Monday Morning Thoughts: 130 Units Going Away on Nishi Plus Parks Tax Thoughts

Tim Ruff addressing questions on Saturday
Tim Ruff addressing questions on Saturday

In general, the Vanguard has pushed for greater density at Nishi. The developer has, in fact, put in a contingency for 130 additional units. At the last council meeting, Robb Davis suggested that the additional units simply be included in the base project.

The problem with that is that the additional units have not been studied in the EIR (Environmental Impact Report). Because of that, staff wrote, “The Baseline Project Features also allow potential increase in residential units, or addition of a hotel, as a potential subsequent action by the City, but without a requirement for subsequent voter approval.”

Instead, both the additional housing and the hotel “would be subject to full environmental review as required under CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] and City Council consideration of the necessary General Plan and planned development amendment.”

While not necessarily against the letter of the Measure J ordinance, it certainly would have invited both political criticism and potential legal challenges.

On Saturday, Tim Ruff was asked where the 130 units would go. He basically answered they would be put into increased height of the buildings. But he then intimated that he was expecting that the 130 units would go away.

Mr. Ruff was not asked about the hotel on Saturday, but that may be coming off the table as well, the Vanguard has learned. The elimination of both the additional housing proposal and the hotel would eliminate two of the contingencies that seemed most problematic from a legal standpoint.

Critics will still have potential concerns on the phasing of construction, which would not be able to begin until the second crossing issue is approved by UC Davis and until the corridor plans are handled on Richards Boulevard.

The Finance and Budget Commission will look once again at the fiscal analysis of the site. The elimination of the hotel would take about half a million potentially away from the site. However, the Services Community Facilities District for municipal services will create a known revenue stream.

Writes staff, “The Baseline Project Features include establishment of a Services Community Facilities District for municipal services, to ensure positive fiscal and economic benefits for the City of Davis. Parameters for the Services CFD process will be established in the Development Agreement. Exact revenues and methodologies will be established by the City Council upon formation of the District in the future, with input from fiscal consultants and the Finance and Budget Commission.”

As staff explains, “A Services CFD is different from an infrastructure CFD, which has the purpose of financing bond debt to provide capital funds for construction of physical improvements related to a development project.”

A Services CFD provides “an ongoing revenue stream from payments that are made by property owners within the district and collected with the annual property tax bill. This provides a permanent source of funding for City operations to serve the project, in addition to property and sales taxes that would continue to be collected per statute.”

How much would that be? One source suggested about $300,000 in gross revenue. This would be in addition to sales and property taxes. While this would not seem sufficient to get the city to $1 million, it might get them to half a million. Is that going to be enough for those who want Nishi as a revenue generator? Stay tuned.

Parks Tax

The city has developed a list of ongoing needs for infrastructure. Not surprisingly, roads represent about 78 percent of the identified needs. Parks represent about 11 percent, as do city buildings.

Needs-Roads Needs-Parks Needs-Facilities

And yet, if we look at the projects supported by an infrastructure maintenance measure at $2.8 million per year for six years – which would be $100 per parcel tax, the breakdown is perplexing.


The all-encompassing parcel tax would be divided into 29 percent for roads, 28 percent for parks, and 43 percent for buildings.

The question is why is staff so advantaging parks at the expense of roads, which represent the huge majority of all needs?

Granted, these are illustrative tables and staff notes, “If Council wishes to pursue a parcel tax, any combination of amount, duration and targeted expenditure may be selected.” But the illustration shows staff’s preference, which is not going for roads. Staff appears to be only adding about $1 million to roads needs currently funded at $4 million, but well short of where it needs to end up.

—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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20 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: 130 Units Going Away on Nishi Plus Parks Tax Thoughts”

  1. Tia Will

    The question is why is staff so advantaging parks at the expense of roads, which represent the huge majority of all needs?”

    Strictly numerically, you may be correct. However, when you add in the overall benefit to the community of the intangibles ( health and wellness) of today’s children as well as future generations, one could argue that spending more on the parks and other recreational infrastructure is in the long term the wiser community investment.


      1. Tia Will


        On this point we are in agreement. And there are dangers inherent in poorly maintained playing fields and play structures. There are even larger dangers associated with our sedentary lifestyle enabled by our extreme dependence on our private automobiles, it is just that the line between these risks is not as direct nor as apparent as is the pothole related accident thus it is easier to overlook the connection.

        I am not arguing for neglecting the roads. I am arguing for not considering our parks and other recreational spaces as “nice to haves” which to me implies that they are considered “luxuries” and thus less worthy of expenditure. It is this point with which I disagree.

  2. Tia Will


    There is also the factor that the price escalation move up far faster on roads than on other infrastructure”

    But arguably not faster than health care costs. More difficult to measure and monitor, but no less real.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i don’t understand your point. the city isn’t funding health care (except to their employees which is why costs continue to skyrocket), so why does it matter if health care costs rise faster than roads costs?

