Does Davis Need Senior Housing?

Developers are looking at putting a housing project on the ballot, the West Davis Active Adult Community, along Covell Boulevard just west of the hospital.  The project is designed to attract current Davis residents and their relatives. It features 325 small to medium single-story homes and 150 affordable senior apartments.

About 80 percent of the homes and all the apartments would be restricted to residents 55 and older.

“About 5,300 homes – more than 25 percent of those in Davis – are owned by residents age 50 or older,” project developer and real estate broker David Taormino said.

The developers of this project are looking to engage the community and have already published some articles in the Vanguard highlighting various aspects of the project.

The articles have created some pushback, both in the comment section of the Vanguard as well as letters in the Enterprise.

A few weeks ago, Elli Norris wrote of the article published in late May, “The article is well written, even persuasive — if you’re satisfied with a one-sided slant about the need to take care of our senior citizens and the active adult community.

“Yes, Davis has a housing shortage. Yes, rents are very high and there is a need for more affordable housing, but not just for seniors and active adults. How about UC Davis students?” she writes.  “But back to active adults and seniors. Will this planned development of 325 (or is it 505?) housing units, 150 of which would be affordable senior units, meet the need?

“And then there’s the matter that this parcel, which lies outside the Davis city limits, must go through all the Davis city hoops and then face the voters of Davis. Remember Measure R? We get to say yay or nay to incorporation and rezoning.”

Ms. Norris notes that the project would go on the ballot perhaps as soon as Spring 2008, but we need more information from more neutral sources.

She concludes, “In the interests of full disclosure, I live at University Retirement Community, across the street from where this development might rise. I don’t know my position yet — that’s why I want good information to consider.”

This week, Elizabeth Sagehorn pushes back, “I read with interest the recent piece about a possible senior housing project near the hospital. I happen to be a senior and am very interested in such a project. My husband died recently and I need to downsize. I have a home and garden that would be perfect for a young family, but if I sell, where would I go?

“I have been going to open houses in Davis but the homes are very expensive and without the amenities that I currently enjoy. The new senior project sounds perfect for me.”

Of Ms. Norris’ letter: “She seems to be protesting something that is just in the planning stages and chides you for printing an informative article that I am sure is of interest to many. She uses the “D” word that raises the hackles of so many Davisites — developer. Gasp!

“Really, when did people who build stuff become such villains? Without developers, most of us would be living in tents. And as for housing for students, everywhere you look there are apartment buildings going up with students as the focus. How about something for the people who have an investment in this community? Who have lived here, worked here, raised children here?” she asks.

“I admire Ms. Norris for her life of financial acumen that allowed her to buy into the University Retirement Community, but while it is a wonderful place, it is too costly for many of us,” Ms. Sagehorn continues.  “Davisites, please reserve judgment until more information is available about the senior housing complex. What you might look upon with disdain would be so welcome to many of us seniors. And remember, with any luck at all, someday you will be a senior citizen.”

While the May 26 article was written by the project applicants, it contains information that is quite useful for the voters.

In addition to laying out the project parameters, it notes that “the West Davis Active Adult Community would be close to Dignity Health and UC Davis medical offices. Organizers also hope to make connections with Kaiser Permanente in South Davis.”

It also notes that the project “draws from the latest UC Davis advances in smart technology, sustainable energy and green building practices.”

In addition to telemedicine, which would help people better communicate with the physicians, there are other advancements including sensors to detect falls, smart refrigerators, and small devices.

The article lays out the specifics of the project: “Plans for the 74-acre site call for 505 housing units. Of those, 284 would be single-family detached homes, 41 would be single-family attached homes, and 150 would be affordable senior apartments. Another 30 are anticipated for University Retirement Community expansion or a similar use. Single-story homes include: 1,400- to 1,800-square-foot houses along the greenway; 1,100- to 1,350-square-foot bungalows; 900- to 1,200-square-foot cottages; plus, small builder lots to accommodate custom or special needs. Estimated sale prices for the pre-planned single-family homes range from the mid-$300,000s to mid-$700,000, and could be available in 2020.”

