Planning Commission to Evaluate and Provide Comments on ARC Supplemental EIR

The deadline to submit comments on the ARC (Aggie Research Campus) Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR) is April 27—a week from today.  On Wednesday, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and provide staff and the EIR consultant with comments on the DSEIR.

The meeting will occur via Zoom and happens amid concerns from some in the public that critical issues might not get adequate inquiry, due to the restrictions as well as the concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Aggie Research Campus is a proposed 228.5 acre project that will consist of 2.65 million square feet of innovation space and business uses with an additional 850 residential units.  The project is located immediately east of Mace Blvd. and will require council approval and subsequent approval from the voters in an election at this time scheduled for November 2020.

On March 13, the city issued a notice of availability of the Draft SEIR.  There is a 45-day comment period for the Draft SEIR, which ends on Monday, April 27, 2020.  The Planning Commission is required to hold a public meeting “to provide an opportunity to the public and the commission to review and provide oral comments on the Draft SEIR. The Planning Commission is being asked to comment during the April 22, 2020, public meeting.”

The Final SEIR will then come back before the Planning Commission for recommendation to the City Council and the Council will be asked to certify the Final EIR as it makes its final actions on the project.

The DSEIR concludes that there are a number of significant and unavoidable impacts—with other impacts that can be mitigated to less than significant levels.

Some of the biggest figure to be generating GHG emissions, impacts to local neighborhood street traffic, increases to vehicle miles traveled (VMT), impacts to pedestrian and bicycling facilities and impacts to transit services.

Traffic and mitigating traffic impacts figures to be a major issue for both the Planning Commission and and the public overall.

According to Fehr & Peers, “the ARC Project would generate 23,888 new daily (external) vehicle trips, with 2,232 trips occurring during the AM peak hour and 2,479 trips occurring during the PM peak hour.”

For the ARC Project, the EIR notes that “the worst-case intersections were determined to be I-80 WB Ramps/Mace Boulevard during the PM peak hour and I-80 EB Off-Ramp/Chiles Road during the AM peak hour under Cumulative Plus Project Conditions, due to worst LOS, highest delays, and highest volumes.”

They further found that the impact of additional traffic at I-80 and CR 32A interchange would “exacerbate these LOS F conditions and exceed applicable Caltrans LOS thresholds.”

The SEIR finds: “When the percent demand served drops well below 100 percent, the demand for travel cannot be served within a single hour due to either upstream or downstream bottlenecks. This can lead to ‘peak hour spreading’, which is generally defined as more than one hour of congested, stop-and-go conditions.”

In effect, the project would cause the system-wide percent demand served to decrease from nearly 100 percent under existing conditions to just 82 percent for AM peak hour and 85 percent for PM peak hour.

However, with the recommended changes, “these percentages increase to 99 percent during the AM peak hour and 97 percent during the PM peak hour, a substantial improvement.”

Most importantly, with such enhancements, “vehicle queues would no longer spill back onto the I-80 mainline with implementation of these enhancements.”

Overall, they concluded, “Background traffic growth will require improvements within this portion of the study area regardless of whether the project is developed.”

“What the report confirms is that the many local road and intersection improvements made possible by our project will measurably improve area traffic conditions, including for South Davis residents, even as we’re bringing new jobs and housing to the community,” said Aggie Research Campus Project Manager Dan Ramos. “We also know that I-80 improvements are desperately needed, and we’re firmly committed to helping make them happen as soon as possible.”

During the discussion at the BTSSC (Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission) meeting and on April 9, Mr. 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.

Greg Rowe, a member of the Planning Commission, submitted comments to the BTSSC, which found that while there would be significant and unavoidable impacts from the project, recommended certification of the SEIR.

Mr. Rowe presented five primary concerns to the BTSSC.

He found, as noted previously, “Vehicle trips for the ARC Project would greatly exceed projections for the previous MRIC project. VMT impacts will be significant and unavoidable.”

Second, “Roadway enhancements (lane extensions, more lanes, etc.) that allow more traffic may discourage alternative commute modes (biking and walking).”

