City to Hold New Scoping Meeting on EIR for Aggie Research Campus

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The city of Davis has announced once again that it will hold a scoping meeting for the Aggie Research Campus – this follows the decision by council earlier this month to undertake a supplemental EIR with a new traffic study.

The meeting will be held at the Davis City Hall Conference Room on Monday, December 2, from 5 to 7 pm.  According to the notice, the meeting will be “an open house format” and they invite the public to drop in to review the proposed project exhibits as well as to submit written comments any time between those hours.

The Aggie Research Campus application proposes 2,654,000 square feet of innovation center/business uses and 850 residential units of varied sizes and affordability:

The project was originally known as the Mace Ranch Innovation Center and on September 19, 2017, the council certified the Final EIR “determining that it adequately evaluated the environmental impacts of the proposed MRIC project and a related Mixed-Use Alternative.”

Assistant City Manager Ashley Feeney noted in an email to the Vanguard, “The EIR included an analysis of the potential physical environmental impacts of a Mixed-Use Alternative, at the same level of detail performed for the proposed MRIC project.”

At this point the project was then put on hold.

He notes that once the council certifies the EIR, further review “associated with subsequent discretionary actions related to the project” is guided by Section 21166 of the Public Resources Code and CEQA Guidelines Sections 15162-15163.

Neither of these regulations “include requirements for a new notice of preparation (NOP) and scoping meeting. The only specific requirement for a lead agency to issue a NOP and hold a scoping meeting is at the outset of the initial environmental review of a project (CEQA Guidelines Section 15082).”

The city issued its NOP and held a scoping meeting for the MRIC EIR process, as required, Mr. Feeney told the Vanguard.

He said, “While preparation of a new NOP and subsequent scoping meeting are not required for a subsequent EIR or supplemental EIR, the City of Davis is sensitive to the community’s concerns and chose to hold a scoping meeting. As a result, the City has scheduled a scoping meeting for the proposed Aggie Research Campus project on December 2, 2019.”

He stated, “The meeting is intended to focus more appropriately on collecting comments related to the changes in circumstances that may have occurred in the project vicinity since the certification of the MRIC EIR in 2017, given that this is an important criterion to consider when preparing further environmental documents for projects, according to CEQA Guidelines Section 15162(a)(2).”

The purpose of this meeting is to “solicit input and comments from public agencies and the general public on the proposed supplemental EIR.”

Mr. Feeney added, “As an additional effort to provide ample opportunities for public engagement and input, City staff will not only hold the voluntary scoping meting but will also extend the period to accept written comments from public agencies and the general public that are interested in providing input as to the scope and content of the supplemental environmental information to Monday, December 9, 2019 at 5:00 PM.”

There were some public calls to proceed with a subsequent rather than a supplemental EIR, but at the November meeting, City Manager Mike Webb believed that proceeding with a supplemental rather than a subsequent EIR was appropriate.

“What is before the council tonight is a request to enter into a contract to begin environmental analysis,” Mr. Webb explained.  He said they will start by looking at “those areas where there’s likely to have been a change in circumstances.

“We have very good reason to believe… that traffic is one of those changed circumstances that needs a careful look at,” he further explained.  For him that means that they look at the preparation of a supplemental EIR.  “Biology is the other element that we have identified as wanting to make sure that we take a look at it to see if there have been any changes in circumstances or conditions on the site or in the area.”

He said that air quality and noise would be looked at “because they are tied to traffic – the traffic analysis.”  That triggers a look at greenhouse gases and health risk assessments as well, he explained.

“Those are all affected or impacted by the traffic data and the analysis that happens there,” he said.

Mike Webb said, “The difference between a supplemental EIR and a subsequent EIR is a subsequent EIR studies all of the chapters under CEQA.”

That would include areas such as Cultural Resources, Ag Resources, Geology, Hazards – “those chapters would all be revisited.”  He said, “At this point in time, just based on preliminary look at the site in the time that’s passed, it was just 2017 when the EIR was certified, I just think that there’s not a strong belief that cultural and geological resources have changed in the last two years on the property.”

Mike Webb said it comes down to studying those things that we believe or know that circumstances have changed, versus “basically opening every chapter – even if those chapters don’t need to be opened.”

He did say that they want to start looking at the analysis and “the consultants won’t know for sure until they start digging into it if there are other areas that would necessitate looking at.

“Addendum would not be an appropriate mechanism to look here,” he said.  “At this level, a Supplemental EIR would be the appropriate starting point for their analysis.”

—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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27 thoughts on “City to Hold New Scoping Meeting on EIR for Aggie Research Campus”

  1. Rik Keller

    This is not a “new scoping meeting” as the deadline states. This is the same meeting that the City announced on 11/15 in response to citizen comments at the Council meeting the previous week.

    And in response to emails this week from myself and others, at the end of the day yesterday, the City did extend the comment period by one week 

    The City decided to provide what it is calling a “voluntary”  a Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the Supplemental EIR that does not fulfill State law in terms of its contents. 