      1. Tia Will


        I am taking a much broader perspective on monetary expenditures. While it is true that the city is not paying for health care costs, it is equally true that as purchasers of health insurance and as taxpayers, we are paying for these costs. As a doctor, I am acutely aware of just how much a visit costs the patient who is not fully covered by their health plan. I am also much more aware than many may be of the costs to health care purchasers whether individuals or employers, or taxpayers in the form of ER visits for the un or under insured.

        Let me give you just one example. I currently am the principal staffer for a specialty service. For individuals with a one specific type of plan a preventive visit to their primary care provider may cost between 0 to $20.00. A visit to me in the specialty center for a breast lump for a patient on the same plan will cost between $ 25 – $ 90.00 and a visit to the ER will probably cost upwards of $ 500.00. As the risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other metabolically related illness increases, so do the risks of the individual requiring specialty and/or ER services. We collectively help to finance these costs through our taxes. I would prefer to prevent the illness at a much lower cost, thus having more money available to “come out of my pocket” for discretionary spending or other expenditures such as roads and other items that some seem to see as much more important than health related preventive expenditures.

        Just because you do not receive a bill labelled “medical costs of others” does not mean that you are not paying for it indirectly through your premiums and your taxes.

  3. Davis Progressive

    i think tia is missing the fact that political games are being played here.  clearly team wolk views parks as their bread and butter issue, they flipped on soda when it got too risky, but roads aren’t sexy.  how can we pass a tax that doesn’t fund what we need?

    1. Barack Palin

      Not only that but current general funds are partially funding parks so if we pass a higher park tax it will free those general funds up to be spent where?  Hopefully on roads but there’s no guarantee.  We’ve already been burned twice with sales tax measures that ended up being used for employee raises, I’m not willing to roll the dice again.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          From a 2012 article in the Enterprise: “The tax — which pays for maintenance of pools, community parks, streetscapes and vandalism repairs, among other things — generates $1.36 million each year, or about 20 percent of the money the city dedicates toward general parks maintenance. The other 80 percent comes directly from the city’s general fund.”

          In 2014, the budget was $11,746,059, the Parks Tax is funding less than 20% of that it seems.

    2. Tia Will

      DP and BP

      And I think that you may be missing the fact that different proponents of a measure may have different motives. I frankly ( since I am too) do not care about the Mayor’s motives. I care about mine and I am very certain what they are and that they have absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s political fortunes but a great deal to do with the health and well being of the individuals that comprise our community, and thus our community as a whole.

  4. Davis Progressive

    i want to understand more about the service cfd and why it differs from an infrastructure one and why one is good and one is bad?

    i think killing the 130 units is the right call – too many complications.

    1. Matt Williams

      A services CFD made sense to the FBC on January 11th.

      The first of the series of FBC motions passed recommended the use of Scenario 10 as the Base Development Plan for Nishi.  Scenario 10 uses a services CFD in the form of a Parks and Open Space assessment of $181,000 paid to the City each year by the Nishi developer.  Scenario 10 improves the EPS Calculated net margin for the City from a ($106,000) deficit to a $75,000 surplus.

      1. hpierce

        My read of the law says the CFD can only be used for NEW parks/open space services.  Cannot find any reference to potential for annual assessment increases to deal with inflation, in ANY case… the value of $181,000/year, 20 years from now?  Never was good with the calcs for TVM, but at say 1.5% inflation per year?  Potentially, that could be a damn good deal for the property owners in the “out” years, if their participation in the CFD exempts them from other assessments for Parks/Open Space…

    2. hpierce


      see section 53313, particularly the two paragraphs following subsection (g).  There it is “clear” that any assessment is limited for services IN ADDITION to those provided previously…  the below is quoted from that section, but I find it a tad nebulous…

      A community facilities district tax approved by vote of the
      landowners of the district may only finance the services authorized
      in this section to the extent that they are in addition to those
      provided in the territory of the district before the district was
      created. The additional services shall not supplant services already
      available within that territory when the district was created.

    3. hpierce

      Well, the simplest thing, and perhaps the best, is for the Nishi folk to apply to UC to approve primary/sole MV access to UCD, UCD provide all services, and any property tax/revenue that the City would have been entitled to,be directed to UC.  Greatly simplifies things.

      1. Mark West

        Why would you want the property tax to go to the University?  I don’t see any value in having the University annex Nishi, and I for one would certainly vote against the project if I thought that was the plan.

      2. CalAg

        The simplest thing would be for UCD to acquire the property and then develop it via ground leases with the current owners. The City of Davis would have no say, and the developers would have to design a project with UCD access only. This would obviously maximize the amount of student housing and minimize the number of cars. Losing all the property and sales tax to Yolo County would be a non-issue since the project is revenue negative.

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