Subcommittee Proposes Changes to ‘Rubric’ Formula

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – In light of feedback from the community, Mayor Will Arnold and Councilember Bapu Vaitla on Monday posted an update to the Long-Range Growth “Davis Development Rubric.”

The addendum, posted late on Monday, indicates three key changes:

  1. The rubric is contextualized to Davis and creates a foundation for the upcoming General Plan update.
  2. The rubric’s content evaluates and incentivizes the development of “neighborhoods of the future,” moving beyond minimum requirements.
  3. The rubric is simpler to understand, quicker to complete by applicants, and can be easily converted for use in public communication.

The changes shift to five categories with no single composite score, but rather scores for each category: housing, climate/environmental justice, circulation, conservation and land use.

In addition, they argue that this creates a foundation for a General Plan update, with the “rubric as one tool among many—including CAAP, Downtown Plan, Housing Element, and others—to help evaluate projects in the interim until General Plan is completed.”

Thus they believe it “helps set clear, transparent expectations between the public and project applicants.”

They argue, “All current ordinances and planning requirements must be met… but the rubric evaluates and incentivizes features that are innovative and go well beyond current requirements.”

They add, “Current General Plan doesn’t reflect latest thinking in some areas, so rubric relies on standards from newer documents (Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, Housing Element, Downtown Plan).”

Moreover, addressing a key criticism, they add that the rubric is now “Contextualized for Davis in indicator selection.”

Gone is the overall composite score.  Instead, there will be scores for each category.

“Within each category, only 3-5 indicators,” they note.  “For now, indicators within each category are equally weighted.”

“Each question asks whether the project exceeds, by a reasonable amount, current mandatory standards. If mandatory standard doesn’t exist, ties expectations to latest planning documents (CAAP, Housing Element) and/or best planning practices in neighborhood development.”

They hope this makes it much easier to complete with a total of 23 questions.

They add that “all should be possible at this stage to answer or provide commitment to.”

They add, “This is a first draft that could be piloted now with development proposals in front of us.”  Moreover, it’s a “living document: Commissions gave valuable feedback; items and weights can be altered as understanding of needs evolves.”

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. Don Shor

    “Percentage of project’s street length lined with climate-ready, predominately native trees.”

    I strongly recommend removing “predominately native” from this rubric. There are not enough species native to our Valley Grassland plant community that are desirable for urban plantings for us to mandate the geographic origin of the species as a preferred trait.

    “Climate-ready” is important and there is a process underway right now to create a database and series of recommended species lists for this purpose.

    The rubric should merely specify that the trees be suitable with respect to future heat expectations and water conservation, and achieve the primary goal of species diversity in the overall planting choices.

  2. Richard McCann

    This is a good move to a more sensible rubric. That said, using equal weighting for each attribute will lead to misleading results. For example under housing, low income housing has 3 times the overall weight of gross density. Yet higher density is likely to improve affordability without having to add other requirements to the development. Cool surfaces will not have the same benefit as electrification, which also outweights solar + storage in importance.

    The Council should give each of these categories to a relevant commission to work out the relative initial weights that can then be debated by the Council. The commissions should examine how robust their overall priorities are to changes in the weights (a feature that the 2015 CCA committee used to evaluate the chosen weights for the selection attributes.)

  3. Richard McCann

    Some key attributes are missing from this list as well. One key attribute missing is using solar panels for parking lot shade structures that can serve a dual purpose. Another is interconnectivity of a transit network with other proposed developments. Synergism with new and existing developments also isn’t considered. It’s not clear how these types of attributes that create multiple benefits will be scored.

    1. Don Shor

      One key attribute missing is using solar panels for parking lot shade structures that can serve a dual purpose.

      One key attribute is planting parking lots with trees to provide shade, cool the air, provide habitat, improve rainwater management, and much more. Unfortunately, that’s not compatible with solar panels, so those should only be on top of buildings or on peripheral areas of the property where the benefits of trees are not as important.

  4. Tim Keller

    While I think this modification is going in a positive direction, I want to point out something VERY IMPORTANT:   This approach still lacks any PLANNING function.

    For example:  Under “circulation”, point two talks about “percentage of dwellings and non-residential buildings within .25 miles of a transit stop.

    This is great because it encourages the exact thing that makes transit effective:  Having a lot of usage density around a transit stop.

    But tell me: WHO is coordinating how transit flows through these projects?  The developer?  A transit agency?  WHO?   Are we going to have transit stops that connect what?  Exactly?   How do you ensure that a transit line in one project works well for the adjacent project developed by an entirely different owner?

    You CANNOT get a good transit system, and we WILL NOT get a good transit system if THIS is the extent of our planning function around it.   It just wont happen.

    More importantly in the absence of a transit system, then the density that other parts of this rubric calls for turns from a good thing into a bad thing, because the default alternative is CARS.

    Density is only a good idea if transit is co-developed, and transit needs to be centrally planned.  Period.  Full Stop.

    This has been my criticism of the Rubric approach from the start:  It isn’t a substitute for planning.  It is a passive approach for “scoring” what gets brought to us by developers, but in reality WE need to be proactive about telling the developers what WE WANT.

    This version of the Rubric is starting to resemble much of the elements of the standards that we are proposing to bake into the measure J ammendment, but it is still a passive approach:  “scoring what is proposed”.

    We need to be LEADING the discussion and proactively setting the standards we want to see in developments.  That includes giving a number for gross density, specifying where transit is going to be, and how it is going to connect etc… these are what “normal” community planning functions do, and we should expect that kind of proactive leadership from city hall.

      1. Tim Keller

        I’m assuming you are joking.

        im more worried about who is going to proactively design an integrated transit system with this housing than I am with who is going to actually show up and drive the busses.

      2. Richard McCann

        Unitrans is largely a creature of UCD, not the City. It doesn’t have the mandate to create a transit plan for new development in Davis. It must passively accept what the City decides. Further, it will require a much larger infusion from the City to truly drive Unitrans planning for a revised transit system.

        1. Don Shor

          Intra-city demand from new subdivisions will be met by Unitrans just as they’ve done before. Inter-city demand will be by Yolobus. What more do you want?

        2. Tim Keller

          Intra-city demand from new subdivisions will be met by Unitrans just as they’ve done before. Inter-city demand will be by Yolobus. What more do you want?

          I want our developments PLANNED around the transit.    Not for transit to be “figured out by unitrans” later.

          I encourage you to look at what LEED-ND is actually all about:

          Here is a cut-and-paste from the top of that link talking about the desired outcomes of LEED-ND and why such developments are sustainable:

          – Promoting the location and design of neighborhoods that reduce vehicle miles travelled (VMT)

          -Creating developments where jobs and services are accessible by foot or public transit

          -Promoting an array of green building and green infrastructure practices, particularly for more efficient energy and water use

          We are talking about peripheral projects…   how do you build on the periphery AND reduce VMT?

          How do you make developments on the periphery where the residents can get to their jobs and services by foot or by public transit?

          The ONLY way to do that is to co-design one hell of an effective transit corridor along with these developments.    Otherwise the modal share of people using unitrans verus driving is going to be what it currently is for all of the other car-centric single-family developments we have:  Almost none.

          “letting unitrans figure it out” afterwards isnt CLOSE to enough.

  5. Tim Keller

    Note… please dont read my use of CAPS as “yelling”. im trying to add emphasis, but this website is ignoring any underline or bold formatting that I try to apply…    If the tone of my post above seems irritated, please ignore that unintended emphasis…. im not trying to yell…   🙂

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