    It is important to step back and look at the rationale behind an NOP in the first place: to provide citizens and governmental agencies “sufficient information describing the project and the potential environmental effects” to allow them to to make a “meaningful response” regarding the scope of the EIR. [State CEQA guidelines].

    The City’s noticing document does not do that. Staff admits that they “did not include a detailed project description” and they have made no attempt to describe “potential environmental effects.” There is no comparison of the changes in the current proposal to the “mixed use” alternative in the previous EIR.

    It does not provide adequate information  with which to comment on the scope and adequacy of the proposed environmental review.

    Public scoping is a critical step for producing an adequate environmental review, and the City should treat it as such, rather than as an afterthought tacked onto the project schedule at the last minute.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Bring those thoughts to the meeting, or submit them directly… “show up” or “shut up”… simple… ‘(alt.)  “you snooze, you lose”‘

      [meant as constructive advice]

       

    2. Rik Keller

      Without the input of several other citizens and myself, there would never have been a scoping meeting held in the first place, and without our follow-up, the opportunities to provide input into that process would have been even more severely limited. 

      1. Bill Marshall

        Oh, really?  SOP (in practice, not by law) is to have an opportunity for the public reviewing/commenting on the scope for the subsequent document…

        Rule #1 for professionals… do as much as possible to make the environmental documents “bullet-proof”… don’t leave any door(s) open for credible (and/or, malicious) challenge… thought you’d know that… that’s how I always approached them for Davis, anyhow… been out of the game for a few years, but worked alongside Mike Webb (many years), and we both knew about “bullet-proofing”… job #1…

        That you and others “caused” the scoping, or that it would not have happened without is a bit narcissistic… can I get you a “Trumpy Bear” for Christmas?

        1. Bill Marshall

          Consider the source… and the motivations… explains everything…

          Good implied question, tho’, grasshopper… you are on your way to enlightenment…

      2. Rik Keller

        Yes, really. The City committed to a scoping meeting at the City Council meeting only after this was specifically requested by citizens at the meeting itself.. It was not in the schedule prior to this. And the City has now moved the response deadline 1 week back in response to specific email requests from myself and several others. It is still shorter than standard 30-day period required for  comments for NOPs under State  law.

        As far as being responsive, at least they did add and move the meeting—originally scheduled for the day after a long holiday weekend. However, as I have already detailed, the usual information that would be provided for scoping input has not been included. Public scoping is a critical step for producing an adequate environmental review, and the City should treat it as such, rather than as an afterthought tacked onto the project schedule at the last minute.

      3. Rik Keller

        BM: your charges of “narcissism” are bizarre and completely uninformed  by the actual facts.

        Perhaps if you had read sources about this other than the Vanguard, you would be better informed.

        1. Bill Marshall

          A)  I do have other trusted sources.

          B)  “It was not in the schedule prior to this.”…  perhaps in the  ‘written’ material… it is SOP, so might not gotten written into the staff report…

          Whatever…

        2. Bill Marshall

          To correct Craig’s statement… worked for the City a tad over 32 years, worked in development review for a tad under 30…  but Craig got it basically correct…

  2. Craig Ross

    “ This is not a “new scoping meeting” as the deadline states. This is the same meeting that the City announced on 11/15 in response to citizen comments at the Council meeting the previous week.”

    This is silly.  He clearly meant new as in an additional one from the original one several years ago.  What is the purpose of these comments, you come across as petty and aren’t making a real point.

    1. Bill Marshall

      You continue to progress, Craig (grasshopper)… continue to open your mind, challenge what you believe to be untruths, or are unclear… you are doing well along the path… “speak your piece”… and feel free to question/challenge me if you do not understand, question my assertions, etc. … I’m still on the path myself… @65… still questioning, still learning, still opining/sharing my experience…

    1. Bill Marshall

      Actually, “Family Feud” might have been a slightly better analogy, but Jeopardy works, too… FF tends to be more “inclusive” as to participants…

  3. Rik Keller

    At the November 5 City Council meeting, several Davisites asked for discussion of a Consent item that would begin the process of creating a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report, or SEIR. Among the comments was a request to have a scoping meeting to discuss what the scope of the environmental review would be, allowing for public input into the process.  Commenters also requested that the scoping meeting be formally noticed with a Notice of Preparation (NOP).
    At that time, the City Manager responded afterward staring that there would be a scoping meeting, although that appeared to have not been part of the City’s original plan, and it was not in the proposed timeline included with the Consent item.
    The City then waited until 11/15 to actually announce the timing of the requested meeting in a NOP. It is very strange that the Vanguard did not mention this meeting when it was announced on November 15 by the City, and waited 12 days  until right before the long holiday weekend immediately preceding the meeting to write this article that the meeting would be happening

    This past Sunday, November 24, I and another Davisite noticed that the only mechanism for providing comment mentioned in the City’s NOP posted on 11/15 was at the December 2 meeting itself   In other words, if someone couldn’t attend the meeting, but wanted to provide written comment, no way of doing that was described. Or, if someone attended the meeting to learn more, and then later wanted to provide written comment afterward, again, no way of doing that was mentioned.  It was unclear if comments after the meeting would even be accepted as the City dud not actually list a deadline. .

