Pros and Cons of WDAAC/Measure L

By Don Shor

It seems there is a desire for a debate on Measure L, the West Davis Active Adult Community proposal.

Per Rik Keller:

The No On WDAAC campaign has been quite transparent, and you can read very detailed factual analysis on multiple topics here:

Okay, perhaps this can start the debate. Numbered items are quotes from the website. My answers are intentionally brief. I am not involved in the campaign and am doing this simply to promote dialogue.

  1. 1. WDAAC does not meet our City’s real demographic needs for more diverse and affordable housing for working families and those of moderate income.

— No, of course it doesn’t. It’s a senior housing development.

  1. 2. WDAAC does not meet the needs of seniors of ordinary means.

— Define “ordinary.” It’s intended for people who are moving from one house to another, presumably based on the equity they’ve accumulated in their current house. That can be considerable if they’ve lived there for a long time.

  1. 3. The Developer’s “Taking Care of Our Own – Davis-Based Buyers Program” is inherently exclusionary, certainly illegal, and does not reflect Davis’ values of inclusivity and diversity.

— Maybe. It was proposed, if I recall, in response to feedback they got at the public presentations that new housing was likely to go to out-of-town buyers. Given the full-court press against this Davis-only covenant for the majority of the housing and the likely risk of a lawsuit or civil rights complaint, I’d guess they’ll drop that. So I’m not sure there’s much more to discuss about this topic.

  1. 4. The proposed low-income senior housing component of WDAAC is a ruse. The developer is not making ANY contribution to the low-income housing construction costs and there is no guarantee in the Development Agreement that the low-income units will ever be built.

— The builder is donating land that is worth a lot of money. The process they are using is similar to what has been done for many other projects locally. They are partnering with a team that has a proven track record in this regard.

4.a. WDAAC includes Massive Developer Give-Aways, May Actually Cost the City Money on an Annual Basis, and the Development Agreement is Non-Binding and Weak.

— I’ll skip the ‘give-aways.’ As with Nishi, the city staff used a particular model and the majority of the relevant commission accepts the general conclusion that the project will likely not “cost the city money on an annual basis.” At least one commissioner feels otherwise, but that is a minority opinion.

  1. 5. The City has granted the developer massive give-aways and subsidies by, among other things, reducing project impact fees by over $3.4 million compared to fees normally charged to new developments.

— I don’t feel like fact-checking this. Opponents of development projects always want to extract more money from developers. I’ll just assume staff and the relevant commissions have done their jobs. I’m guessing opponents feel otherwise. They usually do. Maybe this particular item is worth a separate column.

  1. 6. The City projects a positive annual return to City coffers as a result of build-out of this project. However, this estimate is based on accounting methods that assume unsubstantiated reduced costs on a per resident basis for providing basic City services.

— Already addressed above.

  1. 7. There are no guarantees that this project will ever be built as proposed because the Baseline Features are vague and imprecise and the Development Agreement is exceedingly weak.

— City council has to approve any change in the development agreement. Some might actually require another Measure R vote, though I suspect the developers wouldn’t be foolish enough to make any changes that would require that.

7.a. WDAAC is a Sprawling, Unsustainable Development, In Wrong Location for a Senior Development, and Opens Up the Entire Northwest Quadrant without any Planning

— Sprawling? It’s a normal housing development. “Unsustainable?” Compared to what? It’s located near the hospital and medical facilities and very near to the other major senior housing complex in Davis.

Yes, it does indeed expand Davis to the west. It would be a great time to get going on the General Plan update we’ve been discussing for 5+ years. Maybe this will help jump-start that process. But every single annexation in the Northwest Quadrant would require a Measure R vote. Citizens have complete control of the process, General Plan update or not.

  1. 8. The far edge of town is exactly the wrong location for a senior development and this project has exceedingly poor connectivity for seniors.

