My View: New Nishi Proposal Seeks to Fix Previous Problems; Addresses Student Housing Crisis

A lot of people were talking about Nishi’s new proposal yesterday and most viewed it in a positive light.  There were a few points of negative feedback we received.  On one end, some still felt that the project as a medium density project was simply not bold enough.

They felt with the depth of the student housing crisis, 2600 student beds on a 45-acre property left a lot on the table.

On the other end of the spectrum there were those still concerned about the impact of air quality on the students who would live on the property.

The Vanguard is sympathetic with the charge that the project lacks great vision or ambition.  The Vanguard always argued that, in shooting for mixed-use, Nishi got the worst of both worlds – failing to provide enough student housing AND enough R&D space to make a huge difference.

Contrast this project to USC Village which is a $700 million project that houses 2500 students with numerous restaurants, a retail center, and R&D space on just 15 acres and you can get a sense
for what was left on the table.  They are expecting that project to generate about 8000 permanent jobs.

Nishi doesn’t accomplish any of this.  Instead, what it does do is to provide 2600 student beds for Davis – which turns out to be important if unambitious.

By our calculations, the call for 50 percent of new students to be housed on campus would require the university to provide 10,000 new beds.  Right now they are committing to 6200 of those.  The university is pushing forward with its EIR in January and we expect not much will change between now and then.

The university has not, would not, and will not commit to going higher than 6200, although they are willing to entertain bids for projects that increase height and density.  Without its inclusion in the EIR, we expect that will be done on the margins.

That leaves 3800 beds to be filled by the city or be absorbed into the shrinking rental vacancy for the city – or to force students to find housing outside of Davis.

With Sterling and a potential Lincoln40 generating about 1500 beds and Nishi projecting to 2600, the three student housing projects can reach about 4100 beds which, if the university follows through on its commitment to build 6200, would get us to the 10,000 bed mark rather easily.

It is probably an overstatement to claim that means that the student housing crisis is solved, but it does greatly lessen it.

In our analysis over the 600-something vote defeat for the Nishi project in June of 2016, we focused on two problems which this project solves.

First it is looking into a reduction in vehicle trips and the idea that they would consider elimination of private automobile access to west Olive Drive. They would also consider only having off-site parking which would allow for storage of vehicle but would discourage daily vehicle trips to and from the site. That would seem to deal with traffic concerns on Richards.

Second, the original project was exempted from affordable housing. This one would avoid that pitfall.

The applicant writes, “Even though the prior project was exempt from affordable housing requirements, the new plan could include housing available to underserved students. Most students do not qualify for the necessary conventional Federal and State subsidy benefits.

“Nonetheless, if some path to feasibility can be found, such housing will be a benefit to students who need assistance.”

Questions still remain, however.

Litigation was filed against the original Nishi project in 2016. Earlier this year, that litigation was resolved in favor of the city with the litigant conceding the affordable housing argument. However, earlier this week, Michael Harrington announced he had filed an appeal of the ruling.

In a release to the Vanguard, he wrote, “Plaintiff has filed its appeal today as we believe that certain aspects of the trial court’s decision after hearing are legally incorrect or need further clarification by the Court of Appeals. Those aspects include the traffic issue and the lack of affordable rental housing. Further comments will come at the time of briefing.”

A key question will be whether the legal challenges are nullified because of the major differences between this project and the previous project that was subject to the litigation. Plaintiffs challenged the adequacy of the traffic study on Nishi, but if the applicants here are recommending limited to no private vehicle access, the project may not impact Richards Boulevard at all.

When the Vanguard spoke with Michael Harrington he was non-committal on what he would do at this point – although he did feel like he made for a better project than the one that was defeated at the polls last year.

The biggest remaining issue is a complex one and it is unclear how it will translate electorally.

The traffic issues last time were probably the most important factor in the loss of the project.  Side issues like Redrum Burger were impactful as well.  And, personally, I think the lack of affordable housing lost a number of progressive voters who were otherwise concerned about the lack of rental vacancy in Davis.

The issue of air quality still remains.  It was a big point of discussion yesterday in the comment section.

Tim Ruff, the project manager, told the Vanguard that this new project will serve students whose average occupancy is less than three years.

They eliminated the for-sale option which would have presented much longer exposure.  And he believes that the impact is no different than at Solano Park or along Olive Drive, where there exists plenty of apartment and student housing.

The Vanguard spent a lot of time analyzing the issue during last year’s campaign and we have come to the conclusion it is a lot more complex and equivocal than many are making it.

A key point that Dr. Thomas Cahill makes is that this is an emerging area of science and he would use the term “dangerous” to describe what he believes is a significant added risk of death from exposure to the particulate matter at Nishi.

But if you push him on a number of issues he acknowledges that he just doesn’t know and he prefers to err on the side of caution – or what he calls the “precautionary principle.”

He told the Vanguard, “This requires that in the face of uncertainty, I would have to choose on the basis of the most conservative estimate of the impact, which is almost always lower than the scientist’s bottom number. In Davis, this means that (if) there is any reasonable chance that I and my colleagues are right, I would have to reject residential use and maximize protection of workers in commercial or research facilities.”

But in 2016, the residential use had a sizable for-sale component to it.  With a rental-only use, the exposure is reduced to a year, two years, possibly three years.

If you consider the actual exposure of a student who lives on the site for even three years, even if they are there around the clock (which no one will be), it is considerably less than the exposure of a worker who works on the site for ten years, twenty years, etc.

As the Final EIR notes, “The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District (SMAQMD) estimates that the reasonable worst-case level of health risk from freeway generated toxic air contaminants is approximately 919 per 1,000,000 residents for a residential dwelling located just 50 feet from the busiest freeway in Sacramento County.”

