Guest Commentary: In Response to Sierra Club Regarding DISC

by Patrick Huber

Sprawl. If “sprawl” is simply defined as any development on the city’s periphery, then the term is applicable to DISC. However, it is more typically and usefully used to describe growth on a city’s periphery that makes further growth more likely. The DISC site is probably the least likely site on the city’s edge that would lead to further growth because all the adjacent farmland is already protected in perpetuity through conservation easements. These easements provide a hard edge to further growth either north or east of the DISC site. DISC is certainly peripheral development but it is not sprawl.

Native habitat. The Central Valley has lost approximately 90% of its native habitat since the Gold Rush. Valley oak woodlands, riparian forests, and wetlands have been largely eliminated from the region. Future viability of the region’s ecosystems requires the restoration or creation of additional native habitat. DISC will provide 22.6 acres of new natural habitat in the agricultural buffer in areas that are currently farmed. This will be a mosaic of ecosystems including valley oak woodland, prairie, and seasonal wetland swales. Additionally, portions of the buffer will be managed for nesting burrowing owls, a substantial expansion of their current nesting areas in the vicinity. While the foraging potential of the current agricultural fields for several raptor species will be lost, this will be more than offset by the habitat gained for numerous native species, including potential nesting sites for the raptors. Additionally, the drainage ditch that runs through the middle of the site will be enhanced with riparian plant species.

Plantings on site. Native plant species, such as valley oak, are critical for supporting native birds and insects and other animals that support the full food chain. The landscaping plan for the non-open space portions of DISC will include many valley oaks and native pollinator plants. This will provide a substantial biodiversity benefit over the current farm field.

Off-site features. While there will be inevitable loss of agricultural land and raptor foraging habitat through the construction of DISC, there are measures in place to help offset these losses. The current mitigation plan calls for a 1:1 ratio of foraging habitat and roughly 2:1 ratio of agricultural land to be protected in the Davis area. These will not create new land, but they will serve to protect more than five hundred acres of nearby land in perpetuity.

Public access. When the Davis open space program went through the public process of developing a strategic plan several years ago, one of the major goals expressed by many Davis residents was expansion of public access to open space. DISC will provide public trails through the entire agricultural buffer as well as through the riparian area that will be developed along the drainage ditch. Further, the on-site public access will activate a public access easement across the property to the east of the DISC site. This will provide a future opportunity to create public access all the way to the city-owned Howatt/Clayton Ranch and the Yolo Bypass.

Overall. DISC will have unavoidable impacts to open space features important to Davis residents. However, these will be more than outweighed by the open space and habitat benefits that it will provide. DISC will be a net benefit to open space and habitat in the Davis area.

Patrick Huber is a member of the Habitat and Open Space Commission; he is writing on his own behalf.


Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link:

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

38 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    Thanks Patrick. This provides clarity about the impact on Burrowing Owls and planned mitigation to enhance habitat for them. This has been a major concern of mine. Also thanks to the Open Space Commission for listening about moving from being focused on acquisition to providing access to the public.

  2. Alan Miller

    These will not create new land . . .

    Thanks for clarifying that.  I had really hoped that Ramos would talk to God about creating New Land.

    Another option Davis should consider — for every acre taken by new development, a single-family-zoned suburb will be razed and returned to valley oak woodlands, riparian forests, and wetlands.

  3. Alan Miller

    Further, the on-site public access will activate a public access easement across the property to the east of the DISC site. This will provide a future opportunity to create public access all the way to the city-owned Howatt/Clayton Ranch and the Yolo Bypass.

    That is so much clearer regarding this access than KW’s editorial.  I had not heard of this before.  Where will this be?  What are the timing/funding prospects for a trail to the east being implemented?

  4. Alan Miller

    DISC will have unavoidable impacts to open space features important to Davis residents.

    For sure.  Like, that particular open space won’t exist.  That sort of impact.

    However, these will be more than outweighed by the open space and habitat benefits that it will provide. DISC will be a net benefit to open space and habitat in the Davis area.

