Developer Explains Plan for Active Adult Community Development Project

As the latest Measure R project moves forward, one of the key questions is whether the community is ready to support any project outside of the current city boundaries.  The West Davis Active Adult Community represents a different type of project, located on 75 acres in the area on the north side of Covell and west of the Sutter-Davis Hospital.

The project’s 80 percent of its units, including 150 affordable senior apartments, are age-restricted to 55 and over.  They have another 325 for-sale units which are single-story, single-family detached.  The remaining 20 percent of the homes will not be age restricted, as the developers are hoping to “maintain an atmosphere and energy similar to traditional Davis neighborhoods.”

The plan also calls for a three-acre Activity and Wellness Center, which would include a pool, restaurant, and outdoor patio and parking lot.  There is also a three-acre parcel reserved for the University Retirement Community expansion.

The developers are taking a public approach, in addition to presentations before commissions, including this past Monday at a Natural Resources Commission workshop, as they are planning on holding 44 outreach meetings with neighbors across the community.

The project, while well received by a number of people in the community, nevertheless will likely have at least one point of contention – the decision by the developers to forgo a Tentative Site Map until after the Measure R vote.

Developer Dave Taormino explained to the Vanguard that they went back to the original language of Measure J, he said, having followed the other projects that went to Measure J/Measure R votes, “I was surprised when I read the law… that they were not following what the law called for.”

The key requirement under Measure R is the “baseline project features” that “cannot be eliminated, significantly modified or reduced without subsequent voter approval.”

“That’s what the law says,” Mr. Taormino explained.  “What has been happening in the past is they’ve done essentially a tentative map.”

He believes by doing so, “They spent unreasonable amounts on times on things that the public isn’t really interested in.”  Examples include how deep are the pipes, how wide is something, how narrow is something else.  “Those become essentially the construction – that’s not what Measure R calls for.  That’s an entirely different process.”

What Measure R does call for is “direct citizen participation in land use decisions…”  He said, “This is (direct) democracy, this is not representative government.”

Previously, he believed, there wasn’t direct citizen participation in the failed Measure R project – “there was an election at the end.”  Instead, he believes that in the land use project, direct citizen participation means going to the people, which is what they are planning to do.  “We are going neighborhood by neighborhood, explaining what we are up to.”

Dave Taormino said they have been criticized for not doing a development agreement.  He explained, “I haven’t said I won’t do a development agreement, what I’ve said is that’s not called for in the process.”  He believes that the Measure R process with its baseline features “isn’t a development agreement, it’s actually tighter than a development agreement.”

He explained that a development agreement is an agreement between the city and developer and “is easily modifiable,” whereas Measure R calls for “an agreement between the developer and the citizens and it’s not easily modifiable.”

He said, “We will do a development agreement because the city feels it answers questions.”  But he wants to take the Measure R requirements and put them into a development agreement.

Dave Taormino explained that they are proposing a two-step process.  The first step is the Measure R process.  They will go through all the commissions as they would normally go through.  But they are not doing Site Map specific details.

“At the end of the process, if the citizens vote in favor of it, then we come back again and now we go through the tentative map process,” he explained.  He believes it will save money from the perspective of the developers and “it saves a gigantic amount of time for the staff and city council.”

“If they vote no, then you don’t have to waste all this time,” he explained.  “It’s dividing the process in two steps which really is what Measure R calls for.”

Mr. Taormino’s position is that the law does not require a Tentative Map prior to a Measure R vote.  He said, “No one has told us that we’re wrong on this.  It’s really not skirting the process, it’s extending the process into a somewhat longer process because we have to go through it twice.”

Mike Webb, Davis Director of Community Development, stated “Measure R does not preclude that.”  He agrees that Measure R requires project baseline features that must be defined and cannot be changed without a subsequent vote.  The basic land uses must be laid out.  “At least a conceptual plan needs to be on the table,” he said.

