Planning Commission Forwards Nishi to Council

Nishi Artist Rendering
Nishi Artist Rendering
Nishi Artist Rendering

The Davis Planning Commission made a series of votes on Wednesday night to move the Nishi Project forward to the Davis City Council. If the council approves the project, it could go to the voters for a Measure R vote in June of this year.

The Planning Commission, on a 7-0 vote, voted to certify the project EIR. It also approved the Gateway/Olive Drive Specific Plan Amendment (SPA) by a 6-1 vote, with a suggestion to council that, in the event that the Nishi project does not proceed, the West Olive Drive SPA return to the commission for review.

This was followed by a series of 5-2 votes. First they approved the General Plan Amendment for the Nishi Property, including the provisions that the Nishi Project should not be occupied until connections to both UC Davis and West Olive Drive/Richards Boulevard interchange improvements are constructed. Second was that residential units cannot be sold (but may be rented) until the outside air quality improves to acceptable levels to a standard to be determined.

The commission also approved the Development Agreement, including Baseline Project Features for the Nishi Property, along with the Prezoning and Preliminary Planned Development for the Nishi Property.

The dissenting votes were Chair Rob Hofmann and Mark Truscott.

The Planning Commission’s vote added two suggested amendments to the baseline project: there should be no occupancy until the connection to Old Davis Road leading to UC Davis is completed and no units should be sold until additional air quality measures are implemented.

The applicants, in a press release, noted that, according to staff, “the air quality concerns can be substantively addressed by planting trees near I-80 earlier than previously planned and by planting larger trees. The Nishi Gateway is already designed to place trees and R&D [Research and Development] space as a buffer to residential units, with for sale units furthest back from the highway.”

“I appreciate the work of the commission, city staff, and consultants who gave the Nishi Gateway project the thoughtful analysis it deserves,” said Tim Ruff, managing partner of the Nishi Gateway. “Throughout this process, we’ve strived to make the Nishi Gateway an even better project for Davis, and we’ve taken community feedback to heart. I’m very pleased with this result, and I think Davis voters will be too.”

Despite this vote, however, the community and commissioners had serious concerns about whether the project is ready to proceed.

Commissioner Mark Truscott in his comments captured some of this when he said, “I like a lot about this project, it’s exciting.” But he added, “It does feel to me like it’s being rushed.”

He noted that there is an elephant in the room, that being the ultra-fine particulate matters and “the fact that there is a lot of residential units that will be washed, from everything that I read, with this matter.” He said, “For that reason alone, I have a hard time supporting this project with the residential component.”

He added that he hasn’t seen anything to indicate that they can mitigate that to an acceptable level.

George Hague noted that, as large and complex as this project is, “nobody came up there unalterably opposed to it.” (He would amend that to note there was one person). But most are “in a qualified way supporters,” but at the same time there are real concerns that were raised, particularly about air quality and residential units.

He added, “The one real sticking point that I have is that the transportation plan, the circulation plan, and the assumptions it’s based on, 27 years in the transportation industry, my opinion is that it’s simply not going to work.” He said, “The assumptions are unrealistic.”

Mr. Hague in particular had concerns about fire equipment accessibility. However, he said, “On the whole though, this property should be developed, it’s a good thing for the city. It’s not a matter of if we should do it, it’s a matter of how we should do it.”

Cristina Ramirez called it an “interesting” and “innovative” project and called it “exciting.” However, she expressed concerns with the “transportation circulation.” She noted that, during lunch time and peak commute hours, there is heavy traffic congestion on the Richards Corridor. “This concerns me quite a bit,” she said. “So I’m a little hesitant. I would like to see this developed but I think there needs to be a little bit more analysis in terms of transportation.”

Cheryl Essex said that she has wondered when Nishi would be developed, given its location near the university. “Development makes a lot of sense here,” she said.

She added that having a business park makes a lot of sense next to university and thinks it would be a great thing… “if it works.” “The devil is in the details,” she continued, noting that “we really need more safe, affordable housing in this area near or on the campus, near or in the downtown.”

“Our job in the Planning Commission is to help sculpt the very best project that we can and propose that to the city council,” she said.

Ms. Essex expressed real concern about the air quality issue. “I am really concerned that this is going to be a real unhealthy place to live, work, and play,” she said. “I wonder about that residential component more than anything. We need more residential – because if we don’t have more residential close to campus… then people are driving on Interstate 80 and creating more pollution as they come to town.”

She noted that tree planting “is not something that’s going to work right away, so the outdoor air quality may take some time to improve. It may never improve – it’s not a proven mitigation measure.” She noted that this might be possible if they delayed for sale housing until the tree mitigation is proven effective.

The logic is that people renting the units are less likely to live there for a long enough period of time to be exposed to enough harmful particulate matter to have health impacts.

On the transportation side, she said they need the two access points to the property when it’s occupied “and that’s going to be a challenge.”

Herman Boschken said he was trying to sort out between what was real and what wasn’t. He said that one thing that is very clear from the discussion is the need to “continue to search,” presumably for solutions to some of these concerns. The question, he said, “is whether we need to stop the process and wait for the continuing search.”