— The development would be near a neighborhood shopping center that can provide the basic daily needs of seniors, including a pharmacy, and medical offices are right nearby.

  1. 9. WDAAC is a sprawling development reminiscent of the 1950s and 1960s. It does not meet any of the Sacramento Council of Governments’ (SACOG) Seven Principles for Smart Growth and clearly needs more density, different and diverse building types, and good transportation infrastructure.

— Ok, here are the Seven Principles:

    Provide a variety of transportation choices • Offer housing choices and opportunities • Take advantage of compact development • Use existing assets • Mixed land uses • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, through natural resources conservation • Encourage distinctive, attractive communities with quality design.

WDAAC is not intended to be a development for the whole community. It is senior housing. The way to assess it with respect to these seven principles would be in the context of the nearby neighborhoods and the likely future developments that would go in. Not every single housing development is going to meet every one of the ‘seven principles’. As senior housing goes, it will be convenient for the residents and many people will like the location.

  1. 10. WDAAC opens up the entire northwest quadrant of the City to speculative, piecemeal development with no overall, comprehensive Specific or Master Plan for the area whatsoever.

— Yep. Better get moving on that planning process. I’ve looked at our General Plan and I’m not sure what other parts of town have detailed specific or master plans in place. But it is a fact that planning is partly reactive (in response to development proposals) and partly proactive. It’s also a reality that planning doesn’t occur quickly, efficiently, or very effectively in this town. The way to get started on planning is to have a specific proposal. WDAAC provides that. It is a specific project aimed at a particular demographic, and could become part of a long-term, 30- to 50-year buildout of the northwest quadrant.

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  1. Rik Keller

    Looking at one of these points presented, this is an inadequate presentation of analysis and commentary that has already been done. It is also a naive view about the way the process works:

    ” There are no guarantees that this project will ever be built as proposed because the Baseline Features are vague and imprecise and the Development Agreement is exceedingly weak.

    — City council has to approve any change in the development agreement. Some might actually require another Measure R vote, though I suspect the developers wouldn’t be foolish enough to make any changes that would require that.”

    Let’s look at this in more detail, including what the project proponents, David Greenwald, and the project opponents have already written:

    J. Taormino: “14.   Are you avoiding entering into a development agreement?  No. We have heard from the Community that they wanted to participate in the development agreement deal points.  Development agreements are mostly boilerplate language mitigating risks, defining payment options and a few specific deal points.  We expect all the significant deal points that are normally in a development agreement to be in the Baseline Features & Requirements so that they are evident to the voters.  The citizens then have a direct contract with the developer that is only changeable with a new vote.

    D. Greenwald 9/9/2018: “As noted at the council meeting, these restrictions are not tied into the Project Baseline Features or even the Developer’s Agreement.  So, the developers are in no way bound to adhere to it.

    No On WDAAC [website]: “It is critically important to note that the number of each different type and size of units to be built is not guaranteed in the Baseline Features or in the Development Agreement. It is entirely possible that the number of smaller cottages, bungalows, and condos will be severely reduced or even eliminated, and, alarmingly, this would still be consistent with the Baseline Features and Development Agreement…In fact, the Council has already agreed with the developer that any changes they might make in the Development Agreement in the future will automatically be considered to be compliant with the Measure R Baseline Features because those Baseline Features are so poorly written….the City is legally precluded from imposing any more specific conditions on the sizes or designs or other amenities and features selected by the developer because in the Development Agreement the City agreed not to do so as follows:

    “C. Subsequent Discretionary Approvals. The Developers’ vested right to develop pursuant to this Agreement may be subject to subsequent discretionary approvals for portions of the Project. In reviewing and acting upon these subsequent discretionary approvals, and except as set forth in this Agreement, the City shall not impose any conditions that preclude the development of the Project for the uses or the density and intensity of use set forth in this Agreement.