Back in January, Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, himself a public health professional, argued that the risk assessment at Nishi was actually quite low.

Section 4.3 of the Draft EIR, for example, notes, “One common metric of health risk is the number of additional cancer cases that may occur in the population exposed to a particular TAC [toxic air contaminant], or located in an area exposed to TACs in general. This is typically reported as additional cancer risk per million people.”

Here the EIR notes that, according to the American Cancer Society, “the lifetime probability of contracting/dying from cancer in the United States is 43.3%/22.8% among males and 37.8%/19.3% among females. In other words there is a lifetime probability that over 430,000 per 1 million males and over 370,000 per 1 million females will develop cancer over their lifetime.”

In his comments to council, Robb Davis noted that the lifetime risk of respiratory cancer was about 10 percent or 100,000 in 1 million.

The numbers shown above are on the magnitude of 1025 per 1 million, a far lower added risk than the overall risk.

Most of the freeway impact studies analyze the effects of living near a freeway over a long-term exposure of at least 20 years.

Indeed, as the EIR notes, “Long-term exposure to this concentration of diesel PM corresponds to an incremental cancer risk level of 235 in one million above the background level of cancer risk from TACs in the region for residential receptors.” They add, “The estimated level of increased cancer risk based on SMAQMD’s Roadway Protocol (SMAQMD 2011) is approximately 197 in one million.”

Long-term exposure is the key term, and that calculates to an increased risk of cancer at .0235 percent increased risk.  That’s for long-term exposure.

The bottom line is that it is not clear that the actual risks here are significant.  Moreover, we don’t have any points of reference – how does Nishi compare with Olive Drive and other sites for potential student housing in Davis?

From our perspective then, the air quality issue is at best unclear, the new proposal mitigates that somewhat by eliminating the for-sale component of the project, and it addresses the traffic concerns and affordable housing concerns.

While I still think the project could be more ambitious, at this point it would seem to have a very good chance of passing a citizen vote in June.  Stay tuned.

—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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95 Comments

  1. Ron

    From article: “They would also consider only having off-site parking which would allow for storage of vehicle but would discourage daily vehicle trips to and from the site.”

    I recall (from yesterday) that the parking is being proposed on-site (in the location where the prior proposal situated commercial development).

    From yesterday’s article: “Accordingly, a satellite car storage facility, generally located where commercial buildings and parking lots were first envisioned, might be a feature offered to all students, including campus residents.”

  2. Ron

    From article:  “The university has not, would not, and will not commit to going higher than 6200, although they are willing to entertain bids for projects that increase height and density.”

    Again, just for the sake of accuracy – if proposals increase height and density, than they likely would go “higher” than 6,200.  (Of course, if they’re now counting on Nishi, that may no longer be a viable alternative.)

      1. Ron

        If they’re looking at proposals that increase height and density, then they’re also considering (but not committing) to going above 6,200.  (So technically, your wording is correct, if misleading.)

        Perhaps a moot point, if they’re counting on Lincoln 40 and Nishi.

  3. Ron

    From article:  “With a rental-only use, the exposure is reduced to a year, two years, possibly three years.”

    Again, an assumption, in the absence of fact.  Discussed at length, yesterday.

      1. Ron

        And those models and projections appear to based upon your own assumptions. (And, do not address the Affordable housing component – which I realize is still in a draft stage.)

        1. Ron

          At Nishi?  I don’t think either one of us has said that.  It’s clearly not a good place for families.

          But, there’s no reason to believe that students would vacate immediately after receiving a bachelor degree (which often takes longer than 4 years). Nor is there any reason (at this point) to believe that anyone would leave the Affordable housing component.

          It’s a waste of time and effort to dispute repetitive, misleading arguments.

        2. Ron

          David:  I’m not going to look up the context of the thread which led to that comment.  But, from what I recall, she might have been pointing out the discrepancy of another commenter’s interests.

          In any case, I won’t make an argument that Nishi should be designed for families.  (And, I doubt that Eileen would, either.)

        3. David Greenwald

          Her comment directly contradicts yours.  I consider it extremely disingenuous of you not to acknowledge that and outright refuse to look after you made the claim you did. After being called on it, you’re response is to punt.

  4. Ron

    From article:  “If you consider the actual exposure of a student who lives on the site for even three years, even if they are there around the clock (which no one will be), it is considerably less than the exposure of a worker who works on the site for ten years, twenty years, etc.”

    In year four, they can be exposed to a level higher than someone working there for ten years.  (In a much shorter timeframe – perhaps akin to “binge drinking”, vs. a daily “drink at dinner”.)  Another commenter pointed out the differences in building types (and lifestyles) of those working in a location, vs. living there. (Not planning to repeat everything, here.)

    In general (not just related to this proposal), it would be nice if the Vanguard acknowledged and adjusted its arguments, when challenged with facts.  Instead, we have the same repetitive arguments, over-and-over.  Essentially, propaganda.  (Which is unfortunate, as it leads to unnecessary and repetitive arguments.  And, a lack of trust regarding the information presented.)

      1. Ron

        Not necessarily 24 hours.  But, more importantly, you (and I) are actually not in a position to “make a point” regarding this issue.  Some have merely pointed out some common-sense arguments regarding your “point”. Ultimately, it would be up to someone with more expertise to determine if any of the arguments are valid.

        Unlike you, the commenters pointing out potential concerns (e.g., raised by Dr. Cahill) are not presenting “conclusions” regarding this issue.

        1. David Greenwald

          I have no idea what you’re trying to say here.  The available evidence shows that the long-term risk here (actual risk factor, not theoretical is in low hundreds per million range and that’s based on 20 years of.       , not three).

  5. Tia Will

    Back in January, Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, himself a public health professional, argued that the risk assessment at Nishi was actually quite low.”

