Guest Commentary: Send the West Davis Active Adult Community Plan Back to the Drawing Board

Let’s Meet the City’s Real Internal Housing Needs, Including for Low-Income Seniors

By Nancy and Don Price

In October 2002, the City Council appointed a subcommittee to study housing needs in Davis. In particular, the Council wanted to consider providing housing opportunities for the local workforce as the primary reason for city residential growth.

In this context, the phrase “internal housing need”  was incorporated in City policy framework, documents, and studies to refer primarily to low and moderate income workforce housing. Indeed, work force housing is the only category of housing specifically mentioned as “internal needs” in the City’s General Plan and for which specific policies have been crafted to meet the need.

For instance, Measure J (voter approved in 2000) and Measure R (voter approved in 2010) as an update of Measure J were intended to “further” and “implement” meeting this “internal housing need” based on local employment growth, UCD growth, and “natural” growth. Indeed, meeting this “internal housing need” is the only justification provided in Measures J/R for converting agricultural lands on the periphery of the city.

Unfortunately, the Yes on Measure L campaign has erroneously misappropriated the term, “internal housing needs,” to otherwise claim the WDAAC project, providing low-income subsidized senior housing and much larger and expensive homes  for senior purchase, meets these needs and thus should be approved by voters. This is a false claim and is not supported anywhere in City documents.

The West Davis Active Adult Community (WDAAC) developers have also seized on the only other  very real unmet housing need in Davis: that is, affordable housing for low-income seniors, and they are campaigning hard for voter approval of the project based on this unmet need. However, only 5% of the land (about 4 acres) at the project will be used for proposed low-income senior apartments, while over 65 acres of the project will be devoted to high-end, single-story, single family housing, unaffordable to a vast number of low and moderate income seniors.

While acknowledging the real need for subsidized senior housing, the No on Measure L campaign claims that the WDAAC project has not even bothered to include calculations of its actual affordable housing requirements in an “Affordable Housing Plan” as otherwise required by City Code. In fact, the No on Measure L campaign has alternatively provided extensive documentation and calculations of the WDAAC’s low-income housing obligations and shows it to be about twice (over 8 acres) what the WDAAC project is proposing (only 4 acres) in terms of a required land donation. Why should the Planning Commission and the City Council be giving this developer a pass?

As the developers of the project have told us, there about 450 seniors on local waiting lists for subsidized low-income senior housing in Davis.  Why, then, is not more land being donated  for low-income senior housing units to be built there and phased in over time as funding is secured, like Neighborhood Partners is doing in Dixon?

In addition to the problem with a reduced proposal for the required land donation for subsidized senior housing, the WDAAC project does not really meet the defined “internal housing needs” for Davis. Davis does not need a sprawling Del Webb-like expensive senior development. What Davis really needs is smaller-scale, more dense, and affordable housing designed for both seniors, single people, couples and families of modest means – small studios and compact 1, 2 and 3 bedroom designs in two to three story configurations in combination  with smaller single-family homes with a close-knit neighborhood setting in mind.  A community center for pre-school, classes, meetings, and events would create even more of a sense of community and bring seniors into the life of a truly diverse and community.

As it is now, this project is just more exclusive sprawl restricted to well-to-do seniors, without a second thought to what are our community’s real needs.

For all of these reasons, we will be voting “No” on Measure L and urge fellow voters to do the same.

If this 75-acre site is to be developed, this current project should be sent back to the developer and to the City Council so they can put before the voters a much improved and well-designed plan that truly meets the City’s “internal housing needs” for moderate income seniors, single people, young couples and families, while also providing for the full statutory required land donation for low-income senior housing.

We deserve and we should demand a plan that is much more innovative in vision, and design that is a reflection of our community needs and values.

— Nancy Price is a former Planning Commission member and Don Price is professor emeritus at UC Davis. Both are longtime Davis residents.

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About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. David Thompson

    The claim in this piece that the City provided no breakdown of the affordable housing calculation in the planning approval process for West Davis Active Adult Community (WDAAC) is not true. The No campaign was informed of this yesterday afternoon.

    The city’s analysis was presented in three formal public reports that began in March of this year.

    The specific breakdown of the number of affordable units to meet the city requirements for WDAAC was first presented by city staff in a report with a table of the breakdown in the Staff Report to the Social Services Commission on WDAAC on March 20th this year, then again, slightly revised, due to input, in the Staff Report to the Planning Commission on April 11, 2018 on WDAAC, and then once again in the Staff Report to the Davis City Council on WDAAC on May 29th and later continued to a Council Meeting on June 12, of this year.

    These three 200 page publicly available reports provide the breakdown which came to there being a need established by City staff for the developer to provide land for 55.75 apartments. The land subsequently provided by the developer is enough for 150 apartments for low income seniors. Almost three times the number of affordable apartments required.

    The City Staff Reports all referred to the fact that the developer had donated land that exceeded the affordable units provided.

    Here are the references to the three reports.

    City Staff Report, Tuesday, May 29 Council meeting report, the Council meeting was extended also to June 12th.

     The Staff Report to the Planning Commission meeting of April 11, 2018 is at

    The initial Staff Report on the breakdown of the housing affordability requirements for WDAAC was made to the Social Services Commission on March 20, 2018.

    I was in attendance at all three very lengthy meetings at which many members of the public also spoke.

    David J. Thompson, Neighborhood Partners. LLC,

  2. Rik Keller

    From Alan Pryor, No On WDAAC:

    “David Thompson has conveniently neglected to disclose that the Affordable Housing Ordinace for “For Sale” housing projects (under which the WDAAC clearly falls) specifically requires a mixture of 2 and 3 bedroom units to be provided to low income “buyers” at affordable prices. Plus, WDAAC is using lower percentages to arrive at their affordable housing obligations than are required in the Affordable Housing Ordinance.

    A proper analysis of the WDAAC affordable housing obligations shows that they should provide 66 affordable for-sale units – half 2-bedroom and half 3-bedroom homes. If you converted these into single bedroom units it would require a total of 166 one-bedroom apartments not merely the 55 one-bedroom and “studio” units that David Thompson claims is required. At the statutory minimum density of 20 units per acre required for an alternative land donation, this would require a land donation of 8.15 acres not the measly 4 acres offered by the project developer. David Thompson and Neighborhood Partners LLC ( a privately held, for-profit entity) are selling the low income housing community short by accepting far less land than the Affordable Housing Ordinance demands. Follow the money…who profits from this sell-out.

    Plus, as you know, the Affordable Housing Ordinance specifically requires a detailed Affordable Housing Plan to be provided as part of the original application submitted to the City wherein it requires specific statutory findings and a specified procedure to be followed before any variance is granted. This procedure has NOT been followed for the WDAAC project where the final numbers for the land donation for the affordable housing requirments were ginned up and presented as being in full compliance with the ordinance instead of being truthfully disclosed as falling far short.”

    1. Ken A

      When Rik writes “not the measly 4 acres offered by the project developer” I’m wondering if he knows that a “measly” four acres of land for development in Davis may be worth over 10 MILLION dollars (there are a bunch of lots in the Cannery listed for over $60/sf).

      P.S. I’m wondering if Rik can tell us what a donation must be worth before it is no longer “measly” $20 million, $50, million or (after using the Dr. Evil voice) $100 Million Dollars…


      1. Rik Keller

        City of Davis Municipal Code, Article 18.05 AFFORDABLE HOUSING

        “Housing Mix. The developer must provide a mix of two- and three-bedroom units, with a minimum of fifty percent of the units as three-bedroom units…”

        And: ” Land dedication. When a developer makes a land dedication in order to satisfy the requirements of this article, it shall comply with the following requirements:…The density of development for the purpose of calculating the acreage to be dedicated under this section shall be fifteen units per acre.”

    2. Craig Ross

      I have a lot of problems with this analysis that Rik has simply cut and pasted.

      ”specifically requires a mixture of 2 and 3 bedroom units to be provided to low income “buyers” at affordable prices.”

