Much of this week, we have been assembling some data on the housing situation in order to better analyze the proposal for Sterling, which is now slated to go before council in just ten days.
In the meantime, we now have a better idea of the nature of the agreement between the Rancho Yolo Community Association (RYCA) Board of Directors and the Dinerstein projection team.
But what is also clear is that the negotiating team does not speak for everyone.
An email dated February 21, from Gerald Hallee of Rancho Yolo to Robb Davis, Brett Lee, Josh Vasbinder (representative from Dinerstein) and Mike Webb (Community Development Director) states, “The Rancho Yolo Community Association (RYCA) Board of Directors has voted to suspend its opposition to the Sterling 5th Street Apartment Project based on the proposed February 13, 2017 Dinerstein downsizing of the Project.
“The project size and density are to be reduced from 4-, 5-, and 6- story structures to 3- and 4-story structures, and from 801 bedrooms (727 market-rate and 74 affordable units) to 609 bedrooms (540 market-rate and 69 affordable units),” he writes.
There are some contingencies here. Those contingencies are mainly technical and in fact he notes, “In fact, nearly all items listed in Attachments 4 and 5 have been accepted. The remaining few items can be managed while Dinerstein and the City finalize the agreement and prepare the re-design packets in preparation for the March 22 Planning Commission meeting.”
There are four points, though, that they list:
- The planned Pole Line Road striping enhancements as designed by K. D. Anderson should be re-considered. We ask for a meeting with the appropriate City staff and K. D. Anderson to review the plans and to determine just how the striping enhancements will provide a safer left turn from South Diameter onto Pole Line Road.
- We ask the City of Davis to commit to a full review of the plans for improving traffic circulation on 5th Street between L Street and Pole Line Road. The review should encompass a very careful analysis of the impacts associated with the City’s proposed reduction of automobile lanes to one in each direction. See our comments and recommendations in Attachment 5.
- We ask that the City of Davis commit to the review of the Sterling Project as a package that would include the affordable housing component. The review would present the entire Project to the Planning Commission on March 22 and then to the City Council on a date to be determined. With this approach, we believe it will be more likely that the Planning Commission and the City Council will approve the agreements reached during discussions among the RYCA Board, Dinerstein, and City representatives over the last several weeks.
- Davis has a rich tradition of public art that significantly enhances the enjoyment of the downtown core. However, public art on the sides of buildings runs contrary to the idea of the Sterling project blending into the community. In fact, it does the opposite by drawing considerable attention to the building. Public art located on the ground and of reasonable height should satisfy local artists in the sense that their work would be displayed. We strongly oppose public art on any of the Sterling buildings.
Despite this, there remains opposition, both in the community and in Rancho Yolo itself, to the development.
Earlier this week, the Vanguard received a letter from Marjorie Beach, who also spoke two weeks ago at the Planning Commission reading:
“I am writing to inform Vanguard readers of the continued opposition of Rancho Yolo residents to the ‘Revised’ Sterling Project proposal. In no way are we now ‘happy’ with the project, nor are we dropping our opposition to it,” she writes. “The project is basically planned as a large student dorm – without the important amenities and support system that an on-campus college dorm has.”
She continues: “Such a situation is a recipe for a pretty miserable experience – both for the dorm students and for the surrounding neighborhood. Such a large project – and the dorm-like type of project – should be situated immediately adjacent to or on the UCD campus.
“Rancho Yolo lies in the midst of many 1,2, and 3 bedroom, mostly student-occupied apartment complexes. These are not incompatible with our community of approximately 260 single-story, single-family homes,” she writes.
“A massive project such as Sterling, occupying a small parcel of land, is not compatible with the neighborhood or with the General Plan. Sterling’s size, its character, the increase in congestion it would contribute to an already busy (and getting busier, with newly built and/or approved projects in the area) [intersection]– all of these factors request a No vote from our City Council at its April 18th Meeting,” she concludes.
Claudia Krich, who also spoke at the Planning Commission meeting, writes, “It was a surprise to learn, only after Planning Commissioner Marilee Hanson confronted them directly, that they actually do not manage their developments at all. They build them and flip them after one year, while dishonestly claiming longevity.
“Affordable? When asked if they subsidize or otherwise reduce the cost of any of their dorm rooms to make them more affordable, they said they don’t need to, because the five-bedroom suites rent for ‘only’ about $800 per room, as opposed to their two-bedroom suites, which are ‘around’ $1,400 per bedroom. That’s per bedroom,” she writes.
“Thus the five-bedroom, five-bathroom suites at $800 per bedroom cost $4,000 for 1,550 square feet per month. The kitchen seats two people and the bedrooms average 10-by-10 feet. What students would find this affordable?” she continues. “The developer’s representative insisted that these dormitories are also fine for families, since a family could live in a two-bedroom suite. That’s $2,800 for 821 square feet per month, and the two bathrooms are accessible only through the bedrooms. What family would live there?”
She adds, “One fully equipped bathroom per every bedroom. Why did we let our lawns die? The developer will offer ‘smart meters.’ But only after again being confronted directly did he admit those are purely ‘informative.’ All utilities, including water and electricity, are included, meaning there is no incentive to save.”
The Vanguard believes there needs to be an evidence-based approach here. As noted at the outset of this piece, we have been trying to assemble actual data. But we believe the city needs to assume a part in this and figure out just how much in the way of housing for students we actually need.
One final point, there has been much made about family versus student housing – as someone pointed out to me this week, that is a false dichotomy. The reality is that both are intrinsically linked together. Lack of student housing puts pressure on family housing options, because students end up encroaching into single-family homes in search of housing.
The stories laid out by the two student representations at the Planning Commission meeting (see here), should be sobering for the community.
Does that mean that the council should approve Sterling? That will be their call. We just want any decision – yay or nay – to be based on actual data rather than conjecture. That frankly should start with a student housing needs study, but there seems to be no traction on that issue.
—David M. Greenwald reporting