Decision on Hotels Will Be Delayed

External view with privacy screen/ rendering by HRGA
External view with privacy screen/ rendering by HRGA

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

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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13 Comments

  1. Edison

    David’s article includes the following excerpts that warrant comment:

    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.”

    While achieving the highest level of sustainability and LEED certification is certainly a laudable goal, I would assert that the Council and those advocating for the Gold level should also take into consideration that there are some situations in which even the best intentioned project attributes become fiscally impractical.  The City should be cautious in how hard it pushes, or it will risk of giving the developer ample reason to simply walk away. The hotel’s site “is what it is.”  It may indeed be a suburban location not near transit lines, but a such a hotel could not be easily located closer to downtown. (And anyone who experienced the Veteran’s Day pedestrian and vehicle traffic logjam downtown should easily perceive that a hotel downtown would just further exacerbate that situation.)   The site is not near transit, but is within walking distance of numerous services (banking, dining, retail), and in any case, those staying there will probably want to drive to their appointments at UCD and the nearby businesses.

    Perhaps there’s some relatively low-cost measures that could help achieve the Council’s goals. One might be to require the building to include a certain amount of solar arrays now, but with the ability to add more arrays later by including the necessary infrastructure (wiring, conduit, roof strength, etc.) when the hotel is built.  Another might be for the hotel to acquire and maintain a small fleet of “town bikes,” equipped with racks and baskets, etc., so that hotel guests would have the option of riding to their appointments.  The bikes could be parked in a secure, sheltered area, along with helmets and bike locks. Another potential feature is one that I recently found in a Marriott Courtyard in the Midwest. There was a receptacle in each room for inserting the card key.  The room’s lights would not illuminate if the card was not inserted. Conversely, the lights would all turn off when the guest removed the card upon exiting.  This conserves electricity because lights, coffee pots, computers, etc., cannot be left on when the room is unoccupied.

    Rather than loading the project up now with many costly environmental requirements, I urge the Council to think creatively about ways the hotel could gradually add environmental amenities over time. This would allow timely reuse of an oddly shaped parcel that may not see another development proposal for many years if this one falls away.

    1. MikeY

      Its also interesting the Council would take one developers word on what is economically viable (must be 4 stories and cant have underground parking)  and not anothers (Can’t make LEED Gold).

      It gets weirder when you consider that both hotels would appear to face similar challenges to get to LEED Gold and one claims they can do it, but offers little evidence and the other claims they can’t do it and offers substantial evidence. Here again the Council trusts the one that says they can and disbelieves the one that says they can’t.

  2. Tia Will

    Now, all of a sudden, there are demand generators an easy half-mile car drive away from the proposed hotel.”

    One of the major problems that I have is the concept of “an easy half-mile care drive away…..”

    Note that this is not being thought of primarily as ‘within easy walking distance, or within easy biking distance, or as “with shuttle service provided by the hotel”. The default, as it is far too often, is to the private automobile. I actually had a very interesting conversation with some developers about incentivizing their guests not to use their own automobiles in a variety of ways ( rewards for future stays, improved coordination with public transportation, bike shares as Edison suggested as three examples). This would have the obvious advantage of decreased car trips with less congestion, noise and fumes thereby alleviating one aspect of the neighbors concerns. They were very receptive to my ideas and forth coming with ones of their own .

    I truly wish that we could get to the point where all developers would sit down with concerned citizens prior to formalizing their plans. I truly believe that these kinds of collaborations could result in much less push back and therefore less money and time spent in needless trips back to the drawing board or worse, to the courtroom.

    1. David Greenwald

      Tia, you miss the point. if you are working as a visitor at the URP, you then can get into your car, drive down Drew and it’s an easy drive to the Hyatt House on Cowell – you don’t have to go through the tunnel or get on the freeway. That’s my point.

      1. Tia Will

        David

        I did not miss the point. As I am sure you are aware, I do not see “convenient use of your car” to make a trip that could easily be made by bike or on foot as a positive. That was the point that I was making.