He said, “There may be alternatives down the road to make those shifts,” acknowledging that the process “may involve lawsuits.”

He concluded that he is satisfied that they should make a recommendation for approval.

Chair Rob Hofmann, the second dissenting vote as it turned out, stated that the project “is arguably our best opportunity in terms of proximity to the city.” He noted that “everyone knew this wasn’t going to be a simple project.”

He said, “I have considerable objection to the residential component.” He thinks a project could be done here that is R&D, focused on looking at innovative stuff.

Mr. Hofmann noted he voted against Lexington and Harmony based on the air quality concerns and he has to “stay consistent.” He noted “neither of which have the same level of concern of this particular location.”

He noted that, regarding Solano Park, “the key consideration there is it’s transitory.” Even as a student, you are only there for a year or two. “So it’s limited exposure,” he said.

Despite these concerns, the project was pushed forward on a series of 5-2 votes.

From the applicants’ perspective, “Nishi in its conception (though not size) is very similar to successful live-work infill projects like those in Emeryville, which are along a more congested stretch of the I-80 corridor.”

The developers add, “Multi-model smart growth development is proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve overall air quality over time, and it is essential for these projects to be built near existent commercial districts to be viable and achieve the desired result of reduced car trips. The nominal increase in air quality concerns, which are being further mitigated, is the inevitable tradeoff of smart growth infill.”

The applicants see this as a sustainable development, noting, “From its conception, the Nishi Gateway has worked to be a model development for sustainability and livability. For student residents, 80 percent of trips are expected to be conducted via walking, biking, and transit. Because of this, the Nishi Gateway would be the first project ever to exceed the City of Davis’ Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan. The Nishi Gateway has also been ranked #1 by the California Strategic Growth Council for sustainability goals.”

They conclude, “Through this, they provided a grant which funded a comprehensive Sustainability Implementation Plan. In addition, the Nishi project will provide a net fiscal positive surplus, providing substantial revenue to the City, and it will also fund a new road to UC Davis to alleviate traffic.”

The issue is now in the hands of the council who must weigh a variety of factors in determining how best to proceed.

—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.

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73 Comments

  1. Davis Progressive

    cheryl essex: She noted that tree planting “is not something that’s going to work right away, so the outdoor air quality may take some time to improve. It may never improve – it’s not a proven mitigation measure.” 

    so let’s just approve the project?  does that make any sense here.

     

    i guess the bottom line here is what is the job of the planning commission, what role do they have to play, what is the difference between their role and the council?  because this is all very murky to me and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    1. hpierce

      http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/Planning-Commission/Agendas/20160106/05A-Nishi-Gateway-District.pdf

      I’ll attempt to make this as simple as possible:  look at the cited staff report;  see the recommended actions; note that the actions are to RECOMMEND to the CC actions that ONLY the CC can take.

      The way the article was “reported”, has a lot (am concluding) to do with the “murkiness” you seem to be experiencing.  Hope that helps.

       

       

      1. Davis Progressive

        you think the article wasn’t reported accurately?

        do you watch the meeting itself?  even the commissioners seemed a bit unclear as to their role.

        1. hpierce

          Big “take-away”… the PC took no FINAL action… if they can’t read and understand the staff report…. well, that could be a serious problem… on page one, with bullet points.  Commissioners being unclear as to their role?  Whose fault is that?

          I tried to assist, and given your response, see no point to remain engaged on this topic.

        2. Davis Progressive

          i’ll try this again.  for example, the commission voted unanimously to certify the eir.  one of the commissioners had concerns about whether the mitigation measures were sufficient to deal with air quality issues.  so under what conditions should they vote to certify the eir and what happens if they don’t?

        3. CalAg

          DP: We have a low performing Planning Commission that is not well staffed. The senior members of the commission would have this drill down pat if they had been receiving adequate coaching from staff and, as necessary, the City Attorney over the course of their tenures.

      2. David Greenwald

        “The way the article was “reported””

        Since this article was not a commentary and reported on what happened and the views of the commissioners as expressed during their comment period, I’m curious as to why you chose to take a swipe here?

        1. hpierce

          The PC didn’t approve/decide anything other than forwarding a recommendation to CC… your “report” strongly implied/said they did.  Therefore, the “dig”…  did I misread?  Did you believe the ACTED [with an approval], with the CC being an “appeals” forum?

          1. David Greenwald

            I led with: “The Davis Planning Commission made a series of votes on Wednesday night to move the Nishi Project forward to the Davis City Council. If the council approves the project, it could go to the voters for a Measure R vote in June of this year.” I did use the term approve to describe the votes, so I see some of your point, but why “report” in quotes?

  2. Matt Williams

    DP, I could be wrong, but if the EIR clearly identifies and describes the negative impact, is it a meaningful deficiency in the EIR if the fact that the proposed mitigation measures in the project are “sufficient to deal with” the negative impact. Further, is that deficiency (whether you believe it is meaningful or not) a legitimate reason for not certifying the EIR?

    With that said, voting against a project with a certified EIR, could certainly be due to the fact that the mitigation measures were not sufficient to deal with air quality issues.  That is what I heard Marq Truscott and Rob Hofmann saying on Wednesday night . . . the defieicncies were in the project plan, not in the sufficiency of the EIR.

