City Continues to Push Back against Final EIR of LRDP

In a letter dated Tuesday, July 17, the city of Davis continued to express objection to the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) findings in connection with the 2018 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) for UC Davis, arguing that “the FEIR is significantly flawed and requires revision in order to make it legally sufficient under CEQA.”

The city, as it has previously asserted, believes that the CEQA findings “improperly conclude that impacts of the LRDP will be less-than significant without analyzing the impacts that will occur if the housing contemplated under the LRDP is not developed before enrollment increases.”

The city is now claiming to be in support of the LRDP in general and its goal of providing housing for 10,958 students and employees on campus.  At the same time, Whitney McDonald, an attorney with Richards, Watson & Gershon (RWG), writing on behalf of the city, argues that “it is obligated to point out that neither the Draft nor the Final EIR properly evaluate the potential environmental consequences of this important, large-scale, and long-lasting plan.”

The city in particular is concerned that the Final EIR was released on July 2 and is presented to the Board of Regents for certification 17 days later, effectively foreclosing “the ability of the public and the City to continue to work with UC Davis to remedy the FEIR’s deficiencies and address the City’s concerns.”

Ms. McDonald provides three major areas of concern.  One is that the LRDP will be built within the next 12 years without providing any assurances, including an identifiable and enforceable implementation plan, “that this will actually occur.”

This is along the lines of other criticism that the university has in the past promised a given percentage of student housing on campus and then not delivered on those promises.

Ms. McDonald notes: “The FEIR fails to properly evaluate or disclose the near- or interim-term impacts of the LRDP on important issue areas such as transportation, air quality, and noise.”

She argues: “The LRDP would create significant environmental impacts in these areas with the addition of new students, employees, and their dependents well before the plan is built out in 2030-31. But the FEIR provides no analysis of these impacts, improperly claiming that to do so would be misleading. This is simply not true and the result is a legally inadequate FEIR.”

Further, she argues: “The FEIR fails to incorporate feasible mitigation measures to address significant environmental impacts. Many of the measures that are identified do not ensure adequate mitigation and allow deferred implementation until well after significant environmental impacts will occur, in violation of CEQA.”

The city, Ms. McDonald writes, “believes these issues may be addressed through further analysis and adoption of additional mitigation measures, but more time for consultation with the City and others, and a revised FEIR, will be necessary.”

She argues: “Such a collaborative approach is critical to the ongoing relationship of the City and the University, and has been urged by other commenters such as the County of Yolo, which ‘urges serious consideration of the City’s comments.’”

Indeed, as the county aptly put it: “As a partner, it is important that UC Davis be responsive and understanding of the needs of our local communities and strengthen this collaborative relationship. In the spirit of this collaborative partnership, we trust UC Davis will consider and address the comments brought forward by the City of Davis and other jurisdictions.”

The city adds hopefully: “Response to Local Community Requests. We are hopeful that more direct and responsive collaboration can occur now, before any action is taken on the FEIR or the LRDP.”

However, it warns, “Absent such steps, the FEIR will remain legally inadequate, and the City may be forced to pursue other legal remedies to ensure that the environmental impacts of the LRDP are addressed appropriately.”

In a separate letter, the city summarizes its concerns, noting: “Many of the findings rely on an analysis that improperly compares potential impacts of the LRDP against an environmental baseline that is projected to exist 12 years in the future. As a result, the CEQA Findings fail to identify substantial evidence to support the impact determinations that rely on this faulty baseline.

“As a result of the FEIR’s use of an improper future baseline to evaluate impacts, the CEQA Findings do not address a number of potentially significant impacts that are anticipated to occur before full buildout of the LRDP.”

The FEIR, Ms. McDonald continues, “does not incorporate all feasible mitigation measures to reduce significant environmental impacts. This is particularly problematic in light of the fact that the FEIR improperly relies on full development of the housing goals stated in the LRDP without ensuring that new housing will be built before enrollment and employment increase.”

She continues: “The CEQA Findings rely on mitigation measures that impermissibly defer implementation of actual mitigation until well after the significant impacts occur.”

She adds, “The response to comments included in the FEIR do not supply substantial evidence to support rejection of the new or revised mitigation measures proposed by commenters, particularly those proposed by the City and other public agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“The proposed Overriding Considerations contained in the CEQA Findings rely on the housing goals identified in the LRDP to override the significant and unavoidable impacts associated with increased enrollment and employment at the University. However, the record lacks substantial evidence to support this finding because neither the LRDP nor the FEIR ensures that the housing will actually be built,” Ms. McDonald continues.

She concludes: “As a result of these flaws and others, the City objects to any effort by the Regents to approve the LRDP at this time, including certification of the FEIR. The City instead urges and requests that the Regents continue any action on the LRDP to allow for necessary revisions to the EIR.”

—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. Matt Williams

    NOTE: I  asked a variation on the following question in another thread as well

    Whitney McDonald’s claims reported above prompt several questions that have to do with the last LRDP and any accompanying EIR

    1)  What is the per year average enrollment increase in this 2018 LRDP?

    2) How does that projected per year average enrollment increase compare to UCD’s actual average enrollment increase over the past 5 years? … and/or compare to UCD’s actual average enrollment increase over the past 10 years?

    9,050 additional beds (if it happens) does compare favorably to an enrollment increase of 5,100 students, but does it compare well to what is actually likely to happen?  To answer that question one needs to go to UCD’s prior LRDP and EIR and compare the projected per year average enrollment increase in that last LRDP and EIR to what actually happened in the intervening years between the date of that last LRDP and today.

