Monday Morning Thoughts II: Should There Be Housing at MRIC?

Mixed-use-housing

On Wednesday evening, the biggest pushback on the Mace Ranch Innovation Center seemed to be over the issue of whether it should be a research park-only site or whether there should be a mixed-use component of perhaps 850 units to house employees.

The thinking on this seems to fall into at least four different lines of thought. There are those who support the idea of having a housing component; those who are favorably inclined toward it in concept, but believe that politically it is infeasible; those who would support an innovation park only if it doesn’t have housing; and those who are opposed to the innovation park regardless of whether or not it has housing.

From the perspective of group number one, building an innovation park means adding perhaps 10,000 new jobs to Davis. While Davis will be building some housing, its numbers are limited to the relatively small 500-unit Cannery Project, a couple more infill projects that could come online, perhaps Nishi which will primarily having student rental housing, and not a whole lot of prospects for building housing once those sources are exhausted.

As one person put it on Wednesday, people want to have a green Davis and then force people who work at MRIC to drive in from Elk Grove. Some people I spoke with this week believe that the project would be better with housing, and better with perhaps twice to three times the 850 they are proposing. Some even believe that it could support that level of housing with twice the square footage of the research, labs and office space as well.

By putting housing on the site, that could potentially mean that some of the new employees can live and work in the same location without having to get on the road and add VMT (vehicle miles traveled).

But not everyone agrees with that view. Some believe that adding the housing issue is a poison pill. People will be willing to support a peripheral project so long as it doesn’t include housing.

I thought Will Arnold captured this view quite well in an interview with the Vanguard.

He said that he understands “why folks are talking about housing at Mace.” Similar projects, he noted, “do have housing.” However, Mr. Arnold said that “the main argument for having housing at the Mace Ranch Innovation Center is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” He said, “It’s my opinion that putting housing as part of the Mace Ranch project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will reduce them to zero because there will be no project.”

He acknowledged that that is a political read on things, however, he argued “if you are a proponent of the project, you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here.”

There are others that point out that adding housing at MRIC might not help VMT as much as we think. The problem, they say, is that MRIC will be too remote from services to be a good housing site. They believe keeping housing closer to the downtown and existing neighborhood centers will be a better option.

On the other hand, it’s not clear that MRIC is really that far from services. Certainly you have Target across the street, and the small Nugget just on the other side of the I-80 Mace Overpass.

There is a third view as well – those who are willing to support MRIC only if it doesn’t have housing.

I talked to a number of people, trying to better understand this viewpoint. There were two ideas expressed at the meeting and in private discussions. First, there is a concern that mixing uses puts people in close proximity to potential incompatibilities. There are those who will not want to live in a park that may have 24-hour operations, or operations with higher ambient noise levels.

There are also concerns about putting residents in close proximity to potential noxious chemicals and other output from industrial and research uses.

One of the questions that the developer is going to need to address is how they can ensure public safety for residents living in a research park.

The other issue that came up is similar to a criticism of Nishi – the idea here is that the EIR and the developers are assuming 80 percent occupancy by employees in the innovation center, for the purposes of calculating impact on GHG. But some people argue that the site cannot restrict who rents the units and, therefore, the majority of residents might be students rather than employees.

The belief is that having students living on the site rather than employees simply diminishes the benefit of having the mix of uses.

The issue was raised with regard to Trackside, and when I asked the applicants of that project how they will preclude students they said that they could have a key requirement to prevent a wealthy parent from renting the unit for the student – by requiring that all residents pass their own credit check. That would greatly restrict the number of students living at that site and something similar could be at MRIC.

What is striking to me about both explanations is that they do not explain the aversion to housing, rather they are making excuses as to why to oppose the housing. I still don’t understand fundamentally why having housing there makes the project objectionable, and no housing makes it appealing. Why are people opposed to housing itself?

I understand the political calculation, but that wraps back into the question of why people oppose housing itself. After all, the land is getting paved over regardless of whether there are houses or only research facilities. MRIC is surrounded by land that cannot be developed so it is not going to result in sprawl.

Adding to that puzzle is a counter-proposal I have heard from at least three different people. As one poster wrote, “There is a better location for high density housing across the street inside the Mace curve.” So they are proposing housing across the street from MRIC.

Whether or not that is a good idea, I guess I don’t understand why you couldn’t put such housing on MRIC itself, and simply separate it from the rest of the site. That is probably not the ideal set up, but I am simply not understanding why housing makes sense on one side of Mace but not the other. Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

Finally, there is a group of people who are simply going to oppose anything on the site. At least that position makes some sense. They don’t see the benefit to the city of the revenue and they don’t even see how the additional jobs benefit the city or the community.

For them, it seems, putting housing on the site is a good idea in that they believe it will make it easier for them to defeat the project.

The question comes down to what the council will do. The developer on Wednesday said they will respect the decision of council on this issue and they intend to build the project regardless of the outcome on housing – they simply believe that it is a better project with housing than without.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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.

Related posts

107 Comments

  1. Jim Frame

    but that wraps back into the question of why people oppose housing itself

    Some people oppose housing on the site because they want the tax benefits of an innovation park but they want the population of Davis to grow as slowly as possible, consistent with city policy.  Add to that the concept that if you omit housing at MRIC you have more room for innovation space.  Since no one has yet put forth a rational explanation for not increasing the innovation space density at the site — the developer’s consultant did a swing-and-a-miss at the recent forum by saying that the region can’t absorb more innovation space — I’d like to maximize the tax benefit by putting as much revenue-generating space on the site as is feasible.

    I also buy into the bogosity of the VMT reduction promised by having housing at MRIC.  People move around too much, in both residence and employment, to expect that the units will be occupied primarily by those working at the site.  It *might* start out that way, but soon enough you’ll have MRIC residents driving out to jobs elsewhere, and commuters driving in from elsewhere to work there.

     

    1. Topcat

      I also buy into the bogosity of the VMT reduction promised by having housing at MRIC.  People move around too much, in both residence and employment, to expect that the units will be occupied primarily by those working at the site.

