Last week, on November 1, the Davis City Council closed the public hearing on applications to two proposed hotels – the Hyatt House and the Marriott Residence Inn. At the time, the council did not take action but instead suggested that the items could come back for the November 15 meeting.
However, staff has recommended that the council postpone its review of both applications to a later date.
In the case of the Residence Inn, the item will come back on December 6. The council wanted to continue the matter last week “to allow time to allow for further analysis and conversations in the areas of sustainability and LEED, photovoltaics, and labor discussions.”
The Residence Inn had largely no opposition, however, as we reported prior to the meeting, the issue of LEED Certification is somewhat challenging.
The applicant has stated that “outside of being near transit, the project scores relatively low on site location points given the suburban location. The applicant has voiced concerns that in order to make up the points lost on site location in other categories, the additional costs would result in a project that is no longer economically viable.”
The development team told the Vanguard they believe that they can achieve LEED certification, but not at the Gold level. They noted that Jackson Properties has done other LEED office buildings, but at this stage in the process they do not want to overstate the level they can reach. They are not wanting to make promises that they can’t hit.
The site not being at an urban location makes it tough to get enough points in LEED’s scoring system, and therefore they believe that LEED Gold is pushing it.
Unlike the Residence Inn, the neighbors of the Hyatt House are strongly opposed to the proposed hotel. The city has pushed off the next hearing until right before Christmas, on December 20.
The council continued the matter at the November 1 meeting “to allow time for a facilitated meeting with neighbors and project applicants.” According to the staff report, that meeting “is scheduled for November 29, 2016, from 6:00 to 9:00 in the evening at the New Harmony Community Room.”
At the November 1 meeting, it was Will Arnold who pushed for additional talks. While both Lucas Frerichs and Robb Davis seemed ready to approve the project as is on the night of November 1, Will Arnold stated, ““I’m not there yet and I think there’s work that we can do over the next couple of weeks.”
He told his colleagues that he wants to see one last good faith effort to meet with the neighbors, he wants to see a solidification about promises to community groups, and see what they can do to make sure the trees are cared for.
Given that he became a swing vote of sorts, the council and city have moved forward to the facilitated meetings to see if there can be additional agreement between the neighbors and developers.
Will Arnold was somewhat critical of the neighbors, in that “there is a lack of options being given from the neighborhood as to what might satisfy you. The two that were mentioned specifically were going down to the three stories and underground parking.
“My understanding is that underground parking is a no go and that going down to three stories would result in sacrificing a lot of the things that we find very beneficial about this project, including many of its environmental attributes,” he explained.
He noted he read this as package deal that, if the developers did both of those things, “it might be acceptable.” Mr. Arnold said, “I think those things are a poison pill for this project.”
Mayor Robb Davis told the council that he asked the neighbors if he could help facilitate with a professional facilitator at city expense to work between the developers and the neighbors to engage in dialogue. “I went around the table that day,” he said. “The answer I received was no.”
The sentiment at the time seemed to be that the neighbors were not interested in discussing the hotel project, or improving it to reduce impacts, and that they believed their opposition could make the hotel project go away.
However, that calculation clearly changed on the night of November 1. All four councilmembers, who have the ability to vote on the project, supported some sort of hotel. The overwhelming sentiment was the need for revenue and the need for two hotels.
The HVS report came out in March, and it concluded that “the near-term development of a conference hotel facility with the addition of an extended stay hotel to be built shortly thereafter would be most beneficial to visitors, the City of Davis, other hotels in the market, and the overall community.”
However, HVS concluded that “the addition of another hotel, specifically another extended-stay facility, would not benefit the market for another four to five years after the initial extended-stay hotel has opened.”
Circumstances changed somewhat with several recent developments. First, it is less clear when the Embassy Suites project will commence, if it does. Second, the announced purchase of Interland by Mark Friedman and at least a hundred million investment into the Cowell-Richards-Research Drive area changes a lot of the thinking about the Hyatt House.
Now, all of a sudden, there are demand generators an easy half-mile car drive away from the proposed hotel.
What is clear is that there are four votes for some hotel, and two votes for a four-story hotel.
Can the developers and neighbors cut a deal when they meet late in November that will produce the win-win council would probably prefer? Stay tuned.
—David M. Greenwald reporting