Third, “Inability of proposed transportation/circulation enhancements to fully mitigate traffic impacts coupled with indeterminate funding sources.”

Fourth, “Limited control by the City of Davis over the scope and timing of traffic improvements on I-80.”

And fifth, “Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Programs: As shown in my comments, TDM programs are a standard, boilerplate mitigation identified in many CEQA documents. Such programs have limited practicality, are difficult to sustain over the long-term, and should not be relied upon to significantly improve traffic and circulation conditions.”

Recognizing some of this, there was significant support by the BTSSC to include the proposals for mitigation measures into the project baseline features as a means of ensuring that the commitments made by the developers are enforceable.

Matt Keasling acknowledged that this project requires the cooperation of other jurisdictions in order to mitigate impacts.

“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 are 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.

—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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41 Comments

    1. David Greenwald

      As I explained yesterday, the move would be driven by R&D and technology – it will be even more valuable to have research centers, not less.

      1. Alan Miller

        Yes, BUT . . . with so many brick and mortars closing as per your article yesterday, much ‘R&D’ space will open via repurposed retail.  Heck, the re-purposing of our three closed movie-houses could fill for a fair percentage of the need that ARC would have provided, in a world prior to Covid-19, and much closer to UC Davis.

        1. Keith Olsen

          with so many brick and mortars closing as per your article yesterday, much ‘R&D’ space will open via repurposed retail

          Good point, and it would help save downtown Davis from empty and or boarded up business and store fronts.

          1. David Greenwald

            We are doing a downtown plan, there is a plan to have some flex space, but I don’t think the vision of the downtown is to move it to a bunch of tech comapnies – also I don’t think there is really enough space for what they are looking for at the innovation center. Rmeember, while there are some things you can telecommmute for – lab space and manufacturing are not one of them.

        2. Richard McCann

          As I’ve mentioned before, the transaction costs of assembling disparate parcels for a larger project on the scale of the ARC adds 15% to 40% of the land for the development. And there’s no guarantee that all of the parcels can be assembled.

           

        3. Alan Miller

          I don’t think the vision of the downtown is to move it to a bunch of tech companies

          I was kidding on the literal ‘tech in closed movie theaters’, whilst making a point . . .

          1. David Greenwald

            But the point is flawed. The downtown is not set up for this type of commercial development and then you throw others off by making these comments because they think there is a real possibility.

        4. Alan Miller

          My points are never flawed, only other’s interpretation of my points, that are based on my poor descriptions of my points.  This is definitely my fault.

  1. Alan Miller

    But seriously folks . . . I was much more on the side of the City continuing to go through these processes for projects that take a great deal of analysis and community input, but I’ve done a 180° and see this more as ‘whistling as Rome burns’.

    RD made it very clear we are in the middle of a slow moving crisis:  we wouldn’t tell store owners to stay in their stores while they are burning down, but this is happening so slowly we don’t think ‘the building is on fire’, i.e. that we are in the middle of slow-burning disaster.  This isn’t the time to be moving these projects forward.

    I am not for or against ARC, I’m marginally in favor, but have some grave reservations about not putting much more stringent & specific transportation elements into the baseline requirements well before the vote – and without that I will vote against.  And by that I mean a transportation element that is set in stone and can’t be derailed later like the bullsh*t ‘promised’ bike connection between The Cannery and H Street bike tunnel.

    I’m not for putting the process off until their is a vaccine, but I suggest we wait until there is a downward trend in Yolo County on infection rate / death rate / hospital admission rate – and remains on a downward trend for at least 2-3 weeks – before we as a City discuss such large and complex issues.  People are freaked out, scared, displaced, isolated.  This bullsh*t about the current process being adequate and public input process being adequate fails to acknowledge the severity of the catastrophe unfolding all around us.

    Take a Pause, City Council!

     

    1. Richard McCann

      Unfortunately, the City has made a delay very difficult with the Measure R requirements. It’s not that this project decision would be delayed a few months, but rather for at least two years due to the election cycle.

