I didn’t know much about the Olive Drive Mixed-Use project when it was placed on the consent calendar to approve the contract for its environmental review. But as I read it, I was impressed with the concept – mixed use, largely 76 small apartment units that are close to campus and the downtown.
My first thought was – who is going to object to this? I should have known better.
There are a lot of things I like about the project. But first let me point out, it’s going out for contract for an environmental review. That means that the Social Services Commission has not reviewed the affordable housing plan – but given that it’s vertical, mixed-use and the units are as small as they are, it’s actually a bit remarkable they are proposing 20 low-income units.
It also has to go the Planning Commission and the Council. That means that details of the project’s description, that are a bit rough, could get tweaked.
Nevertheless, there is a lot to like here.
We talk a lot about workforce housing and the need for it. How about housing for the city’s non-professional workforce? You know, people making low wages on campus or the in the downtown? Many of whom take Yolobus to get to work because they can’t afford to live in Davis?
As the project points out: “It is expected the units will be rented by downtown workers, UC Davis employees, senior citizens, those living on a fixed income, and possibly some students.”
And that’s the second point – why not build a place for people without cars? It’s walking or biking distance to both downtown and campus. They’ll have hook ups for rideshare and transportation to get to Safeway or somewhere else.
They would have agreements that would “prohibit vehicles for residents without a reserved fee parking space to ensure that overflow parking issue would not impact the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Plus, on Olive Drive, there is not a lot of street parking, so they would have to park and walk a long way if they did try to cheat the system. But the bottom line – if you have a car, this probably isn’t the place for you to live. Is that really a controversial subject?
I don’t see the controversy here. Someone suggested that they didn’t have enough bike parking – 76 bike parking spots, given that these are single-bedroom units that are very small, seems reasonable. You might have some couples that live there, but it’s not a lot of space for a couple.
That gets me to the next the next point – affordability. We figure that, given the size of the apartments, they might rent for as low as $500 per month. That’s as affordable by design as you’re likely to get for a new apartment in Davis. A subsidized unit – and remember, we have yet to see an affordable housing plan, this is just conceptual and has yet to go to the Social Services Commission, which might knock it as low as $400.
So providing 20 units that are around $400 per month and the rest perhaps at $500 would seem to be a nice affordable project.
What are the objections here?
Is there a market for these type of units – small, affordable, without cars?
I guess I don’t really understand the question when you’re not going to invest millions into a project that you don’t think people are going to live in. Are there people who are low income and work in the downtown and on campus? We know that there are.
Do we believe that some of them are without cars? I think so. That’s why we have services like Yolobus which bring people from Sacramento, West Sacramento and Woodland into Davis.
As I pointed out above, it would not be that easy to park elsewhere and hike or bike to the place. It doesn’t seem that difficult to cater a project toward a specific demographic that right now cannot live in Davis because they lack affordable housing.
Another reader points out: “The project application is likewise being deceptive when it states that it is providing ‘almost double the current number of affordable units required.’ It isn’t. The City has no current requirement for moderate income units, and the project is only providing 13-14% Low Income units, with nothing in the ELI and VLI categories, so it is not meeting even the City’s highly-weakened ‘interim’ affordable housing requirements .”
That is one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that at 425 square feet, the units are probably at least half the size of a typical single-bedroom unit and therefore will start out at a much lower cost. So therefore, while the project is providing around 20 big “A” affordable units, you can argue that all of the units are aimed at low and moderate income individuals.
Other comments are: “I objected to the ‘description’ of the proposal (regarding who would occupy it), and any false assumption that eliminating on-site parking ensures that residents won’t park in nearby areas.”
So basically the objection is to attempting to build housing for people without cars under the belief that some people might find a way to cheat the system – as though everyone is going to be patently dishonest and sign an agreement to not have car ownership, but sneak one in anyway.
Bottom line – this is a project that seeks to reach a market that is not served in Davis, which it does it through the creation of small units that will be affordable by design and it does so close to campus and downtown in hopes of finding a group of people who do not need or do not have vehicles.
Details will need to be worked out, but it seems that this is the type of project we should be encouraging, not discouraging.
—David M. Greenwald reporting