Staff Believes Mixed Use “Has Merit” At MRIC

Developer Dan Ramos discuss the project in January
Developer Dan Ramos discuss the project in January

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.”

MRIC-MU-Feb-1

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.”

MRIC-MU-VMT-1 MRIC-MU-VMT-2 MRIC-MU-VMT-3

—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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36 Comments

    1. Ron

      Don:

      I agree – no housing.

      My support for (even) a commercial development was lukewarm to begin with.  These shenanigans are turning me away from supporting it at all.

       

      1. CalAg

        These shenanigans are turning me away from supporting it at all. Ron

        This sentiment is a big problem for the proposal.

        MRIC had a broad base of support that is rapidly eroding as a direct consequence of the developer’s efforts to add housing. I hope that the City Council will make a course correction next Tuesday and give clear and unequivocal direction that staff shall proceed on the original RFEI-compliant course (with no housing).

    2. CalAg

      I agree with the posts from Don Shor, Ron, Barack Palin, Eileen Samitz – the City Council should direct staff to continue processing the original MRIC application that is 100% office/R&D with no housing. The DS post is crystal clear:

      Staff should be directed to discontinue any further consideration of the housing option at MRIC.

      In my opinion, there will be broad community consensus on this (in spite of the propaganda from RAMCO’s push polls and the attempts to green-wash the project).

  1. Tia Will

    Staff should be directed to discontinue any further consideration of the housing option at MRIC.”

    When I was attending the initial meetings regarding the developments the three “innovation park” proposals, one of the major objections from those attending was the lack of a housing component such as at some of the examples presented above as representing a more holistic and modern approach to these kinds of developments.

    I think that keeping an open mind would be the best approach at this point in time.

    1. Ron

      Tia:

      I attended a recent meeting, as well. It seemed to me that the primary objection was (suddenly) changing the development to allow housing.  However, I believe that some in the audience may have been connected with the developer/prospective occupants.

      Seems like you support both Nishi, and MRIC (with housing).  I understand that there are legitimate arguments to be made for such positions.  However, I’m not sure that I would agree with your self-description as a “slow-growth” advocate.

      I will actively work against housing at MRIC, if the council forwards such a proposal to voters. I suspect that many of my neighbors would agree that a “mini-city” rising up outside of Davis’ boundary is not very appealing. (This meets the definition of “sprawl”.)

        1. Ron

          DP:

          Sure – the project is outside of city limits, on prime farmland.  Even a commercial development meets that definition.  However, a commercial development is needed (or so I’ve been told) to help the city’s finances.  (Again, I’m not crazy about that idea, either.)

          Either way, this development is going to have major impacts on traffic/congestion.

          Support it, if you’d like.  But suddenly allowing housing at MRIC will ensure my active opposition, at least.  I suspect it would have strong push-back from those at Mace Ranch and Wildhorse.

        2. Davis Progressive

          “the project is outside of city limits”

          true regardless of whether there is housing.

          “on prime farmland”

          don shor – is it actually “prime” farmland?  regardless, true regardless of housing.

          “Even a commercial development meets that definition.”

          exactly so what does this change?

          “a commercial development is needed (or so I’ve been told) to help the city’s finances.”

          but mixed use won’t?

          ” this development is going to have major impacts on traffic/congestion.”

          but it might cause significantly less with mixed use.

          so again, i have not seen a valid argument for you as to why commercial is acceptable (or in your view marginally so) but housing is a non-starter?

        3. Ron

          DP:

          I feel pretty strongly about this issue, but I don’t feel the need to justify it any further.

          If you think it’s a good move (to suddenly allow housing), then support it.  I won’t try to change your mind.  But, I really do suspect that suddenly allowing housing will completely kill the proposed development.

          I’m about ready to not support it at all.

        4. Davis Progressive

          you feel strongly about this issue and yet cannot articulate.  i’m trying to understand why housing triggers such strong emotions because the considerations you listed are present with or without housing.

        5. hpierce

          Am starting to wonder, if the CC had put out an RFP that included a work-force housing component, whether there would be such a reaction.

          Just off Fifth Street and Pena, there is a live/work project going up as I write this… recall more support than opposition… albeit it is a small project, within the City… as I recall, it had little/no opposition from neighbors, PC, or CC.

          I think there are opponents of any housing increases, opponents of any annexations, opponents of any development, period.  Sounds like instead of “planning” we’re heavily into “brokering”… gotta’ love Measure J/R… and what passes for “planning” in general…

      1. Ron

        DP:

        I’ve already (briefly) articulated the reasons for my opposition to housing at MRIC.  I’ve done so (more fully) in the past, as well.

