Monday Morning Thoughts: Should Council Move Forward with Nishi as It Stands?

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When the Nishi project goes to the Planning Commission this week, it is doing so without a final and concrete project going with it.  In October 2017, the property owners submitted a preliminary conceptual site plan and narrative for development on the Nishi property.

The application then made its way through advisory commission review in November and December, “with the goal of garnering preliminary comments to inform final development of the site plan and Baseline Project Features.”

Indeed, even in the fiscal analysis by the Finance and Budget Commission taken two weeks ago, they qualified their motion by stating: “Any conclusions should be considered preliminary and subject to change.”

Matt Williams notes that in the staff reports for seven city commissions the number of beds jumps from as low as 1900 to as high as 2800 over a 60-day period.

He says, “That begs the question, ‘What’s the size of the project going to be tomorrow?’  The simple truth is that nobody knows, not even the developer.”

The last two commissions have listed the size at 2200 resident beds as “perhaps” in the case of Finance and Budget Commission, or in the Planning Commission, “approximately” 700 apartment units.

In a city predisposed to argue that a project is not ready for prime time, that’s strong language.

The reality that the developer faces is that they have zero margin for error.  They must get the project through the Planning Commission this week and hope that they have no bumps at the council level, because February 6 is the deadline to get the matter on the ballot for June.

The project must become concrete fairly quickly.  Measure R requires that the ballot measure include Baseline Project Features as required under Chapter 41 of the Davis Municipal Code.  “If the project is approved, these Baseline Project Features cannot be removed or significantly modified without subsequent voter approval,” the city writes.  But these Baseline Project Features currently “are being drafted for City Council review.”

The Planning Commission won’t get to see them, but can make recommendations about which project components should be included in the Baseline.

The question really is going to be – is that going to be good enough for the voters?  The voters who, mind you, have yet to approve a Measure R project.

On the plus side, while the project has changed somewhat from 2016, the basics of the project are fairly similar.  There are several big changes.  First, gone are the for-sale units.  Second, gone is the R&D and commercial space.  The original project not only had 300,000 square feet of R&D but also 40,000 square feet of retail.  The R&D is now completely gone and the retail is down to 10,000 square feet, enough for a coffee shop or café.

Third, there is no regular Richards Boulevard access to the project, so the traffic will flow through campus, not the impacted Richards Blvd.  Fourth, there is an affordable housing component, made to serve low income students.

While three of the four of these should make the project easier to pass, the speed with which this project is reaching the voters threatens to undo some of that advantage.

First, the elimination of for-sale units will help address concerns about air quality because, without permanent residents, any air quality impacts will occur over a brief time period of exposure.  Most of the studies available posit impacts over a 70-year lifetime of exposure, not a brief one to three years of exposure.

The change in traffic flow will mitigate probably the biggest reason why Nishi lost narrowly in 2016, as traffic impacts were seen as troublesome on the already-congested Richards Blvd.  Having campus-only access was actually a recommendation of many opponents last time, and it was also the configuration of the higher rated Housing Element Steering Committee (HESC) 2008 project.

Finally, the affordable housing situation where the project was exempted and then the developer contributed $1 million to the affordable housing fund was seen as a sweetheart deal for the developers.  Now they have a full affordable housing component.

Add to that the fact that this provides 2200 beds for UC Davis students during a time of a housing crunch and this is a project that clearly meets a critical need.

Given all of that, one would believe that this project should cruise to victory, but the current situation complicates things.

Right now here are the biggest arguments against the project.  First, Dr. Thomas Cahill continues to believe, even with mitigation measures that would greatly reduce indoor particulate matter levels and the lack of long-term residents, the air quality issues are understated in the available reports.  How far this argument will actually go to convince voters, who will not be living there to vote against it, remains to be seen.

Second, there are those who believe that the current project should be mixed-use and continue to have a commercial component.  The Vanguard would probably join in that criticism, but argue that is not really a good reason to oppose the project if the project fills critical community needs.

There are also those who believe that Nishi would be helping to bail out the university from their obligation to provide student housing.  Although UCD’s commitment to build 8500 beds, 85 percent of what the city and others have demanded, probably mitigates that argument somewhat.

As the Vanguard has argued, with the 8500 units on campus and the 5000 to 6000 units proposed in the city, we can finally solve at least in the next ten years our student housing crisis.

But the process issue looms large here.  Critics have always complained that a project is being put to a vote before it is fully ready.  There is usually some truth to that.  At some point, you just need to set a hard deadline and go for it.  Every project could be further refined – at some point you just say, good enough and let the chips fall where they might.

In retrospect, Nishi in 2016 was probably as ready as it ever was.  The reasons for the downfall – affordable housing and traffic impacts – probably would not have changed in six months.  It is true that the council in the month leading up to the vote got a number of concessions which will not be available to them this time around.

This time, the not ready for prime time argument is really going to resonate.  The fact is, council won’t be able to make last minute major tweaks other than on the fly at the February meeting.  That will be a hardship.  Commissions will not be able to review project baseline features.  There will be real criticism that the EIR which was done for the previous project is not sufficient for the current project.

In the end however, the not ready for prime time argument is probably not the winning or losing argument.  Instead, the bigger problem will be the features that are seen as insufficient, in part due to the lack of vetting of a more concrete project.

So, issues that might have been caught during the normal process may come up during the election, when it is too late to deal with them.

