Council Asked to Approve an Evolving Plaza 2555

Plaza 2555 is a triangular-shaped parcel of land across the street from Playfields Park and down the street from Davis Diamonds and the soon-to-be built Hyatt House Hotel.  The 7.3 acre property located on two parcels, bounded by Research Park Drive, Cowell Boulevard, and Interstate 80 is currently zoned commercial, but the proposed amendment would see 200 housing units of a variety of types.

The applicant has continued to modify the proposal and now two-thirds are proposed to be three bedrooms or smaller (134).

At least 10 percent of the overall number of dwelling units are proposed to be “micro units” (20 minimum) of about 350 square feet each.  The applicant is proposing a cap on the overall number of units with four or more bedrooms at 33 percent of the total (66 maximum) with around 10 percent of the units at five bedrooms (20).

Staff notes: “This represents a noteworthy change from the applicant’s original proposal, which contained more four and five bedroom units.”

Currently the project proposes a mix of housing types with both row-house style townhouses and stacked flat apartment units in two- and three-story buildings which would be separated by landscaping.

The project also includes a leasing office, café space, multiple indoor activity areas, pedestrian pathways, landscaped courtyards, common open space areas, approximately 380 vehicle parking spaces, and approximately 646 bicycle parking spaces.

The applicant has “significantly modified their original concept” for affordable housing.  Staff writes: “The applicant has intentionally focused their proposed Affordable Housing Plan on serving low-income families consisting of single individuals, including low-income students.”

Staff notes that the plan now includes a “proposed mix of affordability by both unit and by bedroom.”  In staff’s opinion, “the proposal is consistent with the interim ordinance.”

The Planning Commission, however, “voted to provide no recommendation on the Affordable Housing Plan.”

Staff explains, “The Commission was aware that the plan would be subsequently reviewed by the SSC and it is staff’s interpretation that their action was essentially intended to defer to the recommendations of the SSC. The SSC subsequently voted 4-2 in support of the plan.”

Two Planning Commissioners voted against a portion of the recommendation and “expressed concerns regarding the project’s density, affordability, and appropriateness of the location.”

In addition, the full Commission “voted to not take an action on the Development Agreement and affordable housing plan because they believed there was not enough information available to guide consideration of the Development Agreement and because they were aware the Social Services Commission would be subsequently voting on the Affordable Housing Plan.”

The Social Services Commission in September voted 4-2 to recommend the following for Council consideration: first, make an additional 10 of the micro units affordable, that would increase affordability to 20 percent.  Second, reduce the number of four- and five-bedroom units.  Finally, “Focus on floorplans that prioritize serving a diverse residency, specifically seniors and families.”

Staff notes that the two commissioners voting against those recommendation had expressed the preference for no four- and five-bedroom units and “a concern about approving an affordable housing plan that seems to be targeting students, given the number of recently approved student-oriented projects.”

Council will be asked to determine that the project is statutorily exempt from CEQA based on it being a Transit Priority Project.  The Planning Commission agreed 7-0 with that assessment.

Staff states: “The project is consistent with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS) pursuant to SB 375. It meets all of the requirements of PRC related to this exemption.”

At the Planning Commission meeting, the biggest pushback came from Eileen Samitz.

She called the project “basically a reconstituted mega-dorm” and said it is “[i]n one of the worst locations in the city.  How much more remote can it be from the campus?”

In a comment on the Vanguard she questioned why the project on a “huge” parcel would “not have an EIR since it will have impacts that need to be analyzed.”  She asks, “Why is Plaza 2555, which is located right next to I-80 and a remote area being fast-tracked and not doing an EIR, like similar projects did? This is a significant land use change which would be a generous up-zoning, yet it is not focusing on the need for local workers and family rental housing.”

The configuration of the site continues to change somewhat.  When it came before the Planning Commission it was proposed at 30 micro, 4 one-bedroom, 11 two-bedroom, 29 three-bedroom townhouse and 60 three-bedroom flats.

The number of four and five units remain the same at 46 and 20, but they have altered the configuration of the rest, with 20 micro units and now 114 units of one- to three-bedroom size.

