Twice Todd Edelman made motions to push discussion of the Aggie Research Campus to a second meeting for more discussion—neither time did his motion, once at the beginning and once at the end of the meeting—garner so much as a second. In the end, Mr. Edelman was the lone holdout on a 6-1 vote to recommend certification of the EIR.
The motion by Commissioner Jessica Jacboson, seconded by Ayush Patel, was, “The BTSSC recommends support of the SEIR and do not offer additional comments at this time.”
Further, they recommend that the council “certify the SEIR in its current form.”
They also support the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) proposal submitted for the commission meeting.
It is not that the BTSSC (Bicycling, Transportation and Street safety Commission) was uncritical of the proposal—there were a number of concerns expressed by the commission and, overall, there was support for the inclusion of many of the proposals and mitigation measures into the project baseline features, as Nancy Price and Alan Pryor called for during public comment.
But the overall view of the commission’s six-member majority was one of support and even excitement for the project.
Applicant Dan Ramos pointed out that when they did the original Mace Ranch project “one of things that we did, and Mace Ranch was a major contributor to funding to widening Mace Blvd overpass the first time around.”
“The development project was the key to funding,” he said, though he acknowledged there were a lot of matching funds as well.
Attorney Matt Keasling noted that the biggest issue facing the project and the largest chapter of the EIR is traffic.
But he argued that these traffic concerns are balanced out by the “[c]onsiderable amount of tax dollars that can go into the general fund.”
He said that they have consistently heard from companies, “Coming to Davis sounds great, but where are folks going to live?”
He said, “We wanted to be sure that housing didn’t become a major issue here.”
Matt Keasling noted that “we had a lot of significant and unavoidable impacts” once the project itself is in place.
“There are other jurisdictions that have ownership and control over a lot of intersections where we need to do improvements,” Mr. Keasling pointed out. Among them, CalTrans and Yolo County. “It is not strictly up to the city of Davis to buy off on it. The city does have the ability to require us to seek the approval to do that.”
Later he clarified that the developers would still be responsible for the money to do those upgrades, but this requires them to work with other agencies and entities besides just the city to perform those tasks.
In addition to concerns about locking in commitments to project baseline features, members of the public questioned whether the developers have the ability to get to 60 percent of housing filled by people working at the research park and, if they do not, they question whether the assumptions of the EIR hold.
Todd Edelman said, “I’m offended by the three minute limit.” He later charged, “I think it’s in contempt of the process to cut me off at three minutes.”
Ultimately the chair, Tim Csontos, allowed him five minutes of comment time in the initial round and then another seven minutes later.
Mr. Edelman suggested that the city should review its Street Standards “before this project goes forward.” He also objected that there was no safe way to do major supermarket shopping from housing at the site by bicycle.
Lizzie Hare said, “I’m pretty exited about this project, it fits some of the needs that we have here.”
She looked to put together a document of all of the recommended project baseline features—something that was ultimately postponed to a later meeting when staff clarified that, while the SEIR comments were due by April 27, other comments on baseline features could wait until later in the process.
Mick Klasson was supportive of the addition of the housing to the project—mixed-use development in general. However, he said, “There are some problems in the EIR.”
He noted that the traffic plan, which was done five years ago and changed, could change again. However, “what is very clear is that there are very many significant and unavoidable impacts of this project.” He added that “the traffic consultants are saying, their professional judgment, this is a difficult project, this is a difficult time, and this is a congested corridor.
“The city council has an enviable position of having to make a decision here and it’s do we want the $2 million each year this is going to bring to us with the impacts that we know it will bring that are unavoidable?”
Joe Bolte, the alternate commissioner, said, “There’s a severe housing shortage in Davis as well as a severe housing-employment imbalance.” “I’m very supportive of the general concept of a mixed-use development at this location,” he said.
“The transportation plan itself in the Environmental Impact Report does not seem sustainable at all to me, because it involves such a large increase in car trips,” he said, noting that while road widening could mitigate some of the impacts, it would not mitigate environmental impacts like GHG emissions. “Right sizing the on-site parking is the most effective TDM measure that is possible.”
He suggested making that a baseline feature.
Commissioner David Soule also called this an “exciting project,” as he is concerned overall about money and jobs.
He expressed concern about the need to have clear project baseline features and said he worries most about the local traffic impacts west of Mace Blvd.
Jessica Jacobson also said, “I’m quite excited about the project.” Like many of her colleagues, she expressed concern about the number of cars and said, “Baseline measures to decrease traffic would be beneficial to the project.”
Todd Edelman noted the problem he has is that if the housing on site is not occupied by people who work on site, the housing does nothing to help the jobs-housing balance and, in fact, makes it worse.
Finally Chair Tim Csontos said, “We do have a housing shortage.” He added, “We do need more jobs.” His largest concern was wanting more bike access and in particular a class one bike lane.
Joe Bolte, the alternate member did express additional concerns that the EIR might not be complete, as it has missing intersections.
However, the commissioners were overwhelmingly positive about the project and recommended the council certify the EIR. They also put the Transportation Demand Management plan into their proposal.
—David M. Greenwald reporting