Embassy Suites Hotel Settles Lawsuit with Harrington

Embassy Suites
Proposed Hotel Conference center on Richards

Late on Monday evening, Michael Harrington along with co-counsel Don Mooney announced that they had reached a settlement agreement with Royal Ganesh and the City of Davis, resolving their lawsuit over the Embassy Suites/Hotel Conference Center project.

The lawsuit had effectively blocked the development of a hotel conference center that the city had pushed through a year ago, hoping to bring in high-tech and university-related conferences, as well as to expand the base of available hotel space in the city in hopes of generating more TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) revenue.

The project is slated to be built at the northwest corner of the intersection of Richards Boulevard and the westbound Interstate 80 on-ramp. “The settlement resolves the lawsuit in very specific terms that enhances the Project, improves traffic conditions and provides alternative transportation options for hotel and conference visitors,” they announced in the press release.

The release adds, “This project will meet existing needs for hotel rooms to serve the City, UC Davis and local businesses and residents. The Project will also provide a range of employment opportunities for Davis residents and the City will benefit from increased property taxes, sales taxes, and transient occupancy taxes.”

Michael Harrington stated that “… the Settlement Agreement reflects that the lawsuit caused Embassy Suites to reduce the visual massing of the buildings, push the buildings to the southern boundary of the property along the freeway so the public’s view from Richards provides for a modified site plan and building design that will be much improved and opened up, and ensures that the project footprint and design will not interfere with or compromise the City and Cal Trans’ ability to re-work the Richards area, including Olive Drive intersection and the I-80/Richards tight diamond.”

Applicant and Owner Ashok Patel addresses council in August 2015
Applicant and owner Ashok Patel addressed council in August 2015

He continued, “Basically, as a result of the Settlement Agreement, we believe that the project, as modified, now meets many of the classic Davis infill goals, strategies and requirements.

“In addition to enhanced good planning, the Settlement Agreement also establishes the first of its kind privately funded alternative transportation program in the City of Davis. The Settlement Agreement ensures that the Project will include an effective program for free loaner bicycles and shuttle service at the Project for hotel guests and conference attendees. The Transportation Management Plan must be reviewed and approved by the City and the public on a periodic basis,” Mr. Harrington stated.

“Our group hopes that this new Embassy Suites program will serve as the start of additional similar programs in local hotels that will encourage hotel guests and conference attendees to use the free bikes and shuttle service to move around the downtown and campus, sparing the air and road congestion for the public benefit, and serve as a model for other hotels in the City,” he concluded.

On October 20, 2015, Mr. Harrington and Mr. Mooney filed a lawsuit against the project applicant and the city. They alleged the “IS/MND” (Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration) for the project was approved in violation of CEQA because of unmitigated traffic impacts to the Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive intersection.

The press release adds that Royal Ganesh intends to submit the revisions to the city in the near future. The project revisions will be subject to review and consideration by the city in the coming months.

The settlement agreement now paves the way for Royal Ganesh to demolish both the existing 43-room University Park Inn and the adjacent Caffé Italia restaurant in order to build a new six-story 132-room hotel, including a +/-4,000 sf restaurant and 18,400 sf conference center.

The council unanimously approved the project in August 2015 despite objections from a variety of different sources.

Former City Councilmember Michael Harrington raised legal issues that suggested a potential law suit at the same meeting
Former City Councilmember Michael Harrington raised legal issues that suggested a potential law suit at the same meeting

Former City Councilmember Michael Harrington raised the issue of planning process, stating, “I think we have a situation here where the city staff is recommending the use of a ‘neg dec’ to avoid a full CEQA analysis and I think that the facts and law are against that process.”

He added, “I think that the weaknesses in the traffic report and the fact that the historic resources were not really evaluated, I think that that places you out of the ‘neg dec’ status and I believe that if you continue this and look at it some more, you’d have a good project.”

Alan Pryor, continuing on his line from his guest column in the Vanguard, stated, “I think there are many problems with this project that we really have to work through.”

He said, “For one, the traffic analysis was deficient in that it relied on unjustifiably low pre-existing baseline traffic counts taken by humans only over a two-hour period last year. I certainly don’t think you can say that’s representative.”

He further stated that this is compounded by under-counting or underestimating the number of vehicles that would come to the facility during maximum occupancy events. He argued that they did not have near enough parking to handle that.

In the settlement agreement, it states, “Royal Ganesh shall submit an application to the City of Davis to amend the Project” to include “3,130 square feet of solar panels to generate power for its premises, in a location that is suitable for maximum efficiency.”

