The hotel conference center was approved by the Davis City Council in the fall of 2015 but effectively blocked from development by a lawsuit that was finally settled in November. The city had been hoping to bring in high-tech and university-related conferences, as well as to expand the base of available hotel space in the city in hopes of generating more TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) revenue.
But the lawsuit took its toll on the project that had originally been proposed with an 18,400 square foot conference, big enough for massive conferences that could bring high profile conferences and large numbers of overnight guests to Davis.
That plan has largely gone by the wayside. In January, Royal Ganesh proposed a scaled-down project that retained the 132 guest rooms, but reduced the conference center down to 4443 square feet, while also reducing the building height to five stories and providing surface parking rather than a parking structure.
On Wednesday, the Planning Commission will hear an even more scaled-down project.
According to the city staff report, “The current application reduces building height from five to four stories and 74’6” to 65 feet, retains the meeting room and top-floor lounge, and reduces the number of rooms by 17 percent.”
The property owner submitted applications to “revise the approved entitlements for the hotel at 1111 Richards to a new hospitality concept: the ‘Tapestry’ model from Hilton.”
The applicant states that “Hotel Eleven11 will be a boutique hotel that offers unique features and services that are flexible and responsive to guest needs.”
The revised project would add a 14,000-square-foot courtyard that “could be used for outdoor events in conjunction with” the further reduced meeting room which is now 3,150 square feet.
So instead of a 132 room, six-story or five-story hotel, there is a 110 room four-story hotel.
Instead of a large conference center capable of accommodating large conferences, the size of the conference center is reduced to roughly one-six of its original size.
The project was originally approved in August 2016. The key point of contention was the use of a Mitigated Negative Declaration which certified that “the project would not have a significant adverse effect on the environment.”
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Michael Harrington, based on the environmental review. In November 2016, that lawsuit was settled and the city was not a party to the settlement.
At the time, Michael Harrington stated that “… the Settlement Agreement reflects that the lawsuit caused Embassy Suites to reduce the visual massing of the buildings, push the buildings to the southern boundary of the property along the freeway so the public’s view from Richards provides for a modified site plan and building design that will be much improved and opened up, and ensures that the project footprint and design will not interfere with or compromise the City and Cal Trans’ ability to re-work the Richards area, including Olive Drive intersection and the I-80/Richards tight diamond.”
He continued, “Basically, as a result of the Settlement Agreement, we believe that the project, as modified, now meets many of the classic Davis infill goals, strategies and requirements.
“In addition to enhanced good planning, the Settlement Agreement also establishes the first of its kind privately funded alternative transportation program in the City of Davis. The Settlement Agreement ensures that the Project will include an effective program for free loaner bicycles and shuttle service at the Project for hotel guests and conference attendees. The Transportation Management Plan must be reviewed and approved by the City and the public on a periodic basis,” Mr. Harrington stated.
“Our group hopes that this new Embassy Suites program will serve as the start of additional similar programs in local hotels that will encourage hotel guests and conference attendees to use the free bikes and shuttle service to move around the downtown and campus, sparing the air and road congestion for the public benefit, and serve as a model for other hotels in the City,” he concluded.
“The settlement resolves the lawsuit in very specific terms that enhances the Project, improves traffic conditions and provides alternative transportation options for hotel and conference visitors,” they announced in the press release.
The release adds, “This project will meet existing needs for hotel rooms to serve the City, UC Davis and local businesses and residents. The Project will also provide a range of employment opportunities for Davis residents and the City will benefit from increased property taxes, sales taxes, and transient occupancy taxes.”
However, as staff notes in the Planning Commission report, “In response to the settlement, and (to) improve the project’s economic viability, the project proposal was revised in early 2017.”
Those changes were approved by the Planning Commission in March 2017 and no appeal and challenge were filed.
According to staff, “The applicant states that the revisions currently proposed will facilitate a boutique hotel that offers unique features and services that are flexible and responsive to guest needs. Because of the nature of the changes, staff determined that Planning Commission review of the revised proposal was warranted.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting