Planning Commission to Hear Appeal of Redevelopment Multi-Family Housing Project

The Planning Commission tonight will hear the appeal of an administrative approval of a redevelopment project of two adjacent parcels located at 820 and 822 B Street.

Currently, each lot contains existing single-family dwellings that under the project proposal would be demolished.  The two lots would be merged into a single parcel for the development of a three-story multifamily building of approximately 15,749 square feet, containing 11 rental units consisting of six one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units.

The staff report notes that the applicant is requesting to increase the height of the building from a maximum of 38 feet permitted under the R-3 zoning to 41 feet. The project will provide 13 on-site vehicle parking spaces.

The property owners in this case are Kemble Pope and Neal Cordeiro.  The appellants are nearby neighbors of the proposed project.

The appellants list four reasons for the appeal.

First, parking issues.  The appeal narrative states that “…parking is not really considered. This seems like a glaring omission. Choosing to have the residents of the eleven different units park on a side street is going to present a problem. There is not adequate space for eleven or more vehicles.”

Staff responds, “The project proposes a total of 16 bedrooms and 13 on-site parking spaces. The City has an adopted a Bicycle Ordinance that allows the Director of Community Development to implement certain incentives including offsetting the required number of vehicle parking spaces by a maximum of 2 spaces for projects going above and beyond the bicycle parking requirements and amenities as specified in the ordinance.”

Staff “recognizes that due to the prohibited parking on B Street in the project vicinity, there are concerns regarding the potential parking impacts on adjacent neighborhood streets. The primary concern appears to be misinformation that staff has advocated that the project meet its parking requirement or secure extra parking for residents by obtaining parking permits on nearby streets that allow parking by permit only.”

This is incorrect for several reasons:

  • The project must comply with the City’s zoning and meet its parking obligation by providing on-site parking spaces, and is doing so.
  • Parking on public streets, including streets within or outside a parking district, may not be utilized to fulfill the parking requirement for any project.
  • Residents of the B Street project would not be issued parking permits for nearby parking districts because these are provided to residents who live on those streets. Residents of the B Street project would be subject to the same restrictions as any other city resident or visitor wishing to park in these districts. This has been confirmed by the Police Department.

Staff writes that they “cannot guarantee that a resident or guest would never park on a nearby street, but given the number of parking spaces that will be provided on the site, it is expected that impacts to these streets would be minimal or short-term.”

Second, design.  The appellants state, “The project that is proposed changes the property from having two small homes on it to now having 11 apartments. In short, the property is being changed from being a natural part of this residential neighborhood to a full-fledged multi-unit apartment building.”

Staff responds that this “is a transitional zone with different zoning designations on each side of the street that allow different uses.”  Staff notes, “The new development represents a change, however the existing single-family use on the site does not preclude the right of the property owner to change the use or to redevelop the site to the extent allowed under the zoning. The proposal for a multi-unit apartment building at this location is consistent with the principally permitted uses of the R-3-M zoning district.”

The appellants also note, “The current design is not in harmony with existing structures and appears to be imposing, commercial and will have extreme differences in scale from the neighborhood homes.”

Staff counters, “Staff believes that the building would be in harmony with the existing structures when considered in the context of all uses and buildings in the surrounding area. In this case, the project is located across the street from single-family residential uses but also adjacent to a church and in the vicinity of other multi-family residential buildings located in the R-3-M district.

“When the area is viewed as a whole, the case could be made that the existing single family dwellings on the subject site are out of scale with the R-3-M district in which the proposed project is located, given the area is nearly fully developed with multi-family residential buildings.”

The appellants argue, “In-fill guidelines state avoid constructing a new larger building to an existing adjacent smaller building without mitigating the impacts of scale/form differences, privacy and light and air.”

Staff responds, “The project is located adjacent to the Lutheran Church to the south and a multi-family triplex to the north. While the triplex is a smaller building than the proposed building, the infill guidelines do not prohibit a new larger building, and intentionally allow flexibly to recognize the unique circumstances of every site.”

