Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus Will Go Before the Council on Tuesday

Davis: It has been a long and time a contentious process, but on Tuesday, the council will get to weigh in on the DISC (Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus) project in what figures to be the first of two meetings.  The project was unanimously pushed forward by the Planning Commission ten days ago, but based on feedback from the community and commission, contains some changes.

However, conversations with staff and councilmembers in the past week suggest that further changes are likely to be implemented by council, as the project needs to proceed with the process for getting on the ballot.

On affordable housing, staff writes that it believes “the affordable housing program is robust and supportable, providing affordable units in an amount that is in excess of City requirements, and unique affordable housing ownership opportunities in addition to onsite rental affordable housing.”

Staff believes that 114 affordable units are required and 153 have been proposed by DISC, equaling 18 percent of the overall housing unit.  Of those 153 units, 125 will be required to be built on site.

The staff further writes, “It should also be noted that unlike the market rate residential units the construction of the affordable units is not tied to the development of the nonresidential portion of the project.”

Sustainability features.  The developer has agreed to passive heating and cooling by design, 100 percent clean energy, photovoltaics, the project to sell and distribute electricity on site to Valley Clean Energy, residential to be all electric, and outdoor shall be net zero.

They have also agreed to “incorporate language that was preferred by the NRC” on the following: improved solar connected energy storage, unbundled parking for multifamily rental housing, with rental units charged for parking separate from rent.

In addition, “To further minimize transportation emissions and enhance the active live-work-play environment of the Project, the applicant and the MOA shall ensure an introduction and establishment of a relationship between commercial tenants and the then active builders of on-site housing and/or leasing companies.”

All commercial and residential parking areas shall be EV ready, equipped with infrastructure to allow for the installation of EV charging stations as demand grows.

For housing, all housing will be 15 to 50 units per acre.  No detached single family housing is permitted.  They are keeping the restriction on the housing to a maximum of three bedrooms per unit.  The rate of housing construction shall be limited to one home per every 2000 square feet of commercial space (the staff report says residential space, but that’s probably a typo) except for projects that are 100 percent affordable.  The NRC pushed for one home per every 3000 square feet.

On Transportation.  The project will be required to implement a Transportation Demand Management plan (TDM plan). The developer would appoint a TDM manager who reports directly to the city.

The plan calls for, among other things, an electric shuttle to connect commuters from DISC, 2nd Street, UC Davis and the Amtrak station.

Staff writes, “The developer will assist with funding for this service.

The DISC developer will also contribute a share of the local cost for a “carpool lane on I-80 between Richards Blvd and West Sacramento.”

In addition, the developer agreement will require the developer to construct “several new bike/pedestrian related improvements, including a grade separated undercrossing of Mace Blvd. This will connect the 2.75 miles of publicly accessible bike/walking trails within the DISC project to a future trail along the inside of the Mace Blvd curve.”

On Mace 25, “The DISC project, as proposed, is designed with and has been analyzed as including 6.8-acres of the agricultural buffer being located within an easement area on an adjacent City-owned property identified as the Mace 25. The Mace 25 had previously been analyzed in the MRIC EIR for urbanization but, in the revised Project and Subsequent EIR, this parcel retains an agricultural land use designation and will not be developed with urban uses.”

Right now the proposal is “the 6.8-acre easement area would comprise a portion of the DISC project’s agricultural buffer and would include drainage conveyance features, over 4 acres of native habitat and open spaces in an area designed to exclude pedestrian activity, and approximately 2.25-acres of greenway with pedestrian access and recreational trails.”

Staff adds, “In response to robust public dialogue, the developer acknowledges there is no agreement on the project using a portion of Mace 25 as part of the agricultural buffer and the developer understands that they will be obligated to provide the buffer entirely on the DISC site if no agreement is reached in the future. The City is under no obligation to grant an easement on the Mace 25 for the project agricultural buffer.”

Traffic impacts.  While the project has an anticipated buildout of 20 to 25 years (which is probably optimistic), the EIR analyzed the cumulative impact at full buildout “to determine what improvements would be necessary to mitigate caused by the project.”

Staff argues that “one phase of the total project would not require the construction of all of the improvements listed. Therefore, prior to the approval of any entitlements for any phase of the project, the developer of that phase will have to prepare a focused traffic study to determine which of the listed improvements must be constructed based upon the traffic generated by the proposed phase.”

Another significant traffic mitigation measure is the creation of a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan.

On trees and urban forest, staff writes, “The developer commits to planting a minimum of 1,000 trees on the site.”

Staff notes that it has analyzed the recommended number of trees against another new project in Davis. The new office park project across Mace Blvd. from the DISC project site has about 22 trees per acre. That means  it also has a 19 percent lot coverage. Therefore, “if the project site were expanded to 187 acres, there would be about 4,000 trees.”

The DISC site is more likely to have closer to a 35 percent lot coverage, staff writes, which means there will be more building footprint than parking lot area.

In addition, “the developer is required to maximize the clean energy usage on the site meaning there will be more photovoltaic arrays in the parking lots than trees.”

Therefore, staff concludes, “it is unlikely that the project will be able to reach 4,000 trees.”

However, staff counters that it “should be noted that the 1,000 tree requirement is a minimum. If the developer installs 1,000 trees by the third phase of development, that does not mean no more trees will be installed. Landscaping is part of the entitlement process and will be required for every project.”

—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. Jim Frame

    The plan calls for, among other things, an electric shuttle to connect commuters from DISC, 2nd Street, UC Davis and the Amtrak station…The developer will assist with funding for this service.

    Assist how?  By throwing a nickel into the hat?  That sounds like a content-free commitment to me.

    The DISC developer will also contribute a share of the local cost for a “carpool lane on I-80 between Richards Blvd and West Sacramento.

    Same deal — how much?

    Show me the money or take the claim off the table.

  2. Richard McCann

    The new Staff report goes a long way towards meeting the shortened list of recommendations that the NRC adopted on Friday, which is a positive statement. However, statements like “the developer commits to…” are meaningless unless these are included as contractual, enforceable clauses in the Baseline Features. The City has experienced negotiating away many “commitments” in development agreements that didn’t have teeth. The City needs to show that its willing to stand firm.

    One key missing element is a requirement that commercial development be all-electric unless a tenant has a specific request for a process-specific need to use natural gas. We must avoid installing gas pipelines that will become obsolete in the next couple of decades as we move toward a “zero net carbon” future to fight the climate emergency.

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