Letter from SACOG on the Proposed Plan for the MRIC

Mixed Use Housing

The following is a letter dated November 17 to Davis City Manager Dirk Brazil from Mike McKeever, Executive Director of SACOG.

Re: Proposed Plan for the Mace Ranch Innovation Center

Dear Mr. Brazil,

On behalf of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), I am submitting to you our comments on the proposed Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC), which includes the 212-acre development site and the 17 -acre Mace Triangle site in unincorporated Yolo County. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project as it relates to the Blueprint Preferred Scenario and growth principles. The Preferred Blueprint Scenario is a conceptual map based on the principles of smart growth. This Preferred Scenario is not intended to direct how a specific parcel should or should not be developed in a particular manner, but rather give some direction on how the region needs to develop generally to reap the benefits of the Blueprint.

SACOG staff evaluated the proposed plan and the Mixed-Use Alternative as identified in the Draft EIR for consistency with the Blueprint Preferred Scenario and growth principles. Our general reaction is that the proposed plan is supportive of the Blueprint, but the Mixed-Use Alternative illustrates how the project could be even more supportive of the Blueprint growth principles. The proposed plan and Mixed-Use Alternative are discussed below.

Proposed Plan

The MRIC, as defined in the Draft Environmental Impact Report, includes 2,654,000 square feet of retail, office, and industrial uses, as well as 75.8 acres of open space and 13.2 acres of transit plaza and parking (see Table 1 below). In addition to the transit hub, which will include car-share and vanpool parking, the proposed plan includes new roads, walkways, and bicycle paths connecting to the existing transportation and trail network.

The MRIC Draft Environmental Impact Report also includes analysis of a Mixed-Use Alternative, which includes the same employment uses as the proposed plan, but with the addition of 750 to 850 multifamily live-work units. This residential development is planned at an average density of 30 dwelling units per acre. Through underground private garages and vertical mixed use development, the Mixed-Use Alternative includes 11.2 additional acres of open space as compared to the proposed plan. Multimodal transportation features will generally be the same for the Mixed-Use Alternative as the proposed plan.

SACOG on MRIC

Findings and Evaluation

The proposed plan combines research into the long-term implications of business growth with an innovative approach to plan development. The project would attract an important employment sector to the city and would have great economic benefit for Davis and the region. The proposed plan also includes flexible business space to position the city for capturing a greater share of local and regional business growth in the employment center. The project also includes the following Blueprint-supportive elements:

  • The proposed plan offers non-motorized transportation opportunities, which are consistent with the Blueprint transportation choice principle. The proposed transit plaza will provide Unitrans bus stops, as well as local shuttle and vanpool stops and parking for car-share. Walkways are included throughout the project. The proposal also includes a pedestrian/ bicycle corridor within the agricultural buffer, which provides connections to the existing pedestrian trails system and regional bike trail, as well as to bike lanes on existing roads adjacent to the site. The plan also incorporates bicycle amenities, including bicycle parking and a bike storage and repair area at the Transit Plaza. We note, however, that the project includes traditional parking ratios that may be higher than necessary after accounting for the type of innovation businesses targeted for the project and the trip reduction benefits of the project’s transportation demand management strategies. We encourage the city to consider lowering the parking requirement and allow flexibility for the innovation center to increase employment densities over time in response to market conditions. Excess parking land in the interim could be used for additional agricultural and/or open space.
  • The proposed plan also includes parks, open space, and agricultural buffers consistent with the Blueprint natural resource conservation principle, including greenways, commons, courtyards, orchards, and plazas. The agricultural buffer will also provide opportunities for community gardens, organic agriculture, trails, shade trees, and native plant habitat. While the project will convert agricultural land to urban uses, the site is already bordered on two sides by urban development and permanent agriculture easements on its other sides, and the Blueprint envisioned the need for some small, targeted expansion of the city limits in order to accommodate some of its future growth.

The ultimate purpose of the Blueprint is to demonstrate development patterns that improve quality of life for both workers and residents. Building homes, shops, offices, entertainment, schools, and other uses within walking distance helps create active, vital neighborhoods. A community designed with a good, or balanced, mix of uses helps to encourage walking, biking, shorter driving trips, and transit use. It is important to have a balance of jobs and households so that jobs or housing do not have to be imported or exported beyond the normal out-and in-commuting that happens in a mobile society. All else being equal, areas with high or low jobs-housing balance are likely to generate longer commutes for workers. This is especially pertinent for employment centers.

Since the proposed plan does not incorporate housing, many workers will need to commute out of their area of residence in order to reach their job. These trips will result in high VMT, peak hour vehicle trips, and GHG emissions for the project, as demonstrated in the transportation and greenhouse gas impacts identified in chapters 4.7 and 4.14 of the DEIR. Lack of a balanced mix of uses will place a burden on the transportation system, reduce opportunities for transportation choice, and adversely impact air quality and quality of life for workers and residents. We encourage the City to identify additional housing capacity within Davis to accommodate the increased housing demand that will accompany the proposed project.

