Davis Now under ‘Builder’s Remedy’

by David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – An article in the Sacramento Business Journal on Monday caught the attention of many in Davis as it reported that Davis, due to its noncompliant housing element, now is under the “builder’s remedy” situation that limits the ability of the city to reject housing proposals.

On April 3, the city received a letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) that informed them, “The adopted element with revisions addresses many statutory requirements; however, revisions will be necessary to comply with State Housing Element Law.”

A chief problem is the fact that the Housing Element included University Commons.

HCD wrote, “In accordance with public comment received by HCD, it appears University Commons, a project set to develop 264 units of mixed-income housing will no longer have a residential component.”

They add, “The absence of residential units from this project would require the City to identify additional sites to accommodate a revised shortfall of 485 units of lower-income housing and 227 units of above-moderate housing. The element must be revised to address this shortfall.”

The Business Journal quoted Monica Hernandez, a spokesperson for the California Department of Housing and Community Development, “Because Davis has yet to adopt a housing element that has been found in substantial compliance, the city cannot be found in compliance with Housing Element Law until all necessary rezones are complete.”

The Vanguard was unable to reach Hernandez for additional comment on Monday.

In theory this would restrict the city’s ability to reject housing proposals—but in practice it might not have any effect at all.

For one thing, to qualify for the builder’s remedy, a project must be 20 percent affordable housing—which by itself would limit the number of projects that could come forward.

There is also an exemption for land that is largely surrounded by agriculture.

Under Government Code section 65589.5(d) the council could still reject a project if, “The project is proposed on land zoned for agriculture or resource preservation that is surrounded on at least two sides by land being used for agricultural or resource preservation purposes, or which does not have adequate water or wastewater facilities to serve the project.”

That would seem to apply to the parcel where the Palomino proposal is located.  But it might not apply to the Village Farms proposal.

How this would impact potential Measure J projects that are not surrounded by agricultural land is unclear.

The Business Journal reported, “Davis also requires voter approval for new projects that would require annexing land currently used for agriculture to the city. Hernandez said she couldn’t comment on whether that would be affected by a builder’s remedy because it’s outside the department’s housing law accountability purview.”

Davis officials have told the Vanguard despite the loss of University Commons as mixed-use housing, they believe they can find additional land in the city to rezone for housing.  However, when asked where that might be, they declined to speculate.

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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16 Comments

  1. Keith Y Echols

    Could Village Farms be a test of the Builder’s Remedy vs. Measure J?  Village Farms is surrounded on 3 sides by existing development and by my rough estimate is 20% affordable housing.  It’s not in the city limits.  But it is in the sphere of influence.  It might not be a direct challenge to Measure J but it could be a work around.

  2. Ron Oertel

    There is also an exemption for land that is largely surrounded by agriculture.

    Under Government Code section 65589.5(d) the council could still reject a project if, “The project is proposed on land zoned for agriculture or resource preservation that is surrounded on at least two sides by land being used for agricultural or resource preservation purposes, or which does not have adequate water or wastewater facilities to serve the project.”

    That would seem to apply to the parcel where the Palomino proposal is located.  But it might not apply to the Village Farms proposal.

    I don’t know what the point is, regarding the comment above.  Both of these parcels would be subject to the “Builder’s Remedy” if annexed into the city.  If not, they are not subject to the Builder’s Remedy.

    Neither of these parcels would be “surrounded on at least two sides by agriculture or resource preservation” if a development is approved on them and they are annexed into the city.

    Any adjacent parcel is also subject to the Measure J exemption, for Affordable housing proposals.

    And for that matter, these large parcels would then be subdivided into smaller parcels, so that there is no “single” parcel surrounded by agriculture or resource preservation on two sides – regardless. That’s why they call this type of sprawl a subdivision.

    Seems to me that anything approved for annexation is then subject to the Builder’s Remedy.

      1. Ron Oertel

        I know, but I’m still not understanding the point you’re making.

        You state that the exemption would apply to Palomino, but (as I recall) it only has agriculture on one side – the Shriner’s property.  (Which for that matter, is also proposed for development.)