In the end, the voters may well decide this project based on two issues: (1) how high the need is for additional senior housing; and (2) whether the design and layout of this project is optimal for peripheral development.

Clearly the project will have to overcome voter reluctance to vote for a peripheral subdivision.  Thus far, the voters have had three Measure J/R votes before them – Covell Village, Wildhorse Ranch and Nishi – and all three were defeated.

A key question is what information is needed for the voters to make an informed decision, and whether articles of this sort provide the key discussion points to get that conversation going long before the project comes to a vote.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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. Ron

    I wonder how many Davis seniors would be willing to trade their current low property taxes for what would presumably be a smaller place (and essentially no yard?) with higher taxes (including probable Mello-Roos/CFD fees).  (Not to mention all of the real estate transaction fees associated with selling and buying a property.)

    All to get a “smart” refrigerator?

    Probably cheaper (and better) to hire a gardener for example – if needed, at one’s current home. (And, to retain the ability for one’s children to inherit their current home – including the low property taxes.) (Parent-child exclusion.)

    I suspect that this proposed development would be targeted at the regional market, not just Davis.

  2. Eric Gelber

    Not to, to coin a phrase, sound like a broken record, but:

    Does Davis need housing for seniors? Yes.
    Does Davis need “senior housing”–i.e., segregated, restricted housing developments that exclude families with children, students, and others with similar housing needs? No.


    1. Don Shor

      Davis has new senior housing. It’s called The Cannery.
      Seriously, though, I think these would sell almost instantly. Much as I would prefer much higher-density housing geared to all age groups, maybe this project will provide the wedge we need to get land annexed around the hospital and start developing that area. That’s probably the broader discussion we need to have. Unfortunately, the fact that this project would provide that wedge is probably what dooms it in a Measure R vote.

      1. Mark West

        This is a poorly designed project that fits the definition of sprawl, and exactly the type that Measure J/R was designed to stop. The City Council should kill this project and not waste the community’s time and resources by allowing it on the ballot.


  3. Sharla C.

    The University Retirement Community, due to its non-profit status, pays little or no property taxes.  The residents, due to their age, can opt out of paying school taxes, etc.  No one has answered the question about if this development will be required to pay property taxes, including the planned expansion of URC or will it also be exempt.

  4. David Greenwald

    To put the question another way – is Senior Housing our highest priority need?  The voters if they approve a measure R project, probably won’t be approving many.  That’s certainly something that the council might want to consider.

  5. Todd Edelman

    What’s the feasibility of building a roof over 113 in most of its below-grade section between West Covell and Hutchinson? Well, not really a roof – though that would be suitable for a huge number of solar panels – but a shelf. On which we build new forms of lightweight 2-story housing developed by UC Davis students, Innovation Centerers and suchlike.

    In addition to the three major streets at the north and south ends and in the middle, there are of course two existing bike-ped egress points. If the fire department agrees to have their vehicle access limited to service roads on both west and east edges in addition to the three streets, the structure would be lighter and thus considerably cheaper if it didn’t need to support motor vehicles. The service roads could possibly have limited access to shared vehicles and taxis. Perhaps a quiet electric bus, as there are neighbors on the other side of backyard walls immediately adjacent to the highway.

    So this might not be a shelf but instead it would be suspended. The problem there is that the highway is noisy (and more than that). Perhaps it can be suspended with a large fireproof fabric barrier just below to at least block most of the noise.

    [moderator] This is veering wildly off topic.

    1. Howard P

      Feasibility of ‘cover’ over 113 or 1-80… that (and probability, even if not financially feasible) would be zero, unless you are an electrical engineer, used to dealing with 98 i (i= square root of -1… known as an imaginary number).

      Would be more likely if we got chimeras to politic the CC, CalTrans and the State/Feds, and unicorns to haul the materials.  Jackalopes could provide traffic control during construction.  Heffalumps could dig temporary drainage facilities.

      Sounds like a great concept! Go for it!

      1. Matt Williams

        “Heffalumps could dig temporary drainage facilities.”