The Mixed-Use Alternative demonstrates how such integrated planning mitigates the impacts related to jobs/housing ratio included in the proposed plan. Providing on-site housing for the workforce results in the opportunity for short work trips. Through compact and mixed use development, the Mixed-Use Alternative includes a reduction in VMT, total and peak hour vehicle trips, and GHG emissions, with the added benefits of maximizing natural resources and increasing housing choice, transportation choice, and quality of life. The Mixed-Use Alternative includes the features of an active, vital neighborhood that will include quality of life for residents and workers, implementing the spirit of the Blueprint as described above. The elements of the Mixed-Use Alternative that support the growth principles of the Blueprint include:

  • The Mixed-Use Alternative offers the same non-motorized transportation opportunities as the proposed plan, which are consistent with the Blueprint transportation choice principle. 1, addition, the Mixed-Use Alternative would extend the existing bike lane on County Road 32A around the Mace Curve, completing the connection. However, we note that similar to the proposed project, the Mixed-Use Alternative does include traditional parking ratios that may be higher than necessary after accounting for the trip reduction benefits of the on-site residential and commercial and transportation demand management strategies.
  • The Mixed-Use Alternative also includes parks, open space, and agricultural buffers consistent with the Blueprint natural resource conservation principle. By including vertical mixed use development and moving parking underground, the Mixed-Use Alternative includes an additional 11.2 acres of open space as compared to the proposed plan.
  • The Mixed Use Alternative also illustrates the benefits of the Blueprint principles of mixed and compact development. Districts that are both compact and mixed in uses are efficient in their use of land and resources, but also function as local activity centers, where people tend to walk or bike to destinations, use transit more frequently, and take shorter auto trips. The Mixed-Use alternative includes 750 to 850 live-work housing units and commercial to support the employment uses of the project. By adding medium and high density residential and including horizontal and vertical mixed use elements, the Mixed-Use Alternative also has lower annual GHG emissions than the proposed project.
  • Housing choice and diversity is an important Blueprint principle so that multiple segments of the housing market can be met. The range of multifamily units proposed in the Mixed-Use Alternative offers housing types that are different from the single-family products in the neighboring Mace Ranch, Cottages North, and EI Macero Estates subdivisions. This mix of housing types, densities, and sizes would also correlate to a range in prices and rents that is expected to be more affordable than the average home in the area.

Overall, the proposed plan meets the spirit of the Blueprint growth principles. However, the Mixed-Use Alternative illustrates that the city could further maximize the Blueprint benefits of this unique project by planning for additional housing capacity within the city to accommodate the increased housing demand that will accompany the economic activity generated by the project. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your consideration.

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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28 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    It looks like we’re getting a full court press to try and force housing into the project when we were led to believe it was going to be industrial park only.  Yes I’ve stated that before but we can’t take our eye off the ball and let the conversation change.

  2. Tia Will

    BP

     we were led to believe it was going to be industrial park only.”

    I agree that this was the initial proposal. However, that does not mean that it was the only, or even the best option. I did not, and do not favor this plan as currently put forth and am skeptical for reasons that I have already posted. However, I do not see this so much as “bait and switch” as I do a reasonable consideration of alternatives given the complexity of what we are being asked to approve.

    1. David Greenwald

      Tia: I disagree with you on this – it wasn’t just the initial proposal, it was the entire concept as presented by the city – the innovation parks were to be business only, not residential.

      1. Mark West

        “it wasn’t just the initial proposal, it was the entire concept as presented by the city – the innovation parks were to be business only, not residential.”

        I agree that was the original concept, but don’t we want to be open to learning what works best and adjusting the project accordingly while going through the analysis? What is the purpose of the community outreach and discussion if not to make the project better and responsive to the needs of the community? It is pretty short-sighted to lock ourselves into the original concept (and our knee-jerk responses to it) without considering alternatives.

  3. Tia Will

    David

    it wasn’t just the initial proposal, it was the entire concept as presented by the city”

    And I agree with you on this. I will stand by my statement that whether “proposal” or “entire concept”, it still does not mean that it was the only or even the best alternative. I will repeat that very early in the public introduction process, both Ramos and those developing the proposal for near the hospital were discussing with participants at public forums, the pros and cons of projects with and without housing. I know since I was in attendance. This is not a “new idea” that has suddenly been “learned” by the developers as Ramos implied, nor is it, in my opinion, a “bait and switch” as BP is implying.

  4. Tia Will

    an innovative approach to plan development”

    Here again we have that lovely, attractive word “innovative”. Can someone please explain to me exactly what is “innovative” in either the approach to, or the plan itself ?  The only way that I can even conceive that anyone could conceive of this plan as “innovative” since it is modeled on  developments that have been around for 20-30 years in other locations, is if one is limiting the word “innovative” to mean “new to Davis”.

  5. Misanthrop

    Funny that you want more housing and less parking at Nishi but reject it at Mace.

    It seems the planners at Sacog have an environmental vision of the future that is more global warming sensitive than the people at the Davis Vanguard.

      1. hpierce

        Unless, of course, the jobs created are not primarily UCD-oriented.  Then, it makes perfect sense.  The valid question remains, will the new housing primarily support the new jobs?  I know not the answer.

