Council to Decide Tuesday Whether to Put Nishi on the Ballot

Council Will Have One Meeting to Vote to Put Nishi on the Ballot

Tuesday figures to be a long night as council is up against the deadline on Nishi and the revenue measures and will also take up changes to the Affordable Housing Ordinance.  Tuesday will be the last day to approve items going on the ballot for June.

While Nishi is not a new project, and is a modification of the previously council-approved Nishi Gateway Mixed-Use Innovation District project – which included not only the 47 acres of Nishi property but the potential redevelopment of commercial service uses on Olive Drive west of Richards Boulevard, this figures to be subject to major discussion at both the community level (in the form of public comment) and at the council level.

The current proposal shifts from mixed use to a housing-oriented development geared toward UC Davis students, with primary vehicle access through a connection to Old Davis Road on the campus.

Staff notes: “The current proposal has been shaped by the desire to stay within parameters which would allow an Addendum to the previously-certified Environmental Impact Report. This is the level of environmental review that would give the City Council the ability to place the proposal on the June 2018 ballot.”

That action would need to take place on Tuesday night if the council wishes to place the matter on the June 2018 ballot.

Staff writes that “staff finds the applications are approvable based upon City policies and housing needs.”

At the same time: “The proposal does not offer the range of benefits, such as jobs and for-sale housing, that would have come from the Nishi Gateway Mixed-Use Innovation District. However, that
proposal was denied by the voters in 2016.”

At the same time, “The current proposal attempts to resolve some of the concerns that were raised as election issues, and still provides benefits to the community and the City.”

These benefits include:

  • Rental housing in a community with a 0.4 percent vacancy rate;
  • Potential for improved bus connectivity between South Davis and the UC Davis campus;
  • Modest, but positive, impact on the City’s General Fund; and
  • Consistency with General Plan policies regarding development of the Nishi property.

Staff adds: “The City Council could also, if the developer is willing, explore alternative development patterns including a revisit of the original mixed-use innovation district. It is possible that an Addendum would conclude that there is no need for recirculation of the certified EIR, but this analysis has not been conducted. The likely timeline for this option would lead to a Measure R ballot sometime in 2019.”

A key component of the project is that the vehicle access will link the development to campus with no vehicle access via West Olive Drive.  The plan is for “a grade-separated crossing of the Union Pacific Railroad Tracks to Old Davis Road on the UC Davis campus.”

The city has received a draft MOU from UC Davis regarding this access.  Staff writes, “Campus staff reports that they are ready to consider the approval steps for the MOU. UC Davis representatives will be at this City Council meeting to listen to the discussion.”

Staff Recommendations and Key Issue Areas

Staff recommends approval of the applications, reasoning that “the project appropriately integrates the City goals for, housing, environmental sustainability, community character, and fiscal responsibility.”

Specific reasons for staff’s recommendations include:

  • Staff is comfortable that this proposal, particularly when balanced with a multitude of other policy objectives, appropriately contributes to city sustainability goals and takes the city in the right direction for new development projects.
  • Housing on the Nishi property will provide customers for local businesses, particularly downtown merchants.
  • Internal open space and bicycle/pedestrian connectivity forms the backbone of the subdivision layout. The project includes a grade-separated connection to the Old Davis road on the UC Davis campus and has the potential to improve Unitrans operations by providing an alternative to the Richards Boulevard undercrossing.
  • The provisions of the Development Agreement will address fiscal impact on the General Fund.
  • Additional housing, including affordable housing, adjacent to the UC Davis campus will help address extremely low vacancy rates and provide student-oriented housing conducive to alternate modes of transportation.

Air Quality Concerns

Staff writes: “Development of residential projects adjacent to Interstate 80 has been the subject of community discussion for the Nishi site and other proposed projects. Air quality impacts and suitability of the Nishi site for residential development were the topic of much discussion at the Planning Commission and City Council hearings for the previous project. As discussed in the Environmental Review section of this report, air quality impacts on future residents are not part of the review of a proposal under the California Environmental Quality Act. However, the suitability of the site for the proposed use is part of the public policy considerations for the requested land use entitlements.”

The EIR requires three separate mitigation measures to reduce TAC (toxic air contaminants) and UFP (ultra-fine particles) concentrations within the buildings on the site.

Mitigation Measure 4.3-5a requires the applicant to locate all residential buildings as far as possible from I-80 with no structures in the southwest portion of the project.

Mitigation Measure 4.3-5b requires the establishment of a vegetative barrier that will achieve a certain height within 15 years and further improve outdoor air quality conditions.

Mitigation Measure 4.3-5c requires the applicant to include a state-of-the-art air filtration system within all on-site structures that will remove no less than 95 percent of UFP from indoor air. Because of this Measure, interior air quality conditions would be very good.”

Affordable Housing

The affordable housing plan for Nishi would provide 264 of the 2200 beds to extremely-low and very-low income residents within double-up bedrooms integrated into the overall development.  These beds would be split evenly between the two income categories.

Staff and the city attorney “are proposing an ordinance amendment to Article 18.05 that would allow for City Council discretion to approve project specific affordable housing plans for multifamily rental developments subject to considerations specified in the proposed ordinance amendment.”

The draft ordinance was presented to the Social Services Commission on January 22 for a recommendation to City Council. “The majority of the Social Service Commissioners expressed concern about enacting the amendment prior to the completion of the consultant work underway, which will inform staff’s ultimate recommendations on a comprehensive update of rental housing inclusionary housing requirements. In response, staff assured Commissioners that the amendment would serve only as a bridge ordinance until a comprehensive update is complete.”

When the commission reviewed this project, “the Commission recommended a greater number of affordable housing units, and requesting a refined affordable housing plan return to the Commission before City Council action but did support the concept of integration of the affordable units within the larger development.”

Olive Drive Connection

The previous Nishi proposal included full vehicular access from West Olive as well as a connection to the UC Davis campus.  “The applicant has noted that one of the goals of the project revisions was to reduce vehicle traffic onto Olive Drive, and resulting concern about impacts to the Richards Boulevard corridor.”

As a result, the revised proposal eliminates “private vehicle access from Olive Drive.”  However, “Pedestrian, bicycle, and emergency vehicle access would continue to be provided, similar to existing provisions.”

Staff and the applicant “have explored the option of allowing buses, in addition to bicycle/ pedestrian/ emergency vehicles, to access the Nishi property from Olive Drive. Provided this route was served by Unitrans (and possibly Yolo Bus), transit options for Nishi residents would be much better than if residents were required to board on First Street or Richards Boulevard.”

This plan would also provide “Unitrans an alternative route from South Davis to campus other than through the Richards Underpass (which cannot accommodate double-decker buses) and downtown.”

Staff recommends “that bus access to Olive Drive be allowed as part of project entitlements.”


The following are the sustainability components of the project:

  • LEED Gold equivalency for all buildings
  • Zero Net Energy
  • Third-party analysis for photovoltaic maximization
  • Water and electric meters or sub-meters for each unit
  • VCEA (Valley Clean Energy Association) for any required electricity, at the green tier
  • Accommodations for bicycle storage and operations

Development Agreement Provisions:

  • The Developer has a vested right to develop the property in accordance with the entitlements and the Baseline Project Features.
  • Specific commitments to sustainability features, including energy conservation and generation.
  • Affordable housing obligations as approved by the City Council in a project-specific plan.
  • All Mitigation Measures identified in the EIR Addendum, including air quality mitigation measures, will be incorporated into the project.
  • A Development Agreement commitment of 194 maximum weekday pm peak hour auto trips entering or exiting all project parking facilities.
  • Agricultural mitigation will be provided in accordance with the Agricultural Protection Ordinance. Compliance will be verified at the time the mitigation land is identified for preservation, which would be required prior to any construction or conversion of the Nishi property.
  • The Developer commits to a mechanism for offsetting any foregone property tax revenue to the City, Yolo County and Davis Joint Unified School District as a result of purchase or lease of the properties by the University of California.
  • Developer reimbursement of City pre-development costs under the original cost-sharing agreement.
  • Community Enhancements

The Vanguard will have additional analysis and coverage in the coming days.

—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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  1. Howard P

    David… will the draft MOU, ostensibly from UCD, be available for public inspection before the meeting?  Given my concerns about the access, and Brown Act guidelines/requirements, the draft should be available soon, preferably before the CC meeting… if not, ASAP thereafter, and definitely before any actual vote.

    That said, I see no reason for delaying putting the proposal on the ballot… that still gives us 4 months to learn more, discuss/debate, and decide.


