Harrington Files Suit Challenging Legality of Nishi (UPDATED)

Michael Harrington filed a lawsuit against Nishi
Michael Harrington filed a lawsuit against Nishi

Former Davis City Councilmember Michael Harrington filed a lawsuit on March 18 challenging the legality of the Nishi-Gateway project approval. The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Michael Harrington and Don Mooney of Davis on behalf of their client, Davis Citizens Alliance for Responsible Planning.

Mr. Harrington and company have named the defendants in their lawsuit as the City of Davis, the Davis City Council, and Nishi Gateway, LLC, as the developer of the proposed Nishi Gateway project. The lawsuit alleges that the City of Davis and the city council improperly approved a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Nishi Gateway Project. It also alleges violations of the City of Davis Affordable Housing Ordinance by the City, the Davis City Council and Nishi Gateway, LLC.

“This is a desperate attempt to disrupt the Measure R process and remove voters’ rights. The facts are contained in the EIR – the Plaintiffs just prefer to ignore them to obstruct the process. After eight years of collaboration, Davis voters deserve an opportunity to finally weigh in on this community plan,” said Tim Ruff, managing partner of the Nishi Gateway in a statement this morning.

The Nishi Gateway project is a proposed mixed-use development project composed of two distinctly separate but adjoining areas, totaling approximately 57.7 acres; 10.8 acres are within the City of Davis and 46.9 acres are immediately west of the city limits. The project site is adjacent to downtown Davis and the University of California at Davis’ campus but is separated by the existing Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) track.

The 46.9-acre area is referred to as the Nishi site and is evaluated at a project-level within the EIR, the press release states. “Vehicle access to the site will be from an extension of West Olive Drive in Davis and a new grade-separated crossing of the railroad tracks to Old Davis Road on the UC Davis campus.

“The City of Davis is responsible for preparation of an EIR that describes the Project and its impacts, and, if necessary, evaluates mitigation measures and/or alternatives to lessen or avoid any significant environmental impacts. The EIR evaluated the environmental impact of the proposed development of 440 rental housing units, 220 for-sale condominium units, 325,000 sq. ft of office/research and development space, and 20,000 sq. feet of retail space on the Nishi site.

“Because the 46.9 acre portion of the site is not currently within the City of Davis boundaries and the City desires to annex the land and change the zoning from Agricultural to urban uses, the approval of Davis voters is required under local law (Measure J/R -Davis Municipal Code Chapter 41) and the matter was placed on the June 7 General Municipal Election ballot as Measure A by the Davis City Council.”

According to Mr. Harrington’s press release, “the lawsuit alleges that the EIR was deficient with respect to the traffic analysis performed and analysis of air quality impacts of the project and thus should not have been certified by the Davis City Council on February 16, 2016.”

The lawsuit makes three critical claims:

1) The Project includes traffic mitigation measures that are inconsistent with mitigation measures for a previously approved project.

2) Documented evidence to support the traffic study’s analysis was not made available.

3) The Project also fails to adequately analyze, discuss and mitigate the air quality impacts and significant health impacts to residents of the Nishi Project due to the location of the Project sandwiched between the congested Interstate 80 freeway and heavily used railways.

The lawsuit also claims that “the City, City Council, and Nishi Gateway LLC violated the requirements of the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance (Davis Municipal Code, Article 18.05) which requires that developers of certain sized residential housing projects in Davis either construct a prescribed number of below-market, affordable rental or for-sale housing units or pay prescribed in-lieu fees to the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.”

Mr. Harrington and company allege that “the City improperly and arbitrarily exempted the Nishi project from affordable housing requirements and failed to require affordable housing as required by law.”

“The City has basically tripped all over itself to rush this to the June ballot for no discernible reasons and given away over $11.0 million USD of value to the rich developer extended families who own or optioned the Nishi site,” Mr. Harrington’s suit alleges.

When the council passed Nishi Gateway and put the measure before the voters, they put into the project baseline feature requirements on the timing of construction.

The Baseline Project Features require phasing the construction based on the approval of the grade-separate crossing, as well as the Richards Corridor study. First, “The Baseline Project Features call for all backbone infrastructure, including the grade-separated crossing to UC Davis and the improvements to the Richards Boulevard interchange, be completed prior to any occupancy on the Nishi site. Construction on the Nishi site could begin only after construction has begun on the interchange and the grade-separated crossing.”

Second, “The Baseline Project Features also include commitments for backbone infrastructure to the R&D properties with the first phase of development, to ensure ‘permit-ready’ sites when prospective purchasers or buildings are identified.”

City staff believes that 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.”

However, the planning commission was concerned about the plan. Commissioner Cheryl 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.

Likewise, Thomas Cahill expressed concerns about the health impacts of particulate matter, and opposed development of housing on the Nishi site.