“Measure R does not require that there be a tentative map and it doesn’t require that there be things like (a) Development agreement,” he explained in a phone interview with the Vanguard.  “Although historically, those are components that we have seen that level of detail be presented as part of a package to the voters.”

He explained, “The distinction is what’s in the letter of the code when it comes to Measure J/Measure R and what voter expectations are.  I think the applicant is looking to say are there components of the process that could reasonably come after the Measure R vote outcome including a Tentative Map.”

Bottom line, he said, “It’s not required of Measure J, the question is whether the voters will go for it.  If there’s not that level of information, is there enough other information that they feel they have a good understanding of what it is they are voting on?”

Mr. Webb agreed that the baseline features provide quite a bit of detail.  He explained, “The intent under Measure J/Measure R is that you want to define things well enough so that the voters understand what it is that is before them.”

The baseline features, he said, attempt to “strike the balance so that the voters have enough information to act on at the ballot box and perhaps not so much information that the project gets hamstrung by needing to move a property line six inches one way or another and having to have a vote to change that.”

He said there needs to be a strong enough conceptual map even if “they are not tentative map precise.”

Mike Webb also explained that, from the applicant’s standpoint, there is a fair amount of work that goes into a Tentative Map.  From the city’s standpoint, “there’s not a whole heckuva lot in going in and reviewing it.

“It does go through a public process to be reviewed,” he said, including with the Planning Commission.

There is a problem with “optics,” and the process of avoiding a step until after the vote is likely to bring in the charge of “bait and switch” – although the language in the baseline features is binding enough that any significant change would trigger a new vote requirement.

Mr. Taormino believes that the Tentative Map requirements are on things that are “irrelevant” to the concerns of most citizens.  “It’s not relevant to their decision,” he said.  “The citizens are concerned about the land use decision – what is it, what is going to be built there, how many units?  What are the impacts environmentally or financially?”

“We have had two public meetings so far – no one wants to know where its located, they want to know what’s in it,” he explained.

In the meantime, Dave Taormino explained that they plan to get well beyond normal city noticing requirements to meet with everyone in the community on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.

“We have identified that there are 44 neighborhoods in Davis and it means that we are having meetings with every neighborhood,” he said.  The noticing is delivered door-to-door.  On Friday afternoon the people get a delivery with an invitation and a brochure.  They get the weekend to read it and the meeting is on Wednesday.

They are starting with the neighborhoods in West Davis across the street from the project and moving out, moving away from the project over time.

At the meeting the developers are presenting their project in about 30 minutes, and there has been about an hour and fifteen minutes of questions.

“What I find very interesting is that the questions (from) the citizens so far and their understanding is in far more detail than the commissions,” he said.

Mr. Taormino said they are doing much more community outreach than typical in the development process.  He explained, “While I wasn’t a fan of Measure R, it is the law of the land, I’m embracing it.  I’m doing exactly what it calls for.”

He said that Measure R is “not just an election, up or down.  That’s not what this calls for.  It calls for citizen participation.”

Mr. Taormino believes that is exactly what they are doing with this project.  The question is whether the voters will see it the same way.

—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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  1. Jim Frame

    I think skipping the detailed design at this stage of the project is probably a good idea, as long as the J/R requirements are met.  But I don’t see anything about the project that would lead me to support it.  It’s peripheral development that contributes nothing to the city’s bottom line after the construction honeymoon phase, and it doesn’t address the dearth of student housing.  It’s DOA as far as I’m concerned.

    1. Mark West

      I won’t go so far as to say, DOA, but otherwise, I agree with Jim. I don’t see how the current plan as described here addresses any of the critical needs in the community. 325 single story detached homes is an extremely inefficient use of the land and only replicates the poor land use decisions of the past. Putting a poorly planned development on the periphery fits the definition of sprawl. I hope to see major modifications to this plan as they move through the process or there will be no reason to support it.

