Council Certifies MRIC EIR on a 4-1 Vote

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Mace Ranch Innovation Center

Majority Concerned with Labor Agreement, Housing and City-Owned Property

Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee was concerned with the process, but his colleagues disagreed and voted 4-1 to support the certification of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center EIR.  However, as Mayor Robb Davis noted, the three members who will remain on the council for at least the next three years – Brett Lee, Lucas Frerichs and Will Arnold – all made their voices heard on side issues of labor and housing for the project.

There were also enough questions about the 25 acres of city-owned property that it seems unlikely that those acres would be included in the final site.

The vote allows the project to move forward even though many have expressed concern that there is no project at this time after the development team in spring of 2016 put the project on hold.

Brett Lee expressed concern that “we’re being asked to certify the EIR without having a live active project proposal.”  He is concerned that the applicant could replace the current project which is on hold with a different project “and this EIR may be deemed to be adequate to satisfy that even though it’s different.

“I really don’t feel this idea of a project without a project attached to it is acceptable.  I don’t think the scrutiny is really taking place,” he said.   “I really don’t believe this is an appropriate way to go.”

He explained this was “mainly for the process reasons.  It doesn’t have anything to do with the project – because there is no project.”

Mayor Pro Tem Lee added that “the inclusion of the 25 acres of open space to me is problematic.  I don’t really see the need.”

The mayor pro tem also added that, while this project is expected to bring good paying jobs, he also believes “there should be good paying jobs for the construction workers.”

Will Arnold came to a different conclusion, saying “if we had a project in front of us (that) would compare to the EIR as described” we would evaluate it in the same way will do so at this time.  “That process in my mind doesn’t change if we wait to certify this EIR,” he explained.

“I really am getting hung up on this idea that because we don’t have a project at a certain point in the process…we have to hold this up.  And I just don’t see it that way,” he said.  He said that “I was the most vocal proponent for this project.  I remain consistently a very strong supporter of this process.  I believe this one of the key definitions of citizen based planning in our community.”

He pointed out that the community came together under a citizen engagement process, the RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) and three proposals came forward and “this has always been in my mind the superior location for an innovation center in our community.

“I think it’s incredibly important for our community that we diversify our revenue portfolio and this is the best opportunity that we have to do it, period,” he said.

Councilmember Arnold added that he is concerned about the use of the 25 acres because of the use of the Measure O funds, and thus he is not in favor of utilizing the 25 acres – though he did agree that it was important to include it in the EIR, as it cast a wider net with regard to impacts.

He said he was supportive of a labor agreement and wanted to see that happen before approving the project proposal.

Finally he said he does not support the mixed-use alternative on this site.

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs put forward the motion to certify the EIR.  It was seconded by Will Arnold.

Councilmember Frerichs said, “The certification of the EIR provides whether the EIR has adequate analysis under CEQA – no more, no less.  I believe it does provide adequate analysis under CEQA.”

He argued, “An additional reason to certify the EIR is that it can be used as a tool to help market the site to possible potential tenants.

“There are numerous steps ahead for this site,” he said.  “I would like to suggest…to applicant and the project team to sit down and engage in a meaningful way (a labor agreement).  There have been previous attempts to have dialogue and it has not been a two-way street.”

Councilmember Frerichs also added about the 25-acre city-owned portion, “I definitely have concerns about its inclusion – the use of Measure O funds and certainly moving forward.” He further noted that he is not sure those 25 acres are the best location for an open public site.

Lucas Frerichs did not state it at the meeting but he told the Vanguard, “I’ve previously said I don’t support housing there.  That still stands.”

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson expressed hope that the applicant would engage with the entire community including labor so that we “can have a project that can truly address the concerns that we might have.

“This isn’t the approval of a project,” she said.  “But the certifying of an EIR does allow us to say that not only are we open to consideration on this project which is consistent – people forget that we sent out an RFEI – we asked for proposals – these weren’t brought in without being invited.”

She also pointed out that this will be subject to a Measure R vote, which she called “a very high bar” and it will be “vetted and approved by this community.

“At this point I don’t even care about this project, what I care about is that our commissions put themselves out there to question this project,” said Mayor Robb Davis, noting the slew of public meetings focused on the Draft EIR.