So where does that leave us?  The city of Davis needs student housing.  That will be the strongest argument for the project.  Proponents can argue that this is already a well-known project and a well-known site.

They can argue that this is a great place for student housing as it is close to campus, it avoids traffic impacts onto Richards, and students can simply walk or bike to class.  Whatever air quality issues that exist will be mitigated by the short duration and the other mitigation measures – including sequestering the housing toward the northeast portion of the project, away from the freeway, building trees and other barriers, and the filtration system.

Is that enough?  I suspect for most people who are not looking for a reason to oppose the project – yes.

There are two big advantages to waiting: first, it would be a general election rather than a primary election.  Having a bigger electorate, everyone believes, will be an advantage.  The students are more around in the fall and more likely to vote in a general election and that is a key core constituency.

Second, you avoid the big issue of not being ready for prime time, although again, I discount that somewhat.

The biggest disadvantage is the question of what happens with the West Davis Active Adult Center.  The city pushed them off to November to clear the way for Nishi.  Two projects going head to head is a recipe for disaster for both.  But I doubt West Davis wants to delay any further.

In the end, council will have to decide whether they have enough to put this on the ballot and the voters will have to decide whether they have enough to support the project.  Given the narrow margin for success, I’m not sure if I were the developer I would want to risk that additional bullet against the project – but then again, it is not my dime.

—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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65 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Should Council Move Forward with Nishi as It Stands?”

  1. Howard P

    Short answer, “yes”.

    The project should finalize its Baseline Project Features, put on the ballot, for an ‘up-or down’ vote.  It’ll be ~ 20 years before all of some folk’s questions can be answered, and then, they’d likely still vote against it.

    Time to “call the question”.

    Deferring a decision indefinitely, IS a decision..

    1. Matt Williams

      Howard, deferring a decision indefinitely is not an option IMO.  However, deferring the Measure R/J vote by 5 months from June 2018 to November 2018 is a very wise decision IMO for the following reasons.

      1) It gives the developer and Staff and the Council the needed time to avoid presenting a Keystone Cops scenario to the voters.

      2) It gives the City time to negotiate the City-County Tax sharing agreement.

      3) It gives the developer and the City the time to agree on a mutually-agreed-to size (# of acres of the site devoted to residential) and density (# of units/beds per acre) for the site.

      4) It gives the City time to complete a legally-unassailable update to the EIR

      5) It gives the developer and Council time to negotiate/complete the Development Agreement

      6) It gives the Council time to complete a well-considered Baseline Features description for the ballot.

      It also gives UCD the needed time to truly come to the table with concrete written commitments rather than vague verbal commitments.  This proposal only works with UCD as a full partner.

      On January 11th Don Shor made the following comment, “The council needs to press the university for a MOU to phase out the master leasing, since master leasing effectively takes private apartments off the market and exacerbates the current problem. Nishi could remain for master leasing. For those who are concerned about air pollution exposure, master leasing by UC could effectively limit the duration of exposure.” (see )https://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/01/commentary-uc-davis-city-plans-get-us-near-five-percent-vacancy-level/#comment-375402)

      Don’s bolded words really ring true for me.  But having a Master Lease for Nishi with UCD only works if the Nishi 2.0 Development Agreement contains a “Make Whole Provision” like the one the FBC insisted on in the Nishi 1.0 process … which the developer and Council then mutually agreed to.   It is my understanding (I wasn’t at the January 8th FBC meeting due to a prior overseas travel commitment) that the Make Whole Provision was not on the table as part of the latest FBC discussion of Nishi.  It was one of the “subject to change” factors that caused the FBC motion to read “At the time of this analysis, the commission did not have available to it a complete and detailed description of the project, a supplemental environmental analysis, or a development agreement with the city.  Therefore, any conclusions we have reached should be considered preliminary and subject to change.”

      Further, if Nishi is 100% UCD student occupied, then every one of the Nishi residents already has an available parking space for a car on the campus.  All they have to do is go to the TAPS office and purchase a monthly parking permit.  With that supply of on-campus parking already available, I would think that the Bicycling, Transportation & Street Safety Commission (for traffic impacts) and the Natural Resources Commission (for greenhouse gas impacts) would be strongly arguing that the EIR should include an evaluation of a Parking Maximum for the Nishi site of no more than the number of spaces mandated by the ADA for access for disabled residents and disabled visitors.

      The table in the site graphic from the City website (see below) shows that 5.5 acres is devoted to “Satellite Parking.”  If that can be reduced to 0.5 acres for the required ADA compliant parking, then the remaining 5.0 acres can be devoted to hundreds of additional units of student housing.  Given Davis’ substantial housing shortage, that would be a good outcome for the community, and given the housing supply/demand realities of the current 0.2% vacancy rate, the developer would realize substantial additional revenue from the 99.8% occupied additional units.

      So, for all the above reasons, a November 2018 Measure R/J vote on a Nishi Student Apartments development is my strong recommendation.

      As I said yesterday, this proposal is not ready for primetime.  If we proceed with a June 2018 Measure R/J vote, following the “Trust Me” approach, without the protection of proper due diligence, there is a good chance that Davis voters will be deciding how to deal with unplanned-for consequences.  The parallels between using the “Trust Me” method of city planning and using the Rhythm Method for family planning are both clear and frightening.

      https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Nishi-Site-Plan-with-Acreage-detail.jpg

        1. Matt Williams

          Don’ statement may be correct.  The graphic comes directly from the City website (see http://cityofdavis.org/home/showdocument?id=8422), specifically the “Site Plan with Acreage” link on the Nishi Student Apartments page (see http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/development-projects/nishi-and-downtown-university-gateway-district/nishi-student-apartments)

          Don, please post your “more current” graphic showing the reconfigured urban forest, ideally with a link to the document’s source.