  2. Alan Miller

    The remaining 20 percent of the homes will not be age restricted, as the developers are hoping to “maintain an atmosphere and energy similar to traditional Davis neighborhoods.”

    Power party mini-dorms?

  3. Howard P

    I pretty much agree with Jim’s overall points, but for different reasons… for me it’s about storm drainage/flood zone, and sanitary sewage capacity.

    One potential positive is if existing Davis seniors ‘down-size’ there, it would free up some SF homes… but would rather see those picked up by young families currently living in MF in Davis, or who are already associated with Davis/UCD, but currently residing in surrounding communities… but since we can’t control that, the ‘freed-up’ SF could well become what Alan posited…

  4. Eileen Samitz

    To change the process of having a project placed on a Measure J/R ballot for a public vote before of the specifics of the project are nailed down would be detrimental to the City for a number of reasons including the loss of the City’s leverage to negotiate what is lightly being referred to as “details” (which matter). The baseline features are on a more macro level and do not involved important specifics which do matter. The public has a right to know what they are voting on and allowing an entitlement like a Measure J/R vote which means including the tentative map, conditions of approval, and especially the development agreement.

    Not confirming these agreements and specifics and documenting them before a Measure J/R vote would definitely not be in the best interest of the City and its residents, but instead would be prioritizing the developers wish to “fast track” their project through only to battle out the “details” later with the City. In the end, the City would not have the negotiating leverage to get the specifics and conditions of the project that the public would want. All projects going to a Measure J/R vote need to have all the negotiations and agreements worked out and defined before the vote, not after.

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t want to come across as defending the project but what both Dave T and Mike Webb told me is that the baseline features are very specific and would be immovable. The Tentative map is at a level of detail most people aren’t interested in. Now Dave T thinks that they can get a project passed whereas Mike Webb is clearly concerned about optics.

      My question would be – what detail does a TM provide that you want to see that can’t be established in the PBF?

    2. Howard P

      Then Eileen, act to change the law/ordinance.

      Details including invert elevations of each pipe?  Exact size of each pipe?  Lot widths to 0.01 foot?  Details as to the street structural section?

      Determine what details do you think are ‘mission critical’ for a vote, compare those to the ordinance, and advocate to change the ordinance, then.


      Chapter 40.41 et seq. for existing provisions…

      But don’t trust a semi-anonymous poster and “known troll”, for that…

      I also opine that the T-Map stage is way too detailed…


  5. Eileen Samitz

    Howard P

    I am disappointed if any of you believe that the development agreement and conditions of approval would not need to be defined before a Measure J/R vote. And if the developer is serious about delivering the project with all the features he claims, then why not have the tentative map also spelled out? The developer should be spending time on getting those important specifics figured out now. Not after a Measure J/R vote. What if the developer get his Measure J/R vote approval and no project happens, and he sells the property (since the land would increase in value with a Measure J/R vote approval)? So now we would need to deal with working out a development agreement, conditions of approval and a tentative map with another developer?

    1. Howard P

      Development agreement, yes, I agree.  TM and conditions of approval of that, I vigorously oppose.  A TM is pretty much (99.9% level) a ‘technical document’… related to conformance of the State Code and local ordinances in effect at the time of approval, and must be consistent with the GP and approved zoning.  Could give you the cites in the Govt Code and Muni Code, but not worth the time and effort as you’d likely dismiss me as a ‘troll’ anyhow.

      GP amendment, yes… DA, yes… Preliminary PD/Zoning, yes… FPD, maybe… conceptual layout, sure… TM or FM HELL NO!

      Unless of course, you want to make sure the developer expense is high enough before any vote on the concept and baseline requirements, to ensure no project is proposed.

      then why not have the tentative map also spelled out?

      Unless you believe everyone should vote on every pipe size proposed, all the grading, all lot sizes with dimensions within a foot or so, that’s just silly… we don’t have enough voters who know engineering.