      Yes, I also think that VMT reduction is not likely.  Even if some people who work at the site choose to live there, we have the issue that their spouses and partners are likely to commute out by car.  In addition, they will use their cars for shopping trips, taking the kids to school and back, and taking trips for entertainment (going to movies, sporting events, concerts, etc.).

    2. Tia Will

      People move around too much, in both residence and employment, to expect that the units will be occupied primarily by those working at the site.  It *might* start out that way, but soon enough you’ll have MRIC residents driving out to jobs elsewhere, and commuters driving in from elsewhere to work there.”

      I am aware that in the more recently developed innovation parks, housing has been a component in some. I am wondering if there is data from these developments to either support or refute this statement.

    3. CalAg

      JF: I agree with you that the VMT/sustainability argument is bogus. Where we disagree is with the premise that it could start out that way. If the housing was 100% back-loaded there might be a measurable bias towards MRIC employees in the housing, but even that is questionable in my opinion.

      1. Matt Williams

        Jim Frame said . . . “People move around too much, in both residence and employment, to expect that the units will be occupied primarily by those working at the site.  It *might* start out that way, but soon enough you’ll have MRIC residents driving out to jobs elsewhere, and commuters driving in from elsewhere to work there.”

        CalAg said . . .  “If the housing was 100% back-loaded there might be a measurable bias towards MRIC employees in the housing, but even that is questionable in my opinion.”

        I agree that CalAg’s back-loading the construction of the residential units would create a one-time bias towards MRIC employees, and also agree with Jim Frame that that one-time bias would be reduced over time second buyers and job changes affected the lives of the occupants of the residential units.

        One way to enhance the long-term bias toward MRIC employees is to design the living units in a live/work configuration.  The graphic at the bottom of this comment is from an Innovation Center in the Kettner section of San Diego.  Some of the structures in the image are the work space of the engineering design firm tenant of the Innovation Center.  Some of the structures in the image are the residential units that employees of the engineering design company call home.  I believe, but do not know, that a common elevator serves the residential units and the offices.  As a result the workers can walk through the front door of their residential unit, cross the common hallway, and enter the same floor of their place of work.  That kind of live/work environment will more than likely extend the life of the one-time bias.

        http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/San-Diego-Kettner.jpg

        Another way that the bias can be extended is through a MRIC companies’ decision to rent (or buy) a number of the residential units for use by their employees.  Currently HM Clause, Schilling Robotics and DMG Mori all have multiple residences rented under the company’s name for long term employees detailed to Davis.

        1. Jim Frame

          Requiring the commercial entities to buy or rent the housing units sounds like a good way to limit the appeal of the commercial properties.  And without such a requirement, you’re back to the original problem:  the entropic tendency  of the housing units to get disassociated from the commercial activities they’re purportedly there to support.

        2. CalAg

          “One way to enhance the long-term bias toward MRIC employees is to design the living units in a live/work configuration.”

          That’s not really on the table. The large majority of the 850 units are proposed to be clustered in the NW corner of the site.

          “Currently HM Clause, Schilling Robotics and DMG Mori all have multiple residences rented under the company’s name for long term employees detailed to Davis.”

          How many units? My guess is just a handful.

          The other flaw in this set of rationalizations is that companies like HMC, FMC Schilling, DMG Mori, MBI, Novozymes, Arcadia, etc. are too big for live/work buildings and wouldn’t locate in one even if something of appropriate scale could be constructed (which it can’t).

          R&D often involves toxic chemicals, radiation, laboratory animals, and other health hazards, and it is completely inappropriate (and probably illegal, depending on the company) to mix R&D with residential in mixed use buildings.

          The example above is a cherry-picked case.

           

           

           

        3. Matt Williams

          Regarding . . . “One way to enhance the long-term bias toward MRIC employees is to design the living units in a live/work configuration.”

          CalAg said . . . “That’s not really on the table. The large majority of the 850 units are proposed to be clustered in the NW corner of the site.”

          Then it needs to be on the table.  My reaction to that NW corner of the site configuration was “That’s a deal breaker.  They do that and I’m a solid No vote”

          ————————-

          Regarding . . . “Won’t a free-standing housing development inside the Mace Curve, remote from the Innovation Park, be more likely to find its units bought by “bedroom commuters” rather than Innovation Park workers?”

          CalAg said . . . “No”

          For me, housing units clustered inside the Mace Curve is no different than housing units clustered in the NW corner of the MRIC site.  It is a guarantee that the home ownership will NOT be by MRIC-based employees.

        4. Matt Williams

          Jim Frame said . . . “Requiring the commercial entities to buy or rent the housing units sounds like a good way to limit the appeal of the commercial properties.”  

          I agree 100% Jim, and I never proposed it be a requirement.  The natural workings of the supply/demand marketplace should be allowed to work their magic.  I am almost 100% sure that the San Diego Kettner example works under the principles of free market supply/demand.

          Jim Frame said . . . “And without such a requirement, you’re back to the original problem:  the entropic tendency of the housing units to get disassociated from the commercial activities they’re purportedly there to support.”

          Jim, you are presenting this conundrum as a Manichean polarity as opposed to a non-dualistic continuum between all and nothing.  Currently, there is real and active demand in the Davis housing market from commercial entities for rental housing for their employees.  According to my sources that demand started at very low levels and has steadily increased over the years.  It is reasonable to argue that that demand is a contra-entropic tendency in and of itself.

          As they say, the world is not black and white . . . it is shades of grey.

        5. Alan Miller

          Some of the structures in the image are the residential units that employees of the engineering design company call home.

          A cheaper way to achieve a similar result is to hide some blankets and a pillow under your desk at work, a la George Costanza.

        6. CalAg

          CalAg said . . . “That’s not really on the table. The large majority of the 850 units are proposed to be clustered in the NW corner of the site.”

          Then it needs to be on the table.  My reaction to that NW corner of the site configuration was “That’s a deal breaker.  They do that and I’m a solid No vote” @ Matt Williams

          MW: See page four. The housing is actually in two clusters – one in the NW corner and the other in the center. The point remains the same – it is not dispersed throughout the site plan.

          http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CDD/ED/projects/Innovation-Centers/Mace-Ranch/Draft-EIR/8_Mixed-Use%20Alternative.pdf

      2. Jim Frame

        Currently, there is real and active demand in the Davis housing market from commercial entities for rental housing for their employees…It is reasonable to argue that that demand is a contra-entropic tendency in and of itself.