    1. CalAg

      My understanding, which could be wrong, is that you can only vote against a project that has a certified EIR. The City had no business, in my opinion, putting the certification and approval recommendations on the same agenda for a project this large, complex, and controversial.

      This BS is like money from heaven for guys like Mike Harrington.

      1. hpierce

        Clarification CalAG… if the project is subject to an EIR, the deciding body can take NO action [positive, nor negative (arguably)] until the EIR is certified.  EIR’s are not “law”, not “gospel”, etc.   It is a ‘disclosure document’… the deciding body can dismiss mitigation measures with “over-riding concerns”… the deciding body can demand more “mitigation” (within certain “nexus” limits, or with agreement with the applicant).  Basic land use law knowledge.

      2. Matt Williams

        CalAg, I agree with your basic point that it was a mistake to put both the EIR certification and the other four recommendations on the same agenda item; however, given the sequencing of (and outcome of) the votes, the project EIR actually was certified at the time that the four subsequent votes (shown below from the agenda) took place.

        Deliberation and a recommendation that the City Council certify the project EIR and approve the following project applications:
        1. General Plan Amendment (Nishi Property)
        2. Prezoning and Preliminary Planned Development (Nishi Property)
        3. Gateway/Olive Drive Specific Plan Amendment (West Olive Drive)
        4. Development Agreement, including Baseline Project Features as required by Chapter 41 of the Davis Municipal Code (Nishi Property).

         

        1. hpierce

          Matt… look at your post again, particularly the quoted part… all of the PC’s actions were recommendations to the CC.  It is standard to put certification of EIR first [it’s technically required before other actions can be taken (or recommended), when an environmental doc [be it Certification of Exemption, Neg Dec., focussed EIR, full EIR, etc.] is required].

          The EIR, at this point, is NOT certified.  Period.  End of statement.

        2. Matt Williams

          pierce, my various English teachers would get tied up in knots with that Staff Report sentence . . . specifically whether there is (A) one recommendation and four approvals, or (B) five recommendations.

          Because you understand the actual process, you end up reading the Staff Report language as (B), but for anyone coming to the process without your wealth of knowledge, reading the language as (A) is more likely than reading it as (B).

          Even with my more than average understanding of the process, my first half dozen readings of the language was (A).

          With that said, what your final paragraph appears to say is that the Planning Commission is not legally allowed to certify an EIR. Only the Council is legally allowed to make an EIR certification.  Is that a correct reading of what you are saying?

        3. CalAg

          MW: Correct. Only the CC can certify the EIR. The PC is just recommending certification.

          Comps are generally informative, so I just took a look online at the last major entitlement action in Davis (the Cannery Project) to compare and contrast that process with Nishi.

          The two major differences I picked up after just a brief look at the record:
          (1) There was a separate public hearing to consider the DEIR.
          (2) There were three public hearings (over the course of one month) to consider the planning documents.

          Even though Cannery got considerably more scrutiny that Nishi, one could argue that it was a much simpler entitlement to process – no annexation, no Yolo county tax sharing, no shared infrastructure with a separate public agency (UCD), no need for an agreement with UPRR, no Specific Plan Amendment to integrate with adjacent development, no linkage to CalTrans infrastructure improvements, no Measure J/R vote (i.e. no need to establish baseline project features), no 2-1 ag land mitigation, etc.

          So four public hearings, with a 6-0 recommendation at the end to certify the EIR and approval of the planning documents.

          This begs the question, why is the City fast-tracking an incomplete Nishi proposal with minimal scrutiny?

        4. Matt Williams

          CalAg, I stated my opinion in my public comment at Wednesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.  In trying to be responsive to the community input, the Nishi developer mad a number of clear commitments that were included in Staff’s presentation, and then confirmed in the applicant’s public comment.  Two of those developer-initiated commitments were as follows:

          Phasing Commitments

          — No project without approval of UC Davis connection
          — No occupancy until the I-80 “Tight Diamond” interchange improvements are completed

          I am told, but do not have confirmation, that currently the I-80 improvements to the Richards exit are listed on the SACOG Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan for a date that is no earlier than 2022.  I’m not sure whether that is the project start date or the project completion date, but even if it is the project completion date that means Nishi can not have any occupancy until 2022.  Assuming a three year buildout period for the Nishi infrastructure and buildings, that means a Nishi start date in 2019.  Given those facts I have a very hard time understanding why there is any need to have a vote on Nishi in June 2016, just to have the land stand vacant for the remainder of 2016, the full 12 months of 2017, and the full 12 months of 2018, before starting construction the spring of 2019.

        5. CalAg

          Those are just relevant facts that beg the question. And the question remains …

          Why is the City fast-tracking an incomplete Nishi proposal with minimal scrutiny?

  3. CalAg

    “The commission also approved [this really means … “recommended approval” of …] the Development Agreement, including Baseline Project Features for the Nishi Property”

    This is noteworthy since:

    (1) The Planning Commission has not seen the Development Agreement.