Dr. Cahill, in his report in October, concluded that “in present conditions, it is my opinion that causing people, and especially vulnerable populations spending much of their time on the Nishi property, to move into a situation of such great potential harm is simply not supportable.”

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, however, pushed back on the issue, stating, “I’m really frustrated about this one.” He argued that “we need a basic course in risk analysis.”

For instance, he noted that 1 in 3500 farmworkers in this country will die on the job this year. “That’s an acceptable risk to us,” he stated. “We live with that. We consume the food that they produce.”

The mayor pro tem explained, “What we’re hearing about this property is 1 in 4500 people will over the course of an entire lifetime contract a certain form of cancer. That’s not annually, that’s 1 in 4500 over the course of lifetime. We’re talking about magnitudes of difference.”

He said, “These are minuscule risks compared to the risks that we face every day in our lives.” He noted that people who drive their car their entire lives will have three accidents on average. “That’s the risk we live with,” he said.

The Baseline Project Features establish “[d]eveloper commitments of $1 million for the affordable Housing Trust Fund and an additional $200,000 for the City Council to allocate amongst on-site civic arts, establishment of a local carbon offset program, and implementation of the Downtown Parking Management Plan, for a total of $1.2 million.”

—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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89 Comments

  1. ryankelly

    Complains about health impacts on a a relatively short-term residential population, then complains that there is not housing for potentially longer-term low income residents. Why don’t they support building low income housing elsewhere with money from the developer?

    Essentially,  their environmental concerns are about the existing air quality of the site and seems to claim that this makes the site undevelopable.  Harrington obviously believes that he can’t win this at the ballot.

    They have no solution for housing the number of students that are coming and seems to prefer that they live elsewhere and drive their cars here to attend school.  I’m sure this would have a positive impact on Harrington’s rental income.

     

  2. SODA

    “The City has basically tripped allover itself to rush this to the June ballot for no discernable reasons and given away over $11.0 million USD of value to the rich developer extended families who own or optioned the Nishi site,” Mr. Harrington’s suit alleges.”

    Where does the $11M figure come from ?

    1. David Greenwald

      As I understand it, there is a portion of a given development that is set aside for affordable housing. I think it’s one-quarter, but I’m not in a place to look it up. That number is then multiplied by the in-lieu fee and I think if I recall from the article in February, it ends up somewhere between $6 million on the low end and $10 million on the high end.

    2. Alan Pryor

      The City of Davis has an Affordable Housing Ordinance (Article 18.05 AFFORDABLE HOUSING) that requires developers of certain sized residential housing projects in Davis to either construct a prescribed number of below-market, affordable rental or for-sale housing units or pay prescribed in-lieu fees to the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

      “18.05.060 Rental development affordable housing standards
       
      A developer of rental housing developments containing twenty or more units shall provide, to the maximum extent feasible, at least twenty-five percent of the units as affordable housing for low income households and at least ten percent of the units as affordable housing for very low income households.”
      So 440 total units of rental housing at Nishi times 35% = 154 units that should have been built for affordable housing.
      Under some circumstances, a developer may pay an in-lieu fee to the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund instead of building the prescribed number of affordable housing.
      The City’s current schedule for such in-lieu payments to the Fund is $75,000 per affordable housing unit not otherwise built by the developer.  So 154 units times $75,000 = $11,550,000.
      I am guessing that is where the $11,000,000 figure comes from.

      1. Miwok

        Is that how the Cannery got their allotment of “affordable Housing”? The big housing is for families, and the apartments are “equivalent” affordable housing?

        What if we put them all up for sale, the same houses, and then whoever is qualified for “affordable” gets it? Fairly, and honestly? Nah, never happen.

  3. Alan Miller

    Oh NO!  There are health affects from living near the freeway and the railroad!  Evacuate Olive Drive!  Evacuate South Davis!  Evacuate East Davis!

    Cahill proved there are health effects from brake lining, and from sources many tens of miles from Bakersfield that means trains, buses, electric cars — all these transportation alternatives are sources of this toxin as well as the the evil oil driven car . . . so really all of Davis is far too close to transportation and needs to moved up into the hills . . . but then we’d need horses and bicycles (no brake-lining sources of transporation) to get to jobs . . . SO WHAT THE F__K DO WE DO???!!!???

    1. Alan Pryor

      Cahill actually said it is the low-lying nature of the Nishi parcel between the freeway and railroad tracks that makes it particularly susceptible to trapping pollutants. It is like a mini-valley between the two pollution sources. It is not just the proximity to the freeways and tracks that make it problematic. And this is actually shown with topographical computer modeling of pollutant dispersion from point (or linear) sources.

      SO WHAT THE F__K DO WE DO???!!!???

      Try believing in the science.