      1. Alan Miller

        True . . . And d*mn near everything is being delayed for every business and for every individual’s life for 1-2 years, and for some complete loss of business, job . . . even death, if not themselves, but someone near them.

        The unprecedented economic changes will delay the ARC buildout a lot longer than a two-year vote delay will.  I cry crocodile tears for the ARC missing the November vote.

  2. Don Shor

    It seems to me that unless the applicant withdraws the proposal, it goes forward. If the commissions need to delay because of logistical issues, they can inform the council and a schedule can be adjusted. If individual commissioners feel unable to perform their duties, they should say so; if a majority are unable to do so, then the council will see that there is a problem and could consider modifying the review process. There are plenty of avenues for the public to weigh in on this project.

    Market demand may be an issue for the applicant. It isn’t relevant to the commissioners or the councilmembers.

    1. Matt Williams

      Don Shor said . . . “Market demand may be an issue for the applicant. It isn’t relevant to the commissioners or the councilmembers.”

      I respectfully disagree Don.  The revenue that the City will (possibly) get from ARC is almost completely dependent on market demand.  If there isn’t market demand the developer will not build buildings on the site.  Since taxation of the underlying land value is constrained by the provisions of Prop 13, granting entitlements will not change the property tax base.  The big tax revenue bump comes when the new buildings needed to meet the market demand are built, and then even more tax revenue is created when the building occupants put equipment and fixtures inside the buildings.  Absent market demand … no buildings.  No buildings … no equipment and fixtures.

      So, demonstrable market  demand is very much relevant to the commissioners and/or the councilmembers.

      1. Richard McCann

        Matt

        I’m not making a point, but can you explain how market demand is relevant to Commissions and Council? Doesn’t the developer take on the financial risk, and the land just continues on under its current use if the project isn’t built out?

      2. Mark West

        There is no market demand for land that is not currently entitled, Measure R ensures that. Arguing that we wait for demonstrable market demand translates to an argument in favor of waiting forever (as the potholes get deeper and wider). But then again, who needs roads when everyone is serving a life sentence at home?

        1. Richard McCann

          So I would suggest that Don’s point is similar to mine: whether there’s market demand isn’t relevant to the Council or Commission members because, as you point out, there’s no market demand until they decide. So the actual market value isn’t relevant to their decisions.

        2. Ron Oertel

          The market demand is for the housing.

          That’s why it failed without it, along with the 2-3 other proposed peripheral business park proposals (which have since been converted entirely to housing).

          I believe that the business park proposal in Woodland (which “moved” from Davis) has stalled, as well. (And of course, that also includes housing.)

          1. David Greenwald

            You’ve continued to double down on a point that is factually wrong. The market demand is for commercial in Davis, but there has to be a landing spot and it takes work to land them because commercial entities have multiple options. I will repeat the quote from Danielle Casey from last August – companies are not even looking at Davis right now, because they have no place to go and would have to go through a five year approval process to change that.

        3. Ron Oertel

          They were provided with a chance to pursue a commercial development, and passed on that. That’s a fact, not an opinion. (Along with the 2-3 other peripheral sites which failed as commercial proposals.)

          Market demand is for the housing, not commercial development.

          Another question I have is where the additional 1,200 units (that ARC isn’t going to provide, but which are nevertheless expected to be in Davis) will go.  (And, the ramifications of that.)

          1. David Greenwald

            I guess we’ll have to worry about 1200 over the next 20 to 25 – if it is even an issue at that point. Given that you don’t even want the 850 units, the argument seems disengenuous.

        4. Ron Oertel

          ” . . . the argument seems disengenuous.”

          Your comments are becoming overly-personal and desperate-sounding.  Are you sure you want to set an example like that?

          I’d say that it’s “disengenuous” to claim to be concerned about “housing shortages”, while advocating for a development which would create one.

          1. David Greenwald

            Explain how you square your point –

            You have said you would support a project with no housing
            You have complained that there is 850 units on the site
            You then question where the 1200 units are going that are not provided on site

            How do you square those three points?