        1. Tia Will

          hpierce

          Well, this is a real chicken and the egg question as being posed, isn’t it ? First we don’t know what businesses would be planning to occupy this space other than potentially a local or two. Secondly, we don’t know the time frame in which the businesses would be filling the space. So it would seem to me that perhaps there could be some kind of conditional provisioning. Let’s say that we approved a plan in which the business “park” were developed first and if, and only if there were sufficient demand from employees ( the existing businesses could simply ask) could there be housing built to fill that specific need. How would people currently opposed feel about that ?  Is this legal ? Is this practical ?  I don’t have any idea, but I am opposed to a field of dreams approach in which we build and simply hope businesses and people will materialize along with their money to enrich the city.

  6. Barack Palin

    If the MRIC had in its plans from the beginning that they wanted to build 850 residential units does anyone really think this would’ve even gotten off the ground?  Not a chance.  People like me, I’m a slow-growther, were swayed to come on board at the prospect of an industrial park only that didn’t include housing.

     

    1. Tia Will

      BP

      People like me, I’m a slow-growther, were swayed to come on board at the prospect of an industrial park only that didn’t include housing.”

      I also am a “slow growther”. You will probably not find anyone more committed than I to “slow growth” without entering the “no growth” group to which I do not belong because I accept reality. However, I believe that it is entirely possible to understand that one’s goals may include the appreciation of complexities.

      In addition to my slow growth stance, I also feel very strongly about the protection of our environment with reduction of automobile emissions and encouraging public transit and alternative means of transportation as healthier options. To the degree that housing on site might address these issues, I do not feel that it should be rejected out of hand simply because it was not a part of the City’s initial direction to the developers.

      From ten years on the administrative team of our very large department, I have become aware that in spite of initial “best plans” there can be very reasonable extenuating circumstances that argue for a better alternative that was not previously appreciated. I am not claiming that this is the case here. I simply do not know. But I am suggesting that one should not reject an idea simply because it was not the initially proposed plan.

      1. Barack Palin

        I also feel very strongly about the protection of our environment with reduction of automobile emissions and encouraging public transit and alternative means of transportation as healthier options. To the degree that housing on site might address these issues, I do not feel that it should be rejected out of hand simply because it was not a part of the City’s initial direction to the developers.
        From ten years on the administrative team of our very large department, I have become aware that in spite of initial “best plans” there can be very reasonable extenuating circumstances that argue for a better alternative that was not previously appreciated. I am not claiming that this is the case here. I simply do not know. But I am suggesting that one should not reject an idea simply because it was not the initially proposed plan.

        Tia Will, do you hear yourself here?  Everything you just stated makes a strong case of why Trackside should be built to six stories yet you fight that.  So which is it?

  7. Don Shor

    the proposed plan is supportive of the Blueprint…

    Overall, the proposed plan meets the spirit of the Blueprint growth principles. 

    Great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Eileen Samitz

    Like others who have posted on this, I am disappointed to see the Mace Ranch Innovation Park developers “bait and switch” attempt on what was supposed to be an innovation park only to help Davis with its revenue problems.  Now all of a sudden it is morphing into a residential project as well, which will wind up costing Davis residents due to the City services and infrastructure maintenance costs from the residential.

    Since Davis has met its fair share growth requirements for this SACOG cycle for roughly the next 6 years, what the Mace Ranch Innovation Park developers are doing is inviting SACOG to assign Davis a higher residential requirement for the next SACOG cycle. Since we do not get credit for the next cycle with excess units built in this cycle, SACOG interprets excessive residential growth with an invitation to assign higher fair share growth requirement for residential units in the next cycle. If the Mace Ranch developers get away with this, this would just set up Davis up for is another massive residential growth era, like before Measure J/R.

    I, like so many other Davis residents, will oppose this project if residential is included and will help organize against it.

    1. Barack Palin

      I am disappointed to see the Mace Ranch Innovation Park developers “bait and switch” attempt

      like so many other Davis residents, will oppose this project if residential is included and will help organize against it.

      Sign me up.  I agree with you, in my opinion this has all the markings of a classic bait and switch.

  9. Tia Will

    BP

    this has all the markings of a classic bait and switch.”

    Maybe, but it might also have all the markings of …..”on further consideration….”.

     

    1. CalAg

      TW: The sustainability claims being made for the mixed use alternative are false. They are based on a false assumption that a high proportion of the on-site housing will be occupied by employees of the innovation center. One doesn’t need to be a land use planning expert to understand that this is counter-intuitive and defies common sense. And it will certainly not stand up to a legal challenge.

      The applicant is trying to sell the community the idea that 1+1<1. Add 850 dwelling units to the same amount of commercial, and miraculously the environmental impacts go down and open space goes up? Nope. Not even in the Davis reality distortion field.

      The real world doesn’t work that way. It’s messy. There is no way to keep non-employees out of the housing, so the innovation park workforce is going to have to compete for the Davis housing stock along with everyone else.

      The lowest environmental impact scenario is 100% tech park with enhanced mass transit and bike/ped connectivity, as well as a requirement for net zero green buildings.

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