Third, the appellants argue there are “too many units,” stating, “The project would normally have a limit of a certain number of units but because the project has one affordable unit for lower income renters, it is allowed to have more units and to exceed both the normal setback and the usual height requirements. We believe this is disingenuous.”

Staff writes, “The applicant is providing one affordable unit for the project, which under Government Code Section 65915-65918 entitles the project to increased density and incentives that may include modifications to architectural standards required under the City’ zoning such as reduced setbacks, reduced parking, and other incentives.

“Under state law the project is receiving a density bonus that increases the maximum number of units allowed on the site from 9 to 11. The applicant is entitled to and utilizing one incentive to modify the rear yard setback from a minimum of 25 feet required under the R-3 zoning to 22 feet.”

Finally, the appellants argue that the proposed structure is too tall.

Staff responds, “The maximum height of a building in the R-3-M zoning is three stories or 38 feet. Section 40.27.080 of the Municipal Code permits for a “Minor Modification” for up to a 10% increase or decrease in development standards including building setbacks, lot coverage, structure size, structure height, usable open space, parking and parking space.

“The applicant has requested a modification to allow an increase in the height of the building from 38 feet to approximately 41 feet, 5 inches by incorporating a peaked roof…”

Staff writes that it has “has addressed the items raised in the Appeal and recommends that the Planning Commission deny (the appeal) thereby upholding administrative approval of (the project).”

In a statement from Chamber CEO Christina Blackman, “The Davis community has a broad residential base with varying housing needs. Your chamber will continue to inform you of projects and opportunities to get involved.  While the board has not weighed in on this particular project, as always, we encourage our members to review projects and be part of the dialogue.”

—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

    Overall, look for these types of conflicts to increase, as the city pursues a goal of “densifying” the core area.  Trackside is another example, even though it’s outside the core area.

    In general, life will become more urbanized, expensive, and challenging in these areas.  A “mini” San Francisco, if you will.

    1. David Greenwald

      I agree Ron – these conflicts are going to increase.  Why?  (1) There is both a market and need for housing (2) Measure R has effectively precluded peripheral subdivision development (3) that has left densification as the only option for building housing.  Something has to give.

      1. Ron

        David:  As you probably know, I am of the opinion that what has to “give” (at some point) is the idea that communities must forever grow (outward, or upward).  I realize that this will not occur immediately.

        What you’re witnessing (in towns such as Davis, and the entire Bay Area) is an underlying realization that attempting to grow indefinitely is no “solution”. Even more “traditional” communities seem to (slowly) be coming around. The days of the “wild west” mentality are over.

        However, the consequences of failing to address that basic point on a broader level can be seen via impacts on limited roads, water supply, the environment in general, etc.  It’s also creating more expense to ensure that resources are sufficient to serve the still-growing population.  (Approximately 40 million in California, now.)

        I recall a quote which states that only “economists and madmen” believe that growth/development can occur indefinitely, on a finite planet.

        In the meantime, “smart growth” is certainly better than the alternative.

        1. David Greenwald

          So what you’re basically saying is that you’re for zero growth.  People who wish to work at the university or attend the university either have to live on campus or commute, and the city will be supported in revenue either by cuts or taxes.  I don’t believe that is a sustainable model, but you’re entitled to your view.

        2. Ron

          David:  Part of what you’re stating is accurate, and part is not.  Your question blends together a broader issue, with a local issue. (However, I do think that local concerns are reflecting the fact that this issue isn’t being addressed on a broader level.)

          Yes – I believe that the finite earth won’t support an ever-expanding population.  I also believe that failure to address this issue impacts quality of life (and perhaps ultimately life, itself).  (Not just human life.)  I do not believe that we can count on technological advances to fundamentally change this basic fact. I do not know exactly when, or how this fact will manifest itself. (Perhaps we’re already seeing it.)

