B St Project Heads to Council after Planning Commission Upholds the Appeal

It was a project that was administratively approved by staff, but the Planning Commission last month voted 4-3 to uphold the appeal after 32 nearby residents protested the city staff’s administrative approval.  The commission believed the council would hear the matter on July 18.

The proposal, containing two adjacent parcels located at 820 and 822 B Street calls 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 property owners in this case are Kemble Pope and Neal Cordeiro.  The appellants are nearby neighbors of the proposed project.

Residents say they agree with the city’s infill priorities, but believe that the density and height of the project does not fit with the surrounding neighborhood.

Jennifer Wolfe explained in an email to the Vanguard, “We are not opposed to the infill idea completely, but this project is all about making maximum money at the expense of our neighborhood.”

She indicated, “They are proposing inadequate parking for 13 units, which will force renters to park on side streets (the city took away all parking at all times on B Street).

“The proposed building is not in harmony with the neighborhood, and instead of trying to work with us, the developer simply pushed forward to the City for approval,” she said.

In their letter to the city, the residents called the infill project on B Street “in-fill on steroids.”

The residents in their appeal raise several issues.

First, “The houses have remained vacant for years. During this time, the homeowners have not taken care of the properties.”

Second, “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. That is a significant change with little discussion about the impact on either our neighborhood or the increase in traffic.”

Third, “The project normally would have a limit of a certain number of units but because this project has one unit for lower income renters, it is allowed to have more units and to exceed both the normal setbacks on the lot and to exceed the usual height requirements. We believe that this is disingenuous.”

Fourth, “It also has come to our attention that the solution for parking is to ‘park around the comer.’ The property owner told several neighbors that the city had indicated this was good solution.”

In her email, Ms. Wolfe said that there are also those opposed to the removal of eight of the ten existing trees, including one extremely large oak tree that is in the way of their proposed driveway.

She concluded, “Their project meets all zoning requirements, but we feel that it isn’t thought out, is too tall, too dense, involves problematic parking issues and sets a poor precedent for future infill development.”

The Planning Commission, by a narrow margin, agreed with the neighbors.

That ruling overruled the judgment of city staff.

Staff defended the size and density of the project.  They argued that this “is a transitional zone with different zoning designations on each side of the street that allow different uses.”

Staff states it “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.”

However, critics point out that staff has cherry-picked the exceptions to make their case here.

Staff also defends the height of the project, noting, “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 also noted that the parking issue would be resolved as well.  They write that they recognize “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.”

They argue, “The project must comply with the City’s zoning and meet its parking obligation by providing on-site parking spaces, and is doing so.”

They note, “Parking on public streets, including streets within or outside a parking district, may not be utilized to fulfill the parking requirement for any project.”

Finally, “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.”

Staff also reasoned that nearby parcels “would likely be redeveloped in the future to multi-family use, in manner similar to the proposed building,” given the city’s lack of available housing and its need for infill.

Now this will likely become the judgment call of the city council later this month.

—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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19 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    Staff also reasoned that nearby parcels “would likely be redeveloped in the future to multi-family use, in manner similar to the proposed building,” given the city’s lack of available housing and its need for infill.”

    I do not know enough about this project to have a position for or against. I do however take exception to the staff reasoning used above. I think that this kind of projection into “what is likely to happen” shows a near complete disregard for the interest of those who live in or adjacent to these parcels now. I have seen this is many, many interactions regarding many projects in the past five years. A focus on the past ( how we have not fulfilled our obligations) and the future ( pretending that we know what future generations will prefer) without consideration for the concerns of those who will be the most impacted by the day to day consequences of our choices.

    I am not arguing for neighborhood hegemony, merely that all three time frames, past, present and future be taken into account, and that the well being of present residents be given equal consideration to that of future residents.

     

     

  2. Tia Will

    Meeting zoning is a minimal requirement and says nothing at all about whether a project will enhance a neighborhood or not. I would hope that developers would be aiming for something beyond a profitable minimum. If they are not, then it would seem to me that they are strengthening the claimed “villainiztion”that some engage in.

    1. David Greenwald

      I am neither in favor of nor opposed to this project. But I don’t see how we are going to meet our community housing needs and less we somehow figure out a way to get more housing into existing spaces.