    (2) The Baseline Project Features were not released to the public until a couple of hours before the meeting (this was apparently a selective release to specific members of the public and the document is still not online as of this posting). It is reasonable to assume that the Planning Commissioners did not receive this information in a timely manner either (unless Staff is privately releasing documents to the commissioners and withholding them from the public).

    Please correct me if I am wrong on either of these points.

    So please explain to me how a Commissioner can recommend approval of a Development Agreement that they haven’t seen?

    The only document that was in the Staff Report (via a link to the 12/16 workshop) was an attachment labelled the “Development Agreement Form Document.”

    http://cityofdavis.org/home/showdocument?id=5041

    This is just a legal boiler plant with minimal project-related detail.

    So I ask again, how can a Commissioner – in good faith – recommend approval of a Development Agreement that they haven’t seen? And how can a City Council member – in good faith – accept this recommendation?

  4. Alan Miller

    The logic is that people renting the units are less likely to live there for a long enough period of time to be exposed to enough harmful particulate matter to have health impacts.

    That isn’t logic, it’s an assumption.

    What about the dozens of people who have lived on Olive Drive for decades, wedged between I-80 and the railroad tracks?  Has the government forced them to relocate to cleaner realms for their health, because they passed year X, the year in which their health is affected?  Of course not, because no one can define X, and no law has been written to enforce X.

    The millions of people in the metro areas of the state who live near massive freeways are exposed to higher levels of air pollution.  Do their planning commissions stop new projects near freeways and railroads based on air pollution?

    1. David Greenwald

      Alan – I don’t know that that’s a good answer. After all if you’re exposing a whole bunch of people to potential he toxic levels of particulate matter and they end up contracting respiratory diseases down the line, have we done them any favors?

        1. David Greenwald

          Actually it’s exactly the point and it’s embodied within your answer to Tia. A reasonable person knowing about CEQA laws isn’t going to research air quality issues in the place they live – if they can even get them. Remember this isn’t just a proximity issue, it’s also about air flow and where the particulate matter goes and whether it consistently flows in the direction of housing or whether it consistently flows in that direction. One difference between Nishi and East Olive is the maturity of the trees, so we should not assume that East Olive has the same problems as identified by both Dr. Cahill and the EIR at Nishi. But that doesn’t mean we as a community don’t have an obligation to study whether there are issues.

  5. Tia Will

    Alan

    The millions of people in the metro areas of the state who live near massive freeways are exposed to higher levels of air pollution.  Do their planning commissions stop new projects near freeways and railroads based on air pollution?”

    I agree that the argument as stated was not logical because of the unknown “X”. However just because millions of people choose or are forced to do something by circumstances does not mean that it is healthy or wise or that we should be enabling more to do the same.

    1. Davis Progressive

      One point that was made during the planning commission meeting was that when people buy a house they assume that all of the due diligence was done by the planning commission in the city Council to make sure that their house is safe. So the time to do oversight is during the planning stage

    2. Alan Miller

      just because millions of people choose or are forced to do something by circumstances does not mean that it is healthy or wise or that we should be enabling more to do the same.

      It’s about dosage, man.  How much air pollution is it legal to allow someone to be exposed to?  How do we measure it?  If it’s a personal concern, educate one’s self, live in a place with lower pollution levels.

      It is not Davis’ responsibility to leave all land “near” (define near) railroads and large roads fallow so that maybe if the wind blows the wrong way maybe over time there might be health effects on some people.  Nor is it sane to believe renters won’t rent a long time, that the health effects don’t happen in a few years, or that those who work on the site aren’t effected as much or more than residents.  This is not based on science, it’s anti-growth people pissing in the wind.

      1. David Greenwald

        “This is not based on science, it’s anti-growth people pissing in the wind.” If that’s the case, why does the EIR cite it as a problem that needs to be mitigated? Is the drafter of the EIR also an anti-growth person pissing in the wind?

    3. hpierce

      With your logic, Tia, whenever we see a child in a home where the parents smoke, we should call CPS and then CPS should remove the child from the home.

      In that example, David, we’re not “doing the child any favors” by allowing them to remain with their parents.

          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t favor that approach

            This is from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/health_effects/

            Secondhand Smoke Harms Children

            Secondhand smoke can cause serious health problems in children.

              Studies show that older children whose parents smoke get sick more often. Their lungs grow less than children who do not breathe secondhand smoke, and they get more bronchitis and pneumonia.
              Wheezing and coughing are more common in children who breathe secondhand smoke.
              Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack in a child. Children with asthma who are around secondhand smoke have more severe and frequent asthma attacks. A severe asthma attack can put a child’s life in danger.
              Children whose parents smoke around them get more ear infections. They also have fluid in their ears more often and have more operations to put in ear tubes for drainage.

            Parents can help protect their children from secondhand smoke by taking the following actions:

              Do not allow anyone to smoke anywhere in or near your home.
              Do not allow anyone to smoke in your car, even with the window down.
              Make sure your children’s day care centers and schools are tobacco-free.
              If your state still allows smoking in public areas, look for restaurants and other places that do not allow smoking. “No-smoking sections” do not protect you and your family from secondhand smoke.