He called this “a normal process” and said “this is the way it works.

“That is what is driving my desire to see it certified,” he said.  “I don’t think this project will happen.  I’m not sure what size project will happen.”  He said, “It’s a tough sell fiscally, financially, we’re probably going to need mitigation on city land, we’re probably going to need some sort of community financing district and we’re probably going to need housing to make this project work.

“I don’t see this project going forward unless it’s substantially changed,” he said.

He mentioned the issue about the adequacy of the environmental analysis and said “that’s why in a very narrow sense I’m going to support it.”

He observed that the three members of this council who are going to be on the council for the next three years “have said to the developers, we’re not real happy with what we see with labor.”  They have also said that “we need to talk more about that 25 acres.”

He added, “I don’t see anything in the three members who are going to be here for the next three years that suggests that they’re going to embrace housing on that site.  And I don’t see anything that the community is going to vote for it in Measure R – which I think is a little bit sad.”

The council voted 4-1 to support certification, with Brett Lee dissenting.

—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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6 thoughts on “Council Certifies MRIC EIR on a 4-1 Vote”

  1. Alan Miller

    Once Again City Eyes Should Turn to MRIC Tonight

    Did City eyes turn?  I’m guessing no, as those who don’t participate didn’t show up.  Only those people who showed up actually showed up, and we shouldn’t listen to those that show up, as it’s those same people who show up.  And really, it’s those that don’t show up, who don’t participate in local politics, who don’t read the paper, or give a damn, that represent the true wishes of the people of Davis.  We must listen to those that do not speak, hear those who cannot speak, and carefully and forcefully survey and tabulate the wishes of those that are too scared to speak up and let their totally uninformed, imagined and assumed wishes be heard — and prevail as the rule of the day.

  2. Eileen Samitz

    I agree that all voices need to be heard. That said, I appreciate Council member Brett Lee’s “no” vote, and his very valid and very relevant concerns about why the MRIC EIR should not have been approved, particularly in light of the many flaws in the EIR. The most egregious was the MRIC “mixed-use” alternative making the ridiculous assumption that 100% of the proposed 850 housing units would be occupied by MRIC occupants. This assumption is totally absurd and cannot be enforced legally.

    The MRIC EIR  itself admitted that the  “tipping point” of the traffic, circulation, and so many other impacts  being “valid” would require a minimum of 60% of the 850 MRIC units to be occupied by MRIC workers. This assumption, and its subsequent EIR analysis assumptions are also absurd, since this minimum of 60% residential occupancy of MRIC workers cannot be enforced legally.

    In any case, the Ramos developers promised the community a commercial-only MRIC project from the beginning to help supplement the City with revenue. Yet, despite their promises, the Ramos developers then fought to include the enormous number of 850 housing units. So this amounts to seeing if the City Council will  later accept being blackmailed into approving a 850 housing unit “mixed-use project”. Also, let’s not forget that there would be no affordable housing in this 850 housing unit mixed-use Ramos project.

    In summary, the MRIC EIR is so flawed in so many ways and one of the the most egregious is the MRIC project’s blatant false assumption of a minimum 60% MRIC employee  occupancy in the bait and switch Ramos 850-unit mixed use alternative proposal. So at the very least the mixed-use part of the MRIC EIR,  should not have been approved.

     

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      What has been missing from the discussion is what the basis for certification actually is. As I understand it, the EIR is a disclosure document. With regard to mixed use alternative which does not appear from council vote last year or continued comment this year likely to happen, they indicate that the mixed use alternative is environmentally superior if they get to the tipping point. Are they actually required to go beyond that in terms of the need for disclosure? And if so, where is the basis for that belief? You’ve cited the same opinion over and over again, but you haven’t cited caselaw or evidence to back up your opinion even once.

  3. Sharla C.

    I thought that the City Council members do not support housing for this project. I think that this has been stated repeatedly.   It’s no wonder people don’t show up or don’t want to get involved.  The constant hightened suspicion of malfeasance locally, on top of all that is happening nationally, is just more than people want to willingly invite into their lives.  An attempt to participate just opens one up to attacks or public humiliation.

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