Council to Move Forward with EIRs on Village, Shriners, Potential 2025 and 2026 Votes

Mayor Will Arnold

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA -Part two of the long range growth discussion may not have gone until 2 in the morning, as part one did two weeks ago, but the discussion lasted until 11 pm on Tuesday, with council ultimately deciding against a special district approach in East Davis and decided to move forward with a process that will allow Village Farms to proceed to EIR with an aim of 2025, and Shriner’s proceeding with an EIR  that would put it on pace to get on the ballot in 2026.

Mayor Will Arnold was able to get Vice Mayor Josh Chapman on board in a 4-1 vote, but ultimately Bapu Vaitla had concerns about the planning process that caused him to be the lone holdout.

Vaitla explained his thinking early on in the discussion, “I think if we don’t go through some sort of say, short visioning process planning process, we might be giving up hundreds, and when all five, seven projects are tallied maybe thousands of units, and I think possibly hundreds of affordable units, that to me is not a price worth paying if what we gain is a ballot measure that’s eight months earlier.”

He felt that by September, after going through a three- or four-month process, “We’ll say one project or two projects, but at least we’ll have that kind of visioning in hand and a more refined rubric.”

But for Mayor Arnold, “I believe we’re at the point now where where there is the urgency, there is the opportunity. We’ve seen improvement from these projects that have come forward.”

He added, “I do plan to support tonight undertaking the beginnings of an EIR process for at least one of the projects that’s in front of us.”

He also pushed back on the idea that they may be leaving some affordable units on the table.

“CEQA sees added density as being added impacts,” Arnold explain.  “The same has also been the case for the voters of Davis.”

He explained, “If you’ve ever looked at a lawn sign that is no on whatever proposal is in front of us almost all of them have a picture of a car in gridlock. That’s almost always the number one argument. There’s what we can achieve in density in a perfect world. And there’s, what are the voters of Davis going to accept.”

The council discussed the idea of a specific plan.

City Manage Mike Webb explained, “To be a true specific plan, that it would be a plan that the city council would adopt and to adopt it and have general plan land of designations be effective. Those would be subject to first going to the voters.”

Councilmember Gloria Partida pointed out that “if we don’t do a full specific plan and have to do the EIR and have to go to Measure JRD vote, that’s a huge gamble because it may not pass.  It more than likely won’t pass, because people won’t know what’s going to go there.”

She then added, “I think that people would be very skeptical about that. I don’t know that it would pass, we’d spend a lot of time and money and then still have to go through another JRD vote when the individual projects came in.”

That seemed to capture the concerns of the council on the Specific Plan.

Vaitla added, “Gloria, I mean, I agree with you that even as a standalone ballot measure, that’s a very tough thing to win for the reasons that you said it’s, people don’t know specifically what’s going there, et cetera.”

Will Arnold then brought back discussion of the previous motion that Partida made two weeks ago, directing staff to start processing the EIRs but come back to council prior to issuing a Notice of Preparation (NOP).

Councilmember Partida indicated that she would recommend that approach as well.

Councilmember Donna Neville stated, “I was just going to say that I’m supportive of that as well, and I would like to see us direct staff to start this work on not one, but two EIRs.”

Councilmember Vaitla again pushed back, “For me, the only reason we would vote to advance these EIRs tonight is to get them on the November 2024 ballot.  There’s, there’s no other reason we would do that.”

He said, “I will oppose putting any development measure on a 2024 ballot. I think it endangers the revenue measure.”  He added, “To me, there’s no harm in getting a rubric back, getting a better sense of what we want to see on the periphery, and then pushing it forward in September or October for an early 2025 ballot, which is, you know, the applicants have indicated they’re totally fine with that.”

Arnold responded that “it’s not about necessarily putting it on the November 2024 ballot. It’s about baking in some time to make sure March 2025 remains a reality rather than putting it off to sort of the last minute for that to even be an option.”

But he said, “It keeps the option of 2024 open.”

Chapman said, “I am not comfortable picking one project to move forward with an EIR tonight.  I think both projects have a lot of merit.”  He said, “I think ultimately for me, it rests on 2024, 100 percent being solely focused on a revenue measure.”

But he did say, “I’d pick both and say move them both forward.”