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

        No, that is not even close to an extension of my logic. The correct analogy would be that if I see a child in a home where people smoke, that I counsel them on the dangers of second hand smoke and especially given my specialty, advise the mother to stop smoking prior to her next pregnancy.

        As I said to Alan, proposing measures to prevent something is not the same as taking something away that is already well established. Not building on a given site could be considered in medicine analogous to primary prevention ( not smoking prior to and during pregnancy). Taking away people’s homes ( and or children) has nothing to do with primary prevention although I suppose it might be considered secondary prevention which is entirely different.

  6. Tia Will

    Alan

    Do you believe in the declaration of toxic waste sites and the responsibility of the government to see that no builds on them ? If your answer is “no” then you and I see the role of government even more differently than I believe that we do.

    If your answer is “yes” then we are just down to a matter of line drawing. How much danger needs to be demonstrated, over what amount of time, and to what percentage of the population and what mitigating factors must be available before the government can step in and say “No, you cannot build this project in this location because of health concerns “?

    Since I am not an environmental scientist, I have no idea whether or not Nishi would meet reasonable safety and health requirements, but I do not believe that it is valid to opine that there is no science behind this just because we do not, ourselves, have a working knowledge of that science or because we do not agree, or want to agree with the conclusions.

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

         the government allows development on top of toxic waste sites [“brown-field” development], depending on land use, and risk of exposure”

        Agreed. But I doubt a school or housing development would be approved. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  7. Alan Miller

    Do you believe in the declaration of toxic waste sites and the responsibility of the government to see that no builds on them ?

    The answer is “yes”.  I worked in the industry for seven years, I was an environmental scientist.  The way in which water, soil and air move and how we are exposed are quite different.  Air is the most fickle.  I have seen many EIRs that are not based on hard science.

    I am not saying there is no exposure to air pollutants.  I am saying there is no way to measure definitively what a renter, buyer, or worker will be exposed to, and there are literally millions of people in the state exposed to areas of dense air pollution who are not required to leave for their health.

    If they drilled a well into a toxic plume of water to give water to Nishi residents, that is easily measured and there are definitive standards.  There is no way to make a case except through hand-waving that Nishi shouldn’t be built due to air quality concerns.  If so, depopulate Olive Drive!  Depopulate downtown!  Depopulate Old East!  Stop Trackside!  It’s too close to the air-polluting tracks!  But first, depopulate everyone in Davis within 1/2 mile of a railroad, 80 or 113!  Live on a farm and get sprayed with insecticides instead!

    1. Matt Williams

      David, I personally don’t know how Alan could explain himself better.  His point has been clear to me from the moment when he first posted it.

      If it has a vulnerability, that vulnerability is the proverbial “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

      1. David Greenwald

        He’s the one who said, “God, if you can’t see what I’m saying DG, I can’t help you.” I thought I understood his point but disagreed. But perhaps not.

    2. Tia Will

      Alan

      I agree with you about the complexity of the issues involved. Where we do not agree is that it is the same to allow people to continue to live where they have for many years and to decide that it is ok to put more people at risk because millions already are.

      Now I am not saying that Nishi is too risky a site. I simply do not have the knowledge to from an opinion. What I am saying is that the argument to allow more development in potentially unsafe sites using the argument that we already allow it, is not sound reasoning.

      1. hpierce

        Ok… read it… vapid, ill-informed opinion piece… not relevant… except for those with an “agenda”… or, do you just seek controversy?  Another “agenda”?  [all, in my opinion]

      2. Frankly

        Ron this was just a no-growther hit piece.  It was filled with lies and distortions.

        For example “Neither project would add much to city of Davis tax revenues.” is an absolute lie.

        MRIC would bring in more than $4MM per year in net revenue based on comparable business parks.  The study done by the city under-calculated the net revenue at $2.5MM, but even this demonstrates the fact that the author of this article is not to be trusted.

        There is a simple consideration to debunk this claim that commercial development does not return net positive revenue to a city.  If this is true, then every city in the nation would be broke as all development was net negative (we do know that residential development always turns net negative).  Ask yourself why do states and cities attempt to attract business to their location if not for the net-positive tax revenue?

        When ever you read something that makes the argument that an innovation park will not provide revenue to the city, reject it out of hand as no-growth propaganda.

        1. hpierce

          Well, frankly, I would not dismiss anything ‘out-of-hand’ (with some exceptions), but I stand by my previous comment as to the current cite.

          Your cites, frankly, are absent…

          Neither of you, in my opinion, are very credible on this issue…

        2. Frankly

          Which cite?

          The problem hpierce is that I have been doing the work on this topic for years now.  The economic benefits of a 200 acre innovation park have been previously analyzed and vetted back with we had Rob White on staff and a real indication that city leadership supported economic development.  The conclusion back then was $4MM to $6MM in net revenue to the city for a fully populated innovation park.  There were assumptions related to this, and one of them might have been the expectation for a special tax district.

          When I have some time will dig all of that back out and repost it.

          You see, Davis does not need to reinvent the wheel on this.  Contrary to the inflated sense of self we tend to have, many other communities have already figured this stuff out and have executed a plan.  Boulder is a great example we can and should follow.  But at the very least we can just use the real data derived from their actual economic development moves to help explain what we can expect.

          http://teamboulder.org/

          http://boulderchamber.com/economic-vitality/

          By the way, where is the new Davis Economic Development Director?  Heard from her recently?   Big difference between her and Rob White huh?

