Council is receiving an update on the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC). Among other things, the staff is requesting direction regarding how to treat the Mixed Use alternative throughout the remainder of the development review process.
Staff presents three options – one is to continue with preparation of the current proposal, one is a dual path considering the options with and without housing, and finally, staff could be directed to pursue the mixed use alternative only.
Staff, in this case Mike Webb, Assistant City Manager and Community Development director along with Consultant Heidi Tschudin believe “direction to staff regarding how to treat the Mixed Use alternative throughout the remainder of the development review process.”
They note that the housing “could come in the form of on-site housing integrated with the proposal in the form of the Mixed-Use alternative.”
Staff continues, “At this point in time staff believes that it may be feasible to provide sufficient information, analysis, and detail to allow Council consideration for placement of option A or C on a November 2016 ballot.”
“As Mixed Use is a more complex proposal there are elements that would require analysis that has not been initiated as of yet, such as appropriate number, mix, and size of units, approach to affordable housing, applicability of mitigation measures, more in-depth economic and fiscal analysis, parks and open space designs within the site, sustainability plans, and project design,” they write.
“Whether and how to associate occupancy of residential units on site to jobs on site would need to be explored by staff and the applicant. Therefore, while staff believes it may be feasible to bring a Mixed Use alternative forward for a November 2016 ballot measure, it is difficult to guarantee, and would be contingent upon taking a “tiered” approach to the entitlement package as described below,” they add.
The Council would have the ability to pursue a mixed-use project and the ultimately decline it, directing staff to return with the non-housing option for action. Staff writes, “The applicant acknowledges that such a course of action would necessitate pushing a ballot measure to 2017.”
This chart assumes “all 850 dwelling units included as a part of the Mixed Use alternative are occupied by at least one MRIC employee.” Naturally there will be considerable debate over the feasibility of such an assumption.
The applicant has previously told the Vanguard, they were opposed to a scenario that mandated all units be occupied by employees of the MRIC. Instead, they were looking at a phased approach to maximize the number of employees working on site.
Staff analysis with those assumptions found, “The Mixed Use alternative would generate fewer daily trips than the project as proposed so long as at least 60 percent of the units are occupied by at least one MRIC employee.”
More importantly, “The Mixed Use alternative would generate less VMT than the project as proposed so long as at least 35 percent of the units are occupied by at least one MRIC employee.”
In addition, “The Mixed Use alternative would generate less GHG emissions than the project as proposed so long as at least 53 percent of the units are occupied by at least one MRIC employee.”
Thus while 100 percent employee occupied is not feasible, 35-53 percent seems realistic.
In December, the Vanguard published a letter by SACOG which found, “Overall, the proposed plan meets the spirit of the Blueprint growth principles. However, the Mixed-Use Alternative illustrates that the city could further maximize the Blueprint benefits of this unique project by planning for additional housing capacity within the city to accommodate the increased housing demand that will accompany the economic activity generated by the project.”
In addition to the reduced environmental impacts, and those discussed in the SACOG letter, “integration of housing within the project can also introduce the following potential benefits as enumerated in the excerpts below from the September, 2015 EPS economic analysis:
- Housing, in addition to opening up multiple market segments, functions as an amenity in itself, augmenting a project’s sense of place by creating the kind of mixed-use character that knowledge workers and others appreciate, potentially resulting in increased lease rates and land value. The improved economics would likely allow the project to realize increased returns and/or finance needed infrastructure in MRIC.
- The addition of housing within MRIC has the potential to allow the demand for housing generated by employees within the center to be met within the center itself, rather than in the surrounding region. The type of housing described in the MRIC DEIR appears to be consistent with high quality, higher-density housing that is succeeding in attracting professionals across multiple age cohorts throughout the region. Examples of similar housing can be found in the West Sacramento Bridge District and emerging mixed use corridors in Sacramento such as R Street and Broadway. While there is a notable amount of housing in the proximate Mace Ranch area, it would not lend the intended mixed-use character to the MRIC site.
- The Housing could be an effective mechanism for improving returns, as well as creating a basis for funding infrastructure. Housing is increasingly viewed as a necessary amenity for Innovation Centers, reflected in recent plans for centers across the country, such as the 2012 Master Plan for Research Triangle Park, that include housing in order to create the kind of mixed-use environments that are attractive to younger knowledge workers.
- Employees of the new Innovations Centers will need access to appropriate housing options, both locally and regionally. Analysis provided by BAE indicates that about 4,800 units can be expected to be demanded in Davis as a direct outcome of the proposed projects. Nishi’s owner-occupied housing will be able to attract employees of the project, even if the renter-occupied housing is expected to be student-oriented. All of the housing under consideration for the MRIC Mixed Use alternative is designed in line with the needs of Innovation Center employees.
- As a general rule, where feasible, the inclusion of both housing and hotel uses is an important component of the Innovation Center concept in terms of providing a more economically diverse project as well as (in the case of housing) improved ability to fund infrastructure capital. Just as important, mixed-use components such as these closely align with the identified success factors in terms of activating and adding vitality to these commercial districts. Specifically, hotel/conference uses provide important meeting places available for industry events. The addition of housing helps amenitize the projects and address housing needs of the new jobs created in the community.
Staff also notes that “while the EIR Mixed Use Alternative evaluated the inclusion of up to 850 residential units, there has been no policy discussion of whether this is necessarily the desired number of residential units, should a mixed-use option be pursued.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting