Another one of the more controversial proposals is the repurposing of the six-acre city property that formerly housed the EMQ FamiliesFirst residential treatment facility, which has been closed since September 2013. The plan calls for the existing buildings to be demolished and replaced by two separate projects that total 244 units.
The plan calls for most of the site, about 5.16 acres of it, to be developed as a four- and five-story, 203-unit university student apartment project with the remainder to be a four-story, 41-unit affordable housing project.
The student portion of the site would include 727 beds with a six-story residential parking garage, with 545 spaces and other bike parking areas to accommodate 727 bike spaces.
The affordable housing site would consist of a 54-foot-high building, 41 units, and a mix of one-bedroom to three-bedroom units ranging from 646 square feet to 1125 square feet. Forty-four percent of the units would be single bedroom units.
The project “would include a General Plan Amendment to change the designation to Residential High Density. The project site is currently zoned as PD 3-92; the project would also include a rezoning to a new PD (Planned Development).”
As mentioned, the repurposing of the site has been seen as controversial, particularly from residents who live in Rancho Yolo across the street.
The Draft EIR notes that the city received 20 comment letters prior to the scoping meeting. While many of these appear to be a form letter, of note is communication from Legal Services of Northern California.
The letter, signed by Alysa Meyer (Managing Attorney) and Salma Enan (Staff Attorney), notes, “We have reviewed the Initial Study and we agree that the draft EIR should address the environmental impacts on transportation/traffic, noise, land use and planning, and population and housing, We believe that the project as proposed will create a potentially significant impact on each of these areas.”
They propose “an off-site alternative,” noting that the site is “targeted towards and intended for university students” but its location “in the east-central portion of the City (is) many blocks from campus. Therefore, a more suitable location for the project would seem to be West Village or elsewhere on UC Davis property. We believe an off-site alternative would achieve the basic objectives of the project while avoiding or substantially lessening any of its significant environmental effects.”
They also “propose a reduced-density alternative on the Student Site including a change in the configuration of bedrooms and bathrooms planned.”
A letter from resident CM Kriens asks “the city to work for a sensible plan of growth to retain the existing General Plan’s 16.8 to 30 unit density limit that does not deny development.” The resident notes, “The Apartment Project is not consistent with the Davis ‘small town character.’ It would present many hazards to the elderly neighbors from resident student parties and the greatly increased traffic of cars and bicycles on the streets when walking or driving to and from the Post Office, the DMV, the Rite Aid and Safeway Shopping Center, and to and from the university.”
Mary Jo Bryan writes, “It is my opinion that there are a number of deficiencies in regards to the staff response to public transit and transportation…” She notes, for instance, “The project site is served by Unitrans, but Unitrans serves the University and the city of Davis, but not Woodland, West Sacramento and Sacramento. For University students that may be sufficient but for low-income family, seniors and persons with disabilities, it is not adequate. I checked with Yolo Bus and confirmed that there are no routes serving 5th Street or Pole Line Road.”
Ron Oertel writes, “The proposed development is overwhelming large, and would require a zoning change to accommodate the density and type of use. It seems that the willingness of the city to prematurely entertain a possible zoning change has encouraged ‘speculative’ pricing, thereby (artificially) increasing the value of the site. Therefore, organizations that might otherwise be able to purchase the site (and re-use the existing, relatively new facility in a manner that was intended under existing zoning) are effectively blocked from consideration, since the value no longer has any relation to the existing facility (and the original, intended use of the site). I ask the city to consider retaining the existing zoning.”
The EIR notes the following concerns from the public:
- Destruction/demolition of existing buildings that otherwise could have the potential to be made available for re-use;
- Traffic congestion;
- Noise associated with project traffic and on-site recreational activities;
- Draft Environmental Impact Report – Sterling 5th Street Apartments ES-3
- Introduction of new housing units and residents to the City of Davis, and related impact on City-enacted growth limitations;
- Loss or degradation of biological resources and habitat;
- Project contribution to air pollution;
- Project contribution to global climate change/greenhouse gas emissions;
- Lack of safe bicycle and pedestrian connectivity;
- Lack of adequate public transit service;
- Inconsistency with City “small town character”;
- The potential for the proposed project to set a precedent (with regard to the size and scope of future developments projects within the City).
Based on concerns about the impact of traffic, the city went from a Mitigated Negative Declaration to an EIR. For the most part, the traffic analysis found that impacts from the project and the cumulative effects of the project plus other projects are less than significant. Roadway conditions operate at LOS (Level of Service) A or B now and, in the worst case scenarios, do not fall below C (where LOS E is the cutoff point for the city).
One area where the analysis found impacts significant and unavoidable was at the unsignalized intersection of 2nd Street and Cantrill Drive. This is already a problematic intersection, where there was the fatal collision earlier this year and there are heavy traffic impacts.
Their analysis is that, by 2035, “The 2nd Street / Cantrill Drive intersection will operate at LOS F with a delay of 79 seconds and will meet the peak hour signal warrant in the PM peak hour. Installation of a traffic signal at the 2nd Street / Cantrill Drive intersection would result in an LOS B condition with 10.6 seconds of delay in the PM peak hour.”
They also found that project implementation of MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) and Nishi, now both in question, could produce significant and unavoidable impacts at Pole Line and Cowell Blvd. intersections.
The key issue going forward seems to be the issue of density, which is not surprisingly a common refrain in infill development and one that the city has still not adequately addressed.
—David M. Greenwald reporting