         

        I might agree if the housing units were tightly integrated into the innovation spaces in a way that makes them unavailable (or at least unappealing) to generic home-hunters.  But I don’t see a practical way of doing that, and I doubt that the developer would be interested anyway.  My suspicion is that they’re looking at the 850 residential units as a hedge against the long and uncertain buildout of the innovation space, since Davis housing demand is perennially high.

        1. hpierce

          Well, UCD set-up Aggie Village so that those homes (actually, as I recall, 99 year leases), were originally only available to professors (etc.), and UCD staff… as I recall they extended that to City/DJUSD folk.  Don’t know the mechanism they used, and have no idea if, a)  it was/is legal;  b)  if a private entity could do the same thing; c)  if a private entity can, whether they would, and how the City could enforce.

          That said, I agree with the main thrust of Jim’s comment.

           

  2. Barack Palin

    The other issue that came up is similar to a criticism of Nishi – the idea here is that the EIR and the developers are assuming 80 percent occupancy by employees in the innovation center

    This is such crap.  IMO they just throw out any number to try and get housing included.  First of all Schilling Robotics is slated to be one of the anchor businesses in the park.  Schilling is already located in Davis so their employees are already in housing.  I know several employees that already own homes here and I doubt many that do live here will pull up roots to move to apartment rental housing at MRIC.  Some that live elsewhere might possibly move there but no where near 80% of its employees.  So right there is around 300 employees that the park will never see many as inhabitants.  How about other local Davis businesses that might move there?  Their employees will already be in housing too.  Any new businesses that are start-ups or move here from some other location I’m sure will hire many that already live in Davis so therefor once again, they’re already here in housing.

  3. Barack Palin

    I am simply not understanding why housing makes sense on one side of Mace but not the other. Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

    So now since three people wondered why we can’t have housing on the curb this is supposed to make an argument for housing MRIC?  This is a straw dog argument.  So what, three people made a suggestion?

    1. CalAg

      The point is that if housing is such a critical issue, there is a much better site across the street – which will obviously be integrated with the MRIC development via a nice new grade separated crossing connecting the innovation center with the community bike/ped system.

      1. hpierce

        Darn… will never happen… too logical, by far… except, not sure the grade separated crossing (bike ped) doesn’t make sense for cars… completion of the existing 3 way intersection, where Covell becomes Mace), is part of the current proposal… there are complications, but having housing under the curve, and the bike/ped connection,and the use, this would be a project I could easily support…

        1. Alan Miller

          there is NO grade separated crossing proposed as a “baseline”… but, I believe it NEEDS to be, for bike/ped…

          I believe the City has gone to Dutch Junctions to save millions (dollars, not lives).

          Note:  The Dutch call them “Davis Junctions”.

           

        2. CalAg

          Check out Covell and J. The city can’t even get a dutch junction right.

          MRIC needs a grade separated bike/ped connection under Mace Blvd. I’m sure Robb Davis is all over this.

      2. Matt Williams

        CalAg, I again ask you, why is locating the housing inside the Mace Curve any better than locating the housing on the MRIC site in multi-story work/live configurations?

        Won’t a free-standing housing development inside the Mace Curve, remote from the Innovation Park, be more likely to find its units bought by “bedroom commuters” rather than Innovation Park workers?

    2. Davis Progressive

      it seemed like a question not a statement.  i go back and forth on whether the project is better with housing, but there seems overwhelming opposition to housing on the vanguard.

  4. Tia Will

    “if you are a proponent of the project, you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here.”

    The key to this statement is “if you are a proponent”presumably of the project as it stood prior to the question of housing. But what if you would only support the project if you felt that it was not just the best that this project could be, but if it were the best project for Davis as a whole. And what if you were not convinced of that.  This is a very different framing of the issue.

  5. Misanthrop

    “…they want the population of Davis to grow as slowly as possible, consistent with city policy.”

    Seems that refusing to build housing isn’t going to slow the growth of Davis much despite whatever policy is in place because UCD isn’t bound by the policy and is growing faster than ever. All its going to do is raise housing and rent prices, hollow out owner occupancies, reduce rental stock quality as landlords control a sellers rental market, increase density impacts on neighbors, increase people/unit with mini dorms or garage conversions, increase commute miles, congestion and GHG productions from neighboring communities whose residents work or go to school in Davis, and further reduce the extraordinarily low vacancy rate.

    The sad part is that most new housing opponents don’t have to deal with these impacts until someone decides to build a six story building or massive apartment complex nearby.

  6. Misanthrop

    “the question of why people oppose housing itself.”

    We live in a place with a really weird anti-housing cultural element but while we are relatively extreme we are in no way the only ones. Opposition to new housing is a pretty standard position throughout much of coastal California. Although we are unusual in that we are not a coastal community many of our most tenacious housing opponents grew up in coastal California.

    This opposition creates a lack of housing supply that drives up housing costs and is a main reason California has such a high poverty rate. Its a pernicious unintended consequence of anti-housing policies.

    Perhaps now that you are a family person David, who is locked out of home ownership, you are starting to view the world as it actually impacts people. Perhaps you are coming around to the reality that the nice environmentally conscious people of Davis ignore a dark underbelly of hardship imposed upon others due to their policy preferences.

  7. Tia Will

    When I first arrived here for medical school in 1979, the apartment vacancy rate was quoted to me as 2%. Since that time there has been construction of a large number of both single family dwellings and apartments, and yet the vacancy rate is lower now than it was then per Don Shor’s numbers. It isn’t that we have not grown. We have. Davis has simply not followed, nor should it in my opinion, be following a “grow as fast as we can strategy”. I do not believe that we are going to, at least in my lifetime, resolve this issue.  I do not believe that Davis will be able to resolve this issue alone and that what is needed is a regional approach including optimal locations for housing, for different types of businesses, rapid public transportation, and exploration of alternative work options such as work from home and job sharing.