    What does the phrases in bold actually mean?  I understand the arguments made, but how does one objectively measure a net benefit in this case?  I don’t see it.  I could see the argument that the economic and jobs benefits outweigh the loss plus mitigations, on a subjective level . . . but these statements, as stated, seem specious.

    1. Alan Pryor

      Patrick Huber seems to be singing a different song now than when he voted on the project recommendations from the Open Space and Habitat Commission on April 23,2020. Following are excerpts from those minutes which motion was seconded and approved by Huber.

      On a motion by Commissioner Allen, seconded by Commissioner Huber, the Open Space and Habitat Commission voted 6-0-0-0 to approve the following motion at a special meeting on April 23, 2020 (Ayes – Allen, Huber, Klineberg, Millstein, Shaw, Vayssieres; Noes – none; Absent – none; Abstentions – none):

      “In addition to the recommendations given by the Open Space and Habitat Commission on November 4, 2019 (Attachment 1), the Commission further recommends the following:
      1. The Open Space and Habitat Commission does not recommend the ARC project as currently proposed, because it will result in the substantial net loss of the following noteworthy combination of open space values:
      • Prime agricultural land (96.6% classified as Farmland of Local Importance, including approximately 141 acres of Prime Farmland),
      • Open space on the City’s perimeter (“Urban Fringe”),
      • Potential habitat for sensitive species such as Swainson’s hawk (California Threatened), burrowing owl (Species of Special Concern), and white-tailed kite (Fully Protected) (“Biological Resources”),
      • Views of significant landmarks, namely the Sierra Nevada and the Sacramento skyline (“Scenic Resources”) and aesthetic qualities more generally,
      • Open space and habitat opportunities on seven of the entire City-owned twenty-five acres in the Northwest corner of the site (“Mace 25”), and
      • Open space and habitat opportunities on the Howatt-Clayton Ranch, proposed as water runoff storage.

      The Open Space and Habitat Commission urges the City Council to strongly factor in the loss of these open space values in the Council’s decision-making process. If the ARC project were to remove the ag buffer from the Mace 25 property and to include a developer-financed habitat enhancement project on the disturbed area of Howatt Ranch, the Commission would be willing to revisit its decision.”

  5. Ron Oertel

    The DISC site is probably the least likely site on the city’s edge that would lead to further growth because all the adjacent farmland is already protected in perpetuity through conservation easements.

    This is complete and total nonsense.  Since the author is a member of a commission, he should already know that.

    Of all development proposals put forth so far in recent years, DISC is by far the most likely to lead to further peripheral development (in addition to DISC, itself).

    Says so, right in the EIR.  Davis is expected to “absorb” 1,200 housing units (in addition to the 850 units on site).  Surrounding communities are expected to provide another 1,700 units.

    Of course, that’s assuming that it’s even completed, beyond the early stages which include the 850 units.  Those units are “subsidizing” the commercial component (up until that point).

    Bringing up the sites immediately adjacent to the DISC proposal is totally and completely irrelevant, and appears to be purposefully misleading – given the inherent lack of logic in bringing this up. David has made similar misleading statements.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      “This is complete and total nonsense. ”

      I think it is important to understand that people have differing opinions on this. You disagree with those opinions, but that doesn’t make them complete and total nonsense.

      Basically in this case, Patrick is arguing the fact that the land around DISC is in mitigation will limit its impact. You believe that the housing demands will spawn more growth than would have occurred, while I have argued in the past with you that I believe that our normal growth allocations can accommodate those housing needs and this will not cause more housing to be developed in Davis than would have during the course of events without DISC.

      1. Ron Oertel

        This is not a “personal opinion”, and is not subject to “debate” in this manner.

        There would be more jobs provided than would be accommodated by the housing.  That’s a fact, not an opinion.

        What that means is that unaddressed demand will increase.

        Your argument is that demand will remain the same, whether or not DISC is approved.  This defies basic logic.