          If Don is correct, and there is a more current site acreage map than the one on the City website, then we have even more evidence of just how fluid/unstable this proposal is.

          If Don is correct, the site plan is just as unstable as the number of beds in the project.  As I reported yesterday,  in the last 60 days City Staff has prepared Staff Reports for seven City Commissions. The one consistent thing in those seven Staff Reports is their inconsistency.  The number of beds jumps from 2,200 to 2,200 to 2,800 to 1,900 to 2,800, to 2,800 to 2,600 in that 60-day period.

          That just adds more resonance to the question, “What’s the size of the project going to be tomorrow?”  

          There is a simple solution to that problem … target the November 2018 Election as the appropriate time to present a well-conceived, fiscally-responsible, well-documented project for voter approval.

        2. David Greenwald

          Matt: There is a point that you’re missing – it doesn’t matter what the project is going to be tomorrow.  Once February 6 hits, the project gets locked into place and can’t shift anymore.

        3. Matt Williams

          David Greenwald said . . . “There is a point that you’re missing – it doesn’t matter what the project is going to be tomorrow.  Once February 6 hits, the project gets locked into place and can’t shift anymore.”

          I’m not missing that point at all David.  However, if that point you are making is valid, then why bother having a Planning Commission meeting at all on the “perhaps,” ever-changing,”“approximate”, and “preliminary and subject to change” Nishi proposal?

          Perhaps the best response is the one the FBC passed unanimously in December, “Salomon moved, with a second by Goss, to inform Council there is not enough data for the Commission to move forward with a recommendation …”

          The following definition is attributed to Albert Einstein:

          Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

          At this time in the Nishi Student Apartments process that definition has a particular resonance.

           

        4. Matt Williams

          Don Shor said . . . “Page 2 of the agenda packet for the planning commission meeting on Wed. http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/Planning-Commission/Agendas/20180124/05B-Nishi-Project-Revisions.pdf

          Thanks for that Don.  The table in the graphic is too fuzzy to read.  How many acres of the site does the graphic indicate are devoted to parking ?  If it install 5.5 acres, then my point about the fiscal, transportation, and greenhouse gas impact of using student parking on-campus is unchanged.  As is my point that the EIR Addendum should examine the impact of taking that mitigation step.

        5. Eileen Samitz

          Matt: I’m not missing that point at all David.  However, if that point you are making is valid, then why bother having a Planning Commission meeting at all on the “perhaps,” ever-changing,”“approximate”, and “preliminary and subject to change” Nishi proposal?

          Perhaps the best response is the one the FBC passed unanimously in December, “Salomon moved, with a second by Goss, to inform Council there is not enough data for the Commission to move forward with a recommendation …

          Matt,

          Thanks for sharing this info of the minutes from the December Finance and Budget meeting. There is no way that Nishi should be put on the ballot now when there is very good evidence that it would be a financial loser for the City to the tune of $12 million dollars in the red.

          1. Don Shor

            the FBC passed unanimously in December, “Salomon moved, with a second by Goss, to inform Council there is not enough data for the Commission to move forward with a recommendation …

            Matt,

            Thanks for sharing this info of the minutes from the December Finance and Budget meeting. There is no way that Nishi should be put on the ballot now when there is very good evidence that it would be a financial loser for the City to the tune of $12 million dollars in the red.

            That was in December. On January 8:

            The commission voted 5-2 to support the staff finding that the project is net fiscally positive. The commission in their motion declared, “We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.”

            Discussion here: https://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/01/sunday-commentary-fiscal-viability-housing-developments/

        6. Matt Williams

          Don, here is the actual language of the January FBC motion passed by the 5-2 vote. I have added bolding for emphasis of language pertinent to the point you have made.

          The Finance and Budget Commission finds the following:
          1.  At the time of this analysis, the commission did not have available to it a complete and detailed description of the project, a supplemental environmental analysis, or a development agreement with the city.  Therefore, any conclusions we have reached should be considered preliminary and subject to change and our commission will continue to review these numbers.
          2. The initial estimate developed by staff of one-time fiscal benefits from the project of $13 million in construction tax revenues and development impact fees is generally reasonable given the data currently available.  These resources are to be used to offset unspecified future costs of the city’s growth.  However, we note that the city has significant flexibility under city ordinances to use these resources to address infrastructure needs, like improving roads and parks.
           3.  We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.
           We note, however, that the estimate does not reflect additional revenues that could result if Davis voters approve an increase in parcel taxes.  Also, the estimate does not include revenues from Proposition C cannabis taxes or possible community enhancement funds that could result from the negotiation of a development agreement.  Also, the EIR adopted for the original, larger, version of the Nishi project suggests that police and fire costs for serving the new residents could be nominal.  (A new environmental review is now being conducted for the revised project.) Thus, in some respects, the net fiscal benefit of the project could be greater than estimated.
           On the other hand, revenues generated from the project could be less than estimated if Davis voters reject renewal of the parcel tax.  Moreover, the estimate assumes voter renewal in 2020 of the full rate currently imposed in Measure O sales taxes.  Council or voter actions to reject or reduce Measure O revenues would also reduce the revenues generated by this project and its net fiscal impact.
           4. A development agreement for the project could include important fiscal provisions, such as a Community Services District assessment, community enhancement funds, and the potential refund of the city’s pre-development costs should the new project be approved by voters.  We recommend that these negotiations be informed by an updated residual land value analysis of the revised project.
           5.  We recommend that the commission, or if necessary an FBC subcommittee, be provided a timely opportunity to review and comment on the fiscal provisions of the proposed development agreement before its presentation to City Council for approval. We will also continue to review the fiscal model.
           6.  We recommend the inclusion in any development agreement of language to deter master leasing of Nishi apartments by the campus because of the potential negative impact on city property tax revenues. A similar provision was included for the Sterling apartment project.

