Council Asked to Authorize NOP and Draft EIR Prep for Village Farms

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – A project that could go before the voters in 2025 for a Measure J vote will go before council this week for authorization of issuing the Notice of Preparation (NOP) and the initiation of the Draft EIR Preparation.

The proposal calls for development of a 390-acre project north of East Covell and directly West of Pole Line.

The proposal consists of a mixed-use development that includes a total of 1800 dwelling units, “comprised of both affordable and market-rate single- and multi-family residences, across various residential neighborhoods.”

It would also include neighborhood services, parks, open space and greenbelts.

This is the latest step in a lengthy process to get the project from submittal on April 7, 2023, to an eventual vote in 2025.

At the October 3 meeting, the council voted to award the contract for the preparation of an EIR for the proposal to Raney Planning & Management, Inc. In addition, the council also directed staff to have the NOP drafted and to return to the council for further direction before proceeding to commence the public review period for the NOP as the next step of the environmental review of the project.

If council approves the release of the NOP, the comment period begins on October 30 and will conclude on December 1 at 5 pm.

A scoping meeting would be held on November 29 at 6:30 at the Community Chamber in which input would be solicited and comments from the public would be conducted for the beginning of the preparation of the Draft EIR for the project.

Members of the public may provide written comments throughout the meeting and in writing any time during the scoping period.

Once the comment period closes, staff and the consultant will review the comments received and determine those that should be incorporated into the scope of the analysis for the EIR.

Under CEQA, there is a requirement that the EIR provide a “reasonable range” of alternative projects that could potentially have lesser environmental impacts.

CEQA also requires the analysis of a “no project” alternative to compare impacts of the proposed project with that of no project.

At the September 19 City Council meeting when the EIR contract for Raney Planning & Management was approved by council, there was discussion of the expected number of alternatives to be prepared and the depth of analysis of those alternatives.

At the meeting, Councilmember Bapu Vaitla pushed for a dense alternative.

“What I had in mind is a higher density project, make sure that that project alternative is explored fully,” he said.

He hopes that the CEQA “analysis is refined enough to capture… is a higher density project should lead to, let’s say, less space that are required to meet housing targets.”

For example, he wants to see more open space preservation and improved VMT per capita.

Councilmember Donna Neville suggested that “the sort of prime opportunity for us to make those refinements is at the notice of preparation stage as we consider the project’s scope.”

Sherri Metzger, Community Development Director, responded, “If you want the proposed project to have that analysis, then absolutely. If you’re looking at it as one of the alternatives, I’ve never had it done at the NOP stage, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be brought up then.”

City Manager Mike Webb added that “the scoping period is the time at which the city is seeking community feedback, identifying the alternatives that are planned to be evaluated in the EIR, that 30-day scoping period, which the NOP, the notice of preparation initiates the scoping period, and that’s the time at which the alternatives get refined. There’s community input during that scoping period.”

Webb added that when the NOP comes back to council in mid-October, “that would be the first opportunity for the council to more formally weigh in on… here’s the types of alternatives ‘that we’re thinking would be included in the EIR analysis that we would include in the notice of preparation and get feedback from the community on, but it wouldn’t be finalized until at the end of the scoping period.’”

Neville added, “I think I understand why you’re trying to go with this.  You want to make sure that we don’t foreclose the ability to densify the project.”

Based on the conversation at that meeting, staff notes, “The Raney contract scope includes evaluation of up to seven alternatives, all at a qualitative level of analysis. After discussion, the City Council expressed interest in analyzing fewer alternatives, but including a greater depth of analysis on a few of those alternatives, to afford a more nuanced understanding of the potential impacts, especially with regard to traffic and greenhouse gas (GHG) Impacts.”

Therefore, staff is currently recommending the analysis of five alternatives and “will work with Raney Planning & Management to scope a greater depth of analysis for up to two of those alternatives while keeping the cost of the EIR contract neutral or near neutral.”

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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