        Of course, all of this assumes that the proposal would even be completed, beyond the stages which are subsidized by the housing.

         

        1. Ron Glick

          More jobs, more prosperity, more health and wealth and more housing. I was just reading about how home equity is the biggest share of wealth accumulated by the middle class. I support helping those that will help themselves and their families through working and building home equity.

        2. David Greenwald

          All of that is in fact, a personal opinion. The fact that you have reasons to support your opinion doesn’t change that. Just like I have reasons to support mine. Your basic belief is that without this project, there will be less growth of housing than with it, while I believe that housing demand will rise regardless.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Ron G:  What you appear to support here is the total opposite of what you (normally) claim to be concerned about (e.g., housing shortages and “pricing out” of families).

          Same thing with David.

        4. Ron Oertel

          All of that is in fact, a personal opinion. The fact that you have reasons to support your opinion doesn’t change that. Just like I have reasons to support mine. Your basic belief is that without this project, there will be less growth of housing than with it, while I believe that housing demand will rise regardless.

          You’re not going to get away with this, this time.

          Do you, or do you not believe that DISC would not house the majority of the housing demand it would create (assuming it’s actually built out)?

          Again, 850 units on site (with approximately 130 of those occupied by income-restricted individuals), with thousands of claimed jobs.

          You seem to lack a consistent moral compass in your comments, over time.

        5. Ron Oertel

          You didn’t answer the question regarding “demand”.

          Like I said, no moral compass.

          As a side note, SACOG considers the number of jobs, when coming up with RHNA numbers.

          1. David Greenwald

            “Like I said, no moral compass.”

            That would appear to be a personal insult. I do not believe I have personally insulted you here.

        6. Ron Oertel

          You can focus on that, if you want.  I agree – you did not “insult” me.

          I’d suggest answering the question, instead. Because your position (and deflection) here does not correspond with your “normal” concerns regarding unmet / unaddressed housing demand.

          Hence, the “lack of moral compass” comment.

        7. Richard McCann

          Ron O

          I’m not certain because you keep switching arguments, but I think in case your premise that if DISC isn’t built in Davis then an equivalent employment center won’t be built elsewhere so there won’t be an overall incremental increase in employment demand in the region and the corresponding incremental demand for housing in Davis won’t rise. (And there other instances where you’ve said that Davis can’t compete with the new employment centers that would be built in Woodland, West Sac and Sacramento, so I can’t keep this all straight.) But you have no basis or evidence for that premise–it’s your opinion about the future (which of course can’t be proven anyone.) We can only go off of past experience here and in other regions. If, as David and I believe about the future, that an equivalent employment center will be built elsewhere and the regional economic forecasts and housing need allocations already account for that premise, so that the jobs created by DISC are already embedded in the SACOG forecast, then DISC will not add any more housing in Davis than what has already been accounted for. That’s our opinion about the future which has at least as much validity as yours (and given that I have dug into regional economic forecasts in the past professionally, I believe I have a better understanding of that process than  you do). I’ve explained the basis of my opinion (and David is free to say if he is following the same reasoning.) You can explain the basis of your opinion, but you can’t simply denigrate ours because we disagree with you. You are not superior to us simply because of you are you.

          All of that said, I am going to oppose Measure B for two reasons and will write a letter to the Enterprise. I’ll have a separate comment on that.

           

        8. Ron Oertel

          Richard:  I’m not sure if you have a question for me in your long-winded, nonsensical statement or not.

          If so, what’s your question?

          The EIR notes that Davis is expected to provide 1,200 residential units (in addition to the 850 units planned on site).  And, that surrounding communities are expected to provide another 1,700 units.  This is needed to support DISC, itself.

          Seems like no matter how many times this is pointed out, someone tries to claim that it’s my “opinion”.

          Since you’re opposed to DISC as well (and seem to be concerned about “switching arguments”), why don’t you ask David why he’s advocating for a housing shortage?

          Other communities (such as Woodland) are attempting to do the same thing, regardless of whether or not DISC is approved.  Since they’ve failed so far, what does that tell you regarding commercial demand?