      What if the developer get his Measure J/R vote approval and no project happens, and he sells the property (since the land would increase in value with a Measure J/R vote approval)?


      So now we would need to deal with working out a development agreement, conditions of approval and a tentative map with another developer?

      If they change from the approved DA, approved zoning and its conditions, yes.  Duh.

      The chances of a subsequent developer using the same TM is about the same as you getting a call from my father, in Adelaide, AUS this afternoon (hint, Dad died 15 years ago).

      The TM is about public improvements and grading sufficient to serve the approved land use.  Sorry, you do not understand… and carrying forward requirements of the higher level conditions of approval.

      Read the Code, which I provided a link to…

      Your focus should be on the zoning, required amenities, design standards, DA… it is foolish to focus on the TM… it reflects the other approvals, but adds the “engineering/technical” stuff.

    2. Howard P

      David, re your 1:54 post

      Am assuming Eileen doesn’t “get” where a TM fits into the process… until she answers your question, there is nothing I think I could add (and sorta’ apologize for the ‘salt’ in my response…)

      She asked a number of questions… you asked one.  Good ‘answer’.

      [sidebar for David… I can ‘see’ ~ 45% of your posts when “logged in”… had to go to another browser as ‘not logged in’ to see the rest (inc. the 1:4 post of yours)… squirrelly (seems random)… but do-able… still can’t get to the dashboard feature… using Chrome… w/o Facebook… you may want one of your provider’s tech staff to look into that… thanks]

      1. David Greenwald

        I login through two different accounts that counts for the discrepancy.  Shoot me a email tomorrow with your password and I may be able to fix it for you.

    3. Eileen Samitz

      Howard P,

      I agree with you that the development agreement, preliminary PD/zoning, conditions of approval, General Plan amendment, conceptual layout should all be spelled out, agreed to and nailed down before a Measure J/R vote. Also, the City County tax sharing agreement needs to be nailed down.

      My concern about the tentative map was related to something you mentioned as well regarding drainage which is an issue in that area. My thought was to get this issue defined and resolved with the tentative map as well as defining other specifics about the project.


      1. Howard P

        The main drainage issues are part of the EIR process for a project such as that proposed… the TM gets down to details that not one in 300 voters are competent enough to judge.

      2. Matt Williams

        Eileen, I too agree that the development agreement, preliminary PD/zoning, conditions of approval, General Plan amendment, conceptual layout should all be spelled out, agreed to and nailed down before a Measure J/R vote.

        How drainage will be handled would seem to me to be part of the definition and resolution of both the conceptual layout and the conditions of approval.  As Howard has pointed out that the EIR will address the impact of how drainage will be handled as well.

        1. Howard P

          To be clear, Matt, “how drainage will be handled” will be @ the “5000 foot level” in the EIR… the details should be the purview of qualified engineers, not planners, and certainly not voters.  And a useless and expensive exercise to go further than that, if the basic project is “DOA”…

          To be clear, I am neutral on MRIP, and am disinclined to support the current ‘proposal’… am not closing/locking the door, but feel like a native of Missouri… frankly (yet I’m not), someone needs to “show me” a positive benefit to vote in favor… [full disclosure:  a CA person by birth (never resided anywhere else), but have cousins in MO]

  6. Alan Miller

    Does this project take up the bottom of the “T” shape of the proposed NW business park, or is it just east of the bottom of the “T”?

  7. Tia Will

    Leaving alone the unknown specifics of the plan for the moment, there is an aspect of the project that I like. I strongly favor a whole city discussion of the project prior to presenting a fait accompli and just hoping that it will pass all commissions, the CC and a measure R vote. I firmly believe in early and frequent community input. What level of specifics there would need to be in order for the community to give its approval via vote would likely depend at least in part of the community perception of the honesty, transparency and flexibility of the developer during the discussion phase.