    In other words, because unenforceable and arbitrary standards are not more specific and are unresolved in the Baseline Features and Development Agreement, the developer can functionally do anything he wants and the City can do little about it. This is no way to entitle a massive project of this size and it sets a very bad precedent for any future development.”

    Question for Don Schor: the project has pledged that all “significant deal points” would be in the Baseline Features & Requirement. However, this is clearly not the case. All of the promotional material for the project includes the “Taking Care of Our Own” tagline for the Davis-Based Buyers Program, yet it isn’t even a part of the Baseline Features of the project. Nor are the affordable housing measures. Additionally, the Development Agreement itself is so weak and toothless that the vague guidelines set forth within can be easily maneuvered out of. The “direct contract with the voters” that you have pledged is nothing more than an empty promise.

    Why is your only analysis of this very important point that “City council has to approve any change in the development agreement.”?



    1. Don Shor

      Here are the baseline features:
      “Nor are the affordable housing measures” —
      The development agreement states: “· Provide land to accommodate 150 subsidized affordable senior apartments.”

      Why is your only analysis of this very important point that “City council has to approve any change in the development agreement.”?

      Because I believe that to be an accurate statement. Others can click on the link to the baseline features and decide for themselves whether there is sufficient detail there.

  2. Tia Will

    This post is also only in the interest of moving the dialogue forward. Good or bad for “the community” is clearly a matter of perspective. I am offering only my opinions as a member of the community who is in the position of “senior” citizen. I will follow Don’s format with no attempt to be comprehensive. Also, I have taken no position on the senior housing proposal.

    1.”No, of course it doesn’t. It’s a senior housing development.”

    I believe it is the basic premise of the wisdom of a senior housing development that is being challenged. While it will doubtless be “enjoyed” by the people that choose to and can afford to live there, that says nothing at all about whether or not it is best land use for the community. The same argument was used about student housing which I supported because of the magnitude of need. What we have chosen is to respond to the students assertions that they are part of Davis too  by segregating them in what will almost certainly be nearly exclusively student housing. So much for “incorporating them into the community”.

    3. Davis based buyer’s program.- I think there is more to be said here. Within the past 5 years I have made two home purchases in Sacramento and one sale here in Davis. In each case the purchase/sale either was, or could have been driven by the exodus from the Bay Area/Silicon Valley. In the case of the Sacramento houses, I drove up the bidding over those from the Bay because I could. In the case of the sale, I chose to sell for less than I could have had in cash because I wanted to sell to a local family. I doubt the developers will be adopting that approach. My point is to make it clear that despite good intentions and promotion, this is likely to turn out the same way The Cannery did, only for seniors, some local and more than a few Bay area seniors.

    7. “It’s a normal housing development.”

    I suspect that this may be part of the problem for some. There is really not much in the way of innovation here. The model is of single family dwellings which have been cited again and again as part of the problem with how Davis has chosen to grow. It represents the opposite of densification which many feel is a criteria we should be adopting

    8.”The far edge of town is exactly the wrong location for a senior development and this project has exceedingly poor connectivity for seniors.”

    This is a major area of friendly disagreement. I had an interesting conversation with former council candidate Mary Jo Bryant. She is a development advocate. I am remaining neutral at this point. We saw this point from diametrically opposite points of view. She saw this as a good location based on proximity to shopping, medical center, pharmacy and felt the transportation connectivity was good. I see it as peripheral, not particularly well connected by transportation, neither walkable nor amenable to bicycling compared with more central locations. For example, in downsizing, one of my major criteria was walkability. I am planning for the time when I can no longer drive. In an attempt to present some objectivity I have used the National walkability index. My downsized home in OED has a walkability index of 73 ( most errands can be completed on foot), a transit score of 46 ( some transport options) and a bicycle index of 100″Biker’s Paradise”.  (  The WDAAC site, using Sutter hospital as proxy has a walk score of 49 ( car dependent for most errands), a public transportation score of 39 ( some options) and a bicycle index of  86 ( considered very bikeable).

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