    I would like to see Davis grow as slowly as possible within the framework of our regional obligations. The simple question that I have for those who feel that Davis will be able to resolve the housing shortage in isolation is “How many units are you projecting that we will need and over what amount of time ?” How would you like those units to be distributed amongst low cost, market, student,  luxury ? ”  Until those questions are answered with actual numbers for people to see, I am not willing to write a blank check with the Davis resources of land and atmosphere which both I and my children would like to preserve in as close to their current state as possible for them and any children that they may have.

    1. hpierce

      Well, Tia, one of us was lied to, and I think it was you, based on what I was told, and have seen since… I returned to Davis in 1979, trying to find apt. housing, and was told that the vacancy rate was 0.25% (yes, one quarter of one percent)… “healthy rate” considering balance of landlord/tenant interests is ~ 5%.

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

        It seems that I take a less suspicious attitude than you do. I do not believe that this necessarily means that one of us was “lied to”. Someone could have been using old numbers. Someone could have been considering only one portion of town, as I had specified my acceptable distance from the medical school. Perhaps one individual was quoting all housing, while another was quoting within a specified price range or size of apartment or dwelling. I find it interesting that your mind has gone immediately to an assumption of deception.

        In any event, we have grown considerably and yet our available rental rate is below what is considered “healthy”. We clearly have not “grown our way out of trouble” and I think it is unlikely that this is a viable way forward. That was my central point regardless of whose quoted number was more accurate.

    2. sisterhood

      Tia, I agree with everything you wrote.

      A few of the many reasons I moved- Davis was becoming too crowded & rental houses were in disrepair. Also had problems w/DACHA.

      1. Frankly

        Too crowded or too congested?

        It is an important distinction because it can serve to illuminated some of the irrational positioning related to growth.

        For example, San Francisco has a population density of 18,187/sq mi.

        Davis has a population density of 7,200/sq mi… or about 40%.

        Yet, per the US Census, San Francisco has a per capita ratio of firms (businesses) of 8.11.

        Davis’s ratio is 13.68.

        Chico’s ratio is 11.92 with 2,617 people per square mile.

        Santa Cruz’s ratio is 8.9 with 4,705 people per square mile.

        Davis is congested because we have prevented commercial development and kept the downtown small.  So there are too few business locations in town and so everyone attempts to cram into the small downtown.    One business per every 13.68 people with an urban-level population density makes Davis a significant outlier… no other community in California has statistics anywhere close to ours.  And of course there are those that will just shrug at this as Davis just being quirky.   But most of those other cities are filled with smart and talented planners and leaders.  So Davis isn’t being quirky as much as Davis is being stupid.

        1. sisterhood

          Good morning Frankly & Happy New Year to you & yours.

          Maybe the word should have been “congested.” I returned to Davis two summers ago, on an unusually humid day. I walked to the Village Bakery next to Amtrak, was delighted they still served my favorite blueberry muffins. I sat outside near one of my favorite places, Watermelon Music., sipping an iced tea with family. It was the end of August & many moving vans downtown. The car fumes became uncomfortable so my sister & I walked to the park & I reminisced about all the Wednesday evenings spent there, listening to music & enjoying the best farmers market in the world, IMHO. Everywhere we walked, I had to dodge cars. We reminisced about how in the 70’s, it was students on bicycles we dodged. I was feeling sad when I arrived in Davis because I miss your little village a lot. By the end of the long weekend, however, I was happy to leave & drive home.

  8. Ron

    David:

    Regarding the reasons that I’d be opposed to housing at MRIC:

    I understand that the original goals of the innovation centers were to increase revenue for the city, provide jobs for local residents, and to provide space for companies such as Schilling.  Overall, the goal was to provide a better balance of commercial vs. housing, since Davis does not have much commercial development.  Not sure how it morphed into an argument to include housing.

    If housing is included, much of the original goals will be weakened.  Revenue will be decreased (since housing generally costs the city more than taxes collected, over time).  Jobs will be filled by new residents, rather than local residents.  The “imbalance” regarding the amount of commercial vs. housing will not be improved, if housing is included.  In other words, much of the promised benefits of a commercial development will be weakened.

    But perhaps most importantly (for me), the development (with housing) would meet the very definition of sprawl, if housing is included.  A “mini-city” would arise, beyond our current city limits.  Since housing would also reduce the benefits of commercial, there would no longer be much (or any) reason to support a peripheral development, beyond our city’s borders.

    In other words, I might be willing to essentially “hold my nose” and support a commercial development beyond our borders, if it actually improves conditions for current residents.  (It’s difficult for me to even do that.)  However, if housing is included, these promised benefits would be reduced.

    My comments are not intended to be a complete presentation of all of the negative impacts of the MRIC, with or without housing.  There would be negative impacts even without housing.  But, housing would make these problems worse.

    If housing is included in the proposal that’s presented to voters, I plan to actively work against the entire proposal.  That’s not a threat, it’s just something that I would likely do.

    1. hpierce

      It’s interesting you define “sprawl” only in terms of residential… to me, it was always “footprint” regardless of land use other than open space/ag.   Also, in the South Bay area, ‘sprawl’ was usually associated with ‘leap-frogging’… where a non-contiguous area was developed, and there was pressure to “fill in the gaps”.

      I’m leaning heavily to supporting development of the site, but am very wary of the nature of the housing component.  Not opposed, but wary, at this point.  Would need to know the nature of the housing… despite the ‘bad rap’ of “company towns” (or projects), there is merit in the concept.

       

    2. Tia Will

      Ron

      Jobs will be filled by new residents, rather than local residents.”

      I am not sure how you feel that this would be any different than as initially planned. Yes, as a selling point, it was said that these businesses would provide jobs for Davis residents, and some residents would probably be employed. But there was never any guarantee that Davis residents would be hired preferentially. I simply do not believe this to be the case. Would Schilling, or any other company not employee the best candidate for a job just because they happened to live outside of Davis ?  I sincerely doubt it. This I think was a carrot tossed out by the promoters of this project without really thinking through how hiring is done.  I have ten years of experience of hiring on our administrative team and I can honestly say that the decision to hire or not has never been based primarily on where the applicant lives. It may be a very small factor in the consideration of how deep one’s roots are in the area in terms of longevity with the group, however, whether one lived in Vacaville or Davis, Woodland or Sacramento would not have made the slightest difference if the individual were willing to commute.