        3. CalAg

          Frankly: I agree that we need to understand how the $6M pitch became a $2.2M buildout estimate in the MRIC fiscal impact report.

          I suspect that the analysis was politicized out of the gate and was not entirely objective. The big red flag for me was when the City asked that the “innovation centers” be analyzed in a single report. That made no sense.

        4. Mark West

          We are thinking about the analysis incorrectly as the direct tax revenues to the City are really just the ‘gravy’ from the projects.

          The important benefits to the community are the new jobs for residents leading to increased economic activity throughout town, the greater support for our non-profits, schools and other institutions from the new companies, and the increased diversity of our local businesses, thus reducing the City’s dependence on auto sales tax.  More jobs, greater economic activity and more resiliency.  That is what we gain by expanding our business economy, something we cannot do without the new development space.

           

        5. Ron

          Mark:

          I thought the main purpose was to generate tax revenue, to help our city with its ongoing deficit (e.g., to supplement the auto sales tax that you mentioned).  I haven’t heard anyone else describe the tax benefits as “gravy”, which implies that it’s almost an afterthought.

          Jobs would be created.  Of course, the jobs might be taken by commuters from outside Davis, generating the traffic that was mentioned in the letter.  Also, if the jobs are taken by commuters (from outside Davis), they likely won’t stick around after work (or spend money, here).  (The proposed development is at the very edge of town.)  Of course, the businesses themselves might interact with other businesses in Davis, which provides some benefit.

          If housing is included, many of the jobs will be taken by these new residents (not necessarily current residents).  Also, If that occurs, costs (for services) for the city will increase, thereby wiping out much of the promised financial benefit.

          Perhaps the biggest downside is that this development will increase demand for housing. Good news for current homeowners. This might benefit people like me, but not some others.

          Still not convinced that this car-centered development is worth it, even though I do see some benefits (if housing is not included).

           

        6. Ron

          I should clarify this to say that I see some benefit (for homeowners), and perhaps the city (to a lesser degree), if housing is not included.  However, I’m not convinced that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

          If housing is included, I don’t see much benefit for any current residents. (New residents would take many of the jobs, and the city would be subject to increased costs to provide services.)

  8. Miwok

    Davis always has had the attitude they can defy nature and the Law of Gravity. How they can put apartments right next to a freeway, as on Olive Drive, and claim to be better for the community, when they really poison the students? Oh, we’ll put an In N Out there, then just complain about obesity..

    Nishi is another way too expensive place that will get built, over objections and common sense, because its proximity is paramount,instead of say, making it a Community Garden? But then the plants that live there will have too much toxic residue from the trains and cars, but NOT the People?

    IMO. It would be better to spend the money on infrastructure and build for the future, instead of tax the existing configurations past their tolerance. As tempers fray and Davis gets the Big City problems they have engendered, a public transportation to the far reaches of the City would help all People, yet give the City room to grow in the only direction it has available, toward the Landfill! What a goal! Pretty soon you will need to go North or South, the only directions left to you. The UC owns almost everything else halfway to Winters.

  9. Mark West

    Ron:  “I thought the main purpose was to generate tax revenue, to help our city with its ongoing deficit (e.g., to supplement the auto sales tax that you mentioned).  I haven’t heard anyone else describe the tax benefits as “gravy”, which implies that it’s almost an afterthought.

    Which is why I said we have been looking at this wrong. The City will certainly gain significant tax revenues, but the more important impact is what these new businesses will do for the economy of the City, and for building wealth in the community.  ‘Gravy’ to me is an added bonus, not an afterthought.

     

    Jobs would be created.  Of course, the jobs might be taken by commuters from outside Davis, generating the traffic that was mentioned in the letter.  Also, if the jobs are taken by commuters (from outside Davis), they likely won’t stick around after work (or spend money, here).  (The proposed development is at the very edge of town.)  Of course, the businesses themselves might interact with other businesses in Davis, which provides some benefit.

     

    Frankly has posted the numbers for how many jobs a City the size of Davis should have, based on the average for the State.  I don’t have those numbers handy, but if I am not mistaken we are short many thousands of jobs.  The impact of that is that a large percentage of our population has to commute outside of town to find work.  Creating new jobs in town will reduce that outward commute.

    More importantly however, lets look at the impact of those jobs.  Here is the relevant quote from the City’s analysis of the projects.

    “The cumulative ongoing economic impact associated with the proposed MRIC and Nishi projects is estimated at approximately 11,000 jobs, $2.9 billion output, and $704 million of labor income on an annual basis in the Davis economy. 

    Think about that for a moment.  Which will have a larger impact on our local economy, the $2-5 million in new taxes that the City is projected to receive, or the $2.9 billion in economic activity and $704 million in personal income? What will be the impact of these funds on our restaurants, stores, and other businesses? What would be the impact on our local non-profits, charities, and other institutions if they only received 1% of that new income. Do you think $7 million a year might make a difference?  How about the funds that will be donated by the businesses themselves?

    Yes, the new tax money is important, and adding $5 million would mean a 10% increase in our General Fund budget, which isn’t exactly chicken feed. The biggest impact on the community, however, will be the new wealth that is brought into the community with the new jobs and economic activity.

     

    If housing is included, many of the jobs will be taken by these new residents (not necessarily current residents).

    Perhaps in the short term, but over time the local residents who are driving to Folsom or Roseville etc. for work will be able to find good jobs locally instead.

     

    Also, If that occurs, costs (for services) for the city will increase, thereby wiping out much of the promised financial benefit.

    What evidence do you have that adding jobs to the community will increase the costs of City services to such a degree that it would ‘wipe out’ the tax benefit.  I call BS on this comment.

     

    Perhaps the biggest downside is that this development will increase demand for housing. Good news for current homeowners. This might benefit people like me, but not some others.

    We already have a vacancy rate that is below 1% so the current demand for housing is already extremely high.  These projects will not change the situation significantly, except of course if they do include housing and increase the available supply.

     

    Still not convinced that this car-centered development is worth it, even though I do see some benefits (if housing is not included).

    What would a ‘non-car-centered’ development look like to you?  How do you see that functioning in the real world?  Seems like a silly comment to me, unless you have a magic wand that will change our entire society overnight.

    I know a number of local residents who work in Folsom, Vacaville, Roseville and the like.  Not many of them are able to ride their bikes.  If they instead worked at a business located at MRIC, they would, at least, have that option. Putting the jobs where people live reduces our environmental impact.

    1. Ron

      Mark:

      Thanks for taking the time to craft a response.  I’ll look it over more carefully.

      I don’t have figures, regarding how much housing costs a city.  But, I’ve heard (repeatedly) that residential development costs more (in services) than it brings to a city (in taxes).  Even “Frankly” said (above) “that we do know that residential development always turns net negative“.  I recall that the “imbalance” regarding housing vs. commercial development in Davis is a primary justification for the proposed development.  If housing is (suddenly) included, this justification is gone.  Go ahead and call “B.S.” on this, if you’d like.

      I agree that a lot of current Davis residents commute to Sacramento (and elsewhere) for employment.  (I did this for years, via public transportation.)  I doubt that many of them would have an opportunity (or desire) to suddenly seek employment at MRIC.  But, as you pointed out, this may change over time.

      Regarding a non-car-centric development, I think that Nishi COULD accomplish this, but not under the current proposal.  And, that site has its own challenges.  (Regardless, I don’t see any real reason to pursue that development.)

      I’m not as opposed to MRIC as I once was.  But, I’m definitely opposed to it if housing is included.  I don’t think this would do anything for current renters.  (As the letter above noted, “affordable” housing is apparently not included in either of the proposed development.)  I also suspect that suddenly including housing at MRIC would likely cause the entire development to be rejected.  I know (for sure) that I wouldn’t support housing at MRIC, for what that’s worth.

      That’s all I’ll say, for now.

       

      1. Ron

        One last thing – building a commercial development (to create jobs), and then filling those jobs with new residents (occupying the newly-built housing) does not result in a “net gain” (increased supply) of housing.

        1. Mark West

          There are two reasons why single family home development eventually are a fiscal net negative for the City.  First and foremost is that we refuse to stop the rapid growth of total compensation for City employees, so our costs continue to rise at an unreasonable rate, eventually swamping out any gains from new development.

          That problem might be overcome however if the ownership of our housing stock turned over at a rate similar to the rest of the State. With each change of ownership, the tax basis for the property is reset allowing for an increase in property taxes over time.  In Davis however, because of our artificially imposed restrictions on housing development, particularly high-density apartments and condos, a large proportion of our single family homes are owned by investors and used for student rentals.  As a consequence, the ownership of these properties does not turn over as frequently as expected, so we do not see the appreciation of residential property tax that is present in most other Cities.

          In other words, we have chosen to shoot ourselves in the foot (probably both feet). The good news is we can change this narrative at any time.

        2. Frankly

          Ron – understand that it will take 30 years to fully populate MRIC with businesses.  Davis currently is over-represented in residents that commute out of town to their jobs.  Over-time as housing turns over, innovation park workers will acquire those houses.  In fact, there will likely be a bit of a jump in home values as a result of the new employees and so more people will cash out of Davis and move elsewhere selling their homes to these people that work in the same town.

          Over-time Davis will equalize having fewer job commuters.  That will mean that they drive fewer miles and we will decrease our carbon footprint per resident.

          But those residents will now live AND work in Davis.  They will spend more of their money in town (for example, not shop at their place of business outside of Davis).

          They will also likely be younger and like to spend money on things that will help our local businesses, and support things like more good restaurants in town.

          Davis is out of balance with respect to the number of business and the number of jobs per capita.  There is really no other comparable city to Davis.  No college town in California near our size has so little of both of these things.  Our local economy is way too small for the number of people we have… and that number is growing because of UCD growth.

