Sterling Comes Back with a Revised Proposal

Sterling Apartments – original proposal

The previous proposal for redeveloping the former EMQ FamiliesFirst site at 2100 5th Street in Davis for Sterling Apartments generated a tremendous amount of opposition from neighbors at the nearby Rancho Yolo site.  After working through a conflict resolution process, the developers have come back with a scaled down proposal.

The existing facilities and trees would be removed and redeveloped with a roughly 160-unit market-rate, student-oriented apartment building, with a separate affordable apartment component.

The original proposal called for 244 total units (203 market-rate student units with 727 bedrooms, and 41 affordable units with 74 bedrooms) and four- and five-story buildings.

The applicant has now reduced the size, height, and density of the project from the original proposal to three and four stories with 198 total units and 611 bedrooms, and also reduced the parking structure.

The revised 160-unit market-rate site now will have a three- and 4-story apartment building, a parking structure, a two-story leasing office/clubhouse building, and site improvements.  The apartments will contain a mix of one to five bedroom units, with a total of 540 single-occupancy bedrooms.

The four-story (five-level) parking structure provides 343 parking spaces. Five additional surface parking spaces are provided.  The affordable site will have 38 surface parking spaces.

The project generated a large number of comments during the EIR process.  There were concerns that the student site would be able to double up on bedrooms, creating more than expected numbers of students which would increase the traffic and parking concerns.

The city had already committed to making sure “a maximum cap on total residents at the property would be strictly enforced.”  Now the total number of students will be reduced from 727 bedrooms to 540 bedrooms.

There were also concerns about potential traffic impacts in downtown Davis as the result of this proposed project.

The EIR goes on at length to note that, under existing General Plan LOS (Level of Service) standards, “LOS ‘F’ is acceptable in the Core Area.”   When they studied the traffic impacts, they found, “The majority of the study intersections and roadway segments were determined to result in less-than significant impacts with the addition of project-generated traffic.”

They add that “under the Cumulative Year 2035 No Project condition, all intersections and roadway segments, except the 2nd Street / Cantrill Drive intersection, will operate at LOS E or better.”

They find, “Cumulative impacts to the 2nd Street / Cantrill Drive intersection were determined to be significant and unavoidable.”

The EIR adds, “Should the project result in increased congestion in the Core Area, the City has determined, through the adoption of the above-referenced General Plan LOS policies and thresholds and General Plan EIR, that this congestion is acceptable in the Davis Core Area. As such, the traffic analysis contained in the Draft EIR has properly applied all applicable traffic thresholds of significance to the project study area, and all potentially significant traffic impacts have been disclosed, and where appropriate, mitigated to the greatest extent feasible.”

When the city used the conflict resolution process with the development of the Hyatt House hotel, it resulted in the unexpected agreement between residents and the developers.  Based on that success, the city employed a similar process with the project.

The residents were especially concerned with visual blight from the five-story buildings, congestion on the Fifth Street corridor from 700-plus student occupants, and other impacts.

The agreement has led to a reduction in the number of bedrooms by a substantial number and a reduction of stories, which should alleviate potential impacts on the roads.

The project is now set to go before the Planning Commission on Wednesday, March 22.

The EIR identified significant and unavoidable cumulative impacts related to transportation, which require adoption of a statement of overriding considerations.

Potentially significant impacts related to issues of aesthetics, air quality, biological, cultural, geology, greenhouse gasses, hazardous materials, hydrology, and transportation were identified, but impacts were reduced to a less-than-significant level through the implementation of mitigation measures. All other impacts were determined to be less than significant.

The question now is – will the residents of Rancho Yolo and other neighbors now support this proposed apartment complex?

—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. Colin Walsh

    The city had already committed to making sure “a maximum cap on total residents at the property would be strictly enforced.”

    What is the Mechanism for enforcing this?

    1. Matt Williams

      In a time where we clearly have an abundance of student rental demand, the single occupant per bedroom population cap makes no sense to me.  That is only an invitation for the unmet demand to spill over into more mini-dorm conversions of SFRs.

      I would argue that assessing the “impact” of a multi-family residential complex has less to do with the number of resident human beings than it has to do with the number of resident automobiles.  If the City and Sterling really want to reduce impacts on the community, they will reduce the number of parking spaces in the garage from 348 to 75 (enough for visitors and ZipCars). Note: the revised plan has 348 automobile parking spaces and 540 bicycle parking spaces.

      Each automobile parking space consumes approximately 300 square feet (10 feet wide times 20 feet long for the space itself plus an additional 10 feet by 10 feet area for the travel lane behind each space).  300 square feet is the equivalent of just under the amount of space for one Sterling bedroom (5 br = 1696 sq feet or 340 sq feet /br) (4 br = 1453 sq feet or 360 sq feet /br).

      Adding 250 bedrooms on the same footprint and elevation with 100% of the residents using UNITRANS, bicycles or ZipCars would be a much better (in my opinion) outcome for the City … fewer mini-dorm conversions and less traffic.

      Circling back to Colin’s enforcement mechanism point, if the number of resident automobiles at Sterling is very low, then the need to have a maximum cap (much less enforce it) becomes unnecessary because the per resident impacts on all aspects of Davis life except UNITRANS are significantly reduced.

      1. Howard P

        Good concepts, Matt, worth exploring, but actually not essential to the project, even as originally proposed.  As a frequent user of Fifth and of Pole Line, the impacts of MV travel from the originally proposed project was likely to be minor.

        You seem to be looking to ‘placate’ opponents and/or compromising some of their arguments.  Why bother?  Ain’t no “kumbaya” moment in sight, except the “do nothing” option, as far as the vocal elements of ‘the neighborhood’ is concerned.  Will bet the likelihood of the neighborhood “supporting” the reduced plan, or even one that cuts another 25% of units, is about the same as UCD beating Kansas in the first round, then surviving to the ‘Final Four’. [NCAA March Madness referent, for those who do not follow sports]

        1. Matt Williams

          Howard, when I think about students living in Sterling using their cars to get to their classes, I tend to agree with you that the impact just east of the Post Office at 5th Street will not be major.  Where I do believe there will be major impact is in two areas, (1) 5th Street between L Street and Howard Way, and (2) in the residential neighborhoods where the students park their cars adjacent to the campus, and then walk to class.

        2. Matt Williams

          They don’t fly … but between Pole Line and L Street they have access to a dedicated bike lane on the south side of 5th Street (barrier separated from automobile traffic).

        3. David Greenwald

          Matt – you’re point in the 11:11 post is what I was getting at this morning in the commentary, we are not looking at environmental impact in a realistic way

        4. Alan Miller

          How so?  The City just added bike lanes from L to A on 5th.  It should handle much more bike traffic, where you can cross to the decent bike lanes by the university.  Between Pole Line and L Street, the bike path is in terrible condition, requires crossing over to on both ends Westbound, and has a terrible root and cracking problem on the west end.

        5. Matt Williams

          Alan III said . . . “How so?  The City just added bike lanes from L to A on 5th.  It should handle much more bike traffic, where you can cross to the decent bike lanes by the university.  Between Pole Line and L Street, the bike path is in terrible condition, requires crossing over to on both ends Westbound, and has a terrible root and cracking problem on the west end.”

          Your bolded statement is an important bike path maintenance issue, but from an EIR perspective, adding automobile traffic to 5th Street between L and Pole Line has no impact at all on the condition of the bike path.  The automobiles on 5th Street have no impact on the root and cracking problems, nor do they impact the crossing requirement at both ends in any way.

          On the L through A section there definitely are improved bike paths, but there is no safety barrier between each bike lane and its adjacent automobile lane. Therefore  adding automobiles to 5th Street definitely has an impact on bicycle rider safety on 5th between L and A.

        6. Howard P

          Matt… you are WAY off on your 6:13 post (last paragraph)… need to clarify lest others think wrongly…

          There are no bike paths on Fifth between A & L… bike lanes.[you actually used both terms… there is a big difference]

          Physical separation between bike lanes and adjacent travel lanes violates pretty much all design standards, for many good reasons.  No bike lanes is preferable to physical barriers.