    Actually, at the time of the Nishi debate of last year, we did have regional points of reference, not with regard to cancers, which can only be measured over many years, but with regard to a population marker of acute respiratory damage measured by emergency room visits for acute respiratory distress related to asthma and COPD. There was no elevation of cases in the Olive Drive population as opposed to significant elevation in the West Sacramento area near the freeway. While this is clearly not definitive, it is certainly reassuring and in my eyes meets the “precautionary principle” concern.

    I do not have and will not be able to get the current statistics but doubt there is reason to believe that they will have changed significantly in the intervening 1-2  years.

  6. Ron

    Tia:  “There was no elevation of cases in the Olive Drive population as opposed to significant elevation in the West Sacramento area near the freeway.”

    As has been pointed out repeatedly in the past, Nishi apparently has some unique features (e.g., raised freeway, railroad tracks) that are not applicable to other locations.

    1. Howard P

      Railroad tracks are next to Olive Drive. Pretty much exactly the same train volumes.

      Cite (just one)  published/professionally accepted study showing the factor of where the variable of raised freeways vs. at grade, changes anything about dispersion, morbidity or mortality due to motor vehicle generated PM’s or other pollutants.  Just one. 

      Otherwise, I say anyone who claims that those are unique to Nishi are just “blowing smoke”.

      1. Ron

        Howard:  You’re asking the wrong person.  I’m just noting previous arguments that have been made.  I don’t know if this is something that Dr. Cahill mentioned, for example.

        I really dislike commenting on this subject, as it probably appears to you as an “excuse” to oppose the development.  All I’m actually doing is pointing out that these discussion on the Vanguard don’t constitute further study (which was recommended by Dr. Cahill).

        More importantly, it’s pretty clear that development proponents are purposefully downplaying the concern.  (In contrast, no one who is raising the concern has actually arrived at any “conclusion”, other than what was recommended.)

        I suspect that if this issue is adequately addressed, along with concerns regarding cost to the city, etc., then the proposal would likely be approved. (I still believe that the loss of the “innovation center” component will increase the volume of those advocating for MRIC, though. Regardless of the substance of that proposal.)

      2. Howard P

        Perhaps you missed my quick revision , where I re-worded it to “anyone who claims”… was not laying it directly on you.

        Yet you have not backed down from the variables (location of trains, “same same”, and elevated freeways)  “rumored” or “speculated” by others… you seem say they (rumors and speculation) need further investigation at potentially great expense.  I say, NOT.

    2. Tia Will

      Ron

      That is one of my major points. Since the location is unique, there is not the ability of extrapolating from studies that have been done in more distant areas, LA for example, and saying that because there are marginally increased rates of disease X at that location, it is an indication that the same would apply here. The data regarding proximity to freeway was not strong to begin with and certainly cannot be extrapolated to the Nishi site as some were attempting to do.

      Also, you did not address the question I put forth of who should be the final arbiter of “adequate examination”?

    1. Howard P

      You learn well, grasshopper.

      It goes farther than ‘student housing’, but your path of enlightenment is a bit longer journey… you have made a great start.

    2. Ron

      Sharla:  It is true that I haven’t supported any megadorm (essentially student-only) proposal within the city, so far.  I have laid out the reasons, for this.

      Regarding vehicular access, I don’t think students will be limiting their driving solely between Nishi and UCD.

      Regarding Howard’s comment, another unpleasant (but undefined) “accusation”.

  7. Ron

    Tia:  “Their are those, like the mayor whose expertise is in public health and myself with expertise in clinical medicine and risk assessment in combination with the expertise of my “in house expert” in statistical acnalysis and statistical data from the county epidemiologist concluded that the data presented already constituted adequate  examination.

    Tia:  I’ll try to address those points, to the best of my ability. (Please note that I am in no way an “expert”, nor do I have an opinion on the suitability of the site for housing. Nor do I have more than a cursory knowledge of proper scientific study methods.) (Also, I still can’t see your comments when I’m logged in.)

    Regarding Robb Davis, I have no idea if he is qualified to offer an opinion regarding the appropriate methods to gather air quality data, or to interpret the results. (If not, I hope that he is not suggesting this.)

    Regarding your own expertise, I understand that you’re a gynecologist.  Of course, I realize that you have far more medical knowledge than a layman.  It sounds like you essentially conducted your own informal study, perhaps without knowledge of appropriate data gathering methods (in the field of air quality).  (I’m assuming that Dr. Cahill believes that there’s a need to gather data.)  And, without knowledge of the amount of contaminant that residents would be exposed to, vs. those who work at such a site.

    Regarding the epidemiologist, I find it surprising that they would offer an informal opinion regarding the site which (apparently) contradicts what Dr. Cahill is recommending, based upon the information that you provided.  I’m wondering if he/she might put that in writing, so that it can be analyzed by someone with expertise in air quality measurements.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      “Regarding the epidemiologist, I find it surprising that they would offer an informal opinion regarding the site which (apparently) contradicts what Dr. Cahill is recommending, based upon the information that you provided. ”

      I’m not surprised by that.  Dr. Cahill’s recommendation is very aggressive and reading back through the EIR, I’m not sure founded based on the risk assessment provided there.  But no one wants to address these numbers.  I think the risk is extremely low even for prolonged exposure.

      1. Howard P

        As a scientist, I suspect Dr Cahill would love to participate in a real world, close to home investigation (even pro bono).  As would I, if I was in his shoes.  That’s the nature of those who gravitate to science and engineering.  We like to measure and fully understand things.

        As an engineer, would have loved to study actual sanitary/storm drain flow data to verify actual results with the design, and the variables used to design  them.  I’d have recommended the City did so, but knew the costs involved, and the knowledge potentially gained, would be lousy using the cost/benefit approach.