           The FBC absolutely did NOT “support the staff finding.”  The FBC stopped way short of “support.”

          The actual language of the motion is explicit that the FBC (A) generally concur(s) with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time,” and (B) “any conclusions we have reached should be considered preliminary and subject to change.” 

          The information you have reported is third-hand at best.  You would be well served by seeking out the first-hand account documented by the City public record.  Otherwise, you, like the Vanguard are spreading information that has been subjectively “filtered” by the secondary source.

        7. Eileen Samitz

          From Matt per the December Fincnace and Budget meeting:

          Perhaps the best response is the one the FBC passed unanimously in December:

          “Salomon moved, with a second by Goss, to inform Council there is not enough data for the Commission to move forward with a recommendation …

          David,

          Why wasn’t this vote reflected in your recent article where you interviewed with Finance and Budget Chair Dan Carson regarding the fiscal analysis of Nishi? This is certainly relevant. The article you had implied that Nishi was fiscal positive, which is not what the Finance and Budget Commission said. in fact, there was need for far more discussion and four of seven commissioner’s wanted to meet again the following week for an extra meeting to complete discussing the -$12 million dollar analysis in the red that one of the commissioners brought compared to the Staff’s +$1 million in the black. So the obvious question is why wasn’t there an extra meeting to complete the discussion on such a critical fiscal issue?

          The last thing the City needs is to be $12 million deeper in hole of the City’s budget deficit (on an annual basis) due to Nishi.

           

           

          1. Don Shor

            Eileen: they reviewed it again in January. The F&B Commission does not believe that it will cause a $12 million deficit.

            We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.

        8. Ron

          David:  Did you ever follow-up with Ray Salomon (regarding his calculation an ever-increasing deficit which, reaches approximately $13 million by year 15)?  How about the other commissioner who also voted against the motion?

          Regardless, it seems that the proposal hasn’t even been finalized, per Matt’s comments.

          As a side note, I recall that the EPS analysis (for Nishi 1.0) showed an annual deficit as one possibility, even with an innovation center component. You’ll probably recall that the commission (as a whole) “disagreed” with the EPS analysis.

          1. Don Shor

            Ron: they reviewed it again in January. The F&B Commission does not believe that it will cause a $12 million deficit.

            We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            The EPS analysis and Salomon’s analysis have the same problem – they over-estimate the cost of additional services by a lot.

        9. Matt Williams

          Don Shor said . . . “Eileen: they reviewed it again in January. The F&B Commission does not believe that it will cause a $12 million deficit.”

          Don, where in the public record do you see anything that the FBC said Ray Salomon’s analysis which showed a $12 million deficit is incorrect?

          The reality is that Ray used a very similar analysis set of assumptions as EPS did in their Nishi 1.0 fiscal analysis, which produced a Year One deficit of $78,000.  Although EPS did not produce a 15-year aggregate, it is pretty easy to multiply $78,000 by 15.  The result of that math is $11,700,000 for the 15-year period … remarkably close to $12 million.

          That EPS initial analysis was completed from a fair-share accrual perspective.  The FBC at that time pointed out that while taxes are due on a fair-share accrual basis, the City’s annual budget is affected by historical expenditures that do not need to be “re-spent” (things like the building of the fire station(s) that will serve Nishi.  The FBC determined that a reasonable approximation of those “pre-spent” dollars was $700,000 per year.  EPS came back to the FBC and stood by the results of their “fair-share” model.

          The FBC’s recommendation to Council for Nishi 1.0 engaged accrual accounting vs. cash accounting as a “both/and” situation.

          The model that City Staff presented to the FBC in January (and December) looks at the Nishi Student Apartments proposal from a cash accounting perspective.  Staff’s model starts by discounting the existing expenses by 25% to account for the “pre-spent” nature of certain fixed expenses.  What the FBC asked for (both in October and December) was a “completion” of the model so that it shows both a “fair-share” accrual accounting bottom-line AND a cash accounting bottom-line.  To date, staff has produced only the cash accounting version.  The FBC is still waiting for the “fair-share” actual accounting version.

          What that means is we do not have an EPS-equivalent view of this version of Nishi.  Ray Salomon took a stab at producing an EPS-equivalent, but as the FBC said “… any conclusions we have reached should be considered preliminary and subject to change and our commission will continue to review these numbers.”

          1. Don Shor

            Matt: they reviewed it again in January. The F&B Commission does not believe that it will cause a $12 million deficit.

            We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.