The hotel will also be reduced by one floor, although the height of the building will remain at 74 feet, six inches.

The hotel also agrees to “valet parking to an on-site lot, and as necessary, to an off-site lot located in the immediate area of the Project, south of the Richards Undercrossing,” no less than 15 loaner bikes, shuttle service to and from the airport, charges for overnight parking to discourage guests from arriving by vehicle, among other changes.

In exchange, “Petitioner and its members shall not challenge the project design changes discussed in paragraph 5 during any required administrative review by the City or by way of subsequent litigation.”

However, “[N]o buildings or structures relating to the Project, as approved or modified, shall create an impediment to the City’s proposed right-of-way modifications to Richards Boulevard…”

There is also a modest settlement fee of $75,000 paid to the Law Offices of Donald Mooney.

—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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37 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    There is also a modest settlement fee of $75,000 paid to the Law Offices of Donald Mooney.

    I was looking for that as I read the article, thought I was going to have to ask but there it was in the last sentence.  $75,000 might be modest to some people but to others it’s a lot of cash.

    I dined at Cafe’ Italia a few months ago and asked our waiter where he thought they might end up.  The waiter felt Woodland was a good possibility.  How much lost revenue would that be for the city?  I hope they decide to stay in town, that would be a big loss for Davis.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      The loss of revenue is expected to be more than balanced out by the TOT the hotel would generate. One question I have is if they are reducing the number of stories, how many fewer rooms will we get and how much revenue do we potentially lose there?

  2. Marina Kalugin

    good job MH and MP, though not all the issues have been dealt with…is Royal Ganesh the owners of the Aggie Inn and the newer place next to it?

    Makes sense, as the other motels/hotels were not speaking out…I mean if it is the same owneres.

    Furthermore, many of the real issues of that corridor will not be handled until and unless the richards tunnel becomes  a pedestrian, bike, public transport and emergency vehicle only roadway.

    There is still a need for a real interchange between Pole line and bike overcrossing to the east.

    To smooth out the traffic heading to the various parts of town and to give an extra option

    Richards interchange will be much better suited as an on/off ramp for local and south davis.

    Local traffic can even get a special pass to open the gate…ala how UCD minimizes unnecessary auto travel in the campus core and especially blocks it during the key times of day.

    I am truly appalled and shocked at the lack of city process which was not followed, and which is mandated in the structural engineering codes of this state, and that someone thought a 2  hour traffic study would pass muster.   Good call, AP.

    Are there no qualified engineers on the city planning staff?

    Why are citizens the ones who have to spend their own time and money to help right the faults of the city and also the city council, which are now run amuk by developers, and realtors and their family and pals?

    As this will only get worse as the new projects being presented over the more recent months and years have even more faults.

    Finally, I do hope that there will be a new park and ride  in the area of Olive Dr…

    And the other ones need to be expanded….that is the only hope for smoothing the traffic congestion throughout town….and that may actually be the best use for the Nishi property…as it is already polluted….

    The rest of it should be kept in reserve for expanding the 80 bottleneck adjacent to it…

    hasta  la vista…

     

     

  3. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > There is also a modest settlement fee of $75,000

    > paid to the Law Offices of Donald Mooney.

    I don’t know about David but for me $75K is not a “modest” amount of money to type up and file a lawsuit.  It is more than the TOTAL median FAMILY income in the US and the TOTAL cost of the dozen or so cars I have owned over almost 40 years  (and it is also enough to buy a new BMW M3 or FOUR new Hondas).  It is not clear to me who actually paid the $75K (The City, Royal Ganesh or both of them).

    1. David Greenwald

      The comparison point here is not what a family of three makes, it’s the terms of other settlement agreements. I’ve covered cases where the settlement is well into the hundreds of thousands, even Harrington’s water suit (which he was ruled against in court) settled for $150K. Modest is the correct term in this context.

    2. Marina Kalugin

      obviously you are not an attorney, right?

      a decent, well regarded and truly competent attorney in the silicon valley charges at least $500 per hour….likely way more  -add up the time….and that doesn’t include the paralegals time, the various assistants, travel  (have you seen the traffic)  the rent ( have you tried to rent in the Bay)  and so on…and etc….copying, phone time, receptionists, internet, fax machines….and how many hours do you think this sucked up?     way more than that modest sum….  and guess what if ya are not up there in degrees and so on, and even if ya are, one cannot fathom the sums thrown around….I guess ya must have missed the $6.3 million that Dodd got in independent expenditures, and that was not even the final total…

      Davis/Sac are way cheaper but still….