Staff notes, “The total number of possible three-bedroom units continues to be a topic of discussion. Theoretically, as many as 57% of the three-bedroom units (114) could be proposed as three-bedroom to the exclusion of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Combined with possible four- and five-bedroom units the overall theoretical percentage could be considerable (90 percent).”

Staff emphasized: “The applicant has expressed that is not their intent and in addition that the capacity of the site could preclude this.”

—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. Craig Ross

    I’m really disappointed to see the developers back off student housing just because of Eileen and a few loud voices.  We haven’t addressed the student housing crisis by any means in this town.

        1. Alan Miller

          How’s that.

          I think the onion peeled itself, as planned.

          So tell me know, self-peeled CR, if that is how you feel, why did the pro-housing student group go to only the very last meeting of Trackside to support non-student, non-affordable, luxury, housing-for-rich-people S-can of a building after our neighborhood spent years fighting it, and declare their support of that dreadful project?  Hmmmmm . . .  and then they met afterwards with a developer of the project, also Rich people.  Appears the students were there to support a rich people for rich people building that went against the Design guidelines that our neighborhood worked hard for, our agreement with the City on how our neighborhood would grow.  Why didn’t you tell the developers and their project and their planned tenants:  “we don’t need you, live somewhere else”?  How’s THAT?

        2. Craig Ross

          Actually I was expressing the sentiment as it seems some feel in this community.

          To answer your question, I think students believe that this community is so anti-housing that by standing up for one project, we are standing up for our own.

        3. Ron

          I’ve never understood how Trackside could be anything other than high-end housing, given the cost of redevelopment, inclusion of commercial space, and elimination of Affordable housing requirements for vertical mixed-use.

          Seems to me that the proposal is simply too big, given the size of the surrounding buildings.

        4. Ron

          Craig:  I assume that you’re doing the same.

          Regardless, you’re incorrectly interpreting my comment as a “criticism”.  There are appropriate locations for high-end housing, and downtown (and near-downtown) are probably where it will occur, given the cost of redevelopment (and desirable location, for some).

          In general, some folks might even prefer a gentrifying impact in a given area.  (Probably not students, since they generally haven’t started careers. In fact, they might be the first ones forced out – e.g., in old East Davis). Perhaps some students haven’t yet figured this out, in regard to Trackside (and proposals like it).

        5. Ron

          You said “home”, which doesn’t necessarily imply ownership.  I suspect that few students do.

          If it’s substandard, you might want to report it to the new renter program. Regarding sharing a bedroom, that’s what many of the megadorms are planning for.

          Of all the people who truly need help in the world (at large), UC Davis students are not at the top of the list.  (In fact, many are probably on their way to being part of the “top 1%” – possibly future occupants of developments like Trackside.)

          Some students don’t try to live on their own, for the entire period while earning their degrees. Some voluntarily leave stable family homes, where they could have stayed for at least the first couple of years of college. (Some are able to do so for the entire period, while earning their degrees.)

        6. Craig Ross

          Arrogant presumption.  Ron, you don’t know students, why are you being [edited]  A lot of us are sacrificing a lot in hopes that we can get a degree and get a job and make a good life.  But you have no idea where I came from, or my background.  I’m going to be the first one in my family to get a college degree.  I have had to work a few jobs to make ends meet and be able to live here.  And no, I’m not about to rock the boat and complain about my substandard housing, it’s a good way not to have housing.

          [edited, no name-calling please]

        7. Ron

          It would be interesting to know how many students have other options, and are voluntarily subjecting themselves to challenging conditions.

          What makes you think I don’t know students? I was one, myself (not so long ago). In any case, my comment did not imply that I knew your exact situation. I am sure that there are students who have fewer choices, than some others.

          I’m also equally certain that some do, in fact have choices that wouldn’t be so challenging. There seems to be a “culture”, in which some students (and their families) think that going to college should be a time to strike out on your own. However, realities suggest this may no longer be the case.

        8. Ron

          In fact, students are probably not even the neediest population in Davis.

          There are some folks who won’t have the opportunities that those who graduate from UC Davis will have. Some are permanently stuck, in the lower-rungs of lifetime earnings.

          Those who attend UC Davis are some of the most capable, smartest folks around. They’re not “stuck” (and many certainly know how to ensure that their “voices” are heard).