        I propose Arthur and Celeste.  Of all the little heffalumps, I like those two the best.

    2. Alan Miller

      Perhaps it can be suspended with a large fireproof fabric barrier just below to at least block most of the noise.

      Perhaps a billion little fairies could flap their wings and hold it up with silver thread.

      1. Todd Edelman

        999,999,999 plus you, Alan.

        Don’t you two see? The fabric is just a play to support the better shelf, and the shelf is just a play to provide Howard P. with the amazing animals he’s missed his entire life.

        Howard P., would you please exercise an little more trigonometryprofessorsplaining and tell me what means:

        electrical engineer, used to dealing with 98 i (i= square root of -1… known as an imaginary number).

        1. Todd Edelman

          Okay, whatever. This will be a complicated bit of engineering, but it can work! Definitely a platform, supported by beams. The foundations for the beams are prepared along the whole route, possibly incrementally. The beams themselves are built nearby, ideally in one piece than can be transported on the freeway. The beams already have the partial-housing structures attached to them – possibly not glass, etc. They arrive and get hoisted into place and bolted down. Each is prepared for safe work while the freeway is in operation underneath. The permanent structure is partly transparent: What illuminates the road below also makes it lighter.
          Result: HUGE draw because it’s so amazing. Lots of housing and other light-duty structures near campus and Downtown. Huge noise mitigation for nearby homes, increasing their value.

        2. Howard P

          OK… whatever Todd… the money spent on your vision, in my sole opinion, would be better spent to shelter, feed, and provide health and mental health services for the Davis area homeless for the next 15-20 years.  Probably similar cost and doability.

          A competing ‘vision’ if you will…

          At least I answered your question, and got ‘whatever’… very mature of you…

      2. Howard P

        Careful, Alan… you used a ‘loaded’ word…  the ‘f-‘ word. which apparently was attempted to be hurled back. I’ve know you to be ‘fair-minded’, even when we have disagreed…

        Gotta’ go now, and finish talking to the leprechaun at the door who tells me after it rains next time, if I wait until the rainbow comes out, I can solve ALL of the Davis financial issues… will only take 10% myself, the rest goes to city coffers!

        He apparently got my name from the part Irish lists…

  6. Ron

    Todd:  ” . . . Innovation Centerers and suchlike.”

    Please keep posting.  🙂  (I genuinely like it, along with the imaginative ideas.  Even if some are impractical. And, even though our vision don’t always align, and is sometimes entirely opposite.)

  7. Jim Frame

    My two cents:

    1.  This project doesn’t have anywhere near a big enough local constituency to pass a Measure R vote.

    2.  I’m not convinced that segregating senior housing from other housing is good for the seniors or the rest of the community.

    3.  I  expect that the local senior population would be competing with Bay Area retirees and faring badly.  I don’t see the appeal of paving over open space just to house out-of-area folks drawn by the prospect of selling high and buying low.


    1. Howard P

      1.   strongly suspect Jim is right, given main developers’ “track history”… not a problem with them, as people, as I know and like them on a personal level… the ‘brand’ could be subject to controversy, especially to the BANANAS and CAVES… the ones with lots of spaghetti cooked and ready to sling.  Jim is NOT doing that!  Jim thinks.  Often, deeply.

      2.   am not only ‘not convinced’, but can’t think of too many times I’d favor ‘segregated housing’ whether it be affluent/market/affordable, senior/family/student, black/white hispanic/other, Jewish/Christian/Islamic, etc., etc., etc.  I offends my sensibilities, unless there are truly compelling reasons… I see none here.

      3.   no real opinion, don’t think it’s likely, but would not be surprised if it came to pass.

      So, am basically agreeing with Jim, with nuances.

  8. Richard C

    Does Davis Need Senior Housing?

    Davis is experiencing an aging of the population.  As the Baby Boom generation is reaching retirement age we are seeing an increasing fraction of older citizens.  Because Davis is a desirable place to live, many seniors decide to stay in Davis when they retire.  In many cases these are empty nesters who live in houses that are larger than what they need.