    2. Tia Will

       SO WHAT THE F__K DO WE DO???!!!???”

      Perhaps a good place to start would be to not double down on environmental hazards that already exist by not exposing still more people to them.

      This from a woman who does not oppose Nishi on the basis of the concerns of Dr. Cahill. His evidence when weighed epidemiologically against the known pattern of respiratory illnesses in our region is not ( in my opinion) sufficient to ban development on this site. True, Nishi is not optimally located, but all sites will have their disadvantages and with appropriate mitigation, I believe that the health concerns of the Nishi site do not outweigh its positives.

  4. South of Davis

     

    David wrote:

    > Harrington Files Suit Challenging Legality of Nishi

    Has anyone added up all the money Harrington has made from Davis taxpayers by suing the city?

  5. David Greenwald

    ***Response for developer***
    “This is a desperate attempt to disrupt the Measure R process and remove voter’s rights. The facts are contained in the EIR – the Plaintiffs just prefer to ignore them to obstruct the process. After eight years of collaboration, Davis voters deserve an opportunity to finally weigh in on this community plan,” said Tim Ruff, managing partner of the Nishi Gateway.”

    1. Alan Pryor

      “This is a desperate attempt to disrupt the Measure R process and remove voter’s rights.”, Tim Ruff

      …said the guy who just received a waiver of over $11,000,000 in affordable housing in-lieu fees from the City Council.

        1. Alan Pryor

          Actually I am the guy who formed the political campaign, “No on Measure A, No on Nishi”.

          As the developer said above, “Davis voters deserve an opportunity to finally weigh in on this community plan”…so I am weighing in.

  6. Misanthrop

    Well clearly its time to do away with Measure R. I’ve been saying this for years but now, when the process is shown to not work and become a legal nightmare, instead of a process designed to provide direct voter input, the unworkability of Measure R should be apparent for all to see.

        1. Alan Pryor

          These lawsuits have nothing to do with Measure R.

          Then why do they cite it in the complaint?

          The reason a possible violation of the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance and possible CEQA violations are important in a Measure J/R election is because the Measure J/R ordinance mandating such a vote to expand the City borders specifically require any project to be in compliance with CEQA and “all applicable laws and regulations”. If the Measure J/R vote is not in such compliance, it is an illegal vote.

          But don’t blame me…I didn’t write the law.

  7. Misanthrop

    One of the biggest problems facing California is abuse of CEQA. Many agree it needs to be fixed but doing so requires moving the legislature to action. That is hard to do because of the difficulty in organizing the entire State of California with its 120 legislators representing 38 million people. Measure R is a local ordinance. It would be easy to let it die when it comes up for renewal or organize a petition drive for repeal. We would likely see better planning without measure R when the process can play out on its own timeline instead of being subject to the election calendar. Without measure R citizens would still have the referendum just as the rest of the state does. Measure R has failed, its time to put it out of its misery and allow Davis to deal with its growth issues in a responsible manner.

    1. Barack Palin

      Measure R has not failed and we all know it’s expensive and difficult to get a referendum on the ballot.

      Measure R is a great vehicle for the citizens to keep check on the city from over developing.

    2. Alan Pryor

      We would likely see better planning without measure R…

      …and allow Davis to deal with its growth issues in a responsible manner.

      Cannery was not subject to a Measure R vote. We gave away $10,000,000 to the developer New Home Company in CFD financing on a 3-2 Council vote. The City approved the project on a 3-2 Council vote without a commitment for the 2nd bicycle below-grade crossing and with drastically reduced sustainability commitments from New Home Company. So I don’t think that turned out so well for Davis either.

       

      1. Miwok

        So I don’t think that turned out so well for Davis either.

        Great for  Davis, not for  the people who live there. I just wonder how many people who vote here and own houses have not been to this town in years?

        But then, when the Yolo County Elections Chief turns the office over to her Son in Law, to go work for Hillary, I guess it doesn’t really matter?

        1. Tia Will

          Miwok

          I just wonder how many people who vote here and own houses have not been to this town in years?”

          I agree it would be interesting to compare how many people “own houses here and have not been to this town in years”, with those who own houses here in which they live. I suspect that, unlike your implication, there are more people here who live in their homes, and would like to maintain at least some sense of the community that they chose when they purchased those homes, than there are those who have simply acquired property solely on the basis of its economic value.

        2. Mark West

          “I suspect that, unlike your implication, there are more people here who live in their homes, and would like to maintain at least some sense of the community that they chose when they purchased those homes, than there are those who have simply acquired property solely on the basis of its economic value.”

          I recall a post here a few weeks back that stated that the majority of single family homes in Davis are rentals (>60%?). If that is true, then your supposition is incorrect.