    Upon realizing the problem we immediately emailed City staff.  After a few back and forths and delays, 2 days later, we were emailed at the end of the business day yesterday that revised information rewinding to our information request was up on the City website

    To reiterate: Without the input of several Davisites there would never have been a scoping meeting held in the first place, and without our follow-up, the opportunities to provide input into that process would have been even more severely limited. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      In other words, if someone couldn’t attend the meeting, but wanted to provide written comment, no way of doing that was described.

      Well, the obvious avenues would be to write it out, deliver to Planning, CM, or City Clerk… some folk are oblivious to/miss the obvious, to be sure.

    2. Rik Keller

      Here is the article in the Vanguard (dated 11/8/2019) describing the City Council meeting approving the EIR contract: https://www.davisvanguard.org/2019/11/council-approves-supplemental-eir-to-study-arc/

      Note my comment at 9:38AM on 11/8 listing major omissions in the Vanguard’s version of what had transpired:
      “This article does not discuss a few interesting occurrences at the meeting:
      1) Mike Webb responded  to demands and announced at the meeting that the City would now hold a public meeting for scoping the EIR.
      2) Unlike the previous Council meeting, no UC Davis students were “mobilized” by the developer to speak in favor of the project.
      3) Mayor Brett Lee admonished his  colleagues not to stick important items like this on the consent calendar in the future. They should be listed as full agenda items with discussion.”

      1. Alan Miller

        no UC Davis students were “mobilized” by the developer to speak in favor of the project.

        Note:  The always-eager ‘source basket’ of these students is the on-campus U.C. Davis College Democrats.  They are like all ready to support any development, even luxury-apartments like Trackside.

        Back in the day, of my college days, the Democrats on campus hated developers as a matter of course.

        Q:  How do you turn a Democrat into a de-facto Republican in Davis?  Raise the rent to the extreme!        
        (500% over 30 years)

        “The rent is too damn high!” – Jimmy McMillan, Leader of The Rent is Too Damn High Party

        1. Ron Oertel

          The ones raising the rent are often the same ones who are using students, to do their bidding.  Most of the current students will be gone, by the time any of these developments are occupied.

          It’s unfortunate that students haven’t focused their efforts regarding campus housing to a greater degree (as some other residents have).  That’s the same system that’s also raised tuition, faster than rents have gone up.  While also pursuing international student($).

          You know something is “fishy” when students support developments like Trackside (or ARC, given their concerns regarding local contributions to global warming).  If anything, both of these developments would tend to raise rent levels.

          And if they’re generally (and genuinely) concerned about rising rents (beyond college), you’d think that they’d be at the forefront of Affordable housing and rent control.

          And frankly, many of the younger students could have attended college while staying at home with their families, for at least the first couple of years. If any of those students (who could have avoided paying rent altogether) are included in the current batch of “protesters”, I’m wondering how that’s any kind of concern to anyone.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Oh – and I almost forgot another “urgent concern”:

          Some have claimed that students “prefer” to live in the city (vs. on-campus), apparently to “broaden” their college experience.  (Yeah, that sounds like something that the city desperately needs to cater to, all right. Or, at least something that the developers who want to take advantage of students can use, as a “justification”.)

  4. Bill Marshall

    The topic is “scoping”, and ‘process’… other(s) have so deviated from that… posting about the proper role of student voices on the project itself, whether they should live at home and attend CommColl, etc.

    Nothing really to do with process… or the subject topic…

    Whatever…

    I opine that the process is correct, despite some that want to take credit for their “contributions”/pressure… at least those who speak to process or facts are “on topic”

  5. Rik Keller

    From the Vanguard article today “The city of Davis and its consultants maintain that they were not required to holding a Scoping meeting for the Aggie Research Campus – however given feedback from some sectors in the community, they agreed to hold a scoping meeting…”

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/2019/12/arc-scoping-meeting-grows-testy/

    This confirms exactly what I stated on 11/27:

    At the November 5 City Council meeting, several Davisites asked for discussion of a Consent item that would begin the process of creating a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report, or SEIR. Among the comments was a request to have a scoping meeting to discuss what the scope of the environmental review would be, allowing for public input into the process.  Commenters also requested that the scoping meeting be formally noticed with a Notice of Preparation (NOP).
    At that time, the City Manager responded afterward stating that there would be a scoping meeting, although that appeared to have not been part of the City’s original plan, and it was not in the proposed timeline included with the Consent item.

    And poor Bill Marshall spent all this energy stating that this was not true because he had the real inside information. I guess those source weren’t very accurate.

     

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