BTSSC Recommends Certification of EIR for Aggie Research Campus

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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.

ARC – Transportation Demand Management Plan_04082020

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 noted that people are coming in and out of Davis due to the housing-jobs imbalance, but by going to the mixed-use project, “there is a place for them to stay in Davis and work.”

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


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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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36 thoughts on “BTSSC Recommends Certification of EIR for Aggie Research Campus”

  1. Alan Miller

    But the overall view of the commission’s six-member majority was one of support and even excitement for the project.

    Excitement . . .

    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.”

    A bit of a non sequitur as written . . . there’s a three minute limit on commissioners ?  Srsly?  Can you imagine if there was a three-minute limit on councilmembers? Hmmm . . . could we?

    “the traffic consultants are saying, their professional judgment, this is a difficult project, this is a difficult time, and this is a congested corridor.

    I would have said that for 10% of whatever you paid those consultants.  Next time, call me.

    “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?”

    Seems someone is living in a pre-pandemic world.  In fact, doesn’t seem anyone in this meeting has even begun to conceptualize how everything has changed, just yet . . . and we don’t even know what our new baselines are for investment, economic change, population, workforce, social movement patterns.  De Nial is not a river in Egypt, peeps . . .

    Commissioner David Soule also called this an “exciting project,” as he is concerned overall about money and jobs.

    Exciting . . .

    Jessica Jacobson also said, “I’m quite excited about the project.”

    Excited . . . at this point someone should have checked the beans used in the coffee pot.

    Like many of her colleagues, she expressed concern about the number of cars

    Details, details; cars, smarz . . . better to just be excited.

    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.

    Truer words . . . but all you have to say is they might live there and work there.

    His largest concern was wanting more bike access and in particular a class one bike lane.

    From where to where, exactly?  You can put in a bike lane, or any transit feature, and if it isn’t properly sited and have a useful function, it’s like the voluminous empty electric charging stations at the Target parking lot.  Build it and they won’t come, unless it has function.

    The alternate member did express additional concerns that the EIR might not be complete, as it has missing intersections.

    Traffic 101:  when two roads come together, it is very important to have an intersection.

  2. Todd Edelman

    There’s a necessary analysis of both the content and form of the meeting, but that will take a bit of time.

    For now I would like to present my relevant notes written for the meeting. Some are a little rough and others have been edited a bit to more accurately reflect what I actually said. I was not given enough time to present all of this. . Part of my analysis will question why – as far as I know – this is the only Commission that has time limits for Commissioner comments and questions.

    During the meeting, Staff said that we could always send comments on our own about the DSEIR. Myself and others tried to make the point that collective comments from a Commission are viewed as stronger statements by the Planning Commission and City Council.

    The links – opening in Google Docs – follow, starting with my initial correspondence to the Chair and Staff on Monday. (Around this time I wrote something shorter published in another local media outlet).

    Excerpts of letter to Chair and Staff, April 6, 2020 asking for postponement of the ARC DSEIR Agenda item. 
    Agenda proposal, referred to in the article at the “beginning”, as the first of two motions. This version was the last of three, two sent the day before, with no response from the Chair or Staff, and no agreement to my request to send it to my fellow Commissioners before the meeting.
    Clarifications – These were some notes on the LOS/VMT issue, which I used as the basis for my clarifying questions after the 65 min-long applicant presentation. One point I will try to explore further in my analysis is my question of the applicant if the LOS information in the DSEIR will become  “formally irrelevant” as of July 1, 2020 when the the regulation on the required shift from LOS to VMS based on SB365 comes into effect. The applicant responded that LOS is still required by the City’s General Plan.
    My General Comments – An intro to all of my comments.
    Analysis of Project Description – I was not able to read all of this due to time pressure
    Analysis of Infill Alternative in Executive Summary
    Comments about TDM plan – This report from the applicant was only provided to the BTSSC the morning of April 8.

  3. Alan Miller

    Here’s a question for the ether . . . or the PR folk.

    The developer had some PR folk call me and talk to me about the project.  First of all I am NOT excited about the project, I want to make that crystal clear after all the excitement last night (if there’s one word I’d use to describe Davis commission meetings, it’s certainly exciting, did I mention the passage of Prop. G was stunning?)

    I seem to have digressed . . . so, I left with about 56% of my brain supporting the project in a Measure Jr. vote.  But my one unresolved issue was — is there a grade separated bike crossing of Mace Blvd from the housing area, west to the inside of the Mace Curve?  They PR folk told me they thought there was . . . and they would get back to me to confirm.

    They haven’t got back to me.

    So let me make this perfectly clear:  “Ramos & Co., this is a deal breaker for me.  I support the housing element, and will probably vote for your project.  But if there isn’t a grade-separated bike underpass under Mace Blvd. directly west of the housing, to safely connect the housing to the Davis bike/ped trail system, I will actively campaign against your project.”