        10. Ron

          Don:  Ray Salomon did not even present the model until the January meeting.  There was no discussion of it in December.  (In fact, the commission unanimously decided that they could not make any fiscal determination whatsoever, in December.)

          Ray, along with another commissioner did not agree with the motion in January.  (Matt could not attend that meeting.)

          Matt’s explanation of the two models above seems accurate.

          1. Don Shor

            You’ve mentioned the supposed $12 million deficit literally dozens of times, and now Eileen is repeating it. The commission made a decision January 8 that simply negates that $12 million figure.

            We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.

            It is not necessary for commission decisions to be unanimous for them to be accepted by the council.

        11. David Greenwald

          “The reality is that Ray used a very similar analysis set of assumptions as EPS did in their Nishi 1.0 fiscal analysis, which produced a Year One deficit of $78,000.  Although EPS did not produce a 15-year aggregate, it is pretty easy to multiply $78,000 by 15.  The result of that math is $11,700,000 for the 15-year period … remarkably close to $12 million.”

          I think you’re off by a factor of 10, Matt.

        12. Ron

          Don:  “The commission made a decision January 8 that simply negates that $12 million figure.”

          Actually, they did not.  However, Ray Salomon did offer to provide additional analysis, which might impact the result (in either direction).  Still wondering if the Vanguard has followed-up with Ray.

          As a side note, it’s closer to a $13 million deficit by year 15 (when NPV is considered).

          As Matt has noted, it seems that the analyses are rather fluid, at this point. (As does the proposal, itself.) From Matt’s response above, it sounds like the commission is (also) waiting for an analysis from staff, to allocate costs on a “fair share” basis (as EPS did for Nishi 1.0).

          I would think that the Vanguard would be interested in this. (But, good catch by David, regarding the deficit comparison between Nishi 1.0 and Nishi 2.0.)

           

          1. Don Shor

            Don: “The commission made a decision January 8 that simply negates that $12 million figure.”

            Actually, they did not.

            Actually, they did. There is no reading whatsoever of the following words:

            3. We also generally concur with the estimate that annual ongoing revenues and costs for the city from the project would be modestly net positive over time.

            … that fails to negate a $12 million deficit. “Net positive over time” and “$12 million dollar deficit” — or “deficit” of any amount whatsoever — are mutually exclusive.

        13. Matt Williams

          David Greenwald said . . . “The EPS analysis and Salomon’s analysis have the same problem – they over-estimate the cost of additional services by a lot.”

          Actually David, neither the EPS analysis nor Ray Salomon’s analysis nor the current City model used to analyze Nishi incorporate the following from the bottom of page 4.9 of the FY 2017-18 Adopted Budget, specifically  “The annual short fall in funding for all of the above infrastructure and service categories is shown in the chart below. The average annual shortfall in funding is $7.8 million.” 

          Bottom-line, that omission means they under-estimate the cost of both current and future services.

          How large is that under estimation?  On a per-unit basis, with an assumption of 26,000 existing units in Davis, each Unit’s annual “fair share” of that $7.8 million is $300.  Multiply that $300 times the 696 units proposed at Nishi the approximate cost understatement is $208,000 per year.

           

        14. Ron

          Don:  Matt posted the entire motion, above.  It is not as “cut-and-dry” as the isolated section that you quoted implies.  The commission is still reviewing the numbers, as noted.  And again, the motion that you’re referring to was opposed by two of the commission members (with Matt not able to attend).

          In any case, I’d suggest that anyone who purposefully disregards what Matt, Ray, and the other commissioner are noting does so at the city’s peril. (And, I hope that no one is so blinded and angered by their desire for more housing that they purposefully do so.)

          1. Don Shor

            Don: Matt posted the entire motion, above.

            Yes, I know he did. And the part I keep posting is the relevant part. There is no way the phrase I posted leads to any conclusion that the project will have a deficit, much less the $12 million deficit you have repeatedly cited.
            Parse it however you like.

            And again, the motion that you’re referring to was opposed by two of the commission members

            And supported by five. The position that you have cited dozens of times was not upheld by the commission. This is really simple, actually. But you won’t seem to accept the decision.

            I’d suggest that anyone who purposefully disregards what Matt, Ray, and the other commissioner are noting does so at the city’s peril.

            I assume the commission did its job and the five members with whom you disagree were sufficiently informed and acted appropriately.

        15. Matt Williams

          David is correct 15 times ($78,000) is ($1,170,000) not ($11,700,000).  I should’ve plugged those numbers into the same spreadsheet as I used to equally spread the $7.8 million over Davis’ current 26,000 residential units.

          I apologize for my math error.

        16. Ron

          Matt:  Yes – that was a good catch, by David.

          That leads me to wonder what accounts for the majority of the difference between the two “deficit” comparisons (Nishi 1.0, vs. Nishi 2.0). (Which, as you noted above, may still not account for all costs.)

          In any case, it is difficult to discuss these things on a blog without seeing the actual analyses, and without fully understanding the source of the numbers.  It can become complex.

        17. Ron

          Don:  Here’s another relevant section from the motion that you cited, passed on a 5-2 vote.  Matt (who was not able to attend this meeting) had already posted this above, in response to your earlier, similar comment:

          “At the time of this analysis, the commission did not have available to it a complete and detailed description of the project, a supplemental environmental analysis, or a development agreement with the city.  Therefore, any conclusions we have reached should be considered preliminary and subject to change and our commission will continue to review these numbers.”