        You also asked me a similar question with my other posting, today (regarding “the claw”).  I provided a more detailed reason for that posting, but you don’t seem to be understanding it.

        Again, I’m opposed to a mini-city rising up outside of Davis’ boundary.  I might be willing to accept a commercial development (which brings many of the same problems as a full-scale mini city), since a commercial development can provide benefits for current residents and city finances (without bringing new residents, which would expand the city and dilute any benefits that a commercial development might provide).

        In general, I suspect that developers will attempt to divide the community to get their way, by appealing to specific groups (e.g., those who support the Center for Land Based Learning, the bicycle community, those interested in “green” development, etc.).  If we allow ourselves to be torn apart, the developers will win, and the community will suffer.

        And, in the end, we’ll get sprawling developments.

        If you have a different opinion, that’s fine.

         

        1. Ron

          DP:

          And again – I understood that there was an “imbalance” between the amount of housing vs. the amount of commercial development in Davis.  That was one of the justifications for pursuing these “innovation centers”.  If you simultaneously introduce more housing, then the innovation centers will no longer address this imbalance.

          My support for a commercial-only development is lukewarm (at best), due to the problems it will bring. If the entire project fails, I won’t be disappointed. However, I am somewhat concerned about city finances, in general.

          Hope that’s a complete enough response.

  2. Davis Progressive

    don:

    your position is very inconsistent in my view.

    you have noted for example the low vacancy rate in davis – it’s a point i have come to agree with you on.

    yesterday you noted, “The problem is that there are nearly 10,000 people commuting in to UCD every day. About 1/3 students, about 2/3 staff.”  this was in reference to the tunnel, but still a valid point.

    but now on mric, you seem to ignore the possibility of reducing peak hour trips by as much as 1000 per day, perhaps by 39% when it comes to mric.

    i don’t get it.  your position is inconsistent because generating jobs without housing will increase demand on rental housing in davis.

    1. CalAg

      DP:  There is a jobs/housing imbalance in Davis – an approximate deficit of 3,000 jobs (per Rob White in a Vanguard article if my memory is correct).

      There are other reasons to build housing in the community, but MRIC will not be one of them for many years. The proposed on-site housing is just a profit-driven bait-and-switch based on false arguments about housing demand and sustainability.

      Staff should be directed to discontinue any further consideration of the housing option at MRIC. Don Shor

       

  3. gunrock

    I am unaware of any development that the Davis staff have ever not loved…  They are so desperately bored here that they just want something, anything, to do.  It is why they went into this field in the first place.  And they are stuck in a town that is anti-growth.  So they spend their days coming up with earthquake reinforcements, wheelchair lift requirements and offsite mitigation plans for gazebos and playhouses.  Of course they are in favor of this plan- and any other plan someone might submit.  The Davis Planning Staff are the Maytag Repairmen of government.  Please, give them something else to do!  Perhaps they could try stealing office supplies or something instead of foisting unwanted development on the community.

    1. hpierce

      I am unaware of any development that the Davis staff have ever not loved

      Assume, by the next to last sentence you meant “planning staff”, or is it deeper than that?

      There is also a difference between an interest in “processing”, vs. an interest in “recommending approval”… planning staff has recommended ‘denial’ on many project, but the %-age, in my view, is fairly low.

      You’re really talking about zoning “changes”, I think…

  4. Michelle Millet

    For anyone who is interested here is a motion that was passed unanimously by the Natural Resource Commision during it’s January meeting.
     
    The Commission recommendation from January 25th:
     
    On a motion by Burford, Seconded by Millet, the Commission, based on the information and analysis to date, finds that including a mixed use component on the site appears to have the potential to minimize the environmental impacts, particularly greenhouse gas emissions and may offer innovative sustainability features.
     
    Passed unanimously (Braly, Burford, Holland, Johnston, Millet, Pryor, Westhoff)

  5. Eileen Samitz

    Like many others who have posted, I am opposed to any housing at MRIC. This project was intended and promised from the beginning to be a commercial only innovation park with no housing to help the City with providing revenue. This blatant “bait and switch” is really quite a stunt that the developers are trying to pull. Staff is just as much to blame for even considering this.

    Hopefully, the Council will make the right decision to take the mixed-use off the table before this issue starts turning any more Davis citizens against MRIC and motivating opposition.