          Except for turning movements, there is little/no correlation between traffic volumes nor speed, and bike/MV collisions/crashes…

          Hope Darryl is listening… think he’d affirm…

  2. Matt Palm

    Other college towns have off-site parking lots/garages at the edge of town for the students when they go home on the weekend, but who usually don’t drive during the week.  This is one of the developments that should contribute to such a garage at Davis so the traffic impact from the site is minimal and the site can save money from reduced parking. For a community that boasts of itself as a leader on sustainability, why all these really un-creative projects? With all that parking this isn’t going to price out well for most students.

  3. Howard P

     will the residents of Rancho Yolo and other neighbors now support this proposed apartment complex?

    Given ~25% reduction (which I believe is inappropriate, given the need for MF units and the location on a major, well-served transit route), I don’t give a “tinker’s damn” whether RY or other neighbors support it or not… it is not their land.  It is not their ‘decision’ to make.

    RY wouldn’t even exist if it faced the current climate of  ‘growth’ concerns or ‘affordable housing’ concerns, when it was approved.

    1. Keith O

      I agree with Howard here, I don’t give a “tinker’s damn” either and our council needs to start thinking that way too when it comes to some of our no growth groups.

    2. Howard P

      If the proposal is approved, one of the conditions of approval should be to reconstruct the bike/ped path to current standards, from Pole Line to Madson.  PCC. Not AC. A first class pavement to provide a better route for bike/peds, to minimize motor vehicle use…

      Ironically, the reduction of units will make those improvements less likely, for economic reasons.

      1. Howard P

        To clarify… a condition beyond their property limits could beg the question of  ‘nexus’… but would fit with a DA, if both parties sought one… suspect that (DA) is a 50-50 proposition…

      2. Jim Frame

        Off-topic, but a tinker’s dam is a temporary containment for molten solder that was used by a tinker (a craftsman who worked with tin) when repairing a sheet metal item.  The phrase “don’t give a tinker’s damn” was likely adopted by those wanting to avoid using the word “damn,” if only on a technicality.

        1. Howard P

          Jim… are you “retaining water”?  Not that I give a dam… [see big, cheesy smile].

          Thank you for the background referent… enjoyed.  Should have used the GWTW referent… as in “Frankly, I don’t…”.

          Best to you and yours…

  4. Matt Williams

    At Monday’s Finance and Budget Commission meeting, the Commission received two written public comments on Development Impact Fees.  The following is the text of one of those comments.

    Subject: my comment: Davis, Development Impact Fee; item 6D tonight

    Davis Finance and Budget Commission:

    Please consider our comments for Item 6D tonight regarding the fiscal and social equity problems in the current Development Impact Fees. established to mitigate the impact of new development on City facilities and infrastructure

    We urge the Finance and Budget Commission to include a financial analysis of the Impact Fees as part of its Work Plan in order to achieve more equitable support of City services.

    The present structure was last set in 2009 and is out-of-date as applications for residential construction have trended from overwhelmingly private residences to primarily rental apartments.

    The present complicated Development Impact Fee tables are based on differentiating between Attached and Detached Single Family dwellings and various sizes of Multi-Family dwellings.  The Fees and associated tables could be more fairly and productively replaced by bedroom-based fees or occupancies.

    The table shows that single-family detached dwellings are currently being charged fees 20-30% more than comparable attached dwellings even though the average occupancy of such dwellings is virtually identical.

    We advocate an increase in fees for attached dwellings the same level as detached dwellings in order to increase City revenue, while not further penalizing owners of traditional single-family homes, long a characteristic of progressive small cities.

    Further, owners of one and two-bedroom homes would and should be paying lower Development Impact Fees than owners of 4 and 5-bedroom homes.

    An additional advantage of this change from an Attached/Detached distinction to numbers of bedrooms will be avoidance of financial uncertainty for Davis’ large, growing, and welcome community of senior citizens.

    Similarly, in the Multi-family dwellings the lower bedroom units should be paying lower Development Impact Fees than the higher bedroom units, since both the impact and cost of services goes up on a one-to-one basis based on number of occupants.