        1. Howard P

          Really liked Rifkin’s Lucy/Charlie Brown analogy… Measure R should be revised, if renewed… to come earlier…

          Ted Puntillo likened our process to “the spanking machine”… not fully true, but somewhat…

          The public vote (if any) should be on the principles, not the details… save applicants a lot of time and money, and if a result is less need for professional staff time to deal with a DOA project, we can downsize appropriately.  Savings to the city. Win-win…

          The “game” as it exists, sucks. Big time… as in BIG, and TIME


  2. Tia Will


    The public vote (if any) should be on the principles, not the details”

    While I favor the Nishi project, I have concerns about this statement unless I am misunderstanding your point. I would say that the details matter a great deal as exemplified by the “details” that were not worked out with the Cannery prior to approval and were never implemented with regard to improving bike and pedestrian features leaving that community very automobile dependent despite acknowledgement that improvements should and would be accomplished.

    1. David Greenwald

      I think his point is that we might have a better process if we simply asked the voters to approve a vague project description early in the process and then allowed the staff and council to work out the details after the vote.

      1. Howard P

        Not “vague” (maybe, “imprecise”), David, but basic parameters… annexation or not; zoning (highest and best use) or not; ability to serve, or not; mitigating likely impacts, or not.

        But, the vote, if there is one, should be sooner than later… that is only fair, and saves money and time… not bad things…



        1. Tia Will


          that is only fair”

          Fair to whom ?  Not snark. Honest question. Fair to the developers ?  Fair to citizens who vote yes without understanding that there may not be mitigations or even promises that are not kept ?  I honestly am not sure how you are using the word “fair”.

        2. Howard P

          Yeah, Tia, no snark in your response.

          I opined “that is only fair” (clearly, an opinion).  To which you respond,

          Fair to the developers ?  Fair to citizens who vote yes without understanding that there may not be mitigations or even promises that are not kept ? 

          If you can’t see “tone” in your words, there is nothing else I can say.  Excuse me, your bias is showing…

      2. Keith O

        I think his point is that we might have a better process if we simply asked the voters to approve a vague project description early in the process and then allowed the staff and council to work out the details after the vote.

        Sounds kind of like something Nancy Pelosi might say, ‘we have to approve the project in order to find out all the details later’.

        1. Howard P

          Very mature, and insightful… thank you…

          Your contribution Trumps anything I could offer…

          And you act strangely by quoting David’s incorrect assessment of my point.

          BTW, I hope Pelosi retires or loses… she is … [don’t want to violate VG policies]

        2. David Greenwald

          A legitimate question is how many details voters need to know to approve a project and then allow professional staff and council make the final call on those details.  It’s an alternative way to conceptualize the approval process.  What if the voters were asked to approve a 700 unit, 2200 bed project that would serve students, have university only access, and be net zero energy and LEED Gold equivalent.  12 percent of the units are affordable.  Do we need to know details beyond that?

        3. Keith O

          While ignoring Howard’s comment above, which I tend to do, David as Tia pointed out with the Cannery Project, if all the details aren’t ironed out ahead of time voters could end up being disappointed and/or feeling short changed.

        4. Howard P

          Let’s dive deeper… “all the details”? Like the slopes of the streets, pipes, invert elevations, fire hydrant locations, streetlight locations?

          Can you be specific on where you’d draw the line?  Or, is it the existing “measure R, right or wrong”?   Go ahead and wrap yourself with that flag… the actual quote, before I truncated it, is, (Schurz, not Decatur) My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

          In my opinion, Schurz got it right…

          [apologies for inadvertent bolding…]

        5. Howard P

          David… there is not two voters in one hundred who could have picked up on the flaws in the wording of the approvals, particularly the DA.

          Agree, the flaws were with the project…

          Some of those will not be fully evident for 10-20 years… I spoke out, but was not heeded… the die is cast… nothing to do but wait…

    2. Howard P

      You misunderstand my point.  You are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine.  I feel no need to clarify, subject to a Measure T(ia) vote as to whether it is adequate.

      1. Tia Will


        You misunderstand my point.”

        I spoke out, but was not heeded”

        And I see no reason for the needlessly snide remark. If you don’t care to clarify, why not let it lie rather than take the time just to be nasty ? Perhaps when you spoke out, it was not clear enough for others to understand or process. You are right. You are completely entitled to your opinion, but if others misunderstand as you claimed about me, perhaps you would gain more through patient communication than cheap shots.

  3. Tia Will


    I would argue that the problem with Cannary was not the details, but the project itself.”