  9. Michael Harrington

    Editor Wrote:  “For them, it seems, putting housing on the site is a good idea in that they believe it will make it easier for them to defeat the project.”

    Yep.  Load ’em up!

  10. CalAg

    Greenwald leaves out the biggest issue with housing.

    The bait-and-switch.

    In my opinion, this politically dooms the project at the ballot box. The only hope for salvaging the proposal is to try and walk it back to the RFEI-compliant submission and hope that the no growth crowd doesn’t prevail in the Measure J/R vote.

    Will Arnold understands this. The bogus VMT/sustainability argument will result in an outcome with zero net carbon emissions – i.e. no innovation park.

      1. CalAg

        DP: Yes – there was a bait and switch.

        The RFEI explicitly stated no housing, and then RAMCO and staff finessed the process to change the rules midstream. The worst part is that there is pretty compelling evidence that this was the goal from before the application was even submitted.

        In my opinion, this transcends the Vanguard and insures defeat of the project during the Measure J/R vote if RAMCO doesn’t take corrective action and revert back to their RFEI-compliant submission.

        1. CalAg

          This is what immediately comes to mind …

          Developer was polling on housing before the application was submitted.
          Reports of conversations with the developer starting to leak out.
          The staff’s nonsensical argument that housing had to be a CEQA alternative.
          The developer’s request that an equal weight analysis be done (this adds a lot of extra costs) at a time when they were allegedly (by their own statement) opposed to housing.

        2. hpierce

          Re:  CalAg’s 12:52 post:  remember that the CEQA/EIR costs are covered by the developer… all billable effort for City/consultant time/costs…  nuance… take no issue with the main thrust of the post.

        3. CalAg

          hpierce: The point I was trying to make is that the developer expended significant additional funds to pay for the City to pursue the equal weight analysis. This is evidence that the alternative was important to their entitlement strategy.

        4. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “The point I was trying to make is that the developer expended significant additional funds to pay for the City to pursue the equal weight analysis. This is evidence that the alternative was important to their entitlement strategy.

          I believe your bolded words above were not important to the developer’s entitlement strategy prior to the December 16, 2014 Innovation Center Projects Update given to theCity Council by City staff.

          I also believe that the developer began to modify its entitlement strategy once staff put housing back on the table.

           

  11. Michael Harrington

    The only reasons for maybe supporting this 200 acres of farmland paving outside our borders are:

    1)  it will provide tons of revenue to the City to fund the bloated employee comp packages;  or

     

    2) the project provides gobs of high quality, well-placed, fee-simple land donations to the city for mitigation.

     

    Since it appears this project is not going to provide either, then why on earth would the voters support it?

    If the project is approved without housing on-site, it will still drive massive growth in Davis housing demand.  Where are those thousands of new job holders going to live?  Covell Village II on the horizon … and no one can deny it.

    This is an easy issue to present to the voters.

    1. Misanthrop

      “1)  it will provide tons of revenue to the City to fund the bloated employee comp packages;  or”

      I love it when Harrington whines about the compensation packages of city employees after he voted to give the retirement packages that broke the bank when he was on the council. Mike remembers the heavy mitigation piece he got for development but seems to have forgotten his role in increasing compensation for city employees that saddled future councils with the unsustainable and unfunded liabilities that are now driving the train towards revenue capture through development to help get us out of the hole Mike helped dig.
       

      1. hpierce

        You are absolutely correct, but with a nuance… Fire and PD got the enhanced retirement, and Fire got the big salary increases.  The other folk getting the “me-too” was spawned then, but didn’t occur until  Mr H had ‘left the room’… but they didn’t get the big salary increases, as Fire did…

        1. Misanthrop

          I’m not sure but I think in addition to public safety getting 3% at 50 they also gave everyone else 2.5% at 55. If my memory is correct this additional unfunded liability also helped bury the city. Maybe you have a better recollection. Anyway Mike’s votes are a piece of what went wrong so it seems that his lamentations always fail to reflect his own role while blaming others.

        2. hpierce

          The ‘second wave’, after the PS retirement changes were implemented, and then similarly extended to the others, wasn’t on MH’s ‘watch’… I apologize if I was not clear on that.

      2. CalAg

        “Mike remembers the heavy mitigation piece he got for development …”

        What piece is this? I don’t remember any developments providing significant ag mitigation during his tenure.

        1. Misanthrop

          Actually not. Perhaps I am wrong but not tongue and cheek. As I vaguely remember it was around the time of Harrington’s tenure that the 2:1 mitigation factor became popular.

    2. hpierce

      What is a “ton”, in terms of revenue, Mr H?  Gross, or net, after required expenditures?  Or just trolling to see if you can get a “bite”?  Just trying to understand your post…

  12. Dadof2Boys

    This is all backwards. It’s either housing with the project or no project. The City Council needs to realize a no housing project makes it unattractive to employers who have other destinations to consider, or those of us getting a little tired of paying too much for a home and driving solo to jobs in Vacaville.

    Even if approved, nothing happens here. And this is why the developers want housing: Because they would actually like to build something. I suspect the developers aren’t experts in innovation but became ones quick when real experts told them that not including housing would result in a hollow approval. So they’re doing the right thing.

    Council members need to do the right thing too. Either lead and embrace and take ownership of winning a successful project or just punt. Winning a measure that won’t lead to anything real sends terrible message to residents, some of whom will just give up and move. Plus, companies are out there watching and they’ll be even more skeptical the next time Davis toys around with innovation and put their focus back on Vacaville and West Sac…for good reason.

    This parochial way of decision making never leads to anything truly great. That’s fine. But it’s a little sad for folks who were expecting more.

     

     

  13. Alan Miller

    “It’s my opinion that putting housing as part of the Mace Ranch project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will reduce them to zero because there will be no project.”