          If one is concerned about the environment, I’d suggest not approving this type of development (with 5,600 parking spaces) anywhere.  But, especially in Davis, since surrounding communities are cheaper (for housing), thereby guaranteeing that this would be a commuter-worker site.

          Another issue in the EIR (which again, is not my “personal opinion”) is that DISC would generate 24,000 car trips PER DAY.

    2. Don Shor

      The DISC site is probably the least likely site on the city’s edge that would lead to further growth because all the adjacent farmland is already protected in perpetuity through conservation easements.

      The statement is accurate as written. It addresses the site, not the possible increase in demand that you are focusing on. Because the site is bounded on all sides by properties that cannot be developed, it doesn’t create pressure to develop adjoining lands. That’s all.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Meaning that it is presenting a false claim, by making a broad statement (and then pointing to adjacent sites as a “constraint”). When we all know that there are other peripheral sites that could be developed.
          As such, it is false and misleading.

          1. Don Shor

            Because the parcel is hemmed in on all sides, including an ag easement on Mace 395 (which I strenuously supported here on the Vanguard several years ago), it is not really growth-inducing in the sense of creating increased values and speculation about surrounding parcels. There aren’t any surrounding parcels that can be developed.
            If you look at any of the peripheral parcels that have been considered at one time or another for development (outside the Mace Curve, Mace 395, or the sites on the northwest quadrant aka Parlin property), this is the least likely to directly engender any development proposal on a nearby parcel.

        2. Ron Oertel

          this is the least likely to directly engender any development proposal on a nearby parcel

          This would depend upon what you consider to be “nearby” (e.g., the Shriner’s property, Covell Village site, etc.).

          Not to mention the 1,700 residential units “expected” to be provided in communities other than Davis. (And I believe this assumption was based upon a certain number/percentage of workers housed on-site, which has since been abandoned.)

  6. Ron Oertel

    Of course, there is one adjacent site that is “relevant” – the city-owned, 25 acre open space site (which the author is aware of, given his commission appointment) which is apparently proposed to be used for agricultural mitigation for DISC.

    Made easier, by the city’s purposeful decision to passively evict the on-site owls to support DISC.

  7. Ron Glick

    “Ron G:  What you appear to support here is the total opposite of what you (normally) claim to be concerned about (e.g., housing shortages and “pricing out” of families).”

    I think I’ve been consistent for years on this topic.

  8. Pam Gunnell

    It is difficult to imagine a scenario where DISC won’t put more pressure to develop the intervening parcels such as Covell Village and the Shriner’s property as Ron O. pointed out. They will essentially look like infill parcels if DISC goes forward. It is also difficult to understand how a 200 acre project that brings in 5,600 parking spaces, 24,000 additional car trips to east Davis, and enough greenhouse gases to negate Davis’ ability to meet its 2040 carbon neutrality goal, can be considered environmentally friendly. Clearly, not expanding the city foot print is the most environmentally sensitive choice. Doing true infill will have the least negative effects on open space and habitat and, by the way, be more economically sound  for the city rather than adding new areas to service and new infrastructure.  The Sierra Club endorses No on DISC (Measure B) for good reason.

    1. Alan Miller

      “The DISC business and housing proposal on our November ballot is an opportunity for Davis to reduce our impacts on this beautiful region and planet by covering farmland with streets and buildings here rather than continuing to push development to other cities that don’t pack in nearly as much greater good as this project does.” — Kevin Wolf

  9. Dave Hart

    This is peripheral development as are all other parcels subject to Measure J(D) votes.  I think this DISC makes sense based on the size required to draw the types of commercial tenants.  I live nearby and will be more impacted by traffic than most Davis residents but I can see the benefits.  I plan to vote YES on B and  YES on D.  I can’t stress how important it is for this and future city councils to use any and all tools at their disposal to keep the project on track as proposed.