        Actually, an unpaved “road” (path into the golf course area) separates the two properties, but I suspect that this isn’t “counted”.

        1. David Greenwald

          I was wrong, Palomino only is surrounded on one side. So they could be eligible for the Builder’s Remedy if they revise their application to go up to 20 percent affordable.

        2. Ron Oertel

          There’s also the other part of that, regarding “adequate water / wastewater facilities” – depending upon how that’s defined.

          Obviously, it’s not “adequate” at the moment – without expanding them. (Unlike, for example, infill within the developed areas of the city.)

          1. David Greenwald

            “Obviously, it’s not “adequate” at the moment – without expanding this.”

            Basis for that assessment?

        3. Ron Oertel

          There is no water/sewer infrastructure on that property, other than to serve the old, remaining farmhouse.  (I’d like to know the history of that place.) As such, water/sewer facilities are not “adequate” (again, depending upon how that’s defined).

          Unlike, say – a new building downtown (e.g., replacing an old building).

          But perhaps more importantly, I’d go back to my original point that once a large parcel is subdivided into smaller parcels (and is incorporated into the city – if it isn’t already), ALL of the smaller parcels are then subject to the Builder’s Remedy. So the point itself is moot.

          Actually, that brings up another point regarding Measure J, given that it’s intended to approve “defined” proposals. Seems to me that the Builder’s Remedy could then override the defined proposals. Meaning that what’s proposed under Measure J could then turn into something entirely different than what the voters approve.

           

        4. Ron Oertel

          Actually, that brings up another point regarding Measure J, given that it’s intended to approve “defined” proposals. Seems to me that the Builder’s Remedy could then override the defined proposals. Meaning that what’s proposed under Measure J could then turn into something entirely different than what the voters approve.

          In light of the observation above, you know how they sometimes change the names of development proposals (e.g., Lincoln 40 to “Ryder”, WDAAC to “Bretton Woods”, DISC to “On the Curve”, Covell Village to “Village Farms”, Wildhorse Ranch to “Palomino Place”, etc.)?

          Well, maybe they can just put a “Builder’s Remedy” on the ballot, rather than trying to come up with some cuter name first.  Granted, it doesn’t have the same panache as Lake Alhambra, for example.

          This way, the only thing that Davis voters would decide is how large of a “Builder’s Remedy” they want outside of city limits.

          Problem solved – you’re welcome.

          By the way, why do developers often select names to commemorate what they seek to replace (e.g., Mace “Ranch”, Wildhorse “Ranch”, Village “Farms”, etc.)?

  3. Todd Edelman

    I wish we could use the “Grammarly Remedy”, which prohibits the use of misdirecting nomenclature such as “Village Farms”, as the reality is that it would be “Former farms, not villages”.  Let’s see who attacks me for being negative for that one…

      1. Keith Y Echols

        You have ZERO respect for CA real estate naming tradition.

        The Sunset District in San Francisco was initially developed by a guy named Aurelias Buckingham.  The region at the time was called Outside Lands because it was so far outside of the main area of the city and it was mostly sand dunes.  Today there’s a music festival named after Outside Lands.  Outside Lands isn’t really an attractive name to lure home buyers to a new area of a city.  So it is claimed that Buckingham was the first to name the area “Sunset” (though now reading it on wikipedia I see that it may have been called Sunset City before that).

        I used to live next to the Sunset District in San Francisco.  There was a big hill (on which UCSF sits) that separated us from the Inner Sunset.  I can tell you that the Sunset was one of the LEAST sunniest places in the city.  Often times there was a wall of fog that was on the other side of the hill.  Sometimes it stayed there.  Sometimes it made it’s way over the hill.  Often times it would retreat back over the hill and it would stay foggy in the Sunset.

        So yeah, developers playing fast and loose with project names is a time honored tradition.

        1. Keith Olsen

          You have ZERO respect for CA real estate naming tradition.

          Oh, so there’s a tradition to name things for what they really aren’t?

          Or were you trying to be sarcastic?

    1. Walter Shwe

      Developers get to choose what they call their proposed developments. It’s just too bad you don’t like it. Become your own developer and you get to choose your own name.

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