        Public health is much more dependent on many variables… did the person who experienced morbidity/mortality problems (respiratory) get those from living on Olive Drive (currently, where those thing get reported), for 10 years, or living in Santa Rosa 3 months during and after the current fires, and possible inversion layers?  Or living in the LA basin for 10 years, with many freeways and many inversion layer formations?  Or genetic pre-dispositions?  Or smoking (and, of what?)?  Or allergies? Or, …

        But some want irrefutable “facts” and “known outcomes”.  Right.

        Life doesn’t work that way

         

         

    2. Howard P

      For one who says,

      Please note that I am in no way an “expert”

      it is clear that you feel very free to question someone’s opinion: who’s career has been in public health; a person trained as a medical doctor, who chose to specialize in GYN; and, an epidemiologist.

      1. Ron

        Actually, this is my error.  Tia had posted a question to me in the other “Nishi” article (not this one).  The quotation from her (above) is also in that article.  Since I can’t see her responses while logged in, I also have to log in/out to see, copy and paste Tia’s responses.

        Here’s Tia’s question to me (to which I responded):

        Tia:  “Given this disparity of opinion, who would you suggest make the final decision ?”

        Perhaps a more succinct answer is that when there’s a difference of professional opinion (and apparent lack of data) combined with a recommendation for further study, then a “reasonable” conclusion cannot be determined at this point.

        1. Ron

          And, it would be remiss to overlook the fact that the (only) person with expertise/specialization in the field of air quality study techniques is apparently recommending further study (if housing is to be considered on the site).  Sorry, but a gynecologist isn’t trained in that field (although would have knowledge regarding the effects of exposure at certain levels).  Not sure if there are doctors which specialize in the effects of toxic exposure, beyond that which a gynecologist knows.  (I suspect Tia could answer that.)

        2. Ron

          In reference to my last question above, perhaps a toxicologist? (Again, assuming that adequate data has been collected/analyzed, and variables such as realistic length of stay and types of mitigation are identified and employed. The types of things that require more than short, informal discussions on the Vanguard.)

          O.K. – I’ve got to run.

        3. David Greenwald

          “the (only) person with expertise/specialization in the field of air quality study techniques is apparently recommending further study (if housing is to be considered on the site).  ”

          There are a number of people with such expertise who have weighed in (you can read the EIR if you doubt me) and Dr. Cahill seems to be alone in terms of that recommendation.  You seem to be willfully ignoring the numbers presented in the EIR.  I fail to see the need for another study based on a 200 in one million risk factor.

        4. Howard P

          Nah, Don… it’s a well-known ‘fact’ that those regulatory agencies are in the pocket of developers, employers, etc., etc.  Besides, they’re ‘public employees’ and are worthless idiots…

          “Getting real”, I agree, but sometimes regulations lag science… I do not see that in the current case, tho’.  I have completely dismissed this air/quality/health thing for the Nishi problem from my calculus.  A chimera.

          (Getting silly again) Developing Nishi might adversely affect an endangered species tho’… when was the last time you saw a wild unicorn?  I demand the City require the developer to investigate that impact before moving forward!

  8. Jim Hoch

    “They felt with the depth of the student housing crisis, 2600 student beds on a 45-acre property left a lot on the table.”

    So if we could find another 40 acre property to build another 2600 beds we would be further towards the goal?

    1. Eileen Samitz

      David,

      I am not sure what you are talking about but Dr. Cahill is not alone in his recommendation. Below is information from the Nishi Draft EIR that is pretty clear on the concern raised and that the ultrafine particulate matter from I-80 is a significant impact.

      Frankly, you don’t have any expertise to be declaring that more studies are not needed when a world renowned expert on this subject (Dr. Cahill) is saying that more studies are needed.  Your position on suppressing any more studies really makes clear that you are not looking at the Nishi project objectively. It is really disappointing to see the Vanguard trying so hard to white-wash this air quality issue. There is no excuse why the developers have not yet done these needed air quality studies and it is highly suspicious that they continue to avoid doing the needed studies to side-step this very important health, welfare, and safety issue regarding Nishi.

      Ultrafine Particulates: (Nishi Draft EIR page 4.3-30)
      The level of health risk exposure from TACs generated by nearby stationary sources and diesel PM generated by trains passing on the Union Pacific Rail Road line would not be substantial. However, the level of health risk exposure from pollutants generated on I-80 would be substantial. Based on measurements collected near the project site it is estimated that the level of cancer risk on the project site is approximately 235 in a million, which exceeds the 100-in-a-million cancer risk level specified by BAAQMD. Substantially high UFP concentrations were also measured near the project site and subsequent elemental analysis indicates that the UFPs contain transitional metals associated with severe adverse health effects. For these reasons, exposure to diesel PM and UFPs on the project site is considered to be a significant impact.

  9. Tia Will

    Ron

    It sounds like you essentially conducted your own informal study, perhaps without knowledge of appropriate data gathering methods (in the field of air quality).”

    I did no study at all. I did the following.

    1.I read the studies of air quality near freeways that had been submitted as areas of concern by Nishi opponents.

    2. I determined that the articles were statistically speaking well above my knowledge of epidemiological evaluation. So I consulted with an expert in statistics as applied to the medical field who was lets say “far from impressed” by the data presented as causative for reasons largely outlined by Howard as well as by their barely being of statistical significance even if all of those many variables had been held constant.

    3. I then decided to see if there were any local statistics that might be applicable. For that I relied not on my own limited knowledge but that of the county epidemiologist. The question that I put to her was whether there was any evidence from adjacent housing indicating an increased risk of pulmonary disease. She provided me not with the actual numbers but with the information that when compared with adjacent communities, there was no elevation in rates of acute pulmonary diseases. This was not my opinion but that of an individual whose job it is to make these kinds of evaluations and risk assessments.