    I would add that well intended folks who desire green planning not get fooled into thinking that this is about making MRIC more green. It is nothing more than a “green-washing” attempt by the developers to see if they can get away with trying to bring on a massive number of housing units for their own profit which will only bring impacts and costs to the City. They need to stick to the original plan that they enthusiastically promised from the beginning of a commercial only innovation park.

    1. CalAg

      Nishi was green-washed as well, and now we have prominent members of the sustainability community that seem pretty disappointed with the outcome (e.g. Alan Pryor’s comments at Tuesday’s public hearing).

      Fool me once … …

  6. Frankly

    As I understand Schilling Robotics wants 40 acres.

    If MRIC is supposed to support agribusiness, I would expect a few other larger commercial plots to be established.

    This is only a 200 acre innovation park.

    The bottom line is that we cannot afford to use up acreage in the innovation park for housing.

    It is needed for commercial space… something that Davis is severely lacking.

    High density housing changes the complete landscape of city services required… and makes the entire development less economically advantageous to Davis… but would certainly help the project be more profitable for the developer.

    The CC should direct staff to tell the developer that housing is off the table.

    1. Michelle Millet

      It is needed for commercial space… something that Davis is severely lacking

      Seperate from the housing issue, is Davis severely lacking in commercial space?  There are two empty commercial lots adjacent to my street the have sat vacant for 10 years I’ve lived there. One just got re-zoned for housing. Maybe we should consider maximizing use of existing space before pushing outside our borders.

      1. Frankly

        There are just a few lots scattered here and there. And the owners of those lots are sitting tight.  Put them up for sale and then change their minds when someone comes to them with an offer.

        But there is a HUGE shortage of commercial space relative to our population and our need with a world-class research university in our midst.

        Davis has about half the number of businesses as do all other comparable cities.

        FYI, I am working on a business start and will end up in Woodland because there are no suitable available properties in Davis.

      2. CalAg

        There is a critical unmet need for zoned commercial land that can handle a 40-acre end user like Schilling Robotics. Frankly’s previous statements are correct. We really ought to have an inventory of maybe 1,000 acres. This should last for at least 20 years. It sounds like a lot, but it’s only enough for 10-15 large companies like Schilling and MDG Mori (or larger) when you consider net developable acres.

        Since MRIC is so under-sized, every acre is now precious and should be devoted 100% to R&D at the highest FAR that’s feasible.

        If the council adds housing to the project, I will be voting no (and lobbying everyone I know to do the same). Unless I’m misreading the electorate, MRIC w/ housing will fail by a large margin, and then maybe the city will get it right in the next iteration.

        1. Frankly

          I agree.  We need 1000 acres in commercial land developed over the next 20-30 years.  Davis is about 10 square miles with a population of 73,000 when school is in session.  That 7,300 people per square mile is very high.  With population growth of about 700 per year from UCD growth in 20 years we would have 87,000 people.  If we added 1000 acres that would be 11.5 square miles… or a population density or about 7,500 people per square mile.

          So if we add another 1000 acres we will still end up more population dense than we are now.

          And we will have 1000 acres of business generating another $25 million in general fund revenue.

          So all you people stop blocking commerical peripheral development.

          And make sure your CC reps know that you will take them to the woodshed if they try to build more housing in those innovation parks!

    1. Matt Williams

      Eileen, that is Willow Creek, Neighborhood Commercial, which is site #16 on the 2008 Housing Element Steering Committee (HESC) rankings. It was approved for housing as the Villages at Willow Creek. Construction is now under way.

      The other HESC site near Michelle is #30 the 15 acre Willow Creek Light Industrial Site.

      1. CalAg

        Isn’t the 15-acre Willow Creek Light Industrial Site is the largest vacant commercial parcel in the city?

        It’s certainly not big enough to handle FMC Schilling.

        1. Michelle Millet

          Didn’t Shilling Robotics just lay off a large portion of their employees?  Do they still need new facilities?

          Its unclear to me why we are looking to develop commercial property outside of city limits before we have developmed on all commercially zoned property with in the city.

          If commercial property is in such high demand we have these lots sat vacant for so long?

  7. noname

    If MRIC is OK’d without housing, will regional and local (and state?) planning authorities start saying that the commercial development requires the city to build housing elsewhere in or near its boundaries? Just wondering.

    1. Don Shor

      If they say that (which seems doubtful), what enforcement mechanism do they have? Has SACOG ever mandated any change to a local planning document or required a city to build housing anywhere?

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