        1. Howard P

          Lag time for minutes is ~ 2 regular meetings… 4-5 weeks… they are only ‘draft’ until subsequently approved by the body… typical of all public bodies…

        2. David Greenwald

          Mark:

          Took me a bit…
          3 “No” votes (supported project): Darryl Rutherford, Herman Boschken, Stephen Streeter 
          4 “Yes” votes (supported appeal): Rob Hoffman, Cheryl Essex, Stephen Mikesell, Marilee Hanson

    2. Ron

      Tia:  “A focus on the past ( how we have not fulfilled our obligations).”

      Or – “whether” Davis has “fulfilled its obligations” (also depending upon how those “obligations” are defined in the first place).

  3. Richard C

    She indicated, “They are proposing inadequate parking for 13 units, which will force renters to park on side streets (the city took away all parking at all times on B Street).

    Not providing enough parking is a big problem with many of the newer developments in Davis. It’s not only multi-unit developments, but also single family homes that don’t provide adequate parking. Narrow streets and streets with parking on only one side are exacerbating this problem.

    It’s interesting to note that many people who have garages do not use them for their cars; rather they use the to store their possessions.  The cars are then parked either in the driveways or on the street. From what I’ve seen, people are certainly not giving up their cars.  I have many families on my street that have three or four cars which end up being parked on the street.

    1. Howard P

      Aye, there’s the “rub”… folk wanted Sterling to have little/no parking… here people are clamoring due to lack of parking… some are the same voices… others are by, ‘abstaining’ from supporting a project that provides ‘inadequate’/right-sized parking.  All in the viewpoint..

  4. Mark West

    A friend just reminded me about of the State’s Housing Accountability Act, which is relevant to this discussion.

    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=GOV&sectionNum=65589.5

    According to the law, if a proposed housing project meets the city’s zoning and planning guidelines, it may only be denied if the jurisdiction makes a finding that the project has a “specific adverse impact on public health or safety.” I see no indication that such a determination was made by Staff or the PC.

    In fact, Staff found that the proposed project meets the city’s zoning and planning guidelines. I don’t see anything in David’s reporting that suggests that the PC majority showed that determination to be incorrect, but instead simply responded to the concerns of the neighbors. If the project meets the zoning and land use requirements, the neighbor’s adverse opinions are not a legal basis for denying the project.  I expect this decision to be overturned by the CC, and if not, by the Court.

  5. Todd Edelman

    If this place had zero parking – except one or two for carshare, a couple for ADA and exceptional needs, e.g. for emergency personnel, doctors that work in an ICU, perhaps a contractor who uses their own vehicle – maybe 5 or 6 places total – it would still have WAY more applications then there are units. This is reality, and this is responsibility and this is simply more useful than the tired, lazy and boring “people aren’t giving up their cars”. Imagine if campaigns against indoor – and now outdoor – cigarette smoking were informed by a similarly vile slacker performance: “People aren’t giving up their cigarettes…” LOL. But what’s sad is the most people who opine this foul nugget think with more socially-oriented resolve and nuance about so many other things.

    Not all locations are as good as this one, where one could almost live without a bicycle, let alone a car. And keep in mind also the church parking lot adjacent – newly-repaved and empty most of the time. The Gods of Efficiency rate even my progressive ideas for parking a fail in this context. That whole parking lot needs to be treated in a Christian manner and used for housing, or least housing above parking.  On the existing site under contention: I would think that removing some of the vehicle requirements would allow the construction of a couple more units.

    1. Ron

      Todd:

      Even you have acknowledged that you use cars (which you equate to smoking and laziness) to conduct business, at least periodically.  Granted, you apparently don’t own one, and it’s not parked in your neighborhood.

      Parking = “bad”.
      Auto usage = “o.k.”?

      1. Todd Edelman

        “Laziness” refers to analysis, not the use or lack thereof of a mobility solution that provides benefits both social and cardiovascular. Cigarettes harm people in public space, but we seem to have a different standard for automobiles which is at least curiously inconsistent.

        Inefficiency and narcissism = bad. Specific applications are context-specific.

        In this specific context, I support:
        * About 50% of the current provision of spaces – one or two for multiple users (carshare).
        * Better utilization of the church parking lot.
        * A safer Downtown and B St. bicycle corridor.

        I also recognize the difference between this location and e.g. El Macero (though that could be a quick hop to a local train to Sac that stopped near Mace….)

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