The council meeting also included an extensive discussion on the merits of the Nishi Gateway, that included input from many Davis residents.
“We are committed to building a project that will bring the most benefits to our community through this collaborative planning process,” said Tim Ruff, who is a managing partner of the Nishi Gateway project, “In addition to the fiscal benefits to the City, Nishi will provide a 30-year revenue stream for Davis Joint Unified School District. This ongoing multi-million dollar revenue stream to the city and our public schools will help pay for the quality of life we all enjoy in this great community.”
Some have expressed concern with fiscal analysis that showed the project ending up at a $78,000 net deficit. However, the developer believes that, with a hotel, they can get into the positive.
According to the city’s consultant, the Nishi project alternative that includes a hotel will generate a general fund surplus of $416,000 per year, money that can be redirected to vital city services.
According to city projections, the Nishi project proposal with an onsite hotel is estimated to create between 1,500 to 1,800 jobs, $315 million to $385 million in economic output, and $89 million to $107 million in labor income (wages).
“Nishi is the result of years of close collaboration between the City, County, University, and community leaders. Placement on the June 2016 ballot will help ensure that the project’s community benefits are maximized by accelerating economic development and improvements throughout the site,” the release stated.
However, the council also expressed concerns about the project if it doesn’t have UC Davis access under the railroad tracks.
As Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis put in no uncertain terms, “I will not vote to put this on the ballot in June without conditions related to access. The cleanest way is to say no undercrossing at the railroad – no project. No improvements to Richards – no project.”
However, like his colleagues, he said, “I’m willing to see what we can come up with in terms of this other way that may allow certain things to go forward in phased way, but no further. With the idea that the actual, that’s on the table in front of us cannot be developed without the second crossing.”
Mayor Pro Tem Davis put a motion on the table, seconded by Mayor Dan Wolk, to affirm a June ballot deadline for working to define the conditions to make it clear for the voters.
Councilmember Brett Lee said, “I’m a little bit uncomfortable with this notion that we’re supportive of the June ballot and asking staff to come back and address some concerns.” He said that staff could come back with the proposal that he is either supportive or not supportive of, depending on the specifics.
He said that, while he was in generally in favor of a June ballot for this project, he wants to see specific things before he will support that project. “The actual specifics make a lot of difference,” he said. “Even with the second crossing,” he said, “there are many shapes and sizes of this project that would not be acceptable to me.”
Councilmember Lee offered different language, “supportive of a June election for this project but leave it relatively vague.” Among his concerns were what the county-city tax sharing agreement would look like.
The motion eventually became to “direct staff to move forward with the applicant as if they were preparing for a June ballot with the understanding that questions need to be answered before council will take formal action to place it on the ballot.”
The Vanguard this week pushed again for the city and developers to look at a reduction in parking and vehicles for the project. The Vanguard believes that merely having the second access point is not enough. Through that process we are simply building infrastructure to accommodate bad habits.
There are a variety of ways that the project could achieve that, both through a reduction of parking spots and incentives for people without cars to move into the residential units.
—David M. Greenwald reporting