          I also believe that if, for example, we live “twice as efficiently” (in terms of impacts), but “double our population”, we’ve made no net gain. (And, I fail to see the advantage of that approach.)

          I’m also failing to see the advantage of not addressing this issue, on a broader level.

          Do you believe differently?


      2. Matt Williams

        David “broader” can be both global and municipal.  The dynamics are the same, but the details are different.

        Take the recent Paris Accord events as a global example.  What 45 has argued is that the specific  self interests of his individual country takes precedence over the collective interests of all the signatory countries to the Accord.

        At the municipal level the same dynamic applies (over and over and over again).  The Hyatt House vs. the Rose Creek neighborhood and Eileen and Colin, et. al..  Sterling vs. Eileen and Ron and Rancho Yolo, et. al..  Densification vs. Okay, but not in my neighborhood.

        That dynamic makes the job of the Council very challenging. They often find themselves choosing between representing the community as a whole and representing specific segments of the community.

        1. Keith O

          What 45 has argued is that the specific  self interests of his individual country takes precedence over the collective interests of all the signatory countries to the Accord.

          What 45 argued is that the Accord was so uneven and pernicious towards one country where all the other countries didn’t have the same skin in the game.

          So comparing it on a local level would be like all of the densification ends up in one neighborhood while the rest of the community gets off scot free.

          Read quickly, this post will most likely self destruct in the next 5 minutes.

        2. Matt Williams

          Keith, that is only part of the story.  Since each country self imposed restrictions/goals on itself, the Accord was purely voluntary.  There was no imposition by the collective countries on any individual country.  Therefore the parallel in local densification would be if one neighborhood within Davis volunteered to impose on itself a higher level of densification than the city-wide average densification.

          45 could have simply said to the other members of the Accord, “We have decided to be less ambitious in our self-imposed restrictions/goals. Here is the revised/new level we are willing to impose on ourselves.”

          [moderator] this is off topic.

        3. Matt Williams

          [moderator]: edited, off topic
          With that said, selling one’s house and moving away from Davis as an adjustment in one’s willingness to accept a level of densification is very different than notifying Council that the previously volunteered willingness has been adjusted downward.


  2. Ron

    David:  “If by broader level you mean municipal planning, then I disagree.”

    In a sense, I’m not passing judgement regarding municipal planning.  However, the resistance to ever-increasing density (and sprawl) is sort of a reaction, regarding the failure to address this at a broader level (ultimately – whether it’s the region, state, nation, or world).

    If pressures continue to be forced upon localities without addressing this issue, there will be consequences and reactions.  And, I (generally) see some “disconnect” regarding this issue, between elected officials and local residents.  (Not just in Davis.) Of course, Davis has far better planning and controls, compared to most nearby/surrounding communities.

    1. David Greenwald

      I’ve seen over the years a good deal of movement on key issues once people get on the council and become immersed with the enormity of the challenges before them.

  3. Todd Edelman

    As a template for future densification in Davis, this is lacking in the extreme. It’s in fact an assault on the environment, sustainability, safety, anti-sloth, aesthetics. Our architects, planners, commissioners, elected officials, city staff and citizens should know better… we simply have to get over the myth that densification HAS to translate to more parking and traffic! Yes, people who live here would like to have a car at their disposal, but housing demand is so high in Davis that having no parking here aside from two spaces for carshare, whatever is necessary for ADA and a couple of flexible spaces for people with certain types of jobs would be more than acceptable. Further, the bicycle parking has to be indoor and adequate in size and with charging possibility for large, electric-assist cargo bikes.  This location has amazing food shopping in close proximity, schools of all levels including university within 10 minutes by walking and less by bike, a city pool, a bus stop around the corner, less than ten minutes by bike to the train station, with an entire soon-to-be-improving Downtown on the way.