  3. Edison

    David: regardless of whether Tia missed your point or not, I still think she has a valid point about developers talking to people earlier on in the process than is typically the case.  I experienced this all the time in my previous job; i.e., developers formulating a plan for a project near an airport and then finding out later that it conflicted with FAA regulations because they never bothered to talk to anyone.

    1. Mark West

      “she has a valid point about developers talking to people earlier on in the process than is typically the case.”

      Developers talk to ‘people’ in advance all the time. I would bet that there were multiple conversations with members of the City Council and others in the community in advance of each of the projects now under consideration by the City (all prior to submitting a proposal). What Tia wants is a public discussion of confidential business information in advance of a developer acquiring a parcel or making any other plan for a project. The problem with her approach is that we don’t live in a command/control society where all decisions are made by the government. Our society is built around the concept of ‘private enterprise’ where we are all free to choose where we live and how we spend our money (within the boundaries of the law), all without needing our neighbor’s permission or approval.

       

       

  4. Ron

    Mark:  “I would bet that there were multiple conversations with members of the City Council and others in the community in advance of each of the projects now under consideration by the City (all prior to submitting a proposal).”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t you highly critical of neighbors speaking to the city council (especially in regard to the Trackside proposal), prior to proposal submission?

     

    1. Mark West

      No, I was critical of the neighbors attacking the project and developer en masse during public comment in front of the CC prior to the project being submitted to the City (in response to a newspaper article). That is quite different than having a private conversation with one CC member or another in order to gauge their opinion.

      1. Ron

        Mark:

        Thanks for clarifying.  However, I don’t really see anything “wrong” with neighbors expressing their concerns regarding such proposals (en masse, or otherwise) at any time.  In fact, one could argue that it’s best to get “out front and ahead” of these proposals before a lot of time, energy, and money is wasted by both neighbors and developers.

         

         

  5. Tia Will

    Mark

    The problem with her approach is that we don’t live in a command/control society where all decisions are made by the government. “

    I have corrected you on my view of this previously, but will be happy to do so again. It is precisely the “command/control” society model that I am trying to present an alternative to. This is exactly what is happening with development by exception. The government ( defined by a vote of three ) is making a governmental decision on which developments will be approved.

    The model that I would like to see is really not so different from what happens now. I would just like to see collaboration earlier in the planning process so that there is not a vast time and energy expenditure on a project that is going to be fought tooth, nail and legally by those in opposition. Really, what would we have to lose if some developers were willing to consult first, and plan accordingly ?

    1. Mark West

       “I have corrected you on my view of this previously…”

      Perhaps, if you will learn to post your replies under the original comment you won’t feel the need to repeat yourself as often.

      “It is precisely the “command/control” society model that I am trying to present an alternative to.”

      In order to present a valid alternative, you first need to understand the original concept. A command/control society is one where the government tells you what you are allowed to do with your life. Where you live, how many children you may have, how you spend your money, and what you may do with your property. The government decides what projects will be built, and who will build them, and how the graft will be spread around.

      “This is exactly what is happening with development by exception. The government ( defined by a vote of three ) is making a governmental decision on which developments will be approved.

      Our City Council making a decision on a project is not an example of command/control, it is an example of our elected representatives performing the role to which they were elected, representing all of our interests and making decisions for the City by a vote of the council majority.

      The alternative that you propose is one where we are no longer represented by our elected officials, but rather by those ‘concerned citizens’ (representing no one but themselves) who believe a project may inpact their lives. Effectively, command and control with you (or your neighbors) at the center. I see no reason to live in a society where the government controls what we do, and I see even less reason to live in one where an unelected neighbor (rational or otherwise) has that control.

      There is nothing wrong with our project proposal and planning process. The problem in Davis is that we have too many ‘concerned citizens’ who have failed to understand how the process properly functions (and their own role in it) and as a consequence, muck it up for everyone else.

       

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