Will Arnold brought the discussion to a motion, noting that there are only two projects that are in discussion at this point—only two are interested in looking to be on the ballot in 2025 or 2026.

One project says “their project doesn’t count for this.”  Another says they are in “pre-application and thinks it’s premature, and we haven’t heard anything from the fifth one.”

He said, “I think that’s the whole point of option B here, which is that we are able to start the beginning processes of an EIR before we’ve even done the NOP, and then we’ll have this bite at the apple when the NOP comes.”

He said not doing this tonight, would be “we’re just lowering the chances that March, 2025 for any of these projects is even a reality.”

He moved, “I am going to make a motion that we direct staff to undertake project review and EIR preparation for two proposals known as Village Farms and Shriner’s and direct staff to check in with council on project description status prior to issuing, issuing the EIR notice of preparation.”

Sherri Metzker, Community Development Director, noted, “I would’ve envisioned whether we had these projects pending or not, that one of the issues we should take up in our next general plan is the issue of growth. Where does the city project we should grow and how, and all the kinds of things that you’ve actually been talking about.”

In her view, “if you take these two proposed large projects and sort of take them out of the mix, it does reduce to some degree your level or your ability to do that sort of master planning because the decision in essence has already been directed.”

Vaitla responded, “I think you summarized my concerns.”  He said that “it complicates planning for two very important parcels.”

But Arnold pushed the motion.  The council supported the motion 4-1 with Vaitla in dissent.  With the target being March 2025 for Village Farms and June 2026 for Shriner’s.

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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14 Comments

  1. David Thompson

    What a sad night for Davis.

    Both projects are planning for an exclusionary Davis.

    Both projects short us on affordable housing for the very low income and low income.

    When David Taormino asked me to do the affordabell housing for Bretton Woods I said I wold if he doubled the land required for affordabe housing.

    David provided land for 150 VLI and LI apartments instead of the required 68.

    Standing at the Bretton Woods Booth at the Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday proved my point. His willingness to do more VLI and LI units that he needed to was a key elements in winning community approval.

    I am no longer associated with the project but that one act won community support.

    With 378 acres to build why is Village Farms skimping on an extra four acres for housing VLI and LI people.

    All that is needed is 1% more of the 378 acres.

    Due to their skimping on both projects I am opposed to them both.

    I don’t want the Davis that is being sold to us.

    That Davis will be richer and whiter and shun the poor working people.

    A sad night indeed.

    1. Richard McCann

      The County very much wants to build a couple hundred units for farmworkers at the Village Farms location. That could be a very important contribution to housing in this town. It would seem that the State should have funds to pay directly for that housing.

  2. Tim Keller

    I don’t want the Davis that is being sold to us.
    That Davis will be richer and whiter and shun the poor working people.

    I agree.

    That said, they council also punted on having these projects on the 2024 presidential election ballot, and measure J projects do NOT do well in special elections especially… So unless something changes, none of this is going to pass anyway.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      I tend to agree with Tim Keller’s point … and I completely agree with David Thompson’s point.  What happened last night was that City Council sold Social Justice in Davis down the river.  They didn’t kick Social Justice down the road like a can … they sold it out.

      1. David Greenwald

        All they did last night is allow an EIR to proceed. Nothing else. It’s a long process and there is no reason why changes to the initial plans can’t be made including more affordable housing. I could be wrong, but did WDAAC increase its affordable housing figures after the initial submission?

  3. David Thompson

    Dear David,

    As the proponent for Delta Senior Housing Communities (DSHC) at the time of involvement in 2016-17 my memory is that we were proposing the almost five acre site from the very beginning.

    The site always remained the same as it is today and could accomodate 150 unit as are being developed today.

    In terms of WDAAC (now Bretton Woods) there was never a change of size of the site to increase the housing numbers.

    1. David Greenwald

      Looks like you are correct, just looked at my first article from March 2017 and it was 150 units of affordable. For some reason I had thought the number had increased at some point. I was wrong.

  4. Keith Y Echols

    All this talk about “planning”.  But other than vague talk about the General Plan and specific plans; I don’t hear “plans” on how Davis plans to pay to service all this forced growth.  Growth can be a good thing that despite extra traffic that can make things better for the existing community.  But you have to plan for it.  And just approving  some residential projects to meet some housing requirements is going to do nothing but further drain the existing community.  So at this point the city is considering moving forward with these residential projects with the plan for those new residents (and current ones) to work and spend most of their money elsewhere.  Not a sound economic plan.