  8. skeptical

     
    How can anyone blame the City’s incompetence on Measure R?  How can anyone fault Harrington for suing over the City’s errors?
     
    Let’s consider the City’s own numbers.  They claim it costs $325,000 to build one multifamily unit, but they only collect an in-lieu fee of $75,000 per unit???  That is a shortfall of $250,000 per affordable unit.  What developer would pass on that deal?  Nishi has 660 units, and the City has a 20% affordable requirement.  So, 132 units at $250,000 per unit is a $33 million give away.  Using honest numbers, which are about $175,000 in per unit construction cost, yields a $13.2 million give away. 
     
    Can anyone explain how this is the fault of Measure R, or Harrington???
     

    1. South of Davis

      skeptical wrote:

      > Let’s consider the City’s own numbers.  They claim it costs

      > $325,000 to build one multifamily unit, but they only collect

      > an in-lieu fee of $75,000 per unit???

      Remember the city that says it costs $325K to build a multifamily unit is the same city that pays over $800K to build a playground.

      Below is a nice looking 56 unit apartment building the city can buy for LESS than $75K/unit:

      http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/19691272/2526-Edison-Avenue-Sacramento-CA/

      P.S. a typical home developer could build TWO (2) 1,500sf homes and about a HALF DOZEN (6) apartment units for $325K (and a LOT more than one playground for $800K)…

  9. Anon

    According to 12/16/-16 city staff report: “The City’s inclusionary housing ordinance exempts both stacked-flat condominiums and vertical mixed-use residential, so the Nishi proposal would not be required to provide affordable housing under current policies…”  See: http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/Planning-Commission/Agendas/20151216/05C-Nishi-Gateway-Intro.pdf

    Secondly, the burden is on Harrington to prove his case…

    Thirdly, I would not be surprised if Harrington tries to sue over MRIC as well. He clearly does not want either Nishi or MRIC to go to a vote of citizens, just as he tried to obstruct the surface water project through a lawsuit.

    1. Alan Pryor

       

      The City’s inclusionary housing ordinance exempts both stacked-flat condominiums and vertical mixed-use residential, so the Nishi proposal would not be required to provide affordable housing under current policies…

       

      Better do a little more homework before you believe everything the City tells you. The Affordable Housing Ordinance defines “mixed use” as

       

      Section 18.05.020: Definitions

       

      Vertical mixed use development means mixed-use structures that vertically integrate residential dwelling units above the ground floor with unrelated non-residential uses on the ground floor, including office, restaurant, retail, and other nonresidential uses. For purposes of this article, vertical mixed use does not include structures that vertically integrate uses ancillary to residential units, such as resident parking, laundry rooms, community rooms, or common space on the ground floor with the residential units above.”

       

      So this means unless every single ground floor of every single one of the 3 large 5-story apartment building complexes is entirely non-ancillary space used exclusively as commercial space unrelated to the residential units above, then the Nishi units would NOT be exempt from the Affordable Housing Ordinance.

       

      The total square footage of the 440 rental units themselves is 494,500 not counting any common areas. Assuming the apartment units are 5 floors with the top 4 floors devoted entirely to residential, this would mean that each of the top four floors has a total footprint of 123,625 sq feet (494,500 sq. ft. / 4 floors) of devoted residential – not counting common areas. That means the first floor that is required to be entirely non-ancillary to residential must also be 123,625 sq ft of entirely commercial space for all of the residential buildings to be classified as “mixed-use”.

       

      Yet, the Baseline Features of the project as approved by Council for placing on the ballot stated “Retail uses to be located within proposed Residential or R&D buildings only allow 20,000 sq “. Because 20,000 sq ft of retail is substantially less than the 123,625 sq. ft., clearly the rental residential units are NOT exempted by the “mixed use” exemption and the development is otherwise required to provide the specified number of affordable housing units or pay appropriate in-lieu fees to the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

       

       

      1. Mark West

        “Yet, the Baseline Features of the project as approved by Council for placing on the ballot stated “Retail uses to be located within proposed Residential or R&D buildings only allow 20,000 sq “. Because 20,000 sq ft of retail is substantially less than the 123,625 sq. ft.”

        Zoning rules differentiate between commercial space and retail space, where all retail space is commercial, but not all commercial zoning allows retail.  Look around town and you will see that the vast majority of our commercially zoned buildings do not allow retail.  There is no conflict between 120,000 sf commercial but only 20,000sf of retail. Your logic is flawed.

        “That means the first floor that is required to be entirely non-ancillary to residential”

        The text you quoted does not say that.  It says that mixed use has non-related commercial below, with ancillary to residential not qualifying. Is says nothing at all about a mixture of the two. Unless there is another section of the ordinance the clarifies this situation then it is open to interpretation.  Either way, without the final plans for the buildings there is no way of knowing how the first floors will be laid out.  Your conclusion is not justified by the data presented.