  2. Don Shor

    As reported here, Whitney McDonald’s letter provides an excellent summary of the problems the city has with UCD’s past performance and lack of specific timeline and benchmarks for fulfilling its current promise. It sounds like a very good basis for negotiations toward a detailed MOU or similar document with UCD. In the absence of timely negotiations, a lawsuit might be necessary. That would be unfortunate, since it takes time and money.  I hope the city will continue to press this at every opportunity. The UC administration needs to move beyond the PR phase of the LRDP and get down to nuts and bolts.

  3. Craig Ross

    I’m pretty sure the city is going to have to sue.  The university basically slipped the city the bird in their response.  They don’t care, they are the 800 pound gorilla and they know it.

    1. Jeff M

      The city deserves the bird.  With Measure R and a room full of no-growers, the city has been everything but a good partner to negotiate with in good faith.   When the other party is unreasonable, the process changes from one seeking solutions through cooperation and to one seeking solutions through domination.

      1. Craig Ross

        UCD housing is ridiculously expensive.  There’s not enough it.  It’s a waste of space.  They haven’t followed through the last couple of rounds to build what they say they would.  What you wrote about Davis applies doubly to UC Davis.

  4. Richard McCann

    Based on UCD’s language in its point by point responses to the City’s comments and requests, I’m not sure if the City has provided enough documentation and linkage to environmental consequences requred under CEQA for the basis of its requests. If that’s the case, the City’s legal route may be very limited.

    Has anyone looked at the City’s submission to assess whether its technical work is sufficient to potentially win a suit? (This is a legal and technical question, not about the validity of the City’s issues.)

        1. Jim Hoch

          David that is the oddest statement!

          I’ll start with him even showing up. We are directly on either route (80 or 128) from Napa to Sacramento so we are not even out of his way.

          We are paying taxes to support two representatives to the legislature. Despite the fact that we are paying them neither seems to give a rat’s ass about Davis.

          The relationship between the city and the school could be significantly altered by an activist stance by either/both as they are the people who write the budget for the UC system.

          The concept of negotiating with the Chancellor is juvenile. The chancellor receives direction from the Regents and the Office of the President. The goals and actions of the President are circumscribed by the budget they receive. This makes the legislature, in sales talk, the “economic buyer”.

          The Chancellor will do what they believe is the best to meet the goals have been given. Asking them to do something other than that is pointless.

        2. David Greenwald

          How is that the oddest statement?  You’ve made an extremely vague comment followed by a lengthier, but still vague comment.

          What do you want him to do – specifically?  Are you wanting him to sponsor legislation – if so what?  You call my statement odd, but there is no there there to yours.

        3. Jim Hoch

          “What do you want him to do – specifically?” 

          Dodd and Curry  are the brokers. That is why they are referred to as our “representatives”. If they cannot find a satisfactory resolution then they need to legislate.  Either way, as our “representatives” they need to ensure that the interests of their constituents are respected by state agencies.

          Dodd’s website says “Proudly Representing District 3”. I don’t feel well represented and his garage door activism is too stupid to even discuss.

        4. Jim Hoch

          Well I have almost $100 million on my desk this week but clearly you know more about how to get a deal done.


          “Let me know when you actually have something, Jim”

          1. David Greenwald

            Ok. But again I’ve asked for specifics multi-times and gotten nothing from you.

          2. Don Shor

            Senator Dodd and Assemblymember Aguilar-Curry could certainly facilitate a meeting between the chancellor and the mayor to come to a clear understanding of the issues between the city and the university with respect to housing and growth. The timeline of construction, the benchmarks, and which staff at both levels will be the key personnel implementing and communicating about this. My guess is that Chancellor May would be responsive to communication from legislators in a way that he hasn’t been with regard to city commissioners and council members. A couple of meetings between principals can lead to an MOU and the establishment of a process for making sure it’s happening. Having Dodd or Aguilar-Curry assign one of their staff to check in on the process over time could be useful.
            Local political leaders like to facilitate things. This would be an opportunity to act as a broker where communication seems to be stalled. It may be necessary to bring the UCOP into the loop, as overall housing policy is set there. It is possible that the Chancellor will say that some aspects are out of his control, for that reason. And at that level, local legislators can be very helpful just via a phone call or two.

        5. Jim Hoch

          Without the budget holder at the table deals don’t get done. The budget holder in this case is the legislature.

          Talking to implementers like the chancellor or or sending letters to mail drops is not a path to success.

        6. Jim Hoch

          Don’s exactly right about this. “It is possible that the Chancellor will say that some aspects are out of his control”. It would shock me to learn that he has discretionary funds sufficient to build housing or that he can obligate UC to the type of partnership that would allow a third party to build housing.

          With Dodd and Curry involved you may be able to get to an honest answer. It may not be your preferred answer but getting an honest answer would be helpful. Berkeley is planning lots of housing projects currently and that may be where all the funding is going.

      1. Ken A

        I’m sure the battery backup people are happy that Dodd wants to add ~$100 to the cost every garage door (plus adding another $100 every five years for a new battery) but does anyone know if even a single person in CA has died when they couldn’t open the garage door after the power went out (my 12 year old knows that pulling the red handle will allow the door to open without power and also knows that if you put a car in reverse and floor it 99% of the time you will endup outside)?  I think Dodd knows that quite a few people in Davis know he is a fake Democrat and I don’t think we will see him around here often (unless we spot his SUV passing under the bike overpass) and I sure don’t expect him to try to broker anything between the city and UCD.

        1. Jim Hoch

          The cost is an issue but for me the idea that we are going to add millions of batteries to the waste stream just because Dodd had a hard time opening his door once is just crazy.



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