          And despite what you continue stating, I have not taken a “position” regarding the accuracy of any of the analyses. I’ve noted this many times, already.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Given that they aren’t going to permit access via west Olive, if they don’t get university access, they have no project.  But that’s my thinking, not everyone might agree with it.

    2. Dave Hart

      According to the site plan posted by Matt Williams in a related post yesterday, there is an underpass beneath the railroad in the middle of the Nishi property.  Also there appears to be an emergency access road connecting to Olive Drive along with bicycle path connections to the downtown.  Overall, a ho-hum, conventional development that adds a lot of student housing and makes it possible for them to get to campus or downtown on foot or bicycle. 

      If there is any kind of hard guarantee on those two connections, I’ll vote yes, again, on this so that I never have to hear about a Nishi proposal in the future.

  2. Don Shor

    They’ve eliminated the traffic concerns and addressed the affordability issue. You don’t need every detail in order to make a decision on this project. Yes, it should go forward at the city council and be put on the ballot now.

  3. Marina Khan

    the BIGGEST problem with the NISHI as I have mentioned many a time is that is IS on a toxic dump site surrounded by toxicity… if the developers would DONATE the land to UCD they would be way further ahead.. and I would NEVER recommend that UCD put any people on it…  of any kinds or for ANY purposes…

    I used to live in that farmhouse in the mid 70s when it was conventionally crop dusted……the historical house was VERY well constructed and should never have burnt in the manner that was claimed…

    Yes it used to shake from the train however it was extremely well designed and built and could withstand all but arson. Seismically it was perfect, it withstood a lot from the time it was first built…

    The train which passes daily, which SHOULD not be relocated spews toxins 24/7…  .

    the freeway is even worse…..as far back at the 70s when I was studying various architecture,community planning and engineering courses at UCD,  it was already proven how the air quality closest to the major arteries are always the most toxic.. .. it never made sense to me why high density was put near such undesireable locations… I mean if anyone CARED about the children/adults/seniors who would live in such a place..

    Sorry I missed the meeting as I am traveling… . but u new folks are lucky u have not heard me speak at your meetings yet…

    Logic appears to lose out when GREED is involved…

     

     

     

      1. Marina Khan

        so DG, your memory is getting soo sooo short, how about reminding this audience, Matt Williams, about what happened on the CANNERY?  and is it some of the same folks making promises today?

        ACTIONS not words, the words are ALWAYS lies…

         

  4. Dave Hart92

    Has anyone offered a technical or scientific reason why the air quality is worse or is potentially worse on the Nishi property than it is on the Lincoln 40 property or any of the other residential properties along Olive Drive east of Richards?  If not, why is it an issue for Nishi and not for Lincoln 40 and all the existing residential area along East Olive Drive?

    1. Don Shor

      Yes, but it was based on inaccurate wind direction data. The wind is much more dispersed than had been assumed.

      why is it an issue for Nishi and not for Lincoln 40 and all the existing residential area along East Olive Drive?

      Those projects, including New Harmony, would also benefit from tree buffers to mitigate noise and freeway pollution.

      1. Matt Williams

        Dave, if we implement Don Shor’s suggestion that, “Nishi could remain for master leasing. For those who are concerned about air pollution exposure, master leasing by UC could effectively limit the duration of exposure” then any medical evidence of harm will be massively mitigated.  

        With that said, Don’s suggestion only works fiscally for the City if there is a “Make Whole Provision” like the one the FBC brought to the table during the 2016 Nishi deliberation process.

        1. Marina Khan

          Matt for the city it makes sense to stop all development ..  UCD has way deeper pockets and the average intelligence and educational level of the faculty/managers and staff  also makes it harder for the developers to push toxic projects through… in other words, likely the best the developers could do at the moment is  get their money and run….for example donate it and stop forcing the citizens to pay off their losses…. development in smart towns is a gamble at the best…

           

  5. Howard P

    As for me, when you posit,

    The biggest disadvantage is the question of what happens with the West Davis Active Adult Center.  The city pushed them off to November to clear the way for Nishi.  Two projects going head to head is a recipe for disaster for both.  But I doubt West Davis wants to delay any further.

    Not convinced how I’ll vote on Nishi… leaning towards “yes”… as to WDAAC, leaning as far towards “no”, as one can, without falling over.  Just my opinion…  I actually care not as to how others think …

    We all have the “vote”.  If both ‘die’, no skin off my nose… but we still have to deal with (or ignore) housing availability and/or costs thereof.  My housing is secure.  No worries, at a personal level…

    1. Matt Williams

      Howard, with respect to West Davis Active Adult Community (WDAAC), the statement by the Planning Commissioner from the dais back in August 2017 resonates for me.

       If the densification goals and efficient use of land goals of the City are pointing to four stories at Trackside, why shouldn’t the West Davis Active Adult Community proposal also be at least four stories?

       

      I believed at the time, and continue to believe, that that was a spectacular question.  I think that question applies 100% to the WDAAC site, and also to the current Nishi proposal.

       

  6. David Greenwald

    Matt:

    There is a make-whole provision in the DA:

    ”Prior to issuance of building permit, Developer shall record a covenant on the title to the Project Site regarding property tax payments. The covenant shall include a permanent obligation for the property owner to make payments to the City in lieu of the City’s share of otherwise required property taxes in the event that the Property is acquired or master leased by an entity exempt from payment of property taxes. Wording of the covenant is subject to review and approval of the City Attorney.”