         

        1. Alan Pryor

          So are you saying the developer is going to put in an additional 103,625 sq ft of non-retail commercial space  to ensure the ground floor of every residential rental unit  is entirely non-residential? That was never mentioned in any Council or Commission discussion or published in any  City documents for the project thus far. And it is certainly not what is being sold to the voters where we are told ALL of the Office and R&D space is located in 2 distinct parcels separated completely from the residential parcels.

        2. Mark West

          I made no claim about what the Developer is going to do Alan, it is you that is making assumptions.  All I am doing is pointing out the inconsistencies in your arguments. The City determined that the project qualifies for an exemption and you have not presented sufficient data to definitively refute that assessment. I think it is fair to say that the City knows more about the details of the plans and the ordinances than either you or I.

           

           

        3. South of Davis

          Alan wrote:

          > So are you saying the developer is going to put in an additional

          > 103,625 sq ft of non-retail commercial space

          From what I have been told you don’t need to have 100% retail on the ground level and the language is just to prevent someone from pretending an apartment with an office, clubhouse and parking on the ground level is “mixed use” just to avoid the low income units (or paying the fee for them).

          Three of the four corners of the block between 4th and 5th, F and G have apartments over retail/office, but none have 100% retail on the ground floor.  Does anyone have any idea if any of these has to include (or pay for) low income housing?

        4. Alan Pryor

          From what I have been told you don’t need to have 100% retail on the ground level

          True…it just has to be 100% non-residential and non-ancillary to residential to qualify for the mixed use exemption.

           

      2. Alan Pryor

        He clearly does not want either Nishi or MRIC to go to a vote of citizens, just as he tried to obstruct the surface water project through a lawsuit.

        I was an avid supporter of the water project and the initially proposed rates – in direct opposition to Mike Harrington. In fact I was the Treasurer of the pro-water project campaign. Even so, I never begrudged Mike for exercising his democratic rights to bring a lawsuit challenging the water rates. Our legal system is part of what makes our country great just as is our right to vote. To besmirch someone who uses our legal system to right perceived wrongs somehow seems in-congruent with flag-waving and demanding (rightfully) that citizens should have their vote on Nishi.

  10. Michael Harrington

    Nishi was never exempted from the Affordable Housing Ordinance.

    Therefore, the Nishi application the CC brilliantly rushed through for June does not conform to law.

     

    The developers owe either about $11.0 million in payments to the affordable housing trust fund, or a donation of approximately 10 acres of land … to the city.   I have to look into this, as I am not totally sure they get a choice, but these are the two options as I understand them.

     

    Why is the CC treating the Ruff and Whitcomb families so generously, when all the other developers in town are not getting these sweet giveaways?  If the other companies want to join this case, they are still well within the statute of limitations.

     

    Also, we do not believe that the data allegedly supporting the Nishi traffic reports actually support those reports, and may not even exist.  We have asked for it over and over, and it was never produced.  Then, suddenly, this month the City rams through $250,000 out of nowhere to fund another full study of traffic in and around the Richards/Olive Drive area.  I think that means they know they lack the foundational data, and the new study is to try and get it.  But too late for Nishi and Measure A.

     

    Why didn’t the City and the Nishi developers slow down and get this right?  I spoke at the CC over and over, and asked them to delay the vote.

     

    I specifically asked Brett Lee to vote NO, as the project was not ready, and he still voted YES.  Disappointing.

    I know that Eileen Samitz made many submittals to the CC about lack of affordable housing.  She gave them her best analysis, over and over.   If you know Eileen, you know she has a 30 year history of fighting for the rights and opportunities for the poor and seniors, and distressed animals.  and you know that she does her homework and gets it right.  All of her pleas were met with 5 pairs of CC ears plugged with developer wax.  Sad to see … two of them are supposed to be “progressive”?

  11. Michael Harrington

    Just in:  a CC member is reported to have commented while responding to our complaints is that the reason they gave away the $11.0 million of money owed for housing for the poor and middle class to live here was to boost Ruff and Whitcomb, two of the richest local families, and help them fund the tunnel under the RR tracks.  Fascinating.   I just heard it second hand.    I know the CC member’s name.  I wonder if he will man up to this?  (ooppsss, I guess I just eliminated one CC member, didn’t I?) (Rochelle, you are welcome …)

    1. Robb Davis

      Actually, this project IS different than most others in this city in that there is a $10-12 million price tag on gaining access to it.  No one debates this as far as I know.  The university has committed zero dollars to this and we negotiated this agreement to exclude the possibility of the City paying for it.  So, yes, this is a real cost that other developers who are building on already-developed streets do not have to pay.  I have noted this and will continue to note it because it is a fact.