    4. After I had taken these steps, independently and without telling him I had done so, I then talked to Robb Davis and we confirmed that independently, we had arrived at the same conclusion which was, the evidence was not strong enough to without other cause oppose the Nishi project. It is my opinion, knowing Robb’s background that he could be considered an expert in the field of public health risk assessment though he has certainly never claimed to be such.

    Ron, where I think you may be going astray is to think that anyone is trying to decide this matter on the Vanguard. We are not. I have been crystal clear about my limitations and how I have sought to mitigate them. What you seem to miss is that when a project of this type is undertaken, as Howard has stated, there are experts in all of these areas who are consulted. A summation of their findings will be a part of the EIR. What you have here on the Vanguard is only my opinion based on the steps I have outlined in response to concerns expressed here on the Vanguard and by individuals who speak to me in person or on line since they are aware of my area of expertise and my work on the County Public Health Board.

  10. Tia Will

    Hi Howard.

    A chimera.”

    Please, please don’t put thoughts in their heads. The next thing I will find myself debunking is the idea that living for 4-5 years between a freeway and a railroad leads to an increased risk of chimeric mutation in their future offspring …..No,no,no….!

    OK,ok… I was only joking. Please don’t anyone take offense . It was just a word play.

  11. Ron

    Tia:   I’ll post one more response regarding this (for now, at least).  I’ve pasted portions of your comments, below.  (Again, requiring a log-out/login in, for me to see and past them.   Hopefully, I’ve gathered complete enough comments to adequately and accurately respond.)

    Tia:  “I then decided to see if there were any local statistics that might be applicable. For that I relied not on my own limited knowledge but that of the county epidemiologist. The question that I put to here was whether there was any evidence from adjacent housing indicating an increased risk of pulmonary disease. She provided me not with the actual numbers but with the information that when compared with adjacent communities, there was no elevation in rates of acute pulmonary diseases.”

    What I’m seeing here is that you didn’t actually present the data regarding Nishi to the epidemiologist.  You’re discussing adjacent communities, instead.

    Tia: “After I had taken these steps, independently and without telling him I had done so, I then talked to Robb Davis and we confirmed that independently, we had arrived at the same conclusion which was, the evidence was not strong enough to without other cause oppose the Nishi project. It is my opinion, knowing Robb’s background that he could be considered an expert in the field of public health risk assessment and he has certainly never claimed to be such.”

    I’m not sure why you’re suggesting that anyone might oppose (or support) the proposal, in the absence of adequate data and analysis.

    Tia:  “Ron, where I think you may be going astray is to think that anyone is trying to decide this matter on the Vanguard. We are not. I have been crystal clear about my limitations and how I have sought to mitigate them.”

    I’d have to disagree with you, here.  There are some on the Vanguard (who are clearly not experts) who have concluded that the data collection and analysis are sufficient, and that there is no significant risk.  I’m not trying to make an argument either way.  (However, we know that Dr. Cahill called for additional analysis, before arriving at a conclusion that regarding suitability for housing.  Some apparently choose to disregard that recommendation, and have put forth their own estimates regarding length of stay, disregarding the differences between commercial and residential developments, timeframes of exposure, etc.). Since these folks are apparently the only ones with a “conclusion”, perhaps it’s they who have gone “astray”.

    1. Howard P

      Some of us, somewhat familiar with the documents believe they are adequate on this matter.

      Some of us have lived in relatively close proximity to trains, and/or freeways for 60 + years.

      No cancer, no gasping for breath.

  12. Michael M Adams

    If you are going to weigh policy decisions then you have to look at the plausible alternatives, not just the ideal case. If you have a significant portion of students living outside of Davis, what risks are they likely to encounter? It seems plausible that the risk from 4 years of commuting on increasingly crowded roads would result in a number of likely injuries and possibly deaths. I don’t have this information, but it seems that an informed decision would require considering the negative impacts of more distant housing.

    1. David Greenwald

      Driving in general I believe is a greater risk factor. There is also the air quality of the alternative location and it’s not clear to me that Nishi is that much worse than other locations.

      1. Don Shor

        Driving in general I believe is a greater risk factor.

        Commuting in to Davis from Dixon or Woodland is a risk factor that is so much higher than the risk of particulate matter that it makes this discussion actually laughable.
        https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-mortality-risk

        A person who was in a motor vehicle for 30 miles every day for a year faced a fatality risk of about 1 in 12,500.

        It is far safer to live at Nishi than to commute in to UCD.

        1. David Greenwald

          Eileen: Don nailed it – risk is relative.  You take greater risks every day than you would if you lived in Nishi for twenty years.  That’s the point he’s making.  That’s the point neither you nor Ron are acknowledging.

        2. Ron

          Seems like you and Don are the only ones who have arrived at a conclusion regarding alternatives. Perhaps this demonstrates your priorities, regarding getting this issue settled as soon as possible (even in the absence of a sound conclusion). Perhaps similar to the city’s approach, in getting this to voters ASAP (perhaps regardless of normal processes).

          Also noted some earlier, well-stated comments regarding this issue from Todd, who does not appear to be on the “slower-growth” end of the spectrum.  (I believe those comments were not challenged.)

        3. Ron

          (Suddenly and simultaneously both “announced” and “scheduled” for a vote in 2018.) Apparently being worked out, behind the scenes (“coinciding” with the LRDP process, as well).

    2. Tia Will

      Michael

      Thank you for this comment re the relative risks of alternatives. I had brought this point up during the initial Nishi debate  but do not recall ever receiving a comment and frankly had forgotten about it.