    That’s a pretty good one-liner.  With lines like that, Mr. Arnold will be a formidable candidate.

    I am so-so about the whole project.  I believe that part housing would be a better option, even though there is no way to restrict housing to employees — this is not to be a “company town”.  However, housing will almost certainly doom the project.  Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

  14. Alan Miller

    The issue was raised with regard to Trackside, and when I asked the applicants of that project how they will preclude students they said that they could have a key requirement to prevent a wealthy parent from renting the unit for the student – by requiring that all residents pass their own credit check.

    Is there a Davis real estate agent in the house who could answer this question:  Is the above legal?  I don’t know; my experience in Davis suggests that is not a restriction a landlord could enforce.  Anyone?

    1. sisterhood

      Before I moved I considered purchasing a small one bedroom condo/townhouse on Cowell. The realtor said it must be owner occupied, no renters, but then did a kinda wink-wink & said ” “there are ways around this. As long as the renter is a “family member” “.

    2. Don Shor

      I don’t know; my experience in Davis suggests that is not a restriction a landlord could enforce.

      Unless, of course, the landlord happens to be UC Davis. Then they can discriminate in any number of ways.

  15. skeptical

    Alan,

    There are lots of mechanisms that could be created to resolve the occupancy issue you raise.  However, enforcement will fall to the City, and the City has a terrible record in this area.  Consider your issue with Trackside and the manner with which it has been handled by the City.  Can you say DACHA?  How about the mishandling of the limited equity units in Wildhorse, which still has not been fixed?  Look at the City mishandling of the Cannery project, and the absence of a workable approach to “mini-dorms.”  First create an organization that can handle enforcement, then come up with mechanisms to enforce.

     

  16. Michael Harrington

    Wonder how the Chen Building or the Roe Building on E Street have done with finding high-end or professional residential tenants to live above commercial?

     

     

  17. Eileen Samitz

    I too oppose housing at the MRIP for a number of reasons including:

    1) Over the years the concept of innovation parks were introduced to Davis resident’s as “revenue generator’s” to help the City get away from the reliance on residential development providing short term money, but resulting in long term costs. Local developers loved pushing through residential projects in Davis in the 80’s and 90’s and took total advantage of the City getting reliant on this short term money before Measure J. That’s why the citizen-based Measure J (and later renewed as Measure R) emerged to stop the developers from running the town. And it did.

    2) So here we are when a “commercial only” innovation park has been proposed for over a year, with a promise that this would be only commercial, but now there has been a “play” to add 850 housing units. So to whomever is behind this, be it the developers, the Staff, or any City Council member (which I hope is not the case), they need to understand that if they pursue this, they are dooming the MRIP project. If this “bait and switch” stunt attempt moves forward in any way, it will kill MRIP. I have no doubts about this. This was about long term “revenue producing”, not “revenue costing” development for the City so we could improve our City’s troubled financial situation. In addition, this would be a terrible betrayal to the Davis community of what they were promised and/or even considering.

    3) One of the arguments in the beginning for an innovation park was that Davis had a “jobs-housing imbalance” in that we did not have enough jobs for the amount of housing we had. So, now all of a sudden, we need more housing for the jobs? Please… anyone who is interested in a Ponzi scheme, I am certain that there are plenty out in there in the investment world, but let’s not buy into this one.

     

    1. Misanthrop

      “Jobs-housing imbalance”

      I don’t ever remember this could you provide some reference or context?

      My understanding was that we needed space for companies to grow here so that we could capture the value added to the community as companies got larger. I thought the argument was  that we didn’t want to lose companies like Schilling or Agraquest and provide a place for the intellectual capital being spun out of the university to prosper and enrich the community through taxes, charity and good paying jobs.

      1. Jim Frame

        The ‘jobs-housing imbalance’ was referenced by Rob White and others on more than one occasion.

         

        Jon Li used to speak about it a lot 20 years or more ago.  It’s not a new problem.

    2. Matt Williams

      Eileen Samitz said . . . “2) So to whomever is behind this, be it the developers, the Staff, or any City Council member (which I hope is not the case), they need to understand that if they pursue this, they are dooming the MRIP project. If this “bait and switch” stunt attempt moves forward in any way, it will kill MRIP. I have no doubts about this. […] In addition, this would be a terrible betrayal to the Davis community of what they were promised and/or even considering.”

      In my opinion the “whomever” that is behind this is CEQA.  CEQA’s requirements were first openly and transparently presented by Mike Webb, Sarah Worley and Heidi Tschudin to the Council in an Innovation Center Update.” (see this LINK ) which reads as follows:

      CEQA Requirements for Alternative Analysis

      The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires analysis of a range of reasonable alternatives to the project, or the location of the project, which would feasibly attain most of the projects basic objectives and avoid or substantially lessen the significant effects of the project. The range of alternatives is governed by the “rule of reason” which requires the EIR to set forth only those alternatives necessary to permit a reasoned choice (CEQA Guidelines Section 15126.6). The feasibility of an alternative may be determined based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to economic viability, availability of infrastructure, and plans or regulatory limitations (CEQA Guidelines 15126.6(f)(1)).

      At this early stage in the process the staff believes that the following range of alternatives satisfies these criteria and is appropriate and necessary for meeting the requirements of CEQA and ensuring legal defensibility. These alternatives will evolve based on information that will be generated from the technical studies. They will be further defined as more information is known about the likely impact of the projects.

      1. No Project Alternative – […]

      2. Off-site Alternative – […]

      3. Reduced Site Size – […]

      4. Reduced Project – […]

      5. Mixed Use Alternative – This alternative assumes the introduction of a balance of high- density residential uses in both projects. The type of housing anticipated would be high density (over 30 du/ac), attached, multi-story live/work units designed specifically to house and support workers within the Innovation Center. It would include a mix of ownership and lease/rental units. Designs would incorporate green technology, high efficiency, compact form, with the latest technology and lifestyle features, and emphasis on low to no-vehicle use.