  10. Ron Glick

    “It is difficult to imagine a scenario where DISC won’t put more pressure to develop the intervening parcels such as Covell Village and the Shriner’s property…”

    And the problem with that is what? Building housing near jobs is somehow bad? Only in a world that doesn’t want to allow others to enjoy the same kind of prosperity some already have.

    “It is also difficult to understand how a 200 acre project that brings in 5,600 parking spaces, 24,000 additional car trips to east Davis, and enough greenhouse gases to negate Davis’ ability to meet its 2040 carbon neutrality goal, can be considered environmentally friendly. Clearly, not expanding the city foot print is the most environmentally sensitive choice.”

    Not if we build out the Covell Village and Shriners. Then you will have much more housing close to the jobs. It seems your two points contradict each other. In fact, people who live in any of these places and work at this new project will have a shorter commute than some of the posters making these assertions, about greenhouse gas goals, currently drive to work. Of course by 2035 new cars will be zero emission in California so if these new houses have enough solar energy generation they will in fact be carbon neutral.

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      The EASTERN edge of Covell Village is Co Rd 102… the WESTERN edge of DISC is Co Rd 104… 2 miles… some would say Dixon is close, or even Pittsburgh, PA, or the moon… depends on one’s ‘ruler’… pretty sure DISC will not create a demand for housing on the moon, but might happen… helluva commute tho’.

      Covell Village property is bounded on three sides by urban development… housing… the area under the Covell/Mace curve is bounded by two sides, the curve (road) defines the third and fourth.

      VERY interesting that someone would assert Covell Village site is ‘adjacent’ to DISC… Shriners is ~ 1/4 mile away… I can ‘get’ where someone would assert it is ‘adjacent’, but certainly not contiguous…

      1. Ron Oertel

        VERY interesting that someone would assert Covell Village site is ‘adjacent’ to DISC… Shriners is ~ 1/4 mile away… I can ‘get’ where someone would assert it is ‘adjacent’, but certainly not contiguous…

        Who said that, and where?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Let’s keep it that way.

          By the way, the EIR for DISC is “counting” The Cannery as part of the housing that “will” help meet the newly-created demand.  So, I guess those folks are going to have to quit their current jobs, to work at DISC.

          (I think it was in the “response” section, perhaps written by city staff.)

          Honestly, I don’t know how the city even approved that document.

          And if their current jobs are already in the city (or UCD), well – let’s not go into that (e.g., regarding commuters who would take their place). 😉

        2. Bill Marshall

          You are correct… I should have said, “the site that was proposed as ‘Covell Village’… ” Correction/clarification noted, and affirmed…

          And, Covell Village, as proposed, was an inappropriate design… big time…

  11. Richard McCann

    I am going to oppose Measure B, but for different reasons than most of the rest of the opposition. I generally acknowledge the need for this type of innovation center in Davis and I think we can design one that is more favorable to the environment than if it was built in another community.

    But I think there are changed circumstances since March that must give us pause as to what our future looks like. What’s going to happen to the Downtown core? Will existing commercial space empty as more employees work at home? Will the retail services there close as business declines? Is a peripheral development the best choice in this environment? While residential development in California appears to continue afoot, a quick perusal of the daily newspapers shows that the same isn’t true for commercial. We have time to get this right.

    My second reason is that the developers staged an end run of the public review process, even if it was inhibited by the pandemic. The developers had most of the elements for the baseline features and development agreement in place last fall, yet they waited until February to engage with the various commissions. And then they came back in May with a “rush, rush” need for approval before the decision to put this on the ballot in early July. The developers didn’t even bother to show up for the last two Natural Resource Commission meetings where we hammered out an extensive set of baseline features to be considered. The staff off-handedly dismissed all of the proposals from the various conditions in the report (and in their haste even a couple that the developer had originally included), and the City Council members had to reach out to individual commission members to learn more and then add some features back. We cannot reward developers for such blatant disregard of our citizens.

    So I now publicly oppose Measure B. I’ll reconsider when they come back with a proposal that fits the best of future of Davis (once we figure that out.)

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for