Council has until mid-June to put the West Davis Active Adult Community on the ballot, but, based on the discussion from the planning commission, there is still work to be done – even as many remain favorable toward the project itself.
The commission fell just shy of a full recommendation – able to unanimously recommend the certification of the EIR and Prezoning and Preliminary Planning Development, they supported recommending approval of the General Plan Amendment on a 5-2 vote with Cheryl Essex and Darryl Rutherford opposing, but they voted 5-2 against recommending approval of the Development Agreement, with only Stephen Mikesell and Herman Boschken supporting.
As a practical matter, that will not stop the project from being heard in late May as scheduled, but it does indicate there is more work to do – which was the feedback from the commission regardless.
The project consists of 560 units that are mostly age restricted to households 55 and over, but it does have 77 single-family units that have no such restriction. There are 150 affordable apartments for seniors – anticipated to be limited to occupancy by persons aged 62 or older.
Developer David Taormino explained, “We want to provide older Davis residents choices to stay in Davis.
“They should be able to stay here,” he explained. “Every community ought to be providing the type of development that we propose. In fact, I believe it’s a prototype for smaller communities so we don’t have to have people move from where they’ve grown up, where their children have been and where they want to stay.”
He added, “I think it’s going to be a roadmap for future Measure Rs in terms of the approach we’ve taken.”
Mr. Taormino noted that the homes here are about half the size of the typical subdivision that’s being built, and he said that they have “rightsized homes for both active adults as well as young families.”
Ken Anderson from KD Anderson & Associates noted that there is minimal impact on traffic due to the traffic patterns of seniors. They had a chart showing that the average Davis single-family residence generates around 12.82 vehicle trips per day, but the national average for detached senior residential is at 4.27 trips per day.
He added that there is no appreciable difference in the traffic impact during peak hours, where they project 5 to 7 seconds of impact on traffic during peak hours along Covell Boulevard.
Jason Taormino noted a criticism of the project, in that it lacks density. However, their chart shows that they have a density of 7.5 units per acre, which is greater by a good margin than Grande Village (4.7) and the Cannery (5.5), and comparable to Chiles Ranch (7.9).
David Thompson pointed out their proposal has “three times the amount of affordable housing than is required by city standards.” He added, “There is a tsunami of low income seniors that are coming along that we don’t have a way to deal with. If this doesn’t get approved tonight and doesn’t pass on the ballot, then there is no affordable housing for seniors planned in the future and nothing will be built until 2030 at least – there is a huge vacuum that has been caused.”
The lengthy public comment featured a large number of speakers with supporters greatly outnumbering opposition – including a number of people speaking in support who normally oppose development projects, such as Eileen Samitz and Colin Walsh.
However, the planning commission itself had a number of concerns.
Darryl Rutherford explained, “I have a big heart towards affordability issues. Folks dealing with the challenges of the crazy housing market we live in.”
However, he expressed concerns. “That being said, this is quite a large project – 150 (affordable) units and one location.
“I don’t know if I like this location of where this is,” he said. “(It is) isolated from the rest of the community. I’d like to see more integration of the affordability component.”
He said, “This is a tough one because I’m also struggling with (the financing issues). I’d like to see more assistance from the developer itself to help this project come to fruition.”
Cheryl Essex had a lengthy list of concerns and questions.
At the outset she said, “I really see the need for this project in the community – we keep wondering if we’re going to stay in our East Davis home in our big lot.”
She said, “I like the location for some reasons, and I don’t like it for others.”
She cited connectivity as a big problem with the project, noting that it has “less bus service than other places in the community.” She said, “We have poor bus service to this location.”
Ms. Essex wanted to see a commitment to an on-demand shuttle.
“I would expect this because it’s senior housing to have higher density and smaller lots,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like these are smaller lots.”
Herman Boschken noted that “there has been a lot of discussion by all of us about concerns about transportation in and out of the project.” He distinguished connectivity from access. He said that while the bus stop provides connectivity, “it offers much less access than an internal transit hub… somewhere located near the community center or somewhere towards the center of the project.
“We need to consider a number of things with regards to the context these people are going to be living in,” he said.
He mentioned the traffic on Covell and asked, “Do we want our older folks exposed to traffic along Covell? Seniors almost by definition are less mobile and less agile than they were in their 20s, 30s, and 40s and so on.”
Stephen Mikesell was supportive of the project, though he too had some quibbles with it. He said that the developer and his staff “have done a really Yeoman’s job of reaching out to the community.” He called it “a model that to be followed if for no other reason I am inclined to do what needs to be done to give the man and his firm a vote of the people on this project.”
He did say, “I am in complete agreement with Cheryl (Essex) and with Herm (Boschken) that there are connectivity and access issues – I think those issues are really probably unsolvable given the fact of where they’re located within the city. There are going to be some connectivity issues no matter what you do.”
Greg Rowe said that he has supported this project for some time, “but I have some doubts as to whether or not the project is ready for prime time.”
He cited similar issues to the affordable housing component and the transit hub.
He added, “I’m not willing to wait till the projects gets to the council to address those things.”
It would seem then that most people liked the concept of the project, and they appreciated the work by the developers to reach out to the community early – they went to all of the commissions at least twice to get early feedback and address concerns.
But there still seems to be some concern about some of the project’s details, particularly on the connectivity issue that all of the commissioners clearly cited.
So now, even without recommendation for approval on the developer agreement, it is expected that the project will go to council in late May and it would appear that the applicants have some work still to be done.
—David M. Greenwald reporting