Analysis: Details Emerge in Aggie Research Campus Application

When the team of developers led by Project Manager Dan Ramos sent a letter to the city on June 11, they had not yet resubmitted an application, so the details for the revised project were lacking.  This week, some of those documents have been posted, giving us a window into some of the details of the project.

The city staff writes, “The applicant spent the last two years conducting research on modern innovation parks, talking to industry experts, and analyzing the appropriate land uses. The applicant has decided to continue pursuing the appropriate general plan and zoning designations, as well as, an application to annex their proposed Aggie Research Campus project.”

As Mike Webb noted on Tuesday night, the 25 acres that the city owns in the Mace Triangle will not be part of that project, and there has been no decision for how that would be used.  One possibility, he noted, was the creation of a conservation easement as part of the ag buffer.

The staff report notes, “The ARC project does propose a 150’ wide, nine-acre agricultural buffer easement on the southern and eastern edges of the Mace 25 parcel. The placement of the agricultural buffer easement will be considered as part of the larger entitlement application discussion at a future meeting.”

The project itself is project to be 185 acres and, at full build out, would include 2.65 million square feet of innovation center uses as well as 850 residential units of various sizes and affordability.  That could potentially include a very robust affordable housing project.

The staff report notes that “the ARC project would include space for office, research & development, laboratory, advance manufacturing, prototyping, limited supportive retail, a hotel and a conference center, and include 850 residential units to provide a jobs/housing balance.”

The table notes that about 57 percent of the commercial development is identified for office/R&D/laboratory use types, 33 percent is dedicated to advanced manufacturing, and up to 10 percent may be used for support retail uses including a hotel and conference center.

A number of people have assumed that there would not be a hotel.  That is, given that there are two new hotels in town including the Marriott/Residence Inn across the street and a proposed expansion of the University Park Inn.

On the other hand, it is unclear where the Richards Hotel project stands, and it has been drastically cut back – including the loss of the originally approved conference center, leaving Davis without a venue for high tech and other conferences.

The project description notes, “The up to 260,000 sf of supportive commercial uses is anticipated to include roughly 160,000 sf of hotel/conference center use and 100,000 sf of ancillary retail located throughout the Project site. The hotel/conference center would be located in the southwestern corner, near the intersection of Mace Boulevard and 2nd Street.”

The project description further adds that there will be supportive retail, expected to be located on the ground floor of the proposed R&D or “multi-family residential buildings surrounding the Oval park and the transit plaza area, resulting in vertically integrated mixed-use buildings.”

The retail would provide employees, residents, and visitors with basic conveniences such as: lodging/accommodations, health and fitness center, convenient coffee and dining opportunities, all located within walking distance of the Project’s primary businesses and workforce housing uses.

Another question has been that of the housing.

The project description notes: “[W]orkforce housing with an average density at or above 30 dwelling units per acre. The anticipated density range is between 15 and 50 dwelling units per acre, or higher, depending on product type.”

These are expected to be high density and multifamily rather than single-family homes.

The applicants note: “The tallest buildings proposed for ARC – the multi-family housing and hotel – are up to 85 feet.”

They also noted that the residential units will be “centrally-located.”

“It will be high-density housing,” Dan Ramos told the Vanguard in June.

“We’re not talking about single-family homes,” he said, importantly and plainly.  In addition, Dan Ramos told the Vanguard that ARC will “consider” and is open to a “co-housing” model.  They have begun exploring such innovative models as they consider a more specific proposal when it comes to council.

“This is not a housing project,” he said again, firmly and bluntly.  “If anything this is an accessory use to what we’re trying to do.  It helps us enhance the innovation or the research park part of it.  It helps us be successful.”

Parking is another big issue – and one of the goals with the housing and transportation plan will be to reduce impacts on Mace Blvd and I-80.

The parking section notes: “The parking ratios utilized for the office/commercial components of the Project are a considerable reduction from those required by the City’s Municipal Code.”

The ratio at the residential units will be 1 to 1, meaning one parking space per unit.

They note: “ARC’s residential units are proposed to be parked at a standard less than the City average and in a manner that reflects the walkability of the site and trending shifts in personal transit preferences.”

They note: “The Project applicant proposes creation of a parking reservoir to allow the allotted 3,490 nonresidential parking stalls to be distributed throughout the Project site as needed, rather than strict parking ratios being applied at the issuance of each building permit based upon use type.”

The plan then is to utilize transit and shuttles with a proposed transit center, along with car share and carpooling spaces and bike path connectivity.

