The first step in a long string of advisory board hearings for the Aggie Research Campus, found the Social Services Commission, skeptical that current affordable housing policies are too weak, reject a motion on a 4-3 to accept the staff recommendation to allow the developer to use the current affordable housing guidelines as each portion of the housing proposals come back to council for approval should the project pass a Measure R vote.
Instead, the commission on a motion by Donald Kalman supported on a 5-2 vote a motion that the commission recommends that the city tie the affordable housing requirements to the ordinance at the time when the builders come forward.
The commission was largely unanimous in supporting the strong preference that the developers build their affordable housing onsite.
Ultimately while the commission went away from the staff recommendation, neither staff nor the applicant had a problem with the recommendation.
Part of the challenge is that unlike a traditional housing project, they are not coming forward all at once with a proposal for x-amount of units. Instead, as Matt Keasling attorney for the applicant explained, there could be five or six different housing proposals coming forward over a period of years that would require separate actions.
Sherri Metzker, principal planner for the city, explained, “It isn’t the type of affordable housing proposal that you’re used to seeing.” Later in the evening she would add, “It’s a bit unusual for Davis, but not unusual at all for the development world.”
Mr. Keasling, who presented for the applicants noted that the housing density is 30 units to the acre. “Our density range is 15 to 50 units to the acre, so these are a denser type,” he said noting that one-third would be townhomes as for sale and two-thirds as multi-family. “The type of housing that would be appealing to somebody working at this facility that is looking to have a close proximity to work, probably doesn’t need a car, not a lot of parking, not a lot of yard.”
Mr. Keasling stated that “for purposes of us having some assurances and knowing exactly what we’re working with, we would like to simply adopt the ordinance as it currently stands.”
Sherri Metzker noted that this proposal keeps all the options that a builder has for producing affordable housing, “in play – as opposed to locking in the land owner to one particular aspect. If we keep our options open and keep them flexible, we can figure out what is the best solution at the time of the actual build.”
“What works today, may not work five years from now or ten years from now,” she said. “That’s why we’re in support of the proposal.”
Matt Keasling later stated that they are not home free after a Measure R vote – should it pass. They will have to come back before the council several times to get their housing proposals approved.
“If I had a crystal ball, I think we would have affordable dispersed in our multi-family,” he said. But he also noted that they may have to find other sites to team up with affordable housing developers to help finance a product. “We’re so far from that right now.”
At this time, they want the city to stay, “yes we want an innovation center” and we believe this is the right size and location. “It’s not just trust us the developer, because we’re not home free after we get the Measure – we have to come back for several different entitlements.”
“I know it’s not the story everyone wants in Davis,” he said where they want to hear, that they are building 300 units and to know how they are doing affordable housing. “That’s not this project. We’re building 2.6 million square feet of job creating space and with that 850 housing units at 30 units an acre.”
As he would explain – the 850 units are a cap, but the specifics of what they look like has not been determined yet.
Matt Keasling noted, “Because of our density, it wouldn’t be able to be single family detached.” Ms. Metzker added that normally for single family detached it would be 4 to 6 units per acre rather than a minimum of 15 units per acre.
Don Kalman said, “One concern that I have is that currently I view our current ordinance for affordable housing as very weak.”
He added, “My concern is I think that by tying this to our current ordinance – I think that’s a big problem.” He said, “I’m not in favor of that. I don’t know what the answer is. But I definitely don’t want to tie this to our current ordinance.”
Mayor Brett Lee was on hand and explained to the commission why the affordable housing numbers went from 35 to 15.
He explained that historically, there were redevelopment funds where the state made available pretty sizable proportion of the funds that went to affordable housing.
“Unfortunately, roughly in 2012.. the redevelopment funds were taking away. What used to be there to supplement our fairly aggressive and robust affordable housing ordinance… those matching funds from the state disappeared,” the Mayor said. “Based upon the assumptions that the consultants have used, affordable housing is very difficult to provide at all at 15 percent, let alone at 35 percent.”
Kurt Snipes noted, “I’ve come to feel that 15 percent isn’t enough and the amount of money the city is getting in lieu fees is not enough.” He added, “I’m very uncomfortable locking in something that I’m not even convinced is what we need now.”
Commissioner Anna Ioakimedes suggested that 15 percent was perhaps too low, but 35 seemed very high.
Brett Lee explained that in order to go above 15 percent, the city would be required to explain in great detail their justification. The problem as he explained, “have a high requirement means nothing got built” and he used the Merin County example of many communities that used the high measure to insure that nothing actually got built.
Sherri Metzker noted that the change in the percentage “had to do with the loss of redevelopment funds.”
Chair Georgina Valencia said, “We are being asked to determine whether the rent housing policy we have is sufficient and applicable, because that is the plan that is proposed.”
Ultimately the commission approved an alternative recommendation that if adopted by council, would bind the developers to the affordable housing policies that are in place at the time they seek specific entitlements for housing projects on this site.
—David M. Greenwald reporting