    I have stated my position . . . might want to have your PR people confirm that one with me.

  4. Don Shor

    So apparently the majority of the commissioners felt they had sufficient time to prepare and make decisions with the current mode of communication.

    Can we now dispense with the notion that the city can’t function?

      1. Don Shor

        Nor is that the point.

        I think it is a very important point, given the ongoing pressure for the city (council, staff, commissions, etc.) to stop acting on “non-essential” items.

        1. Alan Miller

          I don’t agree with the idea that the City should stop acting on non-essential items, as such.  I think that is largely an agenda-driven strategy.  However, I do agree with the idea of taking a pause on items that require a great deal of bandwidth, until we have in the Sacramento/Yolo region peaked on Covid deaths and had 2-4 weeks of decline in cases and deaths.  All indications are that we are on the beginning of that curve in this area, and as things get more grim, focusing on large-bandwidth items becomes more difficult for the community, council-members and commissioners.

  5. Pam Gunnell

    Commissioner Mick Klasson said it well when he said this project will have many significant and unavoidable impacts in an already congested area.  So what the commission did was recommend  the certification of  an SEIR which makes unequivocal the significant and unavoidable traffic impacts. The presenters acknowledged that many of the traffic and congestion mitigations depend on other agencies over which the applicant and city have no control such as CalTrans, so the proposed mitigations  will be far in the future or not forthcoming. They also acknowledged the significant and unavoidable impacts to local streets and intersections like Alhambra and Loyola in front of the Korematsu Elementary school.

    The VMT (vehicle miles traveled) graphic the traffic consultation showed was an eye  opener. The closer to downtown the less VMT represented as green or yellow. The proposed project was a big red blob on the east of town red representing the most VMT. I’ve copied and pasted the graphic below.

    So as a community is this what we want? Or do we want to promote infill housing and start ups on land already in the city and underutilized or vacant. I know where I want to live.

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Screen-Shot-2020-04-10-at-11.35.51-AM.png

    1. Ron Oertel

      Pam:  Was there any indication that the 4 new commissioners read the SEIR?

      Was that decision (regarding certification/recommendation) even scheduled, on the agenda? Who moved that item, for a decision? (Was it staff, who did so?)

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        From the second paragraph of the article: 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.”

      2. Ron Oertel

        David:  To clarify, Sherri Metzker initiated the action.

        A commissioner has to make the motion but it was asked for by staff, and the language was crafted by staff.

        1. Pam Gunnell

          Ron. I hope the commissioners had read the EIR. Clearly Todd and Mick had taken a deep dive in to it and indicated they would be submitting their own SEIR comments as individuals.

        2. Alan Miller

          Implication (???) – those with the most concerns were the ones that actually read it, and those that voted for with little comment just faked it?

        3. Ron Oertel

          , and those that voted for with little comment just faked it?

          Might want to ask them if they read it. It’s 500 pages, plus hundreds of pages of additional attachments.

          It’s certainly an overwhelming task – for anyone (let alone 4 new commissioners).

          Also, why were they talking about claimed “exciting” fiscal benefits, during a BTSSC meeting to discuss the SEIR?  How did that occur?

          Perhaps everyone should pursue your 12:06 p.m. suggestion below, to see what actually occurred (rather than rely upon what the Vanguard chooses to focus on). (Actually, that’s a “permanent” suggestion.)

           

      3. Mike Mitchell

        Ron,

        Starting ones very first commission meeting with the ARC is like being thrown into the deepest of the deep end of a pool. And I have great sympathy, but it is possible that some of the commissioners did not read the EIR. The City does not provide any instruction as to how to read EIRs, traffic reports, or any of the other documents needed to make an informed decision. And this commission is very new; Mr. Edelman is now the longest serving member of this commission. No fault of their own, but it really depends on what experience the commissioners brought to the commission, because it is unlikely that any of them have been there long enough to have learned on the job. None of them were there for Mace.1, NISHI, Sterling Apartments, or any of the older projects to draw from.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      There is no doubt that the project will have significant impacts on an impacted area. The question is going to be how much they can mitigate and whether the voters view the tradeoffs as worthwhile.

      1. Pam Gunnell

        David, I agree.  And I think the SEIR did a good job identifying impacts. I just think the certification of the SEIR can’t be conflated with the project as good or bad. There are many cases where a project had a certified EIR, but the project wasn’t approved. I also would note the traffic impacts were significant enough to cause this EIR go from an addendum to a supplemental and finally to a subsequent EIR. So we can’t trivialize these impacts.

         

    3. larryguenther

      So what the commission did was recommend  the certification of  an SEIR which makes unequivocal the significant and unavoidable traffic impacts.

      Thank you Pam.  It wasn’t just me.

  6. Ron Glick

    A commissioner wonders why there are time limits? This same commissioner recently asked to address the CC for five minutes and spoke for ten minutes.