The tenant companies will retain a Transportation Manager who will be charged with coordination of all modes of transportation to and from the site.

Phasing of the project is also important.

They note that Phase I of the proposed Project “is anticipated to consist of approximately 45 acres in the western portion of the site and will include 540,000 sf of nonresidential building space and up to 270 residential units comprised of single- and multi-family housing types.”

Construction of those residential units would trail the commercial development “so that jobs are created onsite prior to offering housing.”

Housing “will be permitted at the ARC site at a ratio of one unit for every 2,000 square feet of nonresidential development. The goal, if possible, is to time the availability of the homes to be concurrent with the creation of the jobs so that it maximizes the likelihood that employees at the Campus will occupy the units thereby maximizing the environmental benefits of including housing at ARC.”

The applicants note: “The housing is planned to include a variety of mixed-use, rental, and for-sale residential options catering to the needs and demands of innovation center employees.”

But, of course, “the housing at ARC will not be restricted to employees only but will, consistent with Fair Housing Act requirements, be available to the community at large.”

Phase 2 would then have 700,000 square feet of commercial, the hotel/conference center and up to 350 workforce housing units.

Phase 3 would also have 700,000 sf of commercial and R&D uses, as well as the final 230 housing units.

Phase 4 would have 714,000 sf feet of manufacturing/research and research/office/R&D uses.

“The on-site housing has been fully developed prior to this phase of the development,” they write.  “At the completion of Phase 4, the site will include up to 2,654,000 sf of jobs-creating spaces and up to 850 units of mixed-use, rental, and for-sale housing options.”


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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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19 Comments

    1. Alan Miller

      8-o’clock hour and I already missed the fireworks? . . . and had the fireworks show removed from history like the existence of an NBA basketball team in mainland China.

  1. Rik Keller

    What conversations has the Vanguard previously had with developer in order to release project details in the months leading up to this project unveiling?

      1. Rik Keller

        From the June article; “For the most part, the EIR, certified in 2017, means that they are not changing most of their plans from the previous proposal”

        Considering that the City Council just passed a  resolution that says an EIR update will be required, this didn’t work out so well for Ramos.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Show no sense of the difference between an “new EIR”, which you previously/initially posited, and focussed revisions/updates in specific topic areas… and from an experienced land-use expert?  But, I defer to the more experienced individual…

          Nice “slap” tho’,

          this didn’t work out so well for Ramos.

          Nothing ‘personal’ there, right?  Anyone involved in any way, with development is fair game… those universally opposed, aren’t.  Sounds right… explains a lot…

  2. Ron Oertel

    “Construction of those residential units would trail the commercial development “so that jobs are created onsite prior to offering housing.”

    So, they’re going to hire workers (who will already live somewhere within commuting distance), and then build housing.

  3. Ron Oertel

    I’m not actually seeing any mixed-use (residential/commercial) buildings in the diagram.  Looks like the residential is separate from the commercial. Which makes sense, since a portion of the residents would not work at the site.

  4. Moderator

    I am going to suggest that each person limit themselves to five (5) comments total on this article. Please use your five comments wisely. We’ll see how this idea works as a possible future guideline.

    1. Alan Miller

      I am going to suggest that each person limit themselves to five (5) comments total on this article. Please use your five comments wisely. We’ll see how this idea works as a possible future guideline.

      Badly, I’ll guess.  With each attempt to civilize the Vanguard, the comments get duller and number of commenters less.  But I just violated guidelines, so play me out, Shorty! #music#

  5. Ron Oertel

    I’m going to “spend” another one of my “five”.

    44.7 acres – Office/R&D

    57.2 acres – Manufacturing

    27.1 acres – roads

    27.4 – residential

    The category under which the 4,340 parking spaces falls is not listed.

    Assuming that the parking is not “counted” in the commercial space, it’s actually about 100 acres of commercial development space, broken up into several sites.  (Less than that, if some of the parking is within that 100 acres.)

    1. Rik Keller

      Ron O.:
      This MRIC/ARC proposal is auto-oriented peripheral development that represents the worst of decades-old stale and failed economic development strategies,

      While the site diagram shown lists 15.0 acres of “parks/greenways” and it prominently shows those areas shaded in green, but it just shows 3 relatively small areas designated “P” for parking and doesn’t state the site area for these.
      The parking area for the listed 4,340 spaces would be 29 to 39 acres (1.25 to 1.72 million sq. ft.) if it is all contained in surface lots (based on 288 to 396 sf per parking space estimate [https://usa.streetsblog.org/2016/07/05/parking-takes-up-more-space-than-you-think/]. 