        5. Ron Oertel

          I’d “explain” that by noting that portions of it are not true.

          But again, how do you explain your support, regarding the need for 1,200 additional housing units (in Davis) that ARC would not provide? (Given your repeated concerns regarding “housing shortages”?)

          Also – what would be the effect on city finances, regarding the long-term fiscal cost of those additional units? And for that matter, does the SEIR even address this?

          In any case, this seems like the latest example of a development proposal in which you’re more than willing to abandon all of your previous fiscal and “social” concerns.

           

          1. David Greenwald

            SEIR addresses environmental impacts, not fiscal impacts.

            We have not seen the fiscal analysis yet.

            So you complain about calling your argument disengenuous and yet you’re perfectly willing to throw in a potshot: “In any case, this seems like the latest example of a development proposal in which you’re more than willing to abandon all of your previous fiscal and “social” concerns. “

        6. Ron Oertel

          850 is better than zero.

          Not when it creates a need for 1,200 more than that.  (More than 2,000 additional units in Davis which aren’t needed in the absence of the proposal.)

          The 850 units (alone) is larger than the Cannery.

          And, that doesn’t even count the units that are expected to be needed outside of Davis, as a result of the development.

          1. David Greenwald

            But handling 850 is better than handling none. THe original proposal handled no hosing. This is an improvement.

        7. Ron Oertel

          SEIR addresses environmental impacts, not fiscal impacts.

          1,200 additional units would have (both) a fiscal and environmental impact.  As I recall, the SEIR merely states that Davis is expected to absorb the 1,200 additional units, without specifying where or how this would occur.

          So again, I ask how you reconcile that with your concern regarding fiscal concerns and housing shortages.

        8. Ron Oertel

          Unlike you, I expect that the long-term costs of the housing units (both the ones on-site, and those needed off-site) will drag down any expected “fiscal profit” – whether or not they’re actually included in fiscal analyses.

          Even more so, if it leads to (yet another) peripheral housing development.

          Then again, I don’t think there’s actual commercial demand in the first place.  Unless the commercial component is priced as a “loss leader”.

          And of course, the county would take a significant portion of any expected “fiscal profit”, unlike redevelopments within the city.

          1. David Greenwald

            We will have the fiscal analysis shortly and have a much better idea where fiscal analysis falls. Housing in general is not a fiscal loser the way they finance and mitigate it now. It’s pretty much break even.

        9. Keith Echols

          How does Housing “break even”?  It’s been my experience (despite at times arguing the contrary) that Housing is an expense for communities.  Their costs come from city services and infrastructure.  If 1,200 new homes are built in Davis (or even 850), then police and fire are going to have to service them.  That requires more man power and expenses (vehicles, facilities and equipment….all of which also have maintenance costs as well).  I do not know what water and sewer capacity is but new housing will obviously take away from existing capacity.  How will that be paid for?  Development fees?  Do I have it right that the city receives 18% of the 1% county property tax….is that enough to pay for the housing impact costs? “Offsets” are usually pie in the sky: “if they build it, they will come”….”they” meaning businesses.  But usually that results in another grocery store or maybe a Target or Costco (it would be nice to have a local Costco).  But as far as tech and manufacturing?  They don’t really locate based on housing…at least not considered at the community scale….yes at the regional level but not if they’re weighing moving to West Sacramento or Roseville vs. Davis.

          As for the project’s market demand?  Yeah, I too would like to see the business plan and if/how the leaders plan to attract businesses.  It’s a glaring issue IMO that UCD does not have an official part of this “Aggie” research campus development.  Mentioned in other articles as a comparison was Mission Bay in San Francisco.  But Mission Bay had the benefit of UCSF’s expansion to lead the way and anchor the area for further development.

        10. Keith Echols

          Housing breaks even by having an accurate assessment of the costs and then conferring those costs onto the developer.

          That’s a good one.  No seriously…how can housing be even break even for a community?