          I think the thing that many do not understand is this deficit we are in.  If you get used to a certain existence that continues to grow more and more out of balance from lack of adjustment… eventually you are going to have to accept some bigger adjustments to catch up.  That is where we are… we have failed to develop our local economy thinking we were fine living off the soft money of the university.  Our politicians acerbated the problem by hiding and lying about the true financial imbalance, and instead painted rosy pictures so voters like you and me would not get mad and shoot the messenger.

        3. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “One last thing – building a commercial development (to create jobs), and then filling those jobs with new residents (occupying the newly-built housing) does not result in a “net gain” (increased supply) of housing.”

          Ron, the logic you have laid out confuses “available supply” with “total supply.”  Whenever a new residential unit is built the total supply always goes up. There are no exceptions to that truism.  Whenever an existing  residential unit is razed the total supply goes down. There are no exceptions to that truism.

          On the other hand, available supply is highly variable depending on the activity of the real estate sales and rental markets.

        4. Matt Williams

          Mark West said . . . “There are two reasons why single family home development eventually are a fiscal net negative for the City.  First and foremost is that we refuse to stop the rapid growth of total compensation for City employees, so our costs continue to rise at an unreasonable rate, eventually swamping out any gains from new development.”

          In the current Davis economic realities, Mark’s comment is 100% correct.  it is a simple mathematical reality that if you inflate costs at a rate that is higher than the rate you inflate revenues it is impossible not to reach a point where costs exceed revenues.

          The City of Davis has been operating in a rapid inflation of costs environment for at least a decade, probably longer, while at the same time operating in a very slow inflation of revenues environment.  For example, the year when the Council granted a 36% raise to the Davis firefighters, the revenues of the City grew at a rate of 2%.  The numbers do not lie.

      2. Ron

        I’ve heard that residential development is a net negative for other cities, as well.  Again, I don’t have figures for this.  I understand that Nishi would consist primarily of new housing and would also create a deficit, unless a hotel (possibly) puts it (barely) into positive territory.

        Including housing at MRIC is a non-starter topic for me.  It starts drifting off into my larger concerns about sprawl, endless growth, etc.  It’s hard enough for me to accept the need for a commercial-only development, let alone a “mini-city” rising up outside of the current city limits.  I hope that MRIC goes down in flames (at the ballot box), if housing is now suddenly included in the proposal presented to voters.  (I am somewhat angry that the developer is suddenly proposing this.)  I think that the developer is taking a significant risk in proposing this.

  10. CalAg

    “There are two reasons why single family home development eventually are a fiscal net negative for the City.”

    Mark: Single family homes are not a fiscal net negative for the City. This canard was created by the no-growth proponents. It’s more complicated that the sound bite.

    The City’s fiscal model that was put in place under Navazio (remember he was a finance guy) showed that the break-even point was about $450K. That may have risen in the last few years, but it is probably safe to say (until that model is updated) in approximate terms that homes over $500K are a net fiscal positive and homes under $5ooK are a net fiscal negative.

    Accordingly, the City could theoretically build its way out of the fiscal deficit with only high-end single family housing.

    1. Don Shor

      …showed that the break-even point was about $450K. That may have risen in the last few years, but it is probably safe to say (until that model is updated)…

      I don’t have the numbers handy, but I recall that this depended almost entirely on how fast employee compensation and associated costs rise.

      1. CalAg

        Not sure I would agree with “almost entirely” but my recollection is that it was a major factor. That’s why I estimated that the break-even point has probably inflated to something closer to $500K. The model needs to be updated and re-run to include various labor cost assumptions.

        I think it’s probably safe to assume that labor costs will eventually plateau (either via CC leadership or supervision from a bankruptcy court), so there is probably a number that can be deduced that has a high probability of being indefinitely net fiscal positive. I’d guess the bounds are probably between $500K and $800K.

         

  11. CalAg

    “We are thinking about the analysis incorrectly as the direct tax revenues to the City are really just the ‘gravy’ from the projects.”

    Mark: I disagree. The indirect benefits, enormously difficult to accurately quantitate, are the gravy.

    The direct benefits have to be there to insure fiscal sustainability. It would be irresponsible for the CC to approve a project that needs taxpayer subsidy to pencil on the theory that the indirect benefits will trickle down to the General Fund.

    That being said, we obviously need the gravy. Lot’s of gravy. The more gravy the better.

    1. Mark West

      CalAg

      It is all a matter of perspective. By emphasizing the tax revenues, we have created a situation where a small change in the projections, based perhaps on conservative assumptions, creates opposition to the project.  We are hearing it already with the complaints that it isn’t worth developing 200 acres if ‘all we are going to get’ is $2 million. We will be getting 11,000 new jobs, $700 million in personal income and nearly $3 billion in economic activity. Oh yeah, plus $2-5 million in property taxes.  The other benefits completely swamp out the tax revenues and should have been the focus of the discussion.

      By adding new businesses, we will make the community richer, allowing us to better afford the things that make Davis a great place to live.

      1. CalAg

        The $2.2M projection is fine. I looked at the tax yield of the proposed Apple campus, and this number seems to be in the ballpark.

        Unfortunately the CC (in their infinite wisdom) squandered the opportunity to negotiate a healthy supplemental tax assessment on MRIC by putting the Mace 391 acreage into a conservation easement and gifting a monopoly to RAMCO.

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