    As an opponent of the Cannery, I would say it was both. But the problem I see with leaving details to the developers and staff is that such “niceties” as automobile necessary ( not optional) developments, impacts on surrounding streets/neighborhoods, lighting issues, may be essentially ignored.

    I would instead recommend a different approach. I would recommend that the entire community be invited to comment and weigh in on the project from the very initial planning stages. This would present the possibility of having a collaborative rather than adversarial approach. I have been told that this is not realistic. My question is, many believe that what we have now is malfunctioning. My suggestion would be to try something totally new rather than just changing the timing/order of the current inadequate process.

  4. Todd Edelman

    Nishi 2.0 is better, but Nishi 3.0 is best!

    (The following assumes adequate reduction and mitigation to the pollution caused by the I-80)

    We cannot miss what might be our final opportunity for decades to improve our economy with a commercial-residential Nishi.

    We cannot miss this great opportunity to provide an innovative and equitable solution to the affordable housing crisis.We need to take advantage of a great chance to provide long-term and sustainable transit access to Downtown and Davis Depot.

    Rather than simply improve the traffic flow and reduce collisions at the 80 and Richards interchange, we can expand the planned “tight diamond” traffic project into a regional bus connection on an express route to points east and west.

    What is Nishi 3.0?

    A mixed-use innovation district: Possible if nearly all planned surface parking is re-located with unfettered access to the I-80 itself and South Davis in a regionally-focused multi-modal facility + 24/7/365 self-driving electric shuttles operating on fixed routes between Nishi, the multi-modal facility, Davis Depot, the 4th St. Garage and Downtown. The surface lots with would be replaced with commercial buildings of moderate size (without open windows, etc.) and further greenery, thus blocking noise and additional air pollution.

    Regional & Local Multi-Modal Facility: The two main features/functions would be provide a regional bus connection at highway level that’s a combined project: An expansion of the 80-Richards Interchange plan & the 80 bus/HOV lane project and Park & Ride for this facility, for Davis Depot, parking for Downtown and Nishi (limited for both commercial tenants and students). The users of the parking facility would vary over the next several decades as private car use declined and peripheral parking accepted as adequate in more pedestrian-focused streets. The facility would be built without sloping floors to facilitate conversion to other uses. It could contain many hundreds of spaces for electric-assist bicycles for commuter bus + local bike journeys.

    Current parking access to Davis Depot is not equitable as it is biased towards persons who simply have jobs they need to leave for earlier. It makes no sense to have a free parking lot, right next to the station, for this purpose. The Park & Ride facilities at both 4th St. and the Multi-Modal Center (in addition to more buses in general) will provide a reasonable quality of access for all.

    How to Reduce Impact on Richards: Most access from north of the railway undercrossing to NIshi itself would be done by the self-driving shuttle, by bicycle, foot and Unitrans/Yolo Bus, etc. Access from the 80 and South Davis by car or bus would be through the Multi-Modal Facility – cars would get parked there, and users could leave by foot, bike (share) or the shuttle.

    Residents of Davis east of 113 or Anderson Road and north of the 80 would not be allowed to park at the Facility except very occasionally (i.e. permits would be required for daily or overnight parking, commuter parking etc.,and these would not be available to these persons. Residents of those areas would be allowed to park at 4th St. garage or elsewhere north of the 80, and would be allowed to drive through the Richards tunnel, but would not be allowed to park in the area or drop off people near Nishi). Residents in West Davis and South Davis would be able to access the regional buses that are use the new bus lane on the 80, or would be able to the parking structure, primarily for both Park & Ride uses and Downtown access, plus a limited amount for both uses of Nishi.

    More Affordable and Equitable Adult-Style Housing: At least 25% of the residents at Nishi will be able to take advantage of subsidies that allow them to live in modest units along with unsubsidized residents, instead of having to double-up because they’re poor!

    Davis Downtown will become an even better local and regional draw with a large and robust pedestrian area including a large safe area for families and children, and a fast east-west route to UC Davis campus. This is only possible by removing parking, increasing bike and transit access, and relocating some parking to the periphery, south of the Richards tunnel. After everything except ADA-related parking is removed from Davis Depot and the First St. Garage, both of these facilities can be converted into actual tax-paying businesses such as entertainment or dining venues, or retail stores, etc.  (The Regal Cinema would stay at 1st St.)

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