      Interestingly, when the discussion on Nishi got moving in earnest last fall, THE issue of concern was that there be 2 access points and that one be through the university.  We achieved that and the baseline features make it clear that if UCD tries to restrict flows in any way that are not consistent with the assumptions of the EIR traffic study, the project can not go forward.

      There is nothing fascinating about any of this.

      If the citizens think this is a bad project–and there are no restrictions on anyone’s ability to try to convince them of this–they can vote “no” on the project.  As I said the night I voted to place it on the ballot, if that is the outcome, the sky will not fall.  We will move on to figure out how to deal with our housing issues and we will deal with the reality that more people will drive to town from surrounding communities.  So be it.

       

  12. Miwok

    Davis Residents with their infinite wisdom, need to decide what people see while they sit in almost daily traffic on the Freeway: Sound walls, or grass and trees?

    The argument about air quality is moot when you place more apartments up and down Olive drive, and by extension, Nishi. The decision is crazy when Parks for Nishi are too polluted to use, oh wait, there are parks in other parts of Davis with fenced off toxic play equipment built years ago they have not maintained?

    Trees and sound walls are not inviting, they are like gated communities I just drove through the other day, more and more frequently. A Keep Out mentality. This is what you think you need, so you waste money on it because you don’t want Police.

    1. Tia Will

      Miwok

      there are parks in other parts of Davis with fenced off toxic play equipment built years ago they have not maintained?”

      You are mixing issues here. Since Rainbow City was constructed in part from substances that were not considered “toxic” at the time it was build, no amount of “maintenance” would have prevented the cost of removal of these substances. What we choose to replace it with is, of course, a separate issue, but no one should be contesting the need for removal on the basis of newer classifications of hazardous materials.

  13. Robb Davis

    BTW,  I am gratified to see so many people concerned about affordable housing in Davis.  Perhaps they will consider supporting my concept of establishing a parcel tax to create a Davis voucher program–a much more efficient way to get people into affordable housing than relying on one-off in-lieu fees and uncertain tax credits to build affordable-only buildings.  Why, with a parcel tax no larger than our open space tax we could immediately house an additional 85 families within existing units without having to build anything new.

      1. Robb Davis

        That is exactly what I am doing–and I do so unapologetically.  We need a revenue stream for affordable housin and there are few options. We need an efficient means to get people into rental housing. This is not all that complicated.  The good news is, it’s a special tax with guarantees on how it is spent.

        1. Barack Palin

          Then why didn’t the council get more out of Nishi for affordable housing instead of now suggesting coming after homeowners for more taxes for affordable housing?  Heck, we’re also looking at a possible park parcel tax, a road parcel tax and now you’re throwing the idea out there of an affordable housing parcel tax.  Many of us are just trying to get by, we don’t have a money tree.

        2. Don Shor

          The problem is, you also have the county looking to do a parcel tax for universal pre-school and another one for county roads. There are going to be a lot of new and renewing taxes on the ballot over the next couple of years. Even among liberal voters, you may get some fatigue.

        3. Matt Williams

          Robb Davis said . . . “The good news is, it’s a special tax with guarantees on how it is spent.”

          Sounds like what you are proposing Robb is very clearly established value and straightforward easy to administer accountability.  Compare that to the current Affordable Housing Program.  Risk-prone value delivered in a convoluted, hard to understand program that is very difficult and expensive to administer.

          Well worth exploring.

           

        4. Barack Palin

          Matt Williams backing up Robb Davis, I’m shocked.

          Good to know Matt that you might back a tax like this.  It helps voters decide come election time.

          BTW, I thought the Open Space tax was $50/year.

        5. Matt Williams

          BP, it is worth exploring.  The proof in the pudding will be if Robb’s proposal can eliminate significant portions of the waste and inefficiency in the current Affordable Housing Program.

          The Measure O Parcel Tax rate is actually $24 per year for a typical market-rate single family home, with other rates depending on land use type.

          That is $2 a month, or 50 cents a week. Where can you get a latte for 50 cents? 8>)

        6. South of Davis

          Alan wrote:

          > Yea!  The first efficient tax!

          The city will have a tough time getting anyone to give them more money to run a housing business to help 85 people when they find out that the city has just let almost that many units at Pacifico (now called Symphony) sit empty since the city took ownership in 2010 SIX YEARS AGO…

          P.S. Let’s not forget the DACHA/GAMAT nightmare where the city has spend millions and has also had long periods where the homes sat vacant.

          P.P.S. I would be interested if Robb or Matt could look at the actual revenue over expenses of the 20 city owned GAMAT homes and see if it is more or less than the ~$125K/year in taxes (and parcel taxes) we are NOT getting since the homes are city owned.

           

      2. Matt Williams

        BP, two things are worth considering.