    1. Matt Williams

      David, I assume you are accessing the draft DA from the Planning Commission Staff Report.  The draft language on that page is a good start.  It does protect the City’s portion (as yet unknown since no agreed-to City-County tax sharing agreement exists.

      However, it does nothing to protect DJUSD’s loss of tax revenues, nor does it protect the County’s loss of tax revenues, nor does it protect the Library District’s loss of tax revenues.  The covenant needs to protect all the local entities, not just the City.  After all, we are a community, not just an isolated municipal jurisdiction.

  7. Eileen Samitz

    I posted this on yesterday’s Nishi article but I had trouble getting logged in again today and finally was just able to. Is anyone else having a log in problem? But, since this was posted late and is relevant to today’s article I will post it again with some additional comments.

    Ok, so let’s start with the “short list” of issues regarding Nishi 2.0:

    1) An analysis from the Finance and Budget Commission shows that Nishi would be $12 million in the red (not $1 million in the black per City Staff), so it would be a big time fiscal loser, which is not hard to understand since it does not include an innovation park (oh yes, that reminds me, isn’t the innovation park the reason Nishi was ever even considered for development?)

    So why isn’t Nishi being $12 million in the hole being talked about and resolved? I was at the Finance and Budget Commission meeting where 4 members were willing to have an additional Commission meet to resolve these major discrepancies in the fiscal analysis in time to have a fully vetted fiscal analysis on Nishi. Why did that not happen? Why did the Finance and Budget Chair not support having this additional meeting to resolving this critical issue of if Nishi was going to be a -$12 million drain on the City, or Staff’s opinion of being +$1 million for the City (which had many problematic assumptions which were pointed out by Finance and Budget commissioners) ?

    2) Nishi blows the City past 1%  growth cap not only in apartments units, but the massive number of residents is going to increase impacts on the City significantly. So what about additional mega-dorms in the “pipeline” like Lincoln40 and Plaza 2555? How much more will the City go over the 1% cap for these exclusionary mega-dorms?

    3) Nishi’s “affordable housing” is only 12%, but the City’s Municipal Code is for 35%. But the City is now trying to eliminate that 35% requirement at the Social Services Commission meeting tomorrow (Monday) to facilitate fast-tracking these exclusionary by design mega-dorms. Here is the astonishing Staff report:

    http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/Social-Services-Commission/Packet-Items/2018-01-22/06B-Affordable-Housing-Ord-Proposed-Amendment.pdf

    4) What about the Nishi developers defining “affordable” in their affordable housing. And what are the market units or beds to cost? Lincoln40’s market rate student beds will be at least $1,000, and their “affordable” low-income double occupancy student beds will be $800, and their “affordable” very low-income student double occupancy beds will be $670. None of this sounds “affordable” for students. It sure sounds like the only place the City will have a 5% vacancy rate is going to be in these luxury student mega-dorms which really doesn’t help the current situation, and in fact will only make it worse.

    5) Where are those air quality studies that have been asked for over and over again to see if Nishi can even be suitable for residential?

    6) Will the baseline project features define that no other vehicular traffic can access Nishi from Olive Drive other than emergency vehicles (or if buses are allowed)?

    7) Why can’t Nishi apartment units be designed for workers and families too, particularly since UCD’s growth will be needing more UCD Staff and faculty needed?

    8) An affordable housing plan that the developers manage themselves with no legitimate oversight?

    9) What about billing for water over-usage? Why is there no commitment for water usage to be monitored and billed by the projects management in the development agreement? Also, what about there to be follow-up accountability with the City?

    10) If this is all to be student housing, why isn’t UCD water, waste water treatment to be used?

    11) Who would provide fire, police services? UCD or the City? Since with 2,200 residents, more than any residential project, in the City (perhaps the largest in the County or beyond) will have significant impacts and costs. Our population will go from 68,000 to over 73,000 within a few years just with adding these mega-dorms proposed for 5,000 beds of in the City.

    12) Why hasn’t the City done a financial and environmental cumulative impacts student first for 5,000 more student beds in the City?

    13) What isn’t the City waiting to get first recommendations from the City’s hired consultant working on how to resolve these mega-dorms are also short-changing the City on affordable housing?

    14) Why isn’t the City first updating the outdated 2008 developer impact fee schedule which is significantly under-charging developers on the mega-dorms? Staff offered two developer impact fee options for consideration for Lincoln40.  They recommended the developer impact fee that was $540,000 lower than the other option. Yet,the City is so strapped for money, it will be putting additional taxes on the ballot in  June. Meanwhile, the developer will be charging over $1,000 per bed for at least 638 beds that students are supposed to be able to afford. This is not affordable student housing at Lincoln40, not at the otehr mega-dorms in the pipeline for 5,000 more student beds in the City.

    15) Why is Lincoln40 being fast-tracked to be voted on by City Council in two weeks, and Plaza 2555, and Nishi 2.0 being rushed through the planning process before: a) all of these needed consultant recommendations comes forward; b) adequate fiscal analysis is done not only on Nishi, but each of these enormous mega-dorms; and c) a proper cumulative impacts study is done by the City to determine the environmental and fiscal impacts of adding 5,000 student beds to the City?

    So, the short answer to the title of this article is, no, the Council should not move forward with Nishi now.