  8. Eileen Samitz


    The problem is that the honesty, perception, transparency of the developers varies, and this Measure J/R process should be consistent so that all the developers know what is expected of them and all are treated the same. The process is critical to make sure we get all the information needed about the project so the public can make an informed decision on how they want to vote on it..

    I have been open-minded about this project, however the developers are asking for special treatment on the process which is not in the best interests of the City, or of its residents. But I have concerns now, that I did not have before I understood that the developers were trying to “fast-track” the project by not completing all the planning specifics such as the development agreement, conditions of approval etc. and racing through an expedited EIR to a Measure J/R vote. Instead of getting all the agreements worked out and documented before the Measure J/R vote, the developers want to delay these major details until after the Measure J/R vote.

    The City needs to simply say “no” to this new developer stunt to manipulate the Measure J/R process which would greatly advantage the developers, and greatly disadvantage the City and its residents in negotiating the planning and conditions of this project.

  9. Eileen Samitz


    It is so interesting that you are now asking me questions about mechanisms to attempt to undermine Measure J/R in any way legally, or regarding its spirit and intention.  Thanks but I am not interested in that conversation.


    1. David Greenwald

      I find it fascinating that people make comments complaining about process but no one wants to explain functionally what that process does or does not do.  I’m simply trying to understand the fundamental objection here other than some generic process that doesn’t even appear written into the law itself.  Again, I’ll keep asking this question and it’s an honest one – if the developer puts everything into the baseline features then any change to those underlying features requires a new vote.  So what do we lose if they do the TM after the Measure R vote – what is contained in the TM that you want to hold to a vote that is not already in the PBF?

  10. Jim Frame

    To reiterate, if the process proposed by the developer complies with J/R, then it makes sense to me that they would want to save the cost of design and engineering work that would not be needed if the J/R vote fails.  They’re not asking any special treatment that I can see, they’re just saying that their interpretation of J/R is that it doesn’t require full engineering design and mapping in order to meet the requirements of the law.  I expect the city attorney will weigh in at some point with an opinion on that score.

    Just because prior developers have chosen to invest more up front doesn’t mean that’s the only way to play it.

    1. Howard P

      If y’all don’t trust me, trust Jim on this…

      I actually strongly believe the TM should not be part of the J/R process… it may even be (likely to be) contrary to State Law to require a vote on a TM…

  11. Eileen Samitz


    The simple answer is the developers do not put “everything” into the baseline project features.  If you want to try that approach, then maybe the conditions of approval and the development agreement, etc. need to be included in the Measure J/R vote and with all the details needed to enforce them. In which case, those specifics need to be worked out now, not after the Measure J/R vote.

    I find it fascinating David, and am am simply trying to understand why you would not want the details and specifics to be spelled out by the developers before a Measure J/R vote to protect the best interests of the City and its residents?

    1. David Greenwald

      Because what was explained to me as the difference between what would be included in the baseline features and the TM seemed negligible from a policy standpoint.  What I’m trying to understand (I’m not arguing for it either way) is what you think we lose out on if there are baseline features but not a TM?  It’s an honest question, and I haven’t gotten an answer on it.

    2. Howard P

      I think what a number of us are asking is what are the pertinent details that are needed for the average voter to say “good idea” or “bad idea”.  I would say the exact square footage of any given unit is irrelevant, for instance.  Same as to pipe size of utilities, square footage/volume of any on-site drainage, etc.

      Zoning, minimum/maximum densities, overall layout are likely pertinent, likely environmental impacts (traffic/drainage/san sewer/water supply) as well.  Leave the rest to professionals.

      1. David Greenwald

        Thank you Howard, the point I’m trying to make.  And I’m trying to understand from Eileen what a project baseline feature doesn’t give that we need to know.

      2. Howard P

        You’re welcome, David… and look for that e-mail tomorrow… I’m responding to a post I couldn’t see logged in, but could see if I wasn’t.