        First, what Robb has used as an example is $25 per parcel per year.  I realize that you are skeptical of any and all taxes, but let’s be realistic, is $25 a year going to affect your life in any meaningful way?

        Second, getting more in individual one-off transactions like what you have proposed from Nishi does not provide a reliable revenue stream the way $25 a year from each parcel would provide year after year after year.

        1. Barack Palin

          This is another thing that gets old, it’s just another $25, it will only cost a latte a week, just pennies a day.  Well all of those little taxes all of a sudden add up to one huge bill.

        2. hpierce

          There is an issue, Matt… not the total cost, but the plethora of assessments existing or proposed… the dollar amount is truly minor… there truly is the issue of how many times you can go “to the well”…

          If you look at your tax statement, see how much goes to schools, City, County (or the state, which takes the lion’s share, and how that gets distributed)… and how that assessment changes when you go from being a ‘renter’ in Davis, to’ being a new ‘homeowner’ … HUGE…

        3. South of Davis

          Matt wrote:

          > but let’s be realistic, is $25 a year going to affect

          > your life in any meaningful way?

          True but (looking at my tax bill right now) all the “little” taxes that add up to over $1,000 every year in “Agency Taxes + Direct Charges” do affect my life (my car and all my bikes are over 20 years old).

          It seems to me it might be easier to raise funds by spending less than I paid for my first condo on a deck,  “only” spend $4ooK on a playground or see if one of the greenest cites in America can make it without a paid “Conservation Coordinator”.

        4. Mark West

          If the City is honest about addressing our unfunded obligations, we will need a parcel tax on the order to $1000-1500 per year just to keep those obligations from increasing.  Affordable housing is a laudable goal, but we should be paying off our existing obligations before we raise taxes for new initiatives.  Besides, the only way to create truly affordable housing is to build more housing…lots of it…everything else is just artifice.

        5. Matt Williams

          All good points.  I do hear (and anticipated) the tax fatigue concerns.  Let me address some of the points made.

          I believe Mark’s $1,000 to $1,500 is approximately 50% too low.  I think $1,500 to $2,250 is closer to what would be needed if we went the “a parcel tax will do it” route.

          South of Davis uses a bit of hyperbole (to good effect).  However, the math (not the sentiment) tells us that it would take 40 Measure O “little” taxes to get to $1,000 ($25 times 40) … and “Yes BP, the Measure O parcel tax is $25 not $50.”

          hpierce and BP make the same tax fatigue point that SoD made.

          Bottom-line, we do need to be more efficient and effective in how we spend taxpayer money.  We need to stop giving it away.  I suspect there is no small amount of inefficiency in the current Affordable Housing Program.  Robb’s proposal has the potential to inject the right kind of accountability and efficiency into how we provide and administer affordable housing . . . and in the process realize significant General Fund savings.  As it exists now, our Affordable Housing Program is developer-driven. We can do better.

           

           

        6. Barack Palin

          Matt williams wrote:

          Second, getting more in individual one-off transactions like what you have proposed from Nishi does not provide a reliable revenue stream the way $25 a year from each parcel would provide year after year after year.

          Let’s do some fact based analysis here Matt.  Correct me if I’m wrong but a $25 parcel tax will generate @ $700,000/year.  We just gave away the store on affordable housing to Nishi developers to the tune of @ $10 million.  It will take 13 years of taxing the public at the Measure O rates to make up for that lost opportunity.  So do you still think it’s better to tax citizens than one off transactions when seeing it will take 13 years to make up for the shortfall?

        7. South of Davis

          BP wrote:

          > Let’s do some fact based analysis here Matt.

          > Correct me if I’m wrong but a $25 parcel tax

          > will generate @ $700,000/year.

          Someone (maybe Matt) recently posted “There were 16,653 parcels IDd in the Measure E income statement.”

          Can anyone confirm this (16,653 x $25 = $416,325)?  It seems like by the time we hired a couple people to run the program, started funding their pensions, set up office space and bought some cars there would only be enough to help a handful of families…

        8. Barack Palin

          Can anyone confirm this (16,653 x $25 = $416,325)? 

          I used Measure O’s actual revenue chart which shows $700,000/year.  But Measure O also taxes some businesses per employee and other things like that.   So using your numbers it would take 24 years to make up for the lost $10,000,000 Nishi development money and homeowners would be footing the bill instead of developers.

        9. Matt Williams

          BP, if you start from the premise that it is reasonable for the City to get both the $13.5 million for the underpass and in addition the $10 million for the Affordable Housing Program, then your argument is solid.  However, if that both/and premise is not correct, then your argument is nowhere near as strong.

