Planning Commission Will Meet This Week to Evaluate the Rubric

Councilmember Vaitla talks housing at the I-House in May

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – When the Planning Commission meets this week, it will only be the sixth time it has done so since November 2022.  Over that time 16 meetings have been cancelled according to the city website.

When it does meet, it will be asked to provide critical feedback on the Long Range Growth Rubric Draft.

Back in January, the Council created a subcommittee of Mayor Will Arnold and Councilmember Bapu Vaitla, tasked with working with staff “to examine possible pathways for consideration of current or future proposed peripheral development projects, and return to the full City Council with recommendations.”

The intended focus of the Subcommittee effort was “to develop a set of interim criteria by which to evaluate proposed and potential future annexation/development projects. The interim criteria would serve as a bridge and provide guidance for consideration of such proposals until such time that an updated General Plan is crafted and adopted.”

This is critical because the city is facing five potential peripheral housing projects and yet is working with a General Plan that is two decades old.

“City Council is looking for input on the parameters identified and the grading system used as they would like the rubric to reflect Davis values,” staff explains. “Note that the rubric is intended to serve as a scoring platform, and that all City requirements, ordinances, policies, etc. normally attributed to project reviews will remain. The rubric is intended to serve as a supplemental tool of evaluation.”

The Planning Commission is the last of nine bodies to look at the rubric.  The comments will be compiled and presented to the Council for next week’s meeting.

The rubric came to the Natural Resources Commission in July.

One member noted that “LEED ND [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development] is a good place to start, however, it was written in 2018 for a national audience. As such, it reflects neither Davis nor State of California values and requirements.”

In addition, they added “there are many critiques of LEED within the environmental and sustainability field—that it can create ‘green sprawl’, concerns about gentrification, and concerns that there is a disconnect in LEED measures for creating good walkable neighborhoods, etc. These concerns should be addressed before using this as the basis for a Davis standard to evaluate proposed development projects.”

Other members expressed concern about the lack of time to review the rubric and wanted to review it in September.

The Social Services Commission met four times in August and September and was in general support of the recommendations.

Among their general recommendations:

“Support the current prioritization of Affordable housing as reflected in the current point weights.”

“Support the encouragement of high density neighborhoods with climate-centric designs due to links to affordability and quality of life…”

“Support the use of the rubric to communicate Davis priorities at an early stage of the development process but wonder about the role of the rubric in the general plan.”

The Open Space Commission recommended the following: “Recommended that the rubric come with an introductory paragraph explaining to developers and the community: (1) how the rubric provides the City with an objective way to compare multiple projects, (2) how the point-weighting system was determined and how the scores will be used to compare projects, and (3) that the rubric does not replace the City’s existing project evaluation process but supplements it.”

The Utilities Commission expressed concern “that the City will go through a lot of considerations; however, did not include the vulnerabilities of the project from the point of view of people that would like to not see projects done. These vulnerabilities need to be addressed adequately in plans. There is at least one project that likely would not have faced as much rejection if they had provided more plans on a specific area.”

City staff writes that it “supports the concept of the PGR” and sees it as a way to “to consolidate the City’s various development policies and standards into one document and believe that the PGR could be a useful tool for evaluating proposed development not only for the decision makers, but also for staff, the various Commissions, the citizens, and the development community.”

Staff reiterates that the city is still planning to update its General Plan “in the near term.”

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. Walter Shwe

    This rubric represents more needless NIMBY sprawl and bureaucracy. The City already has official processes. No wonder nothing of any real housing substance ever gets constructed in Davis.

    That other site is still down where it really should permanently reside.

  2. Tim Keller

    I think its funny the “rubric” thing is still going around as if it was a actually a viable thing.

    The rubric is an evaluation tool, its meaningless on its own..

    Just like nobody eats a line of mustard without a hot dog under it, the rubric has zero utility outside of its application to the evaluation of multiple competing visions for development.   Similarly if all we use it to do is apply it to a couple of essentially identical projects.   Then it’s not going to tell us a damn thing.

    If we want to have a tool to quantify our housing developments, then we need to have some actual diversity in the proposals we are looking at, so we can see how they score.

    So here is my suggestion for what we do with the Rubric, Lets use it to rank four different scenarios:

    1) We build no new housing in Davis and lets look at the environmental impact of all of our workers coming here by car everyday over the next 50 years.

    2) We build the peripheral properties to low density standards, exactly they way they are proposed currently, and use average values for the one property that doesnt have a proposal.

    3) We  develop the peripheral properties in the way that Robb Davis and I have proposed: as medium-density transit-oriented neighborhoods under an urban limit line.

    4) We set the village farms site as the ONLY place Davis will ever grow, and we make it a high density, self-sustaining, mixed use neighborhood that encompasses the same population that might otherwise fill the entire curve in proposal #3

    THAT kind of exercise would actually be worth looking at, and might be a good use of the ruberic.

  3. Richard McCann

    First, see my comment on this follow up article:

    As crazy as Tim’s idea sounds, I like it. The City does not need to do all analyses by the rules of CEQA–often we want to look beyond what CEQA might have as a minimum requirement; it’s just that CEQA limits what can be required of a developer in the end. The Council should commit to this type of study. And it will provide a useful starting point for additional analyses in the future.

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