    3. Howard P

      Also, the wording of the ordinance is the wording of the ordinance.  Applicants cannot detract from that, and citizens (unless a new ordinance follows) cannot add to it.  It’s an ordinance.

      If you feel it is too ambiguous, perhaps it should be voided.

  12. Matt Palm

    What a wonderful idea and long overdue. 151 affordable senior homes are part of a master planned community. It would be interesting to learn who ends up moving in and what kind of inter-generational filtering takes place, as others have mentioned.  And ensuring our elders can be in a built environment that fosters active living and engagement with others–what a great idea.  I look forward to seeing the plans.


  13. Tia Will


    Leave the rest to professionals.”

    Ordinarily, I would agree. However, it was not so long ago that we had conflicting points of view from professionals with Dr. Cahill on one side of safety at Nishi and professionals from the epidemiology and primary care community disagreeing on the risk posed according to the limited information provided. So which set of professionals do we rely upon when there is disagreement ? No snark, completely honest question intended to illustrate how technicalities can be important and how this process could potentially lead to a different outcome than the current process.


    1. David Greenwald

      Didn’t the conflicting points of view from the professionals on Nishi, using your example, in essence leave the judgment call in the hands of the voters? The key was providing that information to the voters, which the process allowed for.

    2. Matt Williams

      Good example Tia.  There are always going to be judgment calls, even among “experts.”

      For me, the Nishi air quality situation was one where the available on-site data was woefully missing.  As a result the conclusions that were “jumped to” became political weapons designed to change people’s minds rather than presentation of a point of view that may not have been considered previously.

    3. Howard P

      There is a huge difference between sizing and designing utilities, than air quality/metereology/epidemiology studies.  TM’s do not do the latter.

      If you cannot see the difference… my comment on “leave it to the experts” was in the context of what is reviewed and conditioned as part of the TM process which was the focus on my difference of opinion with Eileen.  You have taken quite a conceptual leap to compare that to air quality and its ramifications at Nishi.  Apples and orthopedic surgery. [although both often involve cutting]

  14. Mark Kropp

    The Fair Housing Act (FHAct) protects all residents from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap or familial status (families with children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal guardians; pregnant women and people trying to get custody of children under 18).
    The “Housing for Older Persons” Exemption: The Fair Housing Act specifically exempts some senior housing facilities and communities from liability for familial status discrimination. Exempt senior housing facilities or communities can lawfully refuse to sell or rent dwellings to families with minor children. In order to qualify for the “housing for older persons” exemption, a facility or community must prove that its housing is:

    Provided under any State or Federal program that HUD has determined to be specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons (as defined in the State or Federal program); or

    Intended for, and solely occupied by persons 62 years of age or older; or
    Intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older.

    In order to qualify for the “55 or older” housing exemption, a facility or community must satisfy each of the following requirements:

    At least 80 percent of the units must have at least one occupant who is 55 years of age or older; and
    The facility or community must publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent to operate as “55 or older” housing; and
    The facility or community must comply with HUD’s regulatory requirements for age verification of residents.

    The “housing for older persons” exemption does not protect senior housing facilities or communities from liability for housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, or national origin.

    No parking lot-Use the BUS!

    1. Howard P

      Thank you for the factual data… breath of fresh air…

      As to the bus, that is a strength of the proposal, being on a bus route (actually, Unitrans operates 2… one CW, the other CCW) that has pretty good service frequency, which falls off as far as “headways” during summer and other UCD breaks. Seniors 60 and older can obtain a free pass, for free, unlimited rides.

      The location is also close to many medical and dental facilities.

      That said, should there be “no” parking lots?  Visitors, including family take a bus, ride bike, walk?  Will agree part way, and assert the parking provided meets the “need” and not use the same standards as a “typical” residential project.  Minimizing parking has some good benefits… less runoff/contaminants… less “heat island” effect… less long term maintenance/repair costs..

      That said, am far from convinced it is a “good/worthy project”, at least at this point.


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