      This means parking lots would be 15 to 20% of the total site area. (The proposed housing would take up another 27.4 acres with interior site roadways directly serving that housing about half of the listed total, for another 14 acres or so. This  is another 14% of the site area.)

      While this is a massive amount of parking, I would actually question whether the number of parking spaces needed is accurate and reflects the employment and residential density that the project is promising and the typical parking ratios needed. For example, the table showing proposed parking by use states that a ratio of 1 space per 600 sf of office/R&D/retail is proposed. However. typical ratios for suburban office parks range 1 parking space for every 140 to 200 sq. ft. of floor area (or, as usually formulated: 5 parking spaces/1,000sf  to 7/1,000sf). 

      [see https://www.naiop.org/en/Magazine/2016/Fall-2016/Development-Ownership/The-Suburban-Office-Parking-Conundrum.aspx “For a master-planned development called Centennial Valley in the Denver suburb of Louisville, “we parked the buildings at 4.25/1,000 square feet when they were built in the early 2000s.  Now we are seeing traditional office users ask for ratios of 5/1,000 and some asking for upwards of 6 to 7/1,000.  A tenant with a number of engineers and tech employees that was looking to expand was asking for 10 spaces/1,000 square feet rather than its existing 4.5/1,000. “We could not do that,” Koelbel said, “but we have been putting in flex office space parked at 5:1,000”]

      At a ratio of 5:1,000, ARC would require 8,050 parking spaces for the office/R&D/retail uses alone, an increase of about 5,400 above the 2,683 figure that the developer is showing.

      It should be noted, that the developer is trying to get away with this using language such as the following:
       –  “ARC’s residential units are proposed to be parked at a standard less than the City average and in a manner that reflects the walkability of the site and trending shifts in personal transit preferences.”

       – “The Project applicant proposes creation of a parking reservoir to allow the allotted 3,490 nonresidential parking stalls to be distributed throughout the Project site as needed, rather than strict parking ratios being applied at the issuance of each building permit based upon use type.”

       – “…utilize transit and shuttles with a proposed transit center, along with car share and carpooling spaces and bike path connectivity.

       – “The tenant companies will retain a Transportation Manager who will be charged with coordination of all modes of transportation to and from the site.”

      Despite these attempts at “greenwashing” the project by the developer, presumably an adequate updated EIR would examine the real-world feasibility of such a vague pie-in-the-sky transportation plan that does not bear resemblance to the reality of the massively auto-dependent nature of this type of peripheral freeway-oriented development model.
       

  6. Rik Keller

    The City of Davis has inventoried 124.5 acres of vacant commercially-zoned land within city limits. Back-of-the envelope calculations for the development capacity of this land show this could 9,600 employees and 2.17 million sf floor area with standard industry assumptions for this type of development. And this doesn’t even address the issue of development opportunities on existing occupied lower-density sites that could be redeveloped for higher-value uses.
     
    Despite the arguments made time and again by the Davis Vanguard that the reason that this current land inventory is insufficient is that there aren’t enough larger sites, ironically, the just-released site diagram for the ARC proposal shows very small sites.
     
    For example, there are 20 structures shown for office/R&D uses which (at 44.7 total acres for those uses) works out to about 2.2 acres site per building, including parking. These types of uses–if there is actually a market demand–could easily be accommodated on available vacant land designated for those uses within city limits.

    1. Ron Oertel

      I’m wondering how large the parcel inside the Mace Curve is, between the new Nugget headquarters site and the (Harper Junior High?) school.  I understand that this site is also outside city limits, but will obviously/logically be incorporated into the city and developed someday.

      I also understand that this particular parcel extends to the other side of the Mace curve area, but I see no reason that it can’t be divided to allow development inside the curve.

      O.K. – that’s five for me!

       

    2. Craig Ross

      “The City of Davis has inventoried 124.5 acres of vacant commercially-zoned land within city limits. ”

      This is misleading.  50 of that is owned by Sutter and Kaiser and earmarked for hospital expansion.  Another 30 of it is wrapped up in the Frontier Fertilizer sites and thus likely unavailable for several more decades.  Most of the rest is small.  Nothing over 15 acres.  Shilling Robotics is moving into a 20 acre site in WS.  So the idea that the city has 124.5 acres is flatly false.

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