    1. Don Shor

      So at this point the city is considering moving forward with these residential projects with the plan for those new residents (and current ones) to work and spend most of their money elsewhere. Not a sound economic plan.

      Economic development plans of any size have all been shot down by the voters.
      The housing proposed on the Hibbert site and nearby will definitely increase shopping at the nearby stores. At least there would be a grocery store nearby and perhaps that otherwise-moribund shopping center could be revitalized, although I understand there are ownership and soil toxicity issues that might complicate that.
      The Village Farms proposal would have retail needs served by the shopping center directly across the street. Those further down Mace will probably split retail dollars between the Covell shopping center (Oak Tree Plaza) and the Target center (Second Street Crossing).
      I really don’t know what else you want, given the constraints on developing retail sites and the apparent hostility of the voters toward economic development. The voters of Davis have, by default, decided they’re going to either need to raise taxes or reduce services in the next few years.

      1. Keith Olsen

        I really don’t know what else you want, given the constraints on developing retail sites and the apparent hostility of the voters toward economic development.

        The voters aren’t against developing solely retail sites, the voters are against housing being included.

  5. Keith Y Echols

    Economic development plans of any size have all been shot down by the voters.

    So the answer is no economic development?  How about convincing the unwashed masses what’s best for them?  Sometimes leaders have to be parents and force/convince their constituents to eat their vegetables.

    The housing proposed on the Hibbert site and nearby will definitely increase shopping at the nearby stores. At least there would be a grocery store nearby and perhaps that otherwise-moribund shopping center could be revitalized, 

    What nearby stores?  That desolate area Davis calls a downtown?  There’s very little there right now where people can spend their money.  As for grocery stores?  The Co-Op?  For most it’s a specialty store.  But even if you consider a it a primary grocery store….how much sales tax revenue do grocery stores capture for the city?

    The Village Farms proposal would have retail needs served by the shopping center directly across the street. Those further down Mace will probably split retail dollars between the Covell shopping center (Oak Tree Plaza) and the Target center (Second Street Crossing).

    Target is the about the only thing capturing serious sales tax revenue in this town.  But simply hoping adding all these people to feed the existing meager retail offerings in Davis isn’t good financial planning.  Knowing that all these new people will likely have to go somewhere else for employment isn’t a good idea either (working at UCD doesn’t count).

    I really don’t know what else you want, given the constraints on developing retail sites and the apparent hostility of the voters toward economic development. The voters of Davis have, by default, decided they’re going to either need to raise taxes or reduce services in the next few years.

    I want someone to stand up the petulant children that are the voters of Davis and tell/convince them what is good for them.  And that starts by removing these ridiculous constraints that constrain economic development.  Someone needs to propose a plan for economic development that doesn’t involved wishful thinking about the carcass that is Davis’ existing retail offerings and commercial/industrial space.  I mean, I’m all for it being developed and improved.  But it’s not the answer by itself.  Don, do you believe the quality of life in Davis will improve in terms of city services, traffic and cultural/entertainment offerings if the city proceeds as it intends?  

    On a personal note: I’d like to live in a town where other than groceries, I shop at more than just Target, Ace Hardware and sometimes Big 5 (last time Davis Big 5 didn’t have the kid’s soccer cleans I needed and I had to buy them in Woodland).  I’d like to live in a town where I don’t always have to look to Sacramento or the Bay Area for good food and entertainment.

    1. Don Shor

      Target is the about the only thing capturing serious sales tax revenue in this town.

      Not even close. Autos first, then restaurants, service stations and…..grocery stores. They sell a lot of non-food items. The Co-op is a full-service grocery store with a very loyal customer base.

      https://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/Finance-and-Budget-Commission/Agendas/2022/2022-03-14/Item-6B%20Attachment%203-Davis-Sales-Tax-Update-2021-3.pdf

      I want someone to stand up the petulant children that are the voters of Davis and tell/convince them what is good for them.

      I hope you have a Plan B for after that fails.

      Don, do you believe the quality of life in Davis will improve in terms of city services, traffic and cultural/entertainment offerings if the city proceeds as it intends?

      It can.

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