There are both strong points and weak points in the discussion over West Davis Active Adult Community. For a lot of reasons I have chosen to stay neutral on this measure. But I think there are important positives to take away from this entire process.
The first is that the developers went above and beyond any reasonable call of duty in terms of their public outreach. They went to all of the key commissions early in the process and then came to them again. This gave them time to address concerns and hopefully improve the process. And it showed, by the time it came to the Planning Commission and the council, there were not a whole lot of concerns and not a lot of opposition.
On top of that, they went above and beyond the city’s affordable housing requirement. The one real upside of a traditional, peripheral subdivision, is that there is actually the land available to do a land dedication site, which means they can get funding.
Nevertheless, I believe there are legitimate areas to question this project – many of those have been raised legitimately on the Vanguard.
That is one reason I look at the arguments raised by five Davis residents and cringe because, for the most part, they don’t address most of those concerns.
They do note: “West Davis Active Adult Community consists of rows of expensive detached, single-story homes on very large lots.” But then they follow it up: “This Sun City-like senior project is the antithesis of modern urban planning and is the worst example of suburban sprawl proposed in Davis in over 25 years.”
Hello, Covell Village, 2000 units in 2005 (just 13 years ago) was far worse. This is hyperbole that is likely to make a discerning reader skeptical of the claims, and for the most part the arguments get no better from there.
Instead, what we have are arguments that include Irresponsible Planning, No Community Planning, Massive Developer Giveaways and Subsidies, and No Guarantee that the Required Low-Income Housing will ever be Built.
This is pretty much boilerplate anti-growth rhetoric. Let me put it this way – if I just read this argument and had no other knowledge about the project, it would push me to support the project.
I am a little hesitant at this point to help out the no side with some better arguments, but here are some points that folks should consider.
The first question is, what is the housing need that this project addresses? The developer’s theory is that there is a large and growing senior population. That population lives in Davis in homes that worked for them when they had families and children, but now that people are over 55, their children will be grown and gone from the house.
They no longer need that space, so they could downsize and free up a single-family home for a family or someone who has been unable to find a place to live in Davis.
That’s a neat story to have, but there are some practical problems, some of which they attempt to solve. One problem is there is obviously no guarantee that the senior housing will be purchased by Davis residents as opposed to people moving in from the Bay Area.
So the developer has tried to solve that problem by creating the Davis-Based Buyers Program. It’s an interesting and outside-of-the-box concept, but we have no idea if it would pass legal muster, and there are practical problems associated with enforcement, some of which the council attempted to resolve.
If I am the opposition, I start by at least bringing up this concept.
Second, as the opposition notes, these are detached, single-story homes on fairly (“very” seems extreme) large lots. There have been discussions and debate about whether the density is problematic. A lot of people are somewhat skeptical of growing out and I would argue that should be a centerpiece of the opposition, not just the lead in.
On the other hand, you do run into a problem. If you are going to build single-family homes for seniors, they almost all have to be single-story because you are not going to put elevators in single-family homes. So you then end up in a place where you either have four- to five-story highly dense condos for seniors or nothing. This is meant to be kind of a transition between single-family large house living and high-density assisted care senior housing.
Along the same lines, they are smaller homes and therefore less expensive than the huge homes people are moving out of. Expensive is a relative term, but by Davis standards these are not that expensive and if the goal is to provide housing for people downsizing, expensive really is relative – people should sell their existing homes for more than the cost of these homes.
Third, while I understand the point about no community planning, it seems disingenuous. They write: “This proposal opens up the entire northwest quadrant of the city for piecemeal development without ANY discussion of community needs or vision.” Isn’t that the point of the Measure R process? After all, we have already had three major public meetings – Planning Commission and two City Council meetings. Now the community gets to vote on it – it seems that this is the opportunity for the community to discuss needs.
Fourth, along the same lines, the developers have done the outreach to the community. They deserve praise for that and part of that outreach is an implicit discussion over community needs and vision. At the end of the day, Measure R means that the voters get to decide whether this meets our needs. I fail to comprehend the second bullet point.
Finally, on the affordable housing – “the developer is donating less than 10% of the total project land on which low-income housing MAY be built.” Once again, the developer is planning for more affordable housing than is required, so the 10 percent swipe is frankly gratuitous.
The land dedication process works largely as described. The land is set aside for a non-profit to develop affordable housing. There is a provision within the development agreement that after a certain amount of time, the land would go to the city which would then be in charge of finding the affordable housing developer.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this type of affordable housing project, but the advantage is the availability of grants and other money to subsidize it, which allows for it to meet (or in this case exceed) the requirements.
Finally, there are simply people who are opposed to age-restricted housing – period. That’s probably a relatively small segment of the population, but that would seem to be an argument that should be raised here and was not.
—David M. Greenwald reporting