  13. Eileen Samitz

    David,

    Dr. Cahill already explained multiple times why Nishi was worse than other sites along I-80. Nishi is sandwiched between the railroad tracks and I-80 plus the topography gives it a decline or “basin” effect. So Nishi is different than the other sites along I-80. In fact, he referred to it as “the perfect storm” of factors contributing to the Nishi site not being good for housing due to the air quality issues.

    1. David Greenwald

      But you are still talking about a risk factor that is a few tens out of a million difference.  This is the part of the discussion that you and Ron are not acknowledging.  And yes, I have a background in statistical analysis that qualifies me to speak to that.

      1. Don Shor

        Discussion from 2016 with Robb Davis’es comments.

        Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, however, pushed back on the issue, stating, “I’m really frustrated about this one.” He argued that “we need a basic course in risk analysis.”

        For instance, he noted that 1 in 3500 farmworkers in this country will die on the job this year. “That’s an acceptable risk to us,” he stated. “We live with that. We consume the food that they produce.”

        The mayor pro tem explained, “What we’re hearing about this property is 1 in 4500 people will over the course of an entire lifetime contract a certain form of cancer. That’s not annually, that’s 1 in 4500 over the course of lifetime. We’re talking about magnitudes of difference.”

        He said, “These are miniscule risks compared to the risks that we face every day in our lives.” He noted that people who drive their car their entire lives will have three accidents on average. “That’s the risk we live with,” he said.

        Mayor Pro Tem Davis said he is not claiming there is no risk, but he believes that going out of the way to mitigate a small risk is not going to make a real difference for most people.

        One in 10 people, he said, will contract some form of a respiratory cancer in their lifetime. And now “we’re talking about an incremental risk that will be 1 in 4500. I think we need some perspective on this. I don’t think it’s a major issue.”

        http://www.davisvanguard.org/2016/01/how-big-a-concern-is-air-quality-at-nishi/

        1. Don Shor

          Risk is a relative condition, not an absolute one. We all make risk assessments all the time as we shop, choose housing, make career choices, etc.
          With respect to toxins, there’s an old axiom we all learn when we work with them (pesticides, for example): the dose makes the poison.
          Second principle: the solution to pollution is dilution.

          The dose makes the poison:
          That apartments are at the far end of the property.
          Extensive mitigation measures will be implemented to reduce exposure. Siting, landscaping, and interior air cleaning technology are presumably part of the plan, just as they were before.
          It is limited in duration because most people who live here will be short-term. This isn’t family housing (like, say, New Harmony across the freeway).
          With all of that in place, it seems likely that living at Nishi will be no more or less “toxic” than living elsewhere along the freeway.

          The solution to pollution is dilution.
          Wind dilutes and disperses the exhaust and particulate matter. The wind direction is, in fact, more dispersed and diverse than has been presented. What that means is that exposure to the exhaust and particulate matter is less than has been suggested, and probably not much different than living in homes on the other side of the freeway (like, say, New Harmony). Wind speed here is high compared to many other metropolitan areas. Bottom line: most of the time, the stuff will blow away.

          And in any event, the risk increase of specific diseases appears to be very low. Of course, it isn’t zero. It will never be zero. Risk is relative. So for those who look at those low numbers but don’t feel safe living there, the answer would be to choose to live elsewhere.

          So it is possible to look at the risk, even look at the opinion presented by Dr. Cahill, and come to different conclusions about whether it is reasonable to build housing there and live there. It isn’t a matter of morality or ethics or political calculation. It’s a reasonable risk assessment, and everyone differs as to what their individual tolerances for various risks are.

      2. Eileen Samitz

        David,

        But you have no background in particulate matter impacts on health. “Playing the odds” is not the same “game” when you are talking about peoples health and life and death.

        But you do keep trying to excuse the need for the developers to do  air quality studies over and over again, which is pretty shocking. That issue is not even debatable. If anything, it gets more and more obvious that the developers do not want to know what the data will reveal. That is pretty clear based upon the preliminary data in the Nishi Draft EIR which was clear on the ultra fine particulate matter from I-80 being a significant impact. Here is that info again in case you missed it:

        Ultrafine Particulates: (Nishi Draft EIR page 4.3-30)
        The level of health risk exposure from TACs generated by nearby stationary sources and diesel PM generated by trains passing on the Union Pacific Rail Road line would not be substantial. However, the level of health risk exposure from pollutants generated on I-80 would be substantial.

        Based on measurements collected near the project site it is estimated that the level of cancer risk on the project site is approximately 235 in a million, which exceeds the 100-in-a-million cancer risk level specified by BAAQMD. Substantially high UFP concentrations were also measured near the project site and subsequent elemental analysis indicates that the UFPs contain transitional metals associated with severe adverse health effects. For these reasons, exposure to diesel PM and UFPs on the project site is considered to be a significant impact.

         

        1. Howard P

          Ok… you “cherry-picked”… for those who want to drill down, see:

          http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CDD/ED/projects/Innovation-Centers/Nishi/Draft-EIR/4.03-Air-Quality.pdf

          Note how many times the word “could” (as in ‘maybe’ or ‘might’) is used compared to the words “would” or “will” are.

          Proposed mitigations for the “could” things are here:

          http://cityofdavis.org/home/showdocument?id=4942 [see page 199 for recommended mitigations].

          Don’t accept cherry-pickers quotes to form opinions.  Including mine.  I picked from a larger tree.  I believe the fruit is better…

        2. Eileen Samitz

          Howard P.,

          There is nothing “cherry-picking” about asking for air quality data that should have been done by now by the Nishi developers, and still needs to be done before considering any residential at Nishi.