      Housing was not recommended for inclusion in project(s) during the RFEI process, nor are the applicants proposing housing as part of their proposals. However, CEQA requires that the lead agency test alternatives that could reasonably reduce significant impacts of the project. Staff anticipates that the project EIRs may identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, staff has concluded that a mixed use alternative will likely be necessary to satisfy CEQA requirements. There is a growing field of study that demonstrates that mixed uses can lower the traffic, air quality, greenhouse gas, energy efficiency, and related impacts of separated land uses. This alternative will test the possibility that a mix of innovation center and residential uses will generate lowered amounts of regional traffic, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the business-only proposals.

      During the review of the Guiding Principles with the various City Commissions, questions about the inclusion of a residential component were raised by the Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission, the Natural Resources Commission, and Cool Davis.

      […]

      RECOMMENDATION #4: Staff recommends that the City Council confirm the range of alternatives proposed by staff to be evaluated in the Innovation Center EIRs.

      We have all learned how important complying with CEQA’s reqirements is.  Mike Harrington and Don Mooney have educated us all on that through the Hotel and Conference Center project.

      1. CalAg

        CEQA did not require an analysis of a mixed use alternative. That was self-serving spin from staff/RAMCO to justify their effort to get a housing option into the project. Moreover, CEQA does not require equal-weight analyses of the alternatives. That was also staff/RAMCO setting the stage for the “switch” part of the bait-and-switch.

        This CEQA argument is one of the pieces of evidence that suggests that the plan from the beginning was to circumvent the RFEI and finesse the process to add housing to the application.

        1. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “Moreover, CEQA does not require equal-weight analyses of the alternatives.”

          To the best of my knowledge you are 100% correct in that assertion.  Staff would appear to agree with you too, because on page 08-12 of the December 16, 2014 Innovation Center Projects – Update, Task Force, Guiding Principles, and CEQA Alternatives Staff Report document (see this LINK), staff shoves aside discussion of an equal weight analysis when they say:

           

          2. Off-site Alternative – This alternative would assume development of the proposed project at an alternative site. The rationale for an off-site alternative generally is that it may avoid or substantially lessen the significant effects of the project. For the MRIC project the Off-Site Alternative would assume development only at the Davis Innovation Center site. For the Davis Innovation Center project the Off-Site Alternative would assume development only at the MRIC site. Because a full-scope EIR is being prepared for each project this means that the offsite alternatives analysis will be analyzed at a very detailed level referred to under CEQA as “equal weight” analysis.

           

           

           

        2. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “CEQA did not require an analysis of a mixed use alternative.”

          With all due respect, I believe you are wrong.  The provisions of CEQA regulations mandate that an EIR must identify and explore mitigation methods when significant impacts are identified.  Page 08-13 of the December 16, 2014 Innovation Center Projects – Update, Task Force, Guiding Principles, and CEQA Alternatives Staff Report document very clearly explains that as follows:

           

          Housing was not recommended for inclusion in project(s) during the RFEI process, nor are the applicants proposing housing as part of their proposals. However, CEQA requires that the lead agency test alternatives that could reasonably reduce significant impacts of the project. Staff anticipates that the project EIRs may identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, staff has concluded that a mixed use alternative will likely be necessary to satisfy CEQA requirements. There is a growing field of study that demonstrates that mixed uses can lower the traffic, air quality, greenhouse gas, energy efficiency, and related impacts of separated land uses.

           

        3. CalAg

          Nope. Sorry. Was not a CEQA requirement. You shouldn’t believe everything you read in a Staff Report.

          Don’t rely on understanding the nuances of CEQA law – just use your common sense. The staff’s argument could be applied to virtually all large commercial projects state-wide. I guarantee you that mixed use alternatives w/ housing are not part of the template.

          That was just an ad hoc rationalization by Davis city staff/consultants (probably in collusion with the developer) to try and finesse an agenda to add housing to a project with ground rules stating that housing was forbidden.

        4. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “That was just an ad hoc rationalization by Davis city staff/consultants to try and finesse an agenda to add housing to a project with ground rules stating that housing was forbidden.”

          Okay CalAg, imagine you are the Davis city staff/consultants, and you are faced with the challenge of reasonably reducing significant impacts of the project.  You and your fellow staff members anticipate that the project EIRs are likely to identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.  How would you approach that EIR challenge?

          Housing was not “forbidden.” What the RFEI says is “As such the following desirable attributes are derived from approved City planning documents, previous City Council findings and community engagement.

          12. Acknowledgement of communities current desire for no residential to be included”

          The expression “desirable attributes” is not the same as “forbidden.”

        5. CalAg

          “Acknowledgement of communities (sic) current desire for no residential to be included” RFEI

          MW: Thanks for posting this. The weasel words had not registered. My bad.

          This clarifies things from my perspective. It appears that the “original intent” of the RFEI was to pay lip service to the “no residential” theme while also setting the stage for the staff/developer to mount a future argument that “the community is now more receptive to residential in the project.” That’s pretty much exactly how it has played out – and surprise, surprise … they processed the the original proposal and a proposal with 850 units of housing in parallel so that they can switch mid-stream without missing a beat.

        6. CalAg

          “… imagine you are the Davis city staff/consultants, and you are faced with the challenge of reasonably reducing significant impacts of the project.  You and your fellow staff members anticipate that the project EIRs are likely to identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.  How would you approach that EIR challenge?” MW

          Certainly not by making the false claim that adding 850 dwelling units to a fixed amount of commercial results in a decrease in environmental impacts.

          I also wouldn’t insult the intelligence of the public by claiming that 80% of the residents of the residential will work on-site.

          That being said, you don’t understand CEQA. There was no requirement, under CEQA, to create the mixed use alternative to mitigate the impacts of the commercial development. By framing this in terms of CEQA and making the bogus arguments above, the staff has made it much easier for an opponent to successfully challenge the environmental documents.

          Not only has the applicant succeeded in destroying the good will that they had within the progressive camp, but they have opened the door (and rolled out the red carpet) for Harrington to do his thing if they go down the mixed use path.

          Hopefully the City Council will just say no to housing before the proposal is damaged beyond repair.

           

        7. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “MW: Thanks for posting this. The weasel words had not registered. My bad.

