Council to Consider EIR Project Alternatives for Sterling


The city of Davis has shifted course on the proposed Sterling Apartment project on 5th Street.  Originally they were looking to go the route of a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND, or Neg Dec), but shifted gears to do a focused Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Sterling Apartments is a proposed redevelopment of the former FamiliesFirst site located at 2100 5th Street with a residential apartment proposal. Approximately 5.16 acres of the 6-acre site would be developed as a 4- and 5-story, 203-unit university student-oriented apartment project. The remaining 0.84-acre portion of the site would be developed as a 4-story, 41-unit affordable housing project. There would be a total of 244 apartment units between the two sites.

The 203-unit market-rate apartment site would include 727 beds with a 545 parking space parking garage.

The proposal is controversial with some neighbors, specifically Rancho Yolo residents concerned about issues like parking, traffic impacts, and visual blight.

While the council would not take action on the proposal, they are hoping to provide feedback to city staff and get input from the public regarding potential project alternatives to be evaluated in the EIR.  Once the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review and analysis takes place, formal public hearings on the project application will be scheduled for the planning commission and city council.

Staff notes, “Based on public comments received on the Initial Environmental Study (January 2016) prepared for the project and in order to fully evaluate potential environmental impacts, the City determined that an EIR would be prepared.”

An EIR, according to CEQA guidelines, “shall describe a range of reasonable alternatives to the project, or to the location of the project, which would feasibly attain most of the basic objectives of the project but would avoid or substantially lessen any of the significant effects of the project, and evaluate the comparative merits of the alternatives.”

CEQA doesn’t require alternatives to have the same level of detail and analysis as the proposed project, but rather it “only requires that a reasonable range of alternatives be considered and that the information be sufficient to provide a meaningful analysis and comparison to the proposed project.”

Staff recommends the following seven project alternatives:

Alternative 1. No Project Alternative

CEQA requires a “no project” alternative. This No Project Alternative assumes the existing buildings, facilities and zoning are maintained and that a use and intensity similar to the former occupant, EMQ/Families First, occupies the site. The use would be a low-intensity residential treatment facility or similar non-profit institution or group of institutions with no new construction and no significant housing. The No Project Alternative establishes the existing baseline conditions.

Alternative 2. Existing Zoning Non-Residential Redevelopment Alternative

This Existing Zoning Alternative is similar to the No Project Alternative, but assumes the site is redeveloped under the current zoning at a more intense level. It would include demolition of some, if not all, of the existing facilities and buildings for the new user. The existing PD 3-92 zoning allows hospitals, churches, and public/quasi-public uses by right. Office uses are conditionally allowed. Specific development standards such as building setbacks, height, open space, lot coverage would be established as part of the specific development proposal. The existing General Plan designation for the site, Industrial, establishes a maximum floor area ratio of 0.50 for the site, which equates to 130,680 square feet for the 6-acre site.

This alternative eliminates the potential impacts related to housing or residential uses. However, a more intensive non-residential development could result in other use land use conflicts given the mix of uses in the area as well as similar or increased peak hour traffic trips due to work commuting.

Alternative 3. Conventional Apartment Alternative

This Conventional Apartment Alternative assumes that the site is redeveloped at a residential intensity similar to the proposed project, but with conventional apartments instead of the proposed project which is oriented to university students and designed to be leased by the bedroom. This Conventional Apartment Alternative assumes a mix of 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom units and a conventional apartment design to better accommodate families and traditional households. Assumed occupants per bedroom would be based on other multi-family housing in Davis.

The affordable component would also be a conventional plan with the full affordable requirement provided as affordable apartments integrated with the market-rate units compared to the proposed project with a separate affordable site and a mix of affordable units and in-lieu fees. It would result in 203 market-rate units and 68 affordable units for a total of 271 units. Parking would be provided in a structure with a similar number of parking spaces and ratio as the proposed project. Total number of bedrooms would be similar or slightly greater than the proposed project due to the additional affordable units. Total population may be greater with students doubling up in rooms or from families with children.

This alternative would reduce the potential impacts associated with student housing and the potential conflict between different demographic groups. Overall impacts related to a high density residential land use, aesthetics, GHG emissions, would be similar. Traffic impacts would potentially be worse due to conventional traffic characteristics of this alternative and greater population. Project density would be slightly greater at 45 units/acre.

Alternative 4. Reduced Density Student Apartment Alternative

This Reduced Density Alternative would maintain the project as student-oriented apartments, but with a reduced number of units, 150 market-rate units. An additional 39 affordable apartment units would be provided, but the affordable units would be integrated with the market-rate units instead of provided as a separate building and site. A total of 189 units would be allowed based on the maximum allowed density bonus. Overall development intensity would be less. Buildings would be 3- to 4-stories tall. Parking would match City standards and a majority of the parking, if not all of the spaces, would be surface parking.

This alternative would have reduced impacts for aesthetics, traffic, noise, land use, GHG emissions. Integration of the market-rate student units and affordable units could lead to greater conflicts. Fewer housing units would be provided.

Alternative 5. Aggressive Transportation and Parking Demand Management Alternative

This Aggressive Transportation and Parking Demand Management Alternative would maintain a similar number of units, layout and building design as the proposed project. It assumes no changes to the Affordable Housing component of the project with same units, parking, and other requirements as proposed. For the Student Market-Rate component, it assumes the same number of units and same residential building footprint with the following restrictions or requirements to aggressively discourage car use and vehicle trips by residents.

Measures to reduce car use would include a maximum of 50 pay/hour visitor parking spaces; no more than 50 resident permit parking spaces, owner-managed (or contracted) car-sharing services on-site, which requires use of only electric vehicles, and number of vehicles to be determined based on market demand. It assumes a one-story (two usable parking levels) parking structure to accommodate the above-referenced parking, permit parking, and car-share parking. Additional developer incentives and facilities to promote bicycle and transit use would be provided.

This alternative would have reduced impacts to traffic, air quality, and GHG emissions. It could result in increased impacts on local transit and bicycle facilities, as well as neighborhood parking impacts.

Alternative 6. Off-Site City (3820 Chiles Road) Alternative

This Off-Site City Alternative assumes a similar residential apartment development as currently proposed can be developed on a similarly-sized parcel elsewhere within the City. No multifamily zoned parcels of similar size are currently available within the City for development. For the purposes of evaluating an off-site alternative location in the City, staff has identified a 7.4-acre property at 3820 Chiles Road. The property contains an existing office building and parking area. Surrounding uses include commercial properties, multi-family and single-family areas. The site faces Interstate 80 directly to the north.

The site is zoned Commercial Mixed Use (CMU) and does not currently allow residential uses. Development of the site would require similar land use entitlements including a rezone for the multi-family residential use and site plan and architectural review. Existing facilities would be demolished. This alternative assumes a similar Affordable Housing component would be provided on a separate affordable parcel. It also assumes a similar residential density, building height and size, unit type, and parking as the proposed project. At a proposed 40 units/acre, the site could accommodate a total of 297 units, consisting of 220 market-rate units and 77 affordable units.

This alternative would provide a slightly greater number of housing units for the City because of the larger site. It would have similar or greater project impacts on the range of issue areas including traffic, air quality, GHGs, land use, aesthetics, noise, public services, and recreation. The location of the site is about twice the distance from the UC Davis campus, approximately 2 miles, compared to the proposed project site and is less convenient to the City’s bicycle network. It would be expected to have a higher rate of vehicle trips. Proximity of this alternative site to Interstate 80 would have potential greater air quality and noise impacts on residents of the development, depending on the specific site characteristics.

Alternative 7. Off-Site UC Davis (West Village) Alternative

This Off-Site UC Davis Alternative assumes a similarly-sized student housing development as currently proposed would be located on the UC Davis campus in the West Village area. As a UC Davis site, the Affordable Housing component would be eliminated.

This alternative provides a similar number of student housing units, but does not include the affordable units. This location would reduce traffic and related impacts on City neighborhoods from student travel to and from campus. It would reduce potential land use conflicts and impacts. It would marginally add to impacts in City neighborhoods along the periphery of the campus from increased student activity and travel. It should be noted that the City does not have land use control over the UC Davis campus and that development of the West Village area for residential purposes is part of the UC Davis Long Range Development Plan.

The city has already performed a traffic impact analysis, on October 8, 2015.  “It analyzed area intersections and road segments and addressed cumulative impacts,” staff writes, noting that based on comments and review, there will be an updated traffic analysis prepared.

—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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  1. Anon

    Alternative 1. No Project Alternative
    CEQA requires a “no project” alternative. This No Project Alternative assumes the existing buildings, facilities and zoning are maintained and that a use and intensity similar to the former occupant, EMQ/Families First, occupies the site. The use would be a low-intensity residential treatment facility or similar non-profit institution or group of institutions with no new construction and no significant housing. The No Project Alternative establishes the existing baseline conditions.

    What is probably not as well known is that there is a push to keep the existing buildings and have county services and/or nonprofits occupy the space already there.  It has been decided by some that to tear down the existing buildings would be a tragic waste.  This concept is being pushed by some of the Rancho Yolo folks as well as some heavy hitters in the community, e.g. Helen Thompson, Betsy Marchand and Jerry Adler, and was presented to the Davis Senior Citizens Commission this past Thursday.

    1. Marina Kalugin

      I certainly agree….those buildings are newer and could be much better used as is.

      If not for greed by developers, that is truly the best use for the space…keep as is….

      why is it not being looked at for some alternative uses…

      group homes for the older gen X or millenials who need a hand up is a very strong need in this town

      also, for some of the homeless with families who need a hand up..

      it is already set up for those uses…

      As I retire from UC< I am starting some non-profits…and as I drove by yesterday, ideas kept showing up.

      if anyone has any such ideas and has the people to pull it off, I may be interested in investing to start…

      too much on my plate at the moment to do much more than that..


    2. Ron

      Excellent! Keep the existing buildings.

      (From the article above – “renting-by-the-room”?) Great – a “maxi-dorm” with 545 parking spaces, nowhere near campus.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        it is CLOSE to campus…look at all the ads for places which are further…

        I am talking about other nonprofits not 500 students…and shouldn’t they be riding bikes anyway?  didn’t we give up 5th street for bicyclists and pedestrians….and unitrans…. and could anyone who rents a room by the room have a car?  only if the parents are rich…like many UCD students…even the ones whose parents are poor drive better cars than I do….see that all the time…

  2. MidCentury

    Approximately 5.16 acres of the 6-acre site would be developed as a 4- and 5-story, 203-unit university student-oriented apartment project. The remaining 0.84-acre portion of the site would be developed as a 4-story, 41-unit affordable housing project. There would be a total of 244 apartment units between the two sites.

    Why separate the market rate building from the affordable building? Why shouldn’t the affordable units be side by side with the market rate apartments? I believe a robust and vibrant city based on shared values should promote inclusionary housing developments rather than sequestering our less fortunate neighbors into the least desirable portion of the project.

    1. The Pugilist

      It’s probably easier to structure.  The thing is when you talk about affordable housing in Davis, you’re talking about people making $30 to $60K.  Keep that in mind.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        it is actually higher…look at the county sites for EBT…..and notice that those with more kids get way more….more than my manager’s salary take home pay….

        1. Marina Kalugin

          really, some don’t know what EBT is?   food stamps…but it is electronic…

          no more standing and being embarrassed….just swipe…like any other card…

          and students used to be excluded …is that still the case?

          I have a friend who drives a caddy…nice car…and she uses EBT…long story…

          back when I was a starving student, I would be mortified….now no-one need even know…



    2. Matt Williams

      MidCentury, imagine that you are a low-income parent of two elementary school aged children.  Do you really want those children to b living on the same floor as the equivalent of a college fraternity with alcohol and marijuana being consumed all around those children?

      1. hpierce

        Wow, Matt..

        the equivalent of a college fraternity with alcohol and marijuana being consumed

        Really?  Please think about  your assumptions… comment made as a friend…

        1. Matt Williams

          pierce, setting aside this future possible apartment, do you think there is a single student-focused apartment complex in Davis where alcohol and marijuana are not consumed?