    Thank you

    – Maggie and Don Sherman

    As follow-up to those public comments, I took the revised Sterling proposal for 160 market rate units and plugged the unit info into an analysis spreadsheet.  The current Development Impact Fees (shown in rows 4-7) (see LINK to City webpage) produces the Fees shown in rows 22-29 with a total Fee amount of $1,865,118.  Rows 10-17 show one possible solution to the equity and unnecessary complication issues Don and Maggie Sherman raise in their public comment e-mail.
    That possible solution has the 2-bedroom multi-family unit Fees equal to the current SFR Detached Fees since the average population/occupancy of the typical 2-bedromm apartment is about the same as the 2.81 people reported by Matt Kowta (BAE) in past reports (SFR Attached Units have similar population/occupancy as well).  1-bedroom units show Fees at 50%. 3-bedroom units show Fees at 150%.  3-bedroom units show Fees at 200%.  4-bedroom units show Fees at 250%. 5-bedroom units show Fees at 300%.
    The calculated result for the revised Sterling configuration would be Development Impact Fees totaling $3,822,643, which represents a $1,957,525 revenue increase for the City if the project is approved and built as proposed. 

    Alternatively, the base rate for both forms of Single Family Residences and the 2-bedroom multi-family units could be reduced from the current $17,656 aggregate Fees value.  That would reduce the total revenue to the City as well as the fiscal burden on the developer, but still solve the equity issue raised in Don and Maggie Sherman’s public comment.

    It is interesting fiscal and social equity food for thought.

    1. Howard P

      Matt… recall that the funds generated by ‘impact fees’ are for infrastructure/capital costs, be it new, rehab, replacement, and NOT for ops/routine maintenance.  Impact fee revenue is supposed to be segregated from the GF.  Coffee soon?  Next week?

      1. Matt Williams

        Next week sounds good.  Infrastructure/Capital has an “end of useful life” cost, which Impact Fees should include as well.  The timeline of end of life is frequently associated with the amount use the capital infrastructure is subjected to … just ask Toto.  he will pull back the curtain for you.  8>)

    2. Mark West

      If our goal is to limit the destruction of farmland, then our focus should be on using land efficiently, so that we gain the greatest benefit from the least amount of land used. Detached, single-family homes, are the least efficient use of land, and consequently, have the greatest impact on the City’s costs of services and infrastructure. Impact fees should be greater for the least efficient uses.

      1. Howard P

        Mark, I strongly disagree with,

        Impact fees should be greater for the least efficient uses.

        First, who decides efficiency, and under what metrics?

        Second, impact fees, to be legitimate and pass legal muster, have to have a logical correlation to actual impacts on infrastructure/improvements… “efficiency” has no relevancy… that would be a “tax”… not a “fee”… thought you knew better…

        1. Mark West

          “logical correlation to impacts on infrastructure/improvement” 

          I’m not arguing a legal point, so if I misused the terminology, I thank you for the correction.

          Infrastructure costs to the City will correlate to the area of land used in the development, so a 100-acre development will have roughly half the infrastructure costs as a 200-acre one. Not exact, but we are talking about a correlation. When looking at a theoretical development, the impact per dwelling will be greater for 100 detached, single family homes, than it will for 100 attached townhouses or 100 apartments that use fewer total acres. The correlation is not with the number of residences (or residents), but with the amount of land used.

        2. Howard P

          The ‘drivers’ for impacts are generally, people… land doesn’t add to sewage… people do… land doesn’t add to traffic/transportation impacts… people do…

          Land, in and of itself, has little, no impacts.  Your 11:54 post is just incorrect.

        3. Mark West

          “Your 11:54 post is just incorrect.

          Considering the following description… “located outside the boundaries of the new development”

          “Development Impact Fees are one time charges applied to new developments. Their goal is to raise revenue for the construction or expansion of capital facilities located outside the boundaries of the new development that benefit the contributing development (Nicholas, et al., 1991). Impact fees are assessed and dedicated principally for the provision of additional water and sewer systems, roads, schools, libraries and parks and recreation facilities made necessary by the presence of new residents in the area. The funds collected cannot be used for operation, maintenance, repair, alteration or replacement of capital facilities”

          I agree that your assessment is correct. Thank you.


      2. Howard P

        You are welcome… yours is a very reasonable voice… very welcome…

        I have strong opinions, but my basis is (usually) facts.  If I helped to inform you, that’s just what I feel called to do.