    1. Don Shor

      1. The F&B Commission has reviewed the project and given their determination. You may not like the outcome, but it’s done.
      2. The city didn’t add anywhere near the 1% cap any year for over a decade. All of these projects taken together barely get the city to the 1% cap over that period of time.
      3. They are not exclusionary by design.
      4. It’s pretty clear to me that you don’t understand how affordable is defined legally.
      5. The air studies are unnecessary.
      6. Presumably that will be defined, yes. It is not the intention to have regular vehicle traffic through Olive Drive.
      7. Anybody can live there.
      8. Same oversight as all other affordable housing plans currently operate.
      9. Huh? “Over-usage?” That’s absurd. The project will have water meters.
      10. UCD is a customer of the city’s water project now.
      11. Service territories overlap.
      12. Because that isn’t part of our normal planning process. Never has been, so I don’t see why it would suddenly be a part of the development process here. It’s something that would be addressed in a General Plan update.
      13. Because the project is before us now. Waiting and delaying are standard opposition tactics.
      14 – 15. Because we need housing now.

        1. Don Shor

          You’re right. I was remembering when they backed out. But:

          UC Davis transferred its rights to the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency in 2009, and reserved the option to buy into the water project for 1.8 million gallons a day. UC Davis exercised its option in 2014, and is paying $20 million as the university’s share of overall project costs not paid previously, and for distribution pipelines and other facilities to serve the campus.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        Don,
        1)     Actually, I agree with the Finance and Budgets vote on Nishi as Matt quoted from minutes of the meeting vote of the Nishi fiscal analysis.

              “Salomon moved, with a second by Goss, to inform Council there is not enough data for the Commission to move forward with a recommendation …”

        2)     But Nishi’s housing units would exceed the 1% growth cap per the Staff.

        3)     Nishi’s student-specific housing is exclusionary by design. It is student housing specifically targeting students. it does nothing to help families and local workers.

        4)     Go ahead and explain to me how these mega-dorms are “affordable” for students? Lincoln40’s market rate student beds will be at least $1,000, and their “affordable” low-income double occupancy student beds will be $800, and their “affordable” very low-income student double occupancy beds will be $670.

        5)     The air quality studies are necessary to determine if Nishi could even be considered for housing. Dr. Cahill, a world-renowned expert in the field of air quality impacts (ultra-fine particulate matter especially) on health, has made this clear many times when he has testified at City Council and the developers have not done these studies needed that Cahill has requested for several years now.

        6)     I have learned to never “presume” particularly when it comes to Davis land use. Intentions mean nothing in land use. What matters is what winds up in writing, and what is implemented.

        7)     Families are not going to want to living in an apartment suite shared with students renting other locked bedrooms in the same apartments. This is not practical situation for family living in general.

        8)     This affordable housing situation is not like legitimate affordable housing situations with legitimate oversight. These mega-dorms would have their own management running the affordable housing programs and simply filing a paper report with the City annually. Legitimate affordable housing programs report to a housing authority to make sure that qualified low-income people are getting the low-income apartments. This is a “fox guarding the chicken coop” with the mega-dorms having their manager running the affordable housing program”.

        9)     The project will have water meters but it is necessary to have the developers commit to doing the mentoring and billing for their water usage, particularly for overages of water waster to be charged appropriately for the amount of water they use. This needs to be in the development agreement.

        10) Oh… right. You mean after UCD pulled out the the water project, then finally decided to jump back in after our City’s water project vote passed. Which meant that this was after the City was done designing it when UCD had not been willing to commit to paying into the project. So, technically, isn’t UCD using water capacity that was intended for the City, not UCD? So, what I am saying is, if Nishi is to theoretically be used for housing UCD students only, then it should be using UCD’s on-campus water, like their well water. For this same reason, Nishi should also be using UCD’s waste water treatment plant.

        11) I am not sure what you are saying. So how does this work for who paying the bill(s) for fire and police coverage? The City or UCD? Is it on a call by call basis and then is each call billed to the City or UCD depending on which one responded? Since there will be 2,200 -2,600 students living there. So that is around 10X more residents than average apartment complexes in Davis. So, it is more than likely that there will a much higher volume of police and to a lesser extent fire department services, just due to the enormous number of residents.

        12)  There is nothing normal about the City processing 6-7 enormous multi-family project simultaneously, particularly these enormous mega-dorms. 5,000+ additional students being added to the City within a few years would have enormous impacts. These impacts need to be analyzed and understood before moving forward with such aggressive growth within such a small-time span. That’s what EIR’s are supposed to do, study environmental impacts, particularly cumulative impacts. Likewise, with all of the City’s financial problems, the fiscal analyses of these project, and a cumulative fiscal analysis needs to be done as well.

        13) Well, the City needs to get its planning “house rules” in order, and currently that is not the case. These mega-dorm proposals have created major problems due to their exclusionary housing design and their enormous impacts environmentally and fiscally.

        14) – 15) Well, we need to understand what impacts environmentally and fiscally would result first, before building out 5,000+ student-only beds in the City. That would be good planning instead of a “build anything” approach, and then let’s see if we can clean up the problems later. Also, we need to not enable UCD to continue deflecting their ever-growing housing needs on Davis and surrounding communities. UCD has over 5,300 acres and can and need to provide student housing for at least 50% of their student population like six other UC’s are. It is inexcusable that UCD is trying to continue dragging their heels on providing the on-campus housing for their own growth.
         

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