    We also have some seniors who move to Davis from other places to be near their children and grandchildren.  They find Davis a safe and inviting community for seniors.  If they are moving from a high cost area (Bay Area or So. Cal) they can easily afford to buy a house or condo in Davis.

    Another factor driving the increase in seniors is that many of them are living longer due to healthy lifestyles and good health care.

    There will continue to be a strong demand for senior housing in Davis. Whether the citizens will approve expanding the city to accommodate this demand remains to be seen.

    1. Mark West

      “There will continue to be a strong demand for senior housing in Davis. Whether the citizens will approve expanding the city to accommodate this demand remains to be seen.”


      1. Ron

        “There will continue to be a strong demand for housing in Davis.”  Whether the citizens will approve continuous expansion of borders (as all other valley cities have been doing), and/or allow continuous densification (with all of the corresponding impacts caused by that approach) remains to be seen.


  9. Greg Rowe

    Sorry to weigh in somewhat late.  Based on Davis senior I’ve spoken to, I think there is a real market for this project.  (Keep in mind that it is not entirely age restricted.)  Many seniors, of which I am one, have homes with bigger yards than we want to continue maintaining after we start getting into our 70s and 80s.  (I’ve discovered that replacing a grass front yard with drought tolerant shrubs actually creates more time consuming work than turf; lots of bending and stooping to plant, prune, trim, fertilize, etc.)

    Having lived in the north Evergreen neighborhood for almost 18 years, I can attest that this project site offers many convenient, nearby amenities and benefits within walking distance: the UCD and Dignity Health offices on Covell, Sutter Davis Hospital, Burger Physical Therapy, the Marketplace shopping center, a number of nearby dental practices, and a Starbucks.  And, it’s a good location for getting out into the country for a bike ride. There’s a couple of guys in their 90s who live at the URC and ride regularly.  I see them biking in the neighborhood and on Stevenson Bridge Road.

    Granted, like the Cannery, some residents of the proposed project may come from higher cost areas such as San Francisco, but I think there will be plenty of long-time Davis seniors who will jump at the chance to continue living in Davis but in a much smaller, easier to care for home. So, when this project gets on the ballot, you can be sure that my wife and I will vote for it. We don’t need more student housing because 63% of UCD students already live in Davis and another 8% live in other towns like Winters, Woodland and West Sacramento.  I do, however, think Davis needs a place where seniors can conveniently downsize, thereby freeing up their larger homes for younger families with children.

    1. Matt Williams

      Greg, I agree that in concept there is demand for what is being offered in this project.  The key event that converts that conceptual demand into real demand is the willingness to write a down-payment check.

      Many years ago, when I was on the DJUSD 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, Sidney Vergis made several public comments over multiple meetings, telling the Committee about all the young adult couples she knew who were looking to purchase homes in Davis to raise their current and/or future children.  Sidney and I conducted several discussions about that concept demand.  The bottom-line of those discussions was that when it came to writing an escrow check, the small yard size and small square footage and high price per square foot of the available Davis homes lost out to the larger yard size and greater square footage and lower price per square foot for a Woodland home.

      The same challenge exists for this project.  Will Davis seniors actually “jump at the chance” and write a deposit check when push comes to shove.  If the conceptual demand is not actionable, then the project will end up bringing a lot of seniors to Davis who currently do not live in Davis.

  10. Howard P

     I do, however, think Davis needs a place where seniors can conveniently downsize

    Nah, don’t think that should be a goal of the City.  Not a need.

    … freeing up their larger homes for younger families with children.

    Also, not a goal I’d set.  Might be a beneficial outcome, but the “younger families with children” thing seems a bit exclusionary… can’t support that as a goal upon which to base decisions… likely it would open up more opportunities for ‘mini-dorms’, as well…

    1. Matt Williams

      Howard, I agree that the opportunities for more mini-dorms is a major concern.

      Greg, are there reasons why the heirs of the downsizing seniors would prefer a lump-sum capital gain from selling the house rather than a continuing cas flow stream from a group of UCD tenants?

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