    1. Alan Miller

      This same commissioner recently asked to address the CC for five minutes and spoke for ten minutes.

      Hav you applied the same standards of observation to City Councilmembers?

    2. Mike Mitchell

      Ron,very interesting that you point this out, being that you spoke at the City Council opposing Mr. Edelman’s removal from the BTSSC. However, it is highly unusual to limit commissioners’ comments, but when I was chair of the BTSSC I had to do so because it was the only way I could get Mr. Edelman to stop talking and give other commissioners a time to speak.

      Also, as part of the agreement Mr. Edelman made with the City Council to remain on the BTSSC, Mr. Edelman was supposed to come to an agreement through mitigation as to what his conduct at the BTSSC should look like. If the City Council followed through with this mitigation, the three minute limit on speech should not have been a surprise to Mr. Edelman but something he agreed to.

      1. Todd Edelman

        mitigation

        The first actual mediation group meeting is happening remotely next week. There’s not yet a specific agenda.

        At the BTSSC meeting, Staff interjected something like “Certain BTSSC members should limit their comments because other members have not been able to prepare extensive comments.”. Curious if that’s considered appropriate (both the proposal and its source).

        1. Mike Mitchell

          Mr. Edelman. Are you telling me that the City Council did not follow through and you did not participate in mediation before your suspension was lifted, which was the City Council’s stated condition?

           

      1. Todd Edelman

        “will the recording be available on the City website?”

        A couple of people asked about the same for a Commission meeting earlier in the week, and I did the same for our meeting early on Friday afternoon. I’ve not received a reply.

        I have no idea about any formal obligation to do so. That said, my guess is that since there’s not a formatted place to put these on Commission webpages – as there is with CC and PC videos – they need to sort that out where it’s gonna go and then get it implemented. Ideally they would have already sorted this out going into last week, because things move on and people lose focus. Normally the media is able to review e.g. City Council meetings the next morning, though the use of this partly dependent on deadlines.

        I don’t want to assume that anyone is considering this a bonus of some sort as the non-PC Commission meetings are normally not recorded. It takes someone a minute to give a Commissioner some kind of more detailed answer on this (as mentioned above I asked at the meeting), but perhaps there’s no… bandwidth to do so.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Uhhh… Todd… pandemic going on… always get mail… not for two days now… maybe that’s why no reply?  Or, even more logically, before pandemic pretty much only commission meetings held in CC chambers got recorded…

          Look @ the bottom of the first page of your Commission Agenda… talks about ‘records’… at least it used to… would you have the City wire all City facilities to capture video recordings?  Or just assign City staff to do so, @ risk of exposure to covid-19?

          Honest questions…

          One of my problems with all the various Commissions the city has created, is that many commissioners want “prime time”… their comments etched in ‘stone’… is that transparency, or ego?

          Particularly when a very few commissioners have no problem with the local equivalent of a ‘filibuster’… reading every single page of an EIR, every entry in a phone book, etc., when they ‘have the floor’… a Commissioner, @ their commission meeting should not be allowed to “filibuster” nor should they be limited to 3 minutes… unless a 1 minute message is repeated 3 times…

          Content, not quantity… a balance is needed…

          I accuse you not (nor other commissioners, on other commissions) of violating those principles of public discourse… but you asked what principles are appropriate (perhaps on another thread)… it lies between the 3-5 minutes, and the ‘filibuster’, at least in my opinion… drowning out other commissioners, or the public, by ‘going on and on’ is not condusive to public comment, other commissioner comments, nor public process… the Chair has an awesome task to find that “middle ground”…

          Heard of one commissioner who cared not about those principles, apparent by behavior… but, only one… and I staffed 2 commissions (Planning and the old SAC), and occasionally  CC for ~ 25 years, before I retired… sad.

          Squirrels things for other commissioners, other Commissions…

        2. Alan Miller

          WM, your comment is long enough to be a filibuster.  You seem a bit too involved, too many years of imperfect human commissioners – jaded, much?  You are not seeing this for what it is.  I suggest you chill out on this.  Or . . . should . . . I say . . . chill ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. out …….

           

          ……….. ?

        3. Todd Edelman

          WM, you wrote  

          capture video recordings?  

          Last week’s Commission meetings were recorded. For ours I asked during the meeting when it would be available and was told the next few days.

          It’s a problem that Commission meetings are not recorded and made available. Only minutes are taken, and these are not released for about three weeks, in advance of the next meeting. But if the next meeting is cancelled or not happening (e.g. August, normally), the minutes are not available for much longer.

          It’s also a problem that the video equipment in the Council Chambers is low-quality such that details on display screens cannot be seen during meetings, when watching from home. I made an inquiry about this in November and so far have only been told that perhaps there is no money for an upgrade.

          There is no ego involved in increasing the quality and quantity of communication of public, Brown-Act-applicable etc etc public meetings of sworn in city officials.

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