    A tree-enhanced or centered set-back is lovely, unique and hard to replace. How to avoid destroying this? I’m not clear if the parking here will be underneath or at surface, but what’s crystal is that the church has a huge parking lot directly behind this joint-parcel. About 60 spaces – it seems – full on how many days besides Sunday? Everything I mention above can be accommodated here, but to jump ahead this parking lot is absurd not only in terms of exclusivity but that the God-given space is used for storage of cars for a small fraction of the time it sits here, absorbing heat in the summer, radiating it out at night and thus increasing cooling costs for surrounding homes. No doubt.

    The whole parking lot should be housing – I assume that the Lutheran Church is not proposing this. It boggles the mind. Parking for church visitors and what I proposed can be located here, under the building. Direct access to the east side of the B St. parcels. It could possibly be helpful to split motorized vehicle egress to both B and 8th to minimize disruption of cycling facilities on both streets.

    We cannot and should not densify with increased parking. If we do this all over, it’s a complete nightmare, it’s impossible. For much of Davis and especially in close-in areas like this, there are oh so many alternatives. This project should be rejected until it reflects our current policies and near-future values.

        1. Keith O

          I’m not, not everyone shares your Utopia.

          This is a reason why we must make sure we have auto advocates and not just bicycle advocates planning and instituting our town’s transportation policies.

        2. Mark West

          A recent report from one of the City’s consultants proclaimed that Davis has the greatest bicycle mode share of any city in the Country. That suggests that getting people to ride their bikes more may not be the highest priority issue facing the City today.

        3. Todd Edelman

          Please show an alternative model to utopia that’s safe for kids. Not safer. Safe. I’m not a “bicycle advocate”. If  you’re going to be anonymous the least you could do is identify others more precisely. But anyway motorized traffic congestion is not caused by bicycle advocacy.

          I’m all for enjoyable, sustainable, safe and appropriate transport. Please note that drivers really like driving in the Netherlands almost as much as cyclists love cycling. There’s a reason for this — it’s called “good planning”.

        4. David Greenwald

          “I hardly ever see automobile advocates wanting to limit or deny access to bicycles but certainly do hear the opposite of that all the time.”

          You are failing to account for why people might be bike advocates – for instance environmental considerations.

  4. Ron

    Matt:  “Densification vs. Okay, but not in my neighborhood.”

    To be clear, that’s not what I said (nor is it Eileen’s position, from what I understand).  (You mentioned me and her in your comment, above.)

    Actually, a better saying is, “no neighborhood gets thrown under the bus”.

  5. Ron

    I would point out, however, that Eileen probably has a more practical and pragmatic approach to managing growth and development than I do.  (In other words, she seems to understand realities and best solutions, from what I’ve observed.) That applies to the best overall interests of students, as well.

  6. Ron

    I like how the drawing of the proposed development suggests “nothing” surrounds it (perhaps for miles). Hell, the entire town seems to have disappeared, on the horizon.

    Then, those two photos of run-down houses/yards.

  7. Ron

    From article:

    Staff responds, “The project proposes a total of 16 bedrooms and 13 on-site parking spaces. The City has an adopted a Bicycle Ordinance that allows the Director of Community Development to implement certain incentives including offsetting the required number of vehicle parking spaces by a maximum of 2 spaces for projects going above and beyond the bicycle parking requirements and amenities as specified in the ordinance.”

    Hmm.  Not commenting on whether this is “good”, or “bad”.  However, the last time I added these numbers, 13+2 = 15, assuming that parking is based upon number of bedrooms (16). I suspect that I’m missing something, since this is so obvious.

    Is there some kind of evidence that occupants of affordable housing don’t have as many cars? (I see that this is indeed allowed, per the article.)

    1. Ron

      Per the article:  “Staff writes, “The applicant is providing one affordable unit for the project, which under Government Code Section 65915-65918 entitles the project to increased density and incentives that may include modifications to architectural standards required under the City’ zoning such as reduced setbacks, reduced parking, and other incentives.”

      To clarify, I guess it’s pretty difficult to “reduce” parking for the affordable unit (below “1”), without reaching “0”. However, the quote states that it “may” include such modifications (along with the others listed in the article).

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