        Nuance… if new development puts additional ‘strains’ or shortens service life of capital improvements, replacement can indeed be funded. Proportionally.

  5. Greg Rowe

    Last October I submitted a DEIR comment letter to the Planning Commission.  For that letter I analyzed the Reduced Density Student Apartment Alternative, which the DEIR determined is the CEQA Environmentally Superior Alternative (following the No Project Alternative). I stated at that time that the Reduced Density alternative appeared to be a reasonable accommodation that would return the Families First site to productive, tax-revenue generating use while effectively reducing a number of the proposed projects impacts.
    As noted in the November 10, 2016 staff report to the Bicycle, Transportation and Street Safety Commission, the project proposed 203 market-rate student units comprised of 727 single occupancy bedrooms and 41 affordable units totaling 74 bedrooms (total of 244 units and 768 bedrooms). In comparison, the DEIR’s Reduced Density alternative assumed 150 student units and 39 affordable units (total of 189 units).  That works out to a net reduction of 55 total units, or 22.5 percent. The number of student units declined by 53 units, or 26 percent.
    Unfortunately, the DEIR did not indicate the percentage allocation of units among the 1, 2, 4 and 5 bedroom apartments in the Reduced Density alternative. I therefore calculated a hypothetical allocation of bedrooms among the reduced number of units, assuming the same proportional allocation of beds among 1, 2, 4 and 5 bedrooms as in the proposed project. I came up with 6 one-bedroom units, 36 two-bedroom units, 76 four-bed units, and 30 five-bed units, for a total of 148 units (difference of 2 bedrooms due to rounding), and a total of 532 students.   This is actually pretty close to the revised project description, which specifies 38 affordable units comprised of 71 bedrooms and 160 market-rate student units comprising 540 bedrooms.  The student bedroom allocation in the revised project is as follows: 22 one-bedroom units, 30 two-bedroom units, 82 four-bedroom units, and 26 five-bedroom units.   The net change is a reduction of 46 units (from 244 to 198) and 190 fewer beds (from 801 to 611). In terms of percentages, that works out to almost 19% fewer units and almost 24% fewer bedrooms.
    The scale of the project has also been reduced from 4 and 5-story buildings and 3 and 4-story structures, and a smaller parking garage (now 5 levels instead of the originally proposed 7). 
    Even though I think the revised project to be examined by the Planning Commission is a reasonable accommodation that closely approximates the DEIR’s Reduced Density alternative, I remain concerned that authorizing a “maxi-dorm” that includes 4 and 5 bedroom suites effectively eliminates any incentive for UCD to meet its on-campus housing obligations.  I would be a lot happier if a different form of redevelopment could occur at the Families First site and if the Sterling project were happening on campus. However, the site has been vacant for over 3 years with no other alternative use in sight. If the City approves the revised project, I would urge the Council to continue putting vigorous pressure on UCD to house no less than 50% of the projected 2027-28 enrollment on campus.
    Some posters have questioned whether UCD has any obligation to house students on campus, stating that companies like Intel, Google, etc., don’t provide housing for their employees.  I contend that those companies are a completely different situation.  When UCD recruits students to Davis, they are coming here for the sole purpose of attending university classes; they are basically coming here to live 9 or 10 months of the year.  In contrast, employees of any large entity (private or public) typically commute from towns spread over a vast region. They are adults who choose where to live based on a variety of factors, including where their spouse or significant other is employed, quality of local schools, proximity of family and friends, local amenities, proximity to recreation, etc.  For example, in years past I worked at an organization in downtown Sacramento. The staff commuted from towns as far east as Grass Valley and Auburn, to Marysville to the north, Clarksburg to the south, and Vacaville to the southwest. The employee who lived in Vacaville did so because it was midway between his job in Sacramento and his wife’s job in San Francisco.   Very few lived close to the office.  Even if the employer had provided housing, few would have elected to live close to the office.      

  6. Greg Rowe

    Correction needed my 2nd paragraph above. The originally proposed 727 market rate student bedrooms and 74 affordable bedrooms totals 801 total bedrooms, not 768. Sorry; multi-tasking never works!

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