        9. Keith O

          Craig Ross, both of my daughters worked their whole time in college, I sent them some money when I could to help them out but it was a stretch for their mother and I.  They both shared a room and sacrificed while attending college.  They both were the first college degrees in the family.  They didn’t complain, they knew that’s how it was for most college students and they enjoyed the experience.  Why do so many college students today feel like they are so entitled?

        10. Craig Ross

          Keith – what does entitled behavior mean?  Example within my comments would be helpful.

          Ron – so because you were a student many years ago, that means what?  What makes me think you don’t know any students?  None of your comments show any sort of understanding of what students have to deal with.  They also completely lack empathy.

        11. Mark West

          Why do folks who already have appropriate housing feel so entitled to tell others how they should live?

          There is a housing shortage in Davis, that is a fact not an opinion. Deal with it.

        12. Ron

          Mark:  “Why do folks who already have appropriate housing feel so entitled to tell others how they should live?”

          There are certainly a lot of assumptions in that statement. Probably getting off-track (and off-topic), so let’s just leave it at that. (Looks like you were responding to Craig’s original comment, regardless.)

  2. Todd Edelman

    The bicycle commute to campus for most will be the following:
    * Across Research Park Dr. to Playfields Park.
    * Through park to path under Pole Line
    * Take path on west side of Pole Line to funded, near-future connection to East Olive.
    * East Olive to West Olive to Putah Creek Trail to the Arboretum.
    Cyclists will not need to stop more than two times, and likely will only need to do so one time, at Richards. It should take around 10 min. Hopefully in the not too distant future there will be a new crossing next to Lincoln40 from East Olive over to Davis Depot, creating a less than ten-minute journey to the Depot or Downtown with only one stop sign (at Research Park next to the project), so likely no need to stop at all.

  3. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said . . . In addition, the full Commission “voted to not take an action on the Development Agreement and affordable housing plan because they believed there was not enough information available to guide consideration of the Development Agreement and because they were aware the Social Services Commission would be subsequently voting on the Affordable Housing Plan.”

    The phrase “not enough information” does not do justice to the FBC review process of the Staff Report’s description of the fiscal impact of the project.  To date the FBC has received absolutely no information about the project … either positive or negative.  As a result the public and the Council are given no option other than to take the language of the Fiscal Impact section of the Staff Report (copied and posted below) at face value.

    Fiscal Impact

    The project is revenue neutral according to the City’s fiscal model analysis. The project’s annual ongoing revenues and costs for the City from the project are projected to be neutral over the first 15 years of development. The project is located in the 27.4539% property tax rate area. Based on an assessed valuation of $51,750,000, annual property tax revenue to the City would be approximately $144,000.

    Hopefully Staff and Council will explain on Tuesday why they have chosen not to have the FBC review the Plaza 2555 financial impact, and will also provide the public with the same fiscal model exhibits provided forboth the Nishi and WDAAC projects … exhibits that show how the statement “The project is revenue neutral according to the City’s fiscal model analysis” is supported.

    1. Howard P

      Fair question… will look forward to a fair answer as to why FBC has not reviewed.

      If they (FBC) were aware of the proposal, did they speak up as to review?

    2. David Greenwald

      Meant as an honest question Matt – but given that we’ve done a number of these projects – does every single one of them need their own, independent analysis? Put another way, what in here is going to change the analysis over a Nishi or Lincoln40?

      1. Matt Williams

        Simnple answer David … as long as the results of the model are not transparently disclosed, then the simple answer is a question for staff and the Council, “What causes you to hide the results from the public?”

        With that said, the FBC had an agendized item on the model at last Moday’s meeting, and there are substiantial parts of the model that staff said (a year ago) that they did not have time to complete prior to the Nishi and WDAAC decisions (the fiscal impact of Lincoln 40 was never modeled to the best of my knowledge).  In  addition (1) the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee has asked for enhancements in the model to support their process, and (2) the FBC’s review of the Leland Forecast Model made it very clear that integration of the new development model output into the Leland model is very desireable.  FBC unanimously sent on a motion to staff and Council detailing the recommended Release 2.0 features.

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