      I’ve never been able to find this.  What’s more is David T. has made the point that Senior Affordable Housing is one bedroom and they count it by the unit, not the bed.  It’s not like people are going to be sharing bedrooms like student housing.  But even if you take it at face value, I figure whether the actual requirement is 55 or 66, you get multiplying by 2.5 bedrooms average between 137.5 and 165 beds.  Given that, I think however you compute, they aren’t short.

      The second point that keeps getting raise is whether the developer is supposed to contribute to the building of the units over and above the land dedication.  Again, David T. has raised the point that many other affordable projects have simply been land dedications.  As long as you get the units required, I’m not sure why it even matters.  After all, the units will be built – per David T’s word and reputation.  He’s not complaining that they will be shortchanged.  And in their most recent project they raised over $30 million.  BOTTOM LINE: if all the units get built, what difference does this make.

      In short, these are both non-issues that the No side has tried to turn into issues.

      1. Alan Pryor

        “Non-issue”, huh? Well if you take David Thompson at his word that all he needs is the land and he’ll get the money and he can put 150 units on 4 acres, then he should be able to put over 300 low income housing units if 8 acres are donated. That is more than 150 extra senior affordable housing units that could be built if the full required land were donated. Doesn’t seem like a “non-issue” to me given the clamoring over how much we need affordable housing and how we just have to pass this project or the poor seniors will be left on the street.

        1. Craig Ross

          I’m sure he can put 300 units on 8 acres, but there are no affordable housing projects that large in Davis nor is he by any reasonable measure required to do so.  So why are you even bringing it up?

  3. Rik Keller

    David Thompson:
    As you know (since you helped to draft it), the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance (AHO) requires such calculations to be part of the Affordable Housing Plan for the project. Yet they are nowhere to be found in there and have therefore not been adopted as part of the legally-binding agreements for the project.

    Looking at things more broadly, it is unfortunate that you have been put in a position by the project developers to be the main point-person discussing issues in on-line forums such as this, and you have to defend their practices and lack of commitments.

    Recently this has led you to make such outlandish statements such as that the 4 acres that are being donated as the sole requirement by the developers to meet their affordable housing obligation (no requirements that the units are actually built, no fees paid to subsidize units) is actually two times what is required and that only 2 acres is actually required. Reasonable calculations, documented in great detail by the No On WDAAC campaign show that at least 8 acres would actually be required.

  4. Ken A

    Reading this I (really) expected to get to a paragraph about the “toxic soup” that will come up 113 (and kill seniors)…

    Starting with “we read a 2002 report to find out what the people were thinking in 2000” it just got worse and I pictured a room full of No on L (or any other development) people screaming “we already lost Nishi so make up something else” at the guy (or gal) pounding away at the vintage black Macbook…

    P.S.  Anyone who writes “Why, then, is not more land being donated  for low-income senior housing units” is just trying to make the developer look bad since I’m betting that most of the No on L people have never “donated ANY land for senior housing” (or ever paid the IRS close to 3x more than they were required to pay)…

  5. Alan Pryor

    Much of the problem and confusion regarding the real numbers applicable to the affordable housing requirement at WDAAC is that the proponents themselves keep moving the goalposts.

    I explained this moving target in detail in my previous Vangard article – Guest Commentary: Erroneous Assumptions and Hyperbole Are Used to Justify WDAAC’s Illegal Affordable Housing Program. For instance, last November David Thompson claimed before the Planning Commission that the required number of low income housing units was 76 and that the developer “very generously” was providing twice that amount. In fact, the developer was not providing any low income housing units at all nor providing any money to construct the units. He was just donating land on which David Thompson explained he could build 150 low income housing units if David Thompson was succesful in obtaining necessary federal and state grant monies.

    Then on September 15 of this year, David Greenwald made the following statement in an article entitled column entitled “My View: Unintended Consequences – Will Anyone Go above the Affordable Housing Requirements Again?,

    What we see at WDAAC is that the developer would have been required to build around 84 units in order to reach the 15 percent threshold.  The developer could have avoided much of this kerfuffle by simply donating 1.25 acres of the land, the minimum required and then pumping additional money just like Sterling did to help them build the housing.

    So it seems that Mr. Thompson previously believed the correct number was 76 units and David Greenwald previously believed the correct number was 84 units but now both are claiming the correct number, according to a last minute Staff-generated report, is only 55 units (see Greenwald post above) and that the WDAAC developer is now providing three times the amount of land actually required to meet their low income housing obligations.Funny how all of the project supporters now agree on the lowest offered number of units.

    IMHO, all of them are flat out wrong and are grossly underestimating the actual affordable housing requirements as I have explained in great detail in my article referenced above and more concisely in my quote posted by Rik Keller above.

    Requests have been repeatedly made to Mr. Thompson (and now to Mr. Greenwald) to show where I was wrong in my original analysis in my article about the true number of affordable housing units required at WDAAC…..The silence is deafening.

    1. David Greenwald

      Just to be clear – I made no claims – I simply posted the table that David Thompson was referring to so people could see the calculations from April. Regardless, Craig raises some interesting points worthy of some discussion.

  6. Tia Will

    I’m sure he can put 300 units on 8 acres, but there are no affordable housing projects that large in Davis nor is he by any reasonable measure required to do so.  So why are you even bringing it up?”

    Two points:

    1. Why should a new project be assessed on the basis of what is currently available in Davis? If we have people who cannot afford housing, surely that is a basis for criticism of what is currently available, not a justification for doing more of the same.

    2. I do not believe it would be coming up if the developers had not chosen again and again to portray this project as an altruistic development rather than the money making project it is. They have stressed the story of the woman who could not afford housing, the need to take care of “our own seniors” and during the forum stated a number of times stated that the “No” side did not care about seniors nor the community. For me it was this fallacious portrayal of the opposition as “senior haters” and self portrayal as “senior savers” along with their lack of objective needs assessment that turned me from neutral to a “no” on this project which I agree needs to go back to the drawing board.


    1. Craig Ross

      To your first point, the project is assessed on the basis of affordable housing requirements.  Alan Pryor is appearing to demand that they go well beyond what they are required and well beyond what anyone else has ever done.  Again, the largest current affordable housing project is 69 units.  He’s demanding 300.  That seems absurd.

      To your second point, Measure R campaigns have rightly or wrongly become campaigns.  The developers portray themselves as benevolent while the opposition throws every piece of mud they can find and some they made up to prove it to be malevolent.  The first shot was fired by the opposition arguing falsely that they failed to meet their requirements.

      1. Alan Pryor

        He’s demanding 300.  That seems absurd.

        What is absurd is that you are claiming I am “demanding 300” units. I am only demanding that the developers fulfill their stautory requirements for providing low-income housing per the already greatly reduced “temporary” ordinance passed by the City only this February (and scheduled to expire on December 31 of this year).

        I have laid out an extensive case ( Guest Commentary: Erroneous Assumptions and Hyperbole Are Used to Justify WDAAC’s Illegal Affordable Housing Program.) why the developer is short-changing the low-income community by only donating 4 acres instead of 8 acres as is required by the ordinance. I have challenged David Thompson and David Greenwald  to point out where my analysis is incorrect but neither has chosen to do so. Perhaps you could take the time to read my article and the low-income ordinance and similarly point out if I have made an error in my calculations rather than simply making unsubstantiated statements and accusations.

  7. Ron

    I realize that I might be in the minority regarding this, but I see this correction as good news, regarding the “housing crisis”:

    “Higher mortgage rates and overheated home prices hit Southern California home sales hard in September.
    The number of new and existing houses and condominiums sold during the month plummeted by nearly 18 percent compared with September 2017, according to CoreLogic. That was the slowest September pace since 2007, when the national housing and mortgage crisis was hitting.”

    “Sales have been falling on an annual basis for much of this year, but this was the biggest annual drop for any month in almost eight years. It was also more than twice the annual drop seen in August.”

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