Nishi Delayed Yet Again as City Has to Fight Appeal

Housing for over 2000 students next to the UC Davis campus has been delayed yet again, as the city announced on Tuesday that litigants who lost in court have filed an appeal on the Nishi project.

In June of 2018, Nishi became the first project to pass a Measure R vote when it won overwhelmingly by a near 60-40 margin.  However, opponents challenged it in court – but Judge Peter Williams in October denied the petition, ruling that the “petitioner has failed to establish that the project unlawful discriminates based on familial status.”

Nor did Judge Williams agree with petitioners that the EIR failed to account for changed circumstances by a failure to update the EIR to account for the 5000 to 6000 additional vehicle trips each day.

Judge Williams also noted: “Petitioner has failed to establish that the City’s decision to prepare an addendum, regarding transportation impacts, is not supported by substantial evidence.”

In their arguments, plaintiffs’ Attorney Patrick Soluri argued that the affordable housing project violated fair housing principles by discriminating against families.

Mr. Soluri then countered that the city was ignoring their own consultants’ recommendation to do additional review, and they did nothing.

Mr. Soluri also argued the judge wrongly ruled that the issue of health risks is outside the burden of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).  Here he argued that there is evidence the project exacerbates existing conditions, and this brings it into a CEQA issue

He said the standard is that if they can show that the air emissions can lead to significant health risks, then new case law requires that analysis.

However, this did not move Judge Williams, whose ruling remains, “Petitioner has not provided new information indicating that the project would cause an exacerbation of existing environmental hazards or conditions.”

He notes from case law “it is the project’s impact on the environment—and not the environment’s impact on the project—that compels an evaluation of how future residents or users could be affected by exacerbated conditions.”

However, the group or individuals calling themselves Davis Coalition for Sensible Planning filed a writ with the Third District Court of Appeal that appeals the decision.

Last night, Mayor Brett Lee reported out from closed session that the city council voted in favor of defending the appeal.

The Nishi 2.0 project is a 700-unit, student-oriented apartment complex project, providing 2,200 beds, on a 47-acre site located between the University and Interstate 80. The city council approved the project in February 2018, contingent on voter approval. In June 2018, the voters approved the project with 60.6 percent of the vote.

The appeal was filed on December 2, 2019 – this time within the statutory timeframe unlike Lincoln40 which was filed too late and thus dismissed with prejudice.

“We as a City make providing fair and affordable housing that meets CEQA requirements a top priority,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida. “In addition, Measure R gives a voice to our voters in this process. We are defending this appeal because housing is badly needed and our citizens’ votes should be upheld.”

“The voters of Davis spoke clearly that they approved of this version of the Nishi project that will bring more quality housing to town,” said Dan Carson, Davis City Councilmember. “I am concerned about the continued effort to overturn the will of more than 11,000 voters who approved of this greatly needed housing.”

“We knew the City was 100% thorough in their analysis and disclosures as required by law. More often than not these lawsuits have nothing to do with environmental impacts but rather are attempts to stop or extort the project. The court rejected the spurious claims and reached a sound decision based on the facts and the proper process that was followed,” Tim Ruff, the Nishi project manager, told the Vanguard.

Adam Hatefi, the External Affairs Vice President of ASUCD issued a pointed response in a press release.

—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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    1. Bill Marshall

      The plaintiffs know that the developers are obligated to cover the City’s costs for defending the appeal… they are trying to wear the developers down… only problem is, with the $$$ the developers have already sunk into this, it is unlikely they will “walk/run away”… it just means that rents may well be higher, to cover these costs…

      Yet, plaintiffs are arguing (in part) that the units are not affordable enough… go figure… something about cutting off a nasal body part to spite one’s ‘face’?

  1. Craig Ross

    This is the issue that definitely won’t go away.  I feel kind of like Adam though with less pointed language.  Kind of surprise more hasn’t been made of that portion of this.

  2. Alan Miller

        anti-student activists Susan Rainier and Colin Walsh

    insignificant group of feckless, student-hating, well-fed miscreants sitting back and doing everything in their power to ruin students’ lives.

    filed by anti-student advocates.

    this well-fed group of saboteurs

    to achieve their own self-interested objectives and further anti-student bigotry.

    I object in the strongest terms to the Davis Vanguard publishing this editorial by Adam Hatefi.  He can write whatever he wants, but to publish it here?  The personal attacks on the litigants are clearly against DV policy.  These are multiple personal attacks that add nothing to the argument.  Does Adam Hatefi actually believe the persons he named personally:

    • Hate students?
    • Do Everything in their power to ruin student’s lives?
    • Are anti-student bigots and/or advocates?

    And what is the “well-fed” descriptor, used twice?  Is that some sort of body-shaming slam?

    Calling SR and CW “anti-student” because they are activists against many housing projects is like calling David Greenwald “anti-white” for his advocacy on minority issues, or calling Alan Miller “anti-homeless” for disagreeing with many of the policies that deal with the so-called homeless problem.

    Let me stress, I couldn’t disagree with SR and CW more vehemently, and agree with the comment that

    This lawsuit is abhorrent.

    But that’s not a personal attack against individuals, it’s an opinion about the lawsuit.  I would even say the comment

    this brazen attempt to subvert the democratic will of Davis voters is repugnant and distasteful.

    is OK.  Though strong, it’s not a personal attack.

    The first comments listed above are personal attacks.  The Vanguard doesn’t even allow pejoratives that don’t target individuals – I think those are OK, but it’s not my blog – but if you can’t personally attack people in comments, how is it you can personally attack people in an authored opinion piece?  I think this is a new low for the Davis Vanguard.  The DV could have simply asked for a version of the editorial without the personal attacks, and the same point would have been made.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Glad that someone (other than me) pointed this out.

      Truth be told, I couldn’t even take it seriously, as it borders on absurdity. Not sure why David included it here.

      And frankly, the comment from Sharla (above) isn’t much better.

      1. Sharla Cheney

        No personal attack. We don’t know who they are as the lawsuits are filed under an alias – a fictitious name created just for that purpose.   They are not being personal.  I can disparage a fictitious group that I perceive has as its only purpose to disrupt and thwart, like how a cult harasses in response to perceived threats.  I don’t understand these lawsuits.  They appear to have no reasoning behind them other than that.

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