by Dan Carson
I have reviewed the draft “LRDP Interests Framework” that you will be discussing on Tuesday. My comments are not intended to represent the views of the Finance and Budget Commission, of which I am vice chair, but do represent my views as a citizen of Davis.
- Good Process But We Need Good Results. The LRDP Interests Framework represents a significant first step in systematically organizing the city’s potential response to the LRDP in an organized way that permits broad public input and the opportunity to identify concerns at the beginning of the process. This approach is a much better one than occurred with the 2003 LRDP, which ultimately left much of the burden to Davis citizens to individually and collectively fight for the city’s interests and led to litigation by myself and others by the West Davis Neighbors, a community organization. It is my hope that this approach will foster city-campus collaboration and avoid town-gown tension and litigation. But much depends upon how the campus ultimately responds to the legitimate concerns of the city and its citizenry. We need a good process but we also need good results.
- We May Need to Broaden the Issues List Later. The document should include a summary statement that the city of Davis will expect and will insist that the environmental impact review of the LRDP will accurately and fully depict all of the environmental impacts of the project on the city and the environment as a whole. Moreover, the document should state that the city will expect and will insist that the campus will incorporate all necessary and feasible mitigation measures to resolve those impacts. At this time, the campus has not publicly released the actual LRDP proposal (only conceptual information) and of course has not released a draft EIR of the LRDP. While the LRDP Interests Framework touches on many important issues that are likely to be relevant to the process, it is possible that these forthcoming campus documents will surface novel issues the public is unaware of and that could have a significant impact on the citizens of Davis. You should signal to the campus upfront that you will likely need to broaden the list of discussion items once the city and its citizens have had a chance to scrutinize these documents.
- Seek to Negotiate a Legally Enforceable Agreement. The document should include a summary statement that the city of Davis will seek the adoption of a joint Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that UC Davis promises of mitigation are carried out. The EIR for the last and highly controversial LRDP, for example, contained a promise to negotiate a fair share contribution to mitigate traffic impacts from campus growth. However, the LRDP EIR stopped short of making a commitment to actually making such a fair share contribution. No MOU was ever negotiated, and no fair share contribution was negotiated to my knowledge, even though the resulting impacts of campus growth on the city in the ensuring years has been very significant. This time, the city should insist on the negotiation and adoption of an MOU in advance of any implementation of a new LRDP. That MOU should be specific and legally enforceable and contain provisions that spell out the consequences if its provisions are violated. This MOU could also be a platform for the city to incorporate the commitments it is willing to make for collaborative efforts in trade for actions by the university to mitigate the negative impacts of its growth on the city. In my experience, clear and well-prepared and enforceable contractual agreements don’t create problems — they avoid them. An FBC subcommittee is examine how such agreements have worked out at other UC campuses.
- Broader LRDP Mitigation Revenue Stream Should be Sought. The document appropriately highlights the city’s intent to seek funding from the university to improve traffic problems in the Richards/Olive Drive Corridor and UC participation in fair share transportation impact fees for proposed growth as well as to deal with past growth. This is a very important provision of the LRDP Interests Framework, in my opinion, given the huge impacts of our biggest employer, UC Davis, on our streets and roads and bike paths. However, I think the LRDP Interests Framework should be amended to state the city’s intent to negotiate a broader revenue stream from the university that would also mitigate the impacts of campus growth on (a) the city’s property tax base, particularly from university occupation of commercial space exempt from property taxation, (b) housing availability and costs within the city limits, especially for renters, (c) the impacts on parking, including on downtown businesses and on residential communities that must live with parking permits and other impacts, (d) impacts on other city services, such as police and parks. If it has not already begun to do so, the city should draft analyses documenting these impacts, if need be with the help of consultants. This city faces severe fiscal challenges. UC Davis should be a part of the solution. For example, part of the monies from such a revenue stream might be used to address our need for affordable housing for students and thus would be to the benefit of both the city and the campus.
- Focus on Providing More Housing On-Campus Makes Sense… The move by the campus to meet a greater share of the student housing burden on-campus is commendable The LRDP Interests Framework appropriately seeks to solidify and expand this commitment by the campus and to take some of the pressure off of the city’s housing supply and costs.
- …But Where That Housing is Placed Is Important. In regard to housing proposals contained within the LRDP, the city raises concerns about the Russell Boulevard housing proposal. In addition, the LRDP Interests Framework should be modified to state that the city will be seeking the inclusion within the EIR of a housing site alternative that focuses on potential internal sites on campus, such as the land south of the West Village development and adjacent to Highway 113. West Davis Neighbors argued for the study of such an EIR alternative when the 2003 LRDP was proposed. However, the campus refused to consider that EIR alternative back then, which in all likelihood would have been an environmentally superior alternative to the West Village project that has since been partially built out. The city should signal its desire that these and similar housing site alternatives be studied that could reduce the impacts on the residential neighborhoods surrounding the campus.
- Clarify Aspects of the West Village Proposal. The LRDP concepts presented by the campus to the community appropriately include a new buffer zone on the western edge of the proposed West Village development. However, the LRDP Interests Framework should be modified to state the city’s intent that any new LRDP (a) include a commitment by the university to maintain this buffer zone in perpetuity and (b) reaffirm the university’s prior commitment as part of the 2003 LRDP process to allow only emergency vehicle access from the West Village project from Russell Boulevard. These measures would help assure city residents that their neighborhoods will not be overwhelmed with traffic from West Village, especially now that plans are being proposed to allow two students instead of one to live in many of the apartment units that exist there now.