(Special to the Vanguard) – Recreation and Park Commissioners on Wednesday reviewed the parks and green spaces of the proposed West Davis Active Adult Community and ‒ from that purview ‒ issued their support of the project.
The agenda item was the commission’s second review of the project, a 75-acre site in West Davis near Sutter Davis Hospital and University Retirement Community. On Oct. 25, it goes before the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Stephanie Koop, a nurse, said, “I feel really strongly that this is a much-needed development, and I like a lot about it. I feel like the positives far outweigh the negatives.”
Designed for Davis’ older residents, the development calls for 325 small to medium single-story homes, along with 150 affordable senior apartments. Eighty percent of the homes and all the apartments would be restricted to residents 55 and older. Since the periphery project calls for the conversion of land from ag to urban ‒ at Shasta Drive and West Covell Boulevard ‒ it would go before Davis voters under Measure R, likely in November 2018, if approved by the Davis City Council.
Since the commission’s first review March 16, developer Dave Taormino and project partners added a dog exercise area and children’s playground. Although plans don’t call for a dedicated park, the neighborhood is surrounded by a walking loop. Panel members accepted city staff recommendations that passive recreation areas were adequate. Although the development’s proposed pathways don’t qualify as greenbelts, commissioners agreed that “they provide internal circulation for seniors and other residents.”
The most-discussed issue was the staff conclusion that “the project does not foster regional connection.” Katherine Hess, community development administrator, said, “Connectivity is the biggest issue. Although it’s approachable by bike lanes on Covell, it still leads to what we consider to be disconnected.”
Taormino told the commission, “We believe we are meeting the General Plan intent but not the exact wording. The General Plan was not designed for an active adult community.” Because there will be
so many seniors, their plan emphasizes walking more than bicycle transportation.
“The entire subdivision is about connectivity. Everything we’re doing … is about bringing people together,” he said, noting elements like open front yards, picnic tables at the dog park, walking paths, an activities and wellness center and a restaurant.
The staff report raised concerns regarding “access at the south end of the subdivision, and the connections across and along Covell Boulevard” for future residents who want “to walk or cycle to Arroyo Park, Patwin and Emerson schools, and the Marketplace shopping center.”
Taormino disputed this assertion, saying plans “are no different than Wildhorse. Kids have to cross Covell to get to Birch Lane (Elementary). At The Cannery, they cross at J Street. It’s a similar situation to other schools.”
Tyson Hubbard countered, “It doesn’t mean it’s OK because it’s less than ideal along other developments along Covell.”
Commission Chair Emily Griswold said, “I also share the concern with lack of regional connection but it seems like trying to solve that with this project alone would be unrealistic.”
After the discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to accept the staff report, adding some comments to pass along to the Planning Commission.
Discussion continued on other points. Commissioner Ira Bray said, “I strongly support this development because we are desperate for affordable housing in Davis.” But, he noted there’s no city land in the development, and all the public spaces would be managed by the homeowners’ association. The city can’t afford the extra maintenance of a park but by doing it this way, it places the burden on the new residents.
“It’s a larger policy issue. I’m not saying it’s the fault of the developer,” Bray said. “We need to think about that because down the road we (might regret) that they are the sole driver of these public spaces,” Bray said. “All the eggs are in one basket ‒ but it’s a privately owned basket.”
Bray made a motion “that we recommend to the Planning Commission to consider carefully the ramifications of private ownership and maintenance of public areas in this development, and implications of future developments in this arrangement.” It passed 4-1, with Travie Westlund dissenting.
Koop followed up with a motion noting the commission’s “general agreement from our perspective as parks and rec commissioners,” in support of the project. It passed, 4-1, with Hubbard dissenting.
On Thursday, Taormino and his team gave an informal presentation to the Tree Commission, outlining plans for The Davis Acorn to Oaks Foundation. The collaboration with Tree Davis calls for a dense oak forest in and around the West Davis Active Adult Community, modeled after Bidwell Park in Chico. Some of the trees would be provided by the development. Others would be available for adoption, as a legacy.