        2. hpierce

          Not at all, or by many/most?

          Don’t think there is a single neighborhood of 500 + folk, anywhere in Davis where excessive alcohol or marijuana, or other even more ‘serious’ drugs are used… at least in 2-5% of the units… “Fraternity Rows”?  Definitely on the alcohol thing, except perhaps Mormen, B-again Christian, or Muslim frats…

          I say again, most student oriented apartments are not off-campus frats… but that would be based on my personal experience and observations, and others point out that such anecdotal accounts are not only suspect, but totally wrong…


        3. Matt Williams

          pierce, you added the word “excessive.”  I’m not sure why you did.

          From the perspective of a low-income single-parent, any exposure of your child/children to alcohol and/or marijuana use is a matter of significant concern, especially in those cases when the child/children are self-supervising themselves while the single-parent is working.

          My gut feel is that you are missing the point.  If we did a statistical analysis of the police calls on Picnic Day weekend (or any other weekend for that matter), I believe a clear pattern would appear.  I suspect that residential units occupied by students are responsible for the overwhelmingly largest proportion of noise complaints, late night partying, alcohol intoxication and drug use issues.  Further, I suspect that fraternity houses are responsible for a relatively small proportion when compared to non-fraternity student residential units.

          As a person who was the 24/7/365 single parent of my son from age 9 to age 18, I have had to make my share of single-parenting decisions, and based on that first-hand experience, I can’t imagine why a low-income single-parent would willingly put their child in harm’s way.

      2. WesC

        If I were a low income parent with 2 children the odds are pretty good that I have little to no experience with college and thus would be pretty helpless in guiding my children in that direction.  Living in an apt full of college students would give my children daily exposure to young adults who could talk with them about how a college education might improve their life, how to apply and get accepted, how to pay for it and what pitfalls to avoid.  This would also allow students who came from affluent communities to see firsthand what it is like to be a very poor family with few resources at their disposal in life.  Herding all the low income people into massive low income housing projects only serves to perpetuate the problem. Exposure to an occasional college party where pot & alcohol are consumed would be more desirable than frequent exposure to the drug dealing, gangbanging, neighbors seemingly frequently in and out of jail, everyone in dead end minimum wage unskilled jobs, and nothing better in sight.

  3. Marina Kalugin

    the “affordable” doesn’t happen ….look at Woodbridge…..was supposed to have affordable apartments for seniors….low density….how many decades now since the “custom” homes with toxic mold were completed?

    at least 2 decades….

    and now, it is finally being worked on and the “needs” have changed….it is now needed to be what was promised NOT to be….

    btw, my hubby and I went for a walk there yesterday, someone musta been “listening” to my rant about fixing the sidewalks…

    they have been finally fixed…one can see the areas with the new pieces of better sidewalks……..thanks Chuckie..

    We didn’t walk as far as the worst sections, but will do do soon and double check if those are also repaired…

    1. hpierce

      BS, Marina… no-one changed sidewalk replacement/repair schedules due to your self-proclaimed ‘rants’… perhaps you think you have the power of Stalin, Khruschev, Gorbachev, Putin, etc.

      You don’t… get over it. Get over yourself…

  4. Marina Kalugin

    unfortunately, a few weeks went by between my ranting and my walk the other day…sorry no before pics…but if we head for a walk today, there will be very clear after pics…


  5. Marina Kalugin

    the only reason for developers to separate market rate and not  here in Davis is….guess what…they can spend decades and not develop it..

    and, when someone notices….hello city planners….then they cannot do it anymore…need more units…and so forth…

    has anyone ever said to the Woodbridge partners – you promised so many units of senior affordable units….

    I don’t know….it is still a field how many decades later…

    oh yeah, chuckie retired…

    the SF model is way better – some of each new highrise is designated below market rate…

    the  low income people get the exact same thing as the wealthy…except without the fancy finishes…

    none of this cheap hovels surrounded by mansions like in the bird streets…

    oh, and anyone see lately what the cheap hovels aka “duplexes” or whatnot go for now in those areas?

    which young student or family could afford that here in town….

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