          I know when I tried to sell it, it was all about those wonderful ethereal businesses that will be attracted to the city and the wonderful additional sales tax that will generate more revenue to the city.   But…really…development fees are usually a one time shot and often times don’t even go directly into the needed infrastructure required to serve those homes….often times because it’s not an immediate need.  But those development fees can’t continue to pay for all the services costs and infrastructure needs of those homes going forward.

  3. Ron Glick

    You need look no further than Wall Street to figure out that the types of real estate that will be affected by the punctuated equilibrium shift created by the corona crisis accelerating the trend to work from home are not the types proposed by Ramos. Office Reits are down as are retail reits. Tech is holding up and biotech in particular is holding up well. Housing in Davis will hold up because of pent up demand.

    What the market is telling us, and remember the stock market is a forward looking indicator, is that the demand for ARC is good. Both the tech component and the housing component should come out of the current pandemic with adequate demand.

  4. Todd Edelman

    there was significant support by the BTSSC to include the proposals for mitigation measures into the project baseline features

    I’m not clear what you’re saying or it’s source – it’s hard to check: It’s been 11 days since the BTSSC meeting when its recording was promised by Staff* to be available in a few days, and six days since Staff said at Council that the video would be available soon – but in fact my Commission discussed – though perhaps did not quite tentatively-agree that we’d form a ARC Baseline Features Sub-Committee at our May meeting and take action on it at the June meeting. (It’s not clear if this will be before the second of the two mentioned PC meetings…).

    There were clearly two other problems at the April 9th meeting: The applicant released to us the TDM document only the day before; this was on the City website only the morning of the meeting!

    Second, as first pointed out in a report by Matt Williams there were clearly some omissions in the Fehr & Peers report regarding data from e.g. two major intersections. Matt commented on this during public comments at the meeting and I mentioned it, too.

    I believe only one other Commissioner took notice of either of these.

    Hopefully the citizens take these things – as well as the applicant’s messy narrative  into account if when they comment on the DSEIR. Will they have time to do so?

    Don Shor says If individual commissioners feel unable to perform their duties, they should say so; if a majority are unable to do so, then the council will see that there is a problem and could consider modifying the review process.

    My point from the very beginning when I wrote about this in the other blog on April 6th was that it was only or primarily about my capacity, but that of citizens. There may be

    plenty of avenues for the public to weigh in on this project but given the scope of the project I would be curious to see the total number of comments and total page equivalent and how it compares to e.g. the Downtown Plan, Bretton Woods and Nishi and Son of Nishi. That won’t be formally-relevant but it could help inform some decisions if this project goes on the November ballot.

    * I don’t mention City of Davis staff members by name in comments in the media.

  5. Bill Marshall

    Yes… we all ‘love’ the Ron O/David G show… playing on a blog near you… reminds me of the old “Point/Counter Point” segment on TV… no light, just ‘scoring’ (or not) ‘points’… not just on this thread…  entertaining, but does not move any football… except perhaps racking up ‘posts’ for the blog’s advertisers’ contributions…

    Particularly since the abolition of the 7 comment limit… WRHearst would love it!

  6. Todd Edelman

    Just a technical note: The formatting of my comment above was out of my control. With several minutes left in the edit countdown I was locked out. I wrote David an email asking for it to get deleted; then I would re-submit. I didn’t hear back.

    I am not implying that this is a conspiracy. In fact, it might simply be the result of a kind of echo, bouncing back in time…. far back, far far back, perhaps millions of years from a point when the owls who’d evolved from those who were not gentrified out of the Mace Curve. These post-owls have sent us a message.

    Or it could be more a of a formal, post-modern thing where the object and subject have mixed together, where the writer is the reader and vice-versa, a kind of meta-word salad, with letters an infinite number of days out, waiting… waiting…. forever waiting… for a permit to build a sculpture of text that embraces all creatures with love and directedness.

    1. David Greenwald

      Weird, I never got your email – just checked it. Sorry. That has happened several times in the last week, not sure what’s going on with that.

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