          With that said, you and I are approaching this from two different perspectives.  You are concerned about the taxation aspect, and I am concerned about a reliable, repeatable, open, transparent and inclusive process that produces affordable housing policies with clearly set expectations that are then executed successfully, delivering efficient and effective value. 

          Those two perspectives are not mutually exclusive.  Right now you are being taxed as part of the General Fund to fund the administration of the Affordable Housing Program.  If we can successfully achieve the components of my perspective, then the increased efficiency and effectiveness will achieve your perspective.

           

        10. Barack Palin

          Matt Williams

          BP, if you start from the premise that it is reasonable for the City to get both the $13.5 million for the underpass and in addition the $10 million for the Affordable Housing Program, then your argument is solid.

          Matt, we wouldn’t need the underpass if Nishi wasn’t being built.  The underpass will almost exclusively just serve Nishi.  So yes, the developers should’ve paid for both the underpass and affordable housing.

        11. Barack Palin

          Either way, you don’t give developers a pass on their affordable housing commitment then turn around and try and tax homeowners.  It’s bad optics no matter how one tries to spin it.

        12. Matt Williams

          BP, fair enough.

          With that said, it would be very interesting to be looking at this with UCD sharing in the cost of the underpass, but so far that hasn’t happened.

    1. hpierce

      Robb… unless the affordable housing parcel assessment provides for housing the homeless, am not inclined to “sign on”… might support, but am currently inclined to reject, a measure that doesn’t deal with those unsheltered… also am not inclined to support subsidized ‘ownership’ units… will support affordable housing (rental units) for the ‘struggling folk’.

    2. South of Davis

      Robb wrote:

      > we could immediately house an additional 85 families within

      > existing units without having to build anything new.

      Will the money pay seniors to let a poor family live with them?

      Unless we get people to “double up” no amount of money will allow us to “house an ADDITIONAL 85 families” without building ADDITIONAL units.

      1. Don Shor

        we could immediately house an additional 85 families

        This would just remove even more units from those available to young adults seeking rental housing. We have the university expanding its master leasing arrangements with local landlords. “Beds now leasing!” trumpets the banner on Russell Blvd. at Sycamore — how many more units are going to be taken out of the rental market by UCD? Now we want to separate off some units for affordable housing for families.
        Please stop making it harder for young adults to rent here.

    3. Tia Will

      Robb

      Perhaps they will consider supporting my concept of establishing a parcel tax to create a Davis voucher program–a much more efficient way to get people into affordable housing than relying on one-off in-lieu fees and uncertain tax credits to build affordable-only buildings. “

      I am in complete support of a parcel tax to create a voucher program as you are suggesting. However, I do not see why this has to be an either/or proposition. I believe that both the current home owners, and the developers and investors in new developments should be contributing to affordable housing.

      I am not a fan of the “one-off in lieu fees and uncertain tax credits” but fail to see why we cannot simply hold developers responsible for providing the requisite number of affordable units on site. This would also provide for dispersal of the affordable units with each development providing their share of on site affordable housing instead of aggregating the affordable units into confined “low income projects” or neighborhoods. One of the biggest attractions for me in my current neighborhood of Old East Davis is precisely the diversity of my neighborhood which provides for a much richer living experience than did the homogeneity of my previous neighborhood. I believe that it is well known that children from lower economic families do better in mixed income neighborhoods than they do when confined to low income neighborhoods. So if we were to look at this situation holistically, why can we not consider implementing both strategies ?

  14. Tia Will

    I recall a post here a few weeks back that stated that the majority of single family homes in Davis are rentals (>60%?). If that is true, then your supposition is incorrect.”

    Perhaps…..or maybe not. The unknown is how many individuals who live here in town also own a rental property here. I doubt that either of us has this information.  I think that there is always the possibility of error when we make assumptions about the assets and intentions of others.

     

    1. Mark West

      While I am certain there will be others like you who will claim not to care about the value of their investments, most do.  If the majority of the properties in town are owned by investors rather than being owner occupied, it is quite reasonable to assume that property value will be more important to the owners than will community building.

  15. South of Davis

    Mark wrote:

    >If the majority of the properties in town are owned by investors

    > rather than being owner occupied,

    Davis is not even close to having the majority of homes owned by investors.  Most real estate agents have a “farm area” where they keep track of every home in neighborhoods like Wildhorse, Notthstar, and Old East Davis.  After talking to many of these people who sell homes who tray and track down the owner of every house in town I would be surprised if even 10% of the homes in Davis are owned by investors (and I’m sure that less than 1% of the people in town are rich enough to own multiple Davis homes)…

      1. hpierce

        Mark… I think the numbers you seek are available, but do not specifically know where… probably Planning… “old” numbers (maybe 10 years ago) had the MF units @ 45% of the city’s housing stock, 55% SF… that seems to fit with my experience of SF rentals… might still be a good number…

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