          Why haven’t the developers done these studies recommended by Dr. Cahill? It is becoming more and more clear that the Nishi developers are afraid of the information that would likely result from the studies needed.

          This Draft EIR statement is very clear that the air quality issues are a significant impact based upon the preliminary data. What we are seeing in the Draft EIR statement seems to be just the tip of the iceberg of the the health impact concerns at Nishi.

          1. Don Shor

            What would be the purpose of the testing? If Dr. Cahill is citing the precautionary principle, then there is no measurement > 0 that would be considered safe. There is no regulatory standard for the materials in question. I can’t imagine why the developers would pay for testing that serves no purpose.
            If the project meets current ARB or AQCB standards, if they have implemented mitigation measures based on Dr. Cahill’s suggestions, then there is simply no basis for blocking this project based on the air quality issues he is raising. If no standards exist for something, and the risk is considered that dire even though it hasn’t been quantified, then all freeway-adjacent projects statewide would be halted. A decision that draconian would properly be vetted by regulatory agencies, with regulatory scientists assessing the weight of the evidence and following established procedures for implementing the regulations. Dr. Cahill would be a respected voice at such hearings. You and others seem to be saying that Davis should establish a separate standard than what is applied elsewhere.

        3. Howard P

          Specifically,While Mitigation Measures 4.3-5a, 4.3-5b, and 4.3-5c are expected to result in substantial reductions to exposure levels of UFPs and diesel PM, the level of effectiveness cannot be quantified. For this reason, and because “safe” levels of UFP exposure and diesel PM exposure have not been identified by any applicable agency, or by a consensus of scientific literature, this analysis assumes that resultant levels UFP exposure and diesel PM on the project site could potentially be associated with a substantial increase in health risks. Therefore, this impact would be significant and unavoidable. West Olive Drive Redevelopment of West Olive Drive is not anticipated to involve new

          Uber-conservative approach…

           

        4. Howard P

          Eileen… see my 8:06 post where I cite a section you apparently ignored… hence, the “cherry-picking”  (pg 4.3-32).  Particularly the bolded part.

          this analysis ASSUMES that resultant levels UFP exposure and diesel PM on the project site COULD POTENTIALLY be associated with a substantial increase in health risks. Therefore, this impact would be significant and unavoidable.

        5. Eileen Samitz

          Don and Howard P.,

          There is absolutely no excuse for the Nishi developers to not do the air quality studies needed. I am sorry to see anyone advocate for avoiding doing these studies which are health, welfare, and safety issues. If there is no problem with residential at Nishi, why is there any objection to getting the data needed to assure this?

          Here is the Nishi Draft EIR conclusion regarding ultra fine particulate impacts which does refer to BAAQMD standards:

          “For these reasons, exposure to diesel PM and UFPs on the project site is considered to be a significant impact.”

           

           

        6. Howard P

          And, Eileen, there is no justifiable reason not to make every developer answer any possible question from anyone, no matter how inane, with studies, vetted by third parties, to answer every question to the asker’s satisfaction… am I understanding your drift here?

          Did you object to West Village due to lack of “adequate” AQ studies of SR 113?  If Nishi does not move forward, will you demand the same level of study for any project for housing on campus?  If not, why not?

        7. Eileen Samitz

          Don and Howard P.,

          I have repeated (as others) the reason for the air quality studies to be done. It is to obtain the data to determine the air quality conditions at the Nishi site and to determine if the Nishi site should be considered for residential. The preliminary data in the Nishi Draft EIR  revealed that the “exposure to diesel PM and UFPs on the project site is considered to be a significant impact.”

          There is no excuse why the developers have not, and have continued to avoid doing these important studies for the health, welfare, and safety issues at Nishi.

           

          1. Don Shor

            It is to obtain the data to determine the air quality conditions at the Nishi site and to determine if the Nishi site should be considered for residential.

            As noted in the EIR:

            “safe” levels of UFP exposure and diesel PM exposure have not been identified by any applicable agency, or by a consensus of scientific literature…”

            Since there are no quantitative standards for these substances, testing will not “determine if the Nishi site should be considered for residential.” There would be no purpose to the testing if that is your goal.

    2. Ron

      Perhaps ironically, Tia noted the following:

      “There was no elevation of cases in the Olive Drive population as opposed to significant elevation in the West Sacramento area near the freeway.”

      Now, I’m sure that some will argue that the characteristics of the Nishi site are more similar to those along Olive (than they are to West Sacramento, where there’s apparently an acknowledged problem).  However, it’s not likely that the usual commenters on here have the expertise to make that claim (though I’m pretty sure they’ll try).  We do know that there’s some unique characteristics of the Nishi site which aren’t shared with locations along Olive. (Not sure how the characteristics of the Nishi site compare with the West Sacramento locations.)

      Some of the other comments (e.g., “I’ve lived next to a freeway for years”) remind me that I’ve known people who have smoked for a long time, but survived. (Doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, though.)

      1. Tia Will

        Ron

        The only point in referencing the West Sacramento findings is to demonstrate that using the statistical methods of the county epidemiologist, differences between areas can be detected. This has nothing at all to do with the Nishi site and the information was only included to demonstrate that such differences are detectable.

        Again, I think that it is important to remember that the endpoint that is of importance is not just the amount of particulates, but whether or not they have an actual, demonstrable evidence of physical harm. During risk assessment, it is easy to become distracted by one parameter, particularly if it is relatively easily measurable and forget that that variable may or may not have a significant biologic effect.

    3. Tia Will

      Eileen,

      Your comment about Dr. Cahill’s statement is accurate as stated. However, what he did not do was to measure the contaminants at the actual Nishi site. One could of course argue that this means that more study is needed. Or one could conclude that he has based his concern on findings that are not relevant to the actual site.