          This clarifies things from my perspective. It appears that the “original intent” of the RFEI was to pay lip service to the “no residential” theme while also setting the stage for the staff/developer to mount a future argument that “the community is now more receptive to residential in the project.”

          You and I are almost 100% on the same page.  The only difference between our opinions (a nod to Ron) is that for me your “staff/developer” is simply “staff.”

        8. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “That being said, you don’t understand CEQA. There was no requirement, under CEQA, to create the mixed use alternative to mitigate the impacts of the commercial development.”

          I understand CEQA very well.  You are absolutely correct that there was no requirement, under CEQA, to specifically us a mixed use solution as the method of mitigation.  However, there absolutely is a CEQA requirement to analyze some method for mitigating those impacts.  If one does not choose a mixed use mitigation approach, then one has to come up with a non-mixed use solution to mitigate the identified impacts.

          You appear to not understand my question.  My question is very simple. What alternative impacts mitigation approach would you propose/choose/analyze?  I wholly and completely accept the fact that mixed use is not your personal preference for impacts mitigation.  Accepting that, what is your preference?

  18. Eileen Samitz

    The “job-housing imbalence” was the concern talked about that Davis did not have enough jobs in town relative to the number of housing units. So bringing in an innovation park was one way to help address that. But the game now appears to be, after bringing in the “needed jobs”, the new pitch is now we would have “needed housing” for the new jobs we just brought in. So that is why my reference to a Ponzi scheme. This would be endless.

    1. hpierce

      The other variable, is how many housing units are occupied by retirees, and students… both need housing units, most don’t need/want jobs…

      Have no statistics, but question what the earlier jobs/housing used in their analysis, or whether they assumed every residential unit needed a job.

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

        whether they assumed every residential unit needed a job.”

        This is actually a two part assumption. Does every residential unit need a job, and does every job represent the need for a housing unit ?

        I can only speak to one aspect of the question here and that is what Mr. Ramos was willing to share with me verbally at the first MRIC open house. I asked him what his estimate of the additional needed housing for the anticipated number of workers at full build out of the project. He admitted to not knowing, but said that his estimate was in the thousands. Not terribly reassuring for an admitted “grow as slow as we can” advocate since it seems to validate Eileen’s vision of a perpetual motion “job-housing imbalance” machine.

    2. Misanthrop

      I haven’t heard this and certainly haven’t heard it in the context of MRIC. I need an actual reference. Someone mentioned Jon LI from 20 years ago. Someone mentioned Rob White without a specific reference. I’m not buying it. If we are going to use 20 year old arguments there is lots of new information to consider. As for Rob White I must have missed it at least in the context presented. If we are going to say somebody said something in support of a position certainly a reference could be  provided. Without a reference its impossible to assess context or nuance.

        1. CalAg

          The RFEI was crystal clear. Dan Ramos stated in open public hearing that they were very opposed to housing at the time they submitted their application. The Council members went out of their way when the RFEI was authorized to highlight the no-housing requirement.

          The public expectation was deliberately set by City leadership and the developer. If there was duplicity prior to setting the expectation, that doesn’t change this fact.

  19. Misanthrop

    It seems that neither reference provided on Jobs/housing supports the interpretation that Samitz implies.

    The Rob White reference talks about increasing opportunities for residents to live and work in Davis but never argues that doing so would reduce the need for more housing.

    The Covell Village reference argues that building more houses would increase the number of local jobs it does not suggest that generating more jobs would reduce the need for more housing.

  20. Misanthrop

    Tia Will wrote “Until those questions are answered with actual numbers for people to see, I am not willing to write a blank check with the Davis resources of land and atmosphere which both I and my children would like to preserve in as close to their current state as possible for them and any children that they may have.”

    Wow, not willing to share the air with newcomers until some unanswerable questions are resolved to your satisfaction. That statement is extraordinary in its breath of opposition to newcomers wanting nothing more than the education and career benefits that brought you here. Not even willing to share the air. I shake my head in incredulity. You actually say these things with no sense of remorse or self doubt, astounding.

  21. Tia Will

    not willing to share the air with newcomers until some unanswerable questions are resolved to your satisfaction”

    Well you certainly win today’s award for the most hyperbolic mis representation of someone else’s comment of the day !

    What I asked for was someone’s projection of how much they would actually like to be the target population of Davis in their vision for the city. Somehow you managed to translate that into me not “being willing to share air”.

    I have always been willing to share my vision which is to grow as slowly as our regional obligations allow. My feeling is that this would optimally allow us to plan to incorporate within our borders those who are actually in need of assistance with housing instead of simply providing housing for the most affluent which seems to be the local trend. I do not see what is wrong with asking others to be as forthcoming with their vision for the population of the city that they see as optimal. I do not see this as an unanswerable question at all. I am sure that many people would be able to tell you what population of town or city they would find optimal for their desired lifestyle. Perhaps you could elaborate on what you see as wrong with asking this question, which is all I did.

  22. Misanthrop

    The only change in your so called mis representation was changing atmosphere to air. Of course the atmosphere is made of air. As is your usual dodge when you say really awful things you claim someone is misinterpreting what you said. I don’t think I’m even taking what you said out of context, I even quoted you directly at the beginning. I guess the answer to my question is that you neither have remorse or self doubt about what you said because you certainly don’t seem to express such feelings in your response. It may be that the hyperbolic statement was your own about your unwillingness to write a blank check about others having a portion of Davis’ resources. What I find disturbing is when called out for it you seem unwilling to respond forthrightly.

  23. Jim Frame

    Well you certainly win today’s award for the most hyperbolic mis representation of someone else’s comment of the day !

    I second that.  Twisting a statement about not wanting to further degrade air quality into the pretzel of “not willing to share the air with newcomers” is quite a feat!

  24. Misanthrop

    Not really, opposing growth that would compete for resources to not sharing isn’t much of a jump. The hyperbole was in the original statement itself about blank checks for land and atmosphere. Of course you probably agree with Tia and therefore choose to defend her. If she meant something other than an unwillingness to share resources with newcomers she could clarify her statement instead she defends asking others for their vision.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for