       

  4. ryankelly

    I don’t believe for an instant that this money isn’t going to Harrington, if only to reimburse him for his investment in this lawsuit.  Rumor has it that Mooney is making him pay as he goes and not relying on winning the lawsuit or a settlement to reap any financial benefit for his work.  Harrington’s lawsuits have cost the City over a half a million so far in legal fees.     All he has accomplished was something that City planners and Patel were likely already doing. It will take some time to recover that money through taxes and fees, before the City sees any benefit from this development.

    1. Marina Kalugin

      really, only a half a million?   jeez and the city council gave away $10 mil last year and the same folks were on here saying it is na da as only ONE TIME expenditures…..

      right the same folks with the same initials or same sockpuppets, right

      wow no wonder we lost a few MH….why ddn’t  ya ring me up….I was kinda busy with other things…

       

  5. Tia Will

    Wouldn’t it be nice if some of that $75,000 were to go to help with the relocation of Caffe Italia ?  Yeah, I know, that would go dramatically against the “constructive destruction” that we all value so much.

    1. South of Davis

      SODA wrote:

      > What exactly did the settlement change for the traffic situation?

      With “no less than 15 loaner bikes” I bet that a couple times a week a hotel guest or two will ride to campus rather than driving under the tracks…

    1. South of Davis

      Chamber Fan wrote:

      > Maybe Harrington can come on here and explain

      > how this settlement does anything for the community

      > that he purported to be serving?

      Hopefully he eats at a local restaurant and leaves a big tip when he has celebration dinners after winning his lawsuits…

    2. hpierce

      One “major accomplishment”… got the rooms, etc. moved closer to I-80… which is toxic at Nishi, but benign and/or beneficial for the hotel project… yeah, right…

      1. Marina Kalugin

        PS   per many decades old general plans, one puts the transient populations and the most density along busy roads…..for those who missed that point about NISHI…students and workers are there much longer per day,week, month and year than the transients, many of whom will only sleep there at night.

        Per structural engineering codes  (and with the last passing of Title 24 effective on Jan 1, which actually brings some of the more structural high rise and thus more stringent structural codes to the level of individual homes)  the newly mandated air quality and emissions codes will keep those folks who are there for only much shorter periods of time safer.

        Embassy suites is also much smarter in putting atriums in the middle and so on….keeps the toxins from the neighboring roads as well as inclement weather from guests enjoyment of pools and such….have not seen the plans for this one…but hopefully due to the proximity of 80, they will still have an indoor atrium and pool

        if not, that is another issue which deserves addressing….

         

    3. Marina Kalugin

      hopefully MH will let me speak for him….and you can correct me if I am wrong, ole pal, but….who the f else is keeping the i@@@@@@@ in check in this town….?   na da…..

      certainly not those who are supposed to keep the wolves at bay…..like the council…

      over to you MH….

        1. Chamber Fan

          I’ll make it easy for you – he sued ostensibly because it wasn’t CEQA compliant and the traffic study was poor —-  – there is nothing in the agreement that addresses these issues.  So your response is not only not responsive, it fails to have any substantive merit whatsoever.

  6. Marina Kalugin

    perhaps they got worn out also …and how much time and money can one waste?

    perhaps there are other points of contention that someone else would like to sue about?

    lemme know as I have some funds to donate before the end of this year….gotta be smart about it though….and a real issue and a real 501(c) 3….which is worthy of support….cya

    1. Chamber Fan

      You’re like the boy that cried wolf.  Why don’t you just leave already and not come back?  You don’t add anything to the conversation, half what you say is flat out wrong and the other half makes no sense.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        jee  CF….I take it you are a structural engineer (in which case you likely haven’t passed your license yet, or even the FE)  or are you just a fan of developers?

        And PS< which half is flat out wrong?   specifics please… and if something doesn’t make sense, why not call a friend who is more qualified to comment on said topics…..or look it up yourself or here’s a good one, try to refrain from commenting on topics you are not as educated in?

        PS>   MH may have other bigger fish to fry….

  7. Alan Pryor

    What exactly did the settlement change for the traffic situation?

    Absolutely nothing was changed to improve the traffic. The purported traffic study is still deficient in exactly the same manner and the mitigations are still just as deficient as before. Think Richards is screwed up now? Just wait until construction on the hotel starts. The average 5 minute wait to get to the downtown will probably explode to 10-15 minutes. It may be faster to go to the malls in Woodland than to try to get downtown through the tunnel and find parking. Wonder what that will do to our downtown merchants and our retail tax revenue?

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