      Since we do not know, due to the removed nature of his sampling site, I feel it is merely a matter of opinion whether or not the assessment to date has been “adequate”.

      1. Howard P

        I’ve already reached my opinion, and having studied air pollution and biology, and having reviewed ~ 2 dozen EIR’s as a professional… I opine it (based on studies to date) is adequate.  Just my informed opinion.

        Follow your instincts and training Tia… would you find unconfirmed concerns of a 1.0% chance (risk) of a bad outcome for any procedure you’ve ever done to be a reason to hold off, and wait for more detailed analyses?  The document’s estimate of risk, on the air quality piece, is far below a 1.0% threshold…

      2. Eileen Samitz

        Tia,

        Preliminary data was obtained making clear that the full air quality study needed to be done. That is exactly what Dr. Cahill asked the Nishi developers to do, but the developers have continued to refuse to do the needed air quality studies at Nishi.

  14. Alan Miller

    On the other end of the spectrum there were those still concerned about the impact of air quality on the students who would live on the property.

    No they aren’t.

    1. Ron

      Alan:  Some are.  Personally, I’d just like to see some honesty regarding the issue.  I don’t have an opinion or conclusion regarding the issue, itself.  (However, I have arrived at a conclusion regarding some who downplay the issue.  Hence, the extensive “back-and-forth” arguments.)

      Above, I noted that at least one Vanguard commenter (who doesn’t appear to be slow-growth) raised concerns.  There’s also no reason to believe that Dr. Cahill has a hidden “agenda”.

      It appears that the city is fast-tracking this proposal, during the period in which the LRDP is not finalized. Apparently, some work behind the scenes on this. (Suddenly and simultaneously ” describing and announcing” that proposal would be on the ballot, in 2018.)

      Well, at least UCD won’t be under pressure, anymore. (And, no viable threat of a lawsuit from the city, etc.)

       

      1. Ron

        Ron (quoting Ron):  “Well, at least UCD won’t be under pressure, anymore. (And, no viable threat of a lawsuit from the city, etc.)”

        (I hope that my sarcasm is clear, here.)  🙂

  15. Ron

    Tia (to Eileen):  “Your comment about Dr. Cahill’s statement is accurate as stated. However, what he did not do was to measure the contaminants at the actual Nishi site. Since we do not know, due to the removed nature of his sampling site, I feel it is merely a matter of opinion whether or not the assessment to date has been “adequate”.

    I’m confused by this statement.  How can one have an opinion regarding the adequacy of an assessment, when there was (apparently) no measurement of the contaminants at the site?  (Unless one assumes that all sites are the same, which you’ve already noted is not the case – e.g., West Sacramento vs. Olive Drive).

     

  16. Ron

    Tia (to Michael):

    “Thank you for this comment re the relative risks of alternatives. I had brought this point up during the initial Nishi debate  but do not recall ever receiving a comment and frankly had forgotten about it.”

    It is important to remember that there is no actual basis to conclude what the “alternative” sites might be.  Despite what some have argued, it could, for example be located within the adjacent 5,300-acre campus. 

    The EIR for the LRDP already includes a higher-density alternative, on campus.

    It is also important to remember that the announcement regarding Nishi does not change this. In addition, Nishi is in no way a “done deal”.

     

    1. Howard P

      Ron… many of believe that one, or even two sites may still be inadequate.  Be they on campus or not.

      To tie evaluation of the Nishi site to “let’s see what happens on campus” would be very ‘telling’…

      1. Ron

        Howard:  Just pointing out that one cannot assume that the “alternative” location for Nishi 2.0 is somewhere off-campus and/or out of town, as some have argued. In addition, Nishi 2.0 still has to survive a vote.

        1. Howard P

          UCD (except for one parcel… anomaly) is not “in town”… but with that nuance I think I get your point, which is valid, but the City cannot do anything on UCD property…

          Also, to be clear, Nishi is not “in town” either.  One of the entitlements sought is annexation to the City.  As of today they could work a deal with UCD independent of the City.  There are issues with that, as to utilities, access to City streets, finances, etc.

          Nishi is currently not inside the City.

        2. Ron

            Howard:  “As of today they could work a deal with UCD independent of the City.”

          I sincerely wish that they would.  In my opinion, the city, UCD, and students would ultimately be better-off. Especially if UCD obtained ownership of the land (e.g., with some type of cheap, long-term lease-back option for the developer). (Something like that, anyway.)

        3. Howard P

          Also, just to point out, it is not either/or… it can be both/and… both from a policy issue, and from a CEQA perspective… CEQA requires analysis of ‘project plus reasonably expected future’ development… problem is “what is reasonably expected” as to UCD.   Only metric is what is in their draft LRDP, and that is legally appropriate, and defensible in the City analysis.  To hold the Nishi proposal to a different standard is just ‘wrong’… ethically and legally.

          Ron your 9:58 post… I opine, you know not of which you speak, on a practical level…. the vagaries in that approach would mean that nothing would be built for 10 years… OH! now I see why you recommend that!

        4. Ron

          No, Howard.  You don’t “see” why I picked up on (and perhaps expanded) your suggestion.  Just another one of your mistaken “ASSumptions”.  🙂

          Complications? I’m sure. But, perhaps more freedom for developers and UCD to take greater advantage of the property, while bypassing risks associated with a city vote (and city requirements).

          Regardless, I suspect that it would be a long time before anything is built at Nishi, even if voters approve Round 2.  (Access agreements to be worked out, etc.)

        5. Ron

          And again, it’s entirely possible that voters won’t approve the “suddenly-announced, fast-tracked, innovation-centerless, poor-air-quality” Round 2.

          Despite the fast timeline, the proposal hasn’t been flushed out, and concerns are likely to arise (and argued over). We shall see.

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