Residents in South Davis Weigh In on Neighborhood Plans

(From Press Release) – Last Tuesday night, south Davis residents gathered at the Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School multipurpose room to discuss redevelopment plans for the 7.4 acre site at 3820 Chiles Rd. Depending on when one originated in Davis, some know the building on this property as the old Pacific Standard Life insurance company, and some know it as UC Davis offices. While both of these references were at some point true, the building is now vacant with an uncertain future. Seismic analysis has deemed the building unsafe and commercial brokers have deemed it functionally obsolete, causing potential tenants to turn away.

Lor Shepard, retired UC Davis agricultural economics professor and 42-year Davis resident is the owner of the building. Over the past two years, he has worked with contractors, architects, engineers, commercial brokers and city and regional economic development authorities to identify a path for mitigating the office building’s limitations to make it safe and attractive to a potential tenant. When no feasible solution was found, he began looking into options for redeveloping the site, the subject of Tuesday’s meeting.

“I feel that it is crucial to seek input from the property’s neighbors about the future of this site. At the beginning stages of any development project there is flexibility to tailor the design to its surrounding community, and I believe strongly in doing so.” Chuck Cunningham, Shepard’s development partner, echoes his sentiments, “We have an opportunity to create something that meets community needs and enhances the neighborhood at this site and in that spirit we want to get as much information as possible as we draft the plans.”

The plans, so far, involve a residential community tailored to young professionals, graduate students, and families with both rental and for-sale units. An initial step in this project involves applying to rezone the site from commercial to residential use. “The area is already densely populated with highway commercial development, states Cunningham. “A residential community would add balance to the neighborhood.”

Neighbors welcomed last Tuesday night’s gathering with Shepard and Cunningham. Joan Futscher lives in the neighborhood and states, “Frankly I am relieved to see the concept of a residential neighborhood. We have so much commercial development out here already.” Rene Toledo, who lives across the street from the site, was grateful for the discussion. “We knew a change was coming to the site and it was nice to be on the ground level and have a voice in the process. I like the idea of a residential development versus what the current zoning allows.”

The request for rezoning will be presented to the City of Davis by the end of the month. If it’s successful, Shepard and Cunningham will continue planning the project with hopes to break ground in 2018.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

10 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    “I feel that it is crucial to seek input from the property’s neighbors about the future of this site. At the beginning stages of any development project there is flexibility to tailor the design to its surrounding community, and I believe strongly in doing so.” 

    Kudos to Mr.Shepard and Mr. Cunningham for proactively engaging with the South Davis community. My only thought for future large scale plans would be that this type of meeting occur before the decision to go with a plan that requires a zoning change. However, this appears to be a step in the right direction of early community engagement.

    I am wondering how many people attended this meeting and the range of comments.

    1. Matt Williams

      Tia, what I have heard second-hand is that the neighborhood participation was approximately a dozen.  The Shepard/Cunningham approach is more likely to match your desired process than other Davis examples because they are trying to work through the process step-by-step.  The first step being coming up with a rezoning and lot configuration proposal that is a win-win for both the property owners and the neighbors.  The second step would be to come up with specific designs for each of the rezoned lots that then individually go through the City’s design review process … single family residence lots getting single family residence design review and the multi-family residential lot getting multi-family residence design review.

      That multi-step approach is a departure for the City.  More often than not, the City has required the applicant to come up with the design, the rezoning and the lot configuration all in one mashed-together process.  That means that until the design is complete, there really isn’t anything to show the neighbors, and the whole process seems like Athena springing fully armed from the brow of Zeus.

      If Shepard/Cunningham and the neighbors can get the City staff to agree on the two-step approach, the neighbors will have a much, much earlier sense of how they are going to be impacted, and the need for zoning variances when it comes to the design stage should be significantly reduced, if not eliminated.

      JMHO

  2. Howard P

    David… would look for an indication if City staff, particularly Planning and PW, were present… I see both opportunities and dangers…

    Tia… if City staff are not “in the room”, at least to hear and ask questions, there could be serious problems… particularly related to access and economic ‘hits’ to the City…

    1. Tia Will

      Howard

      if City staff are not “in the room”, at least to hear and ask questions, there could be serious problems”

      Fair point. I see no reason that they could not be included in any pertinent conversations.

    1. Matt Williams

      Mark, I don’t think there has been any difference in the importance.  From what I have heard about the neighborhood meeting with Shepard/Cunningham, the difference has been in the content of the concerns that the neighborhood has expressed.

  3. Alan Miller

    “The area is already densely populated with highway commercial development, states Cunningham. “A residential community would add balance to the neighborhood.”

    Highway?  Residential? –> I smell a warm, heapin’ bowl of Cahill & Harrington’s toxic soup comin’ down Chiles road on it’s way from the Nishi property.

    Are there noodles?

  4. Howard P

    Interesting point… the fact is we need good commercial… we also need housing, particularly MF on existing transit routes (and the proposals qualify)…

    Commercial tends to form a good revenue stream… housing is like a shot of adrenalin… the latter provides a bigger shot of one time, up-front revenue, but then the effects wear off, and then tends to be a GF ‘drain’ over time.

    Good question… I don’t pretend to know the answer, but given the two needs, would not tend to dismiss a proposal for either ‘out-of-hand’… but the question you ask should be answered while vetting any specific proposal…

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for