Council Discusses Infill Housing Options and Looks at Elimination of Parking Minimums

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – While the city has yet to get their Sixth Cycle Housing Element approved, the city is already planning ahead for how to meet its Seventh Cycle obligations, which could rise to at least 4000 units by the city’s own admissions this week.

“The city in a nutshell is going to have to turn over every stone of infill sites, but even that alone will not do it. We are going to, I think without question, also need to be looking very seriously at periphery housing sites as well,” City Manager Mike Webb acknowledged.

The City Manager noted that, with the exception of one site, the single acre on Olive Drive, the properties they were talking about on Tuesday would not be counted toward the current Housing Element Cycle.

“We also always need to be mindful of the fact that the state now is looking at not only what you have on paper as potential housing sites, but they’re looking at actual performance of what’s actually being built during the housing element cycle,” he explained.

Much of the discussion on Tuesday centered around the elimination of parking minimums—much of which would be required by state law anyway.

Councilmember Donna Neville noted that “the vast majority of the city is within that half mile so that it’s already subject to the changes in state law. And the proposal really on the table is just to work with public transit to make sure that really those other areas are also within that half mile. And in which case you couldn’t require a parking minimum.”

She added, “(That) doesn’t mean the developer wouldn’t still decide to offer more parking than is required.”

Webb said, “What we’re recommending is that we go ahead and do a zoning amendment, which would be a very simple amendment quite frankly, to bring forward (to the) planning commission council for action that would encompass the entire city and say no minimum parking anywhere in the city, whether they’re actually in these blue zones or not, just so that we have a standard approach across the board and in the meantime work with our transit providers to try to fill those gaps.”

Neville noted that she was surprised by how much of the city was in “the blue bubbles.”

Sherri Metzger, the city’s Community Development Director, added, “The state just did the bulk of the work for us.”

Bapu Vaitla, part of the subcommittee, suggested immediate action both on the parking minimums as well moving forward with the Richards and Olive rezones to bring along with the other proposed rezones planned for a meeting in December.

Mayor Will Arnold said, “Certainly, I would hope that that comes with a plan of some sort to expand transit.”

He also expressed concerned in line with a public comment about the radiating effects of a project on a nearby neighborhood.

He said that “these neighborhoods can be impacted” and so he wanted to ensure that they had a way to “defend” the “ability (of residents) to park on their street.”

Vice Mayor Chapman added, “Taking this away doesn’t mean that every project moving forward is going to have zero parking.”  He asked, “Can you require parking or is this say that you can’t have any parking at all?”

City Attorney Inder Khalsa responded, “I think that’s something that we’d be (addressing) when we brought forward the amendment. But in general, for projects that are not asking for a zone change or general plan amendment and therefore will have limited discretion, the answer is no. If they comply with the standard meaning zero parking, we cannot disapprove them because they don’t have enough parking.”

Mike Webb added, “But to your point, there may be an applicant, a developer who says, I want to provide some parking or some parking, and as long as they’re not in violation of a future potential maximum parking limit, then they could still provide parking, but it would be at their choosing, not because they’re being mandated to by the city.”

Gloria Partida added, “So just to be completely clear, there is no parking. I mean, if we say there’s a project that comes forward and they don’t want to provide any parking, it doesn’t matter where that project is at.”

Webb added, “There’s a few exceptions for things like hotels, conference centers, theater type uses where the city can require minimum parking standards. But those are the only exceptions really under the state law. Otherwise, the state law as it stands, as of January is no, the city cannot mandate any parking “

Partida responded, “I think it is going to be a real challenge at some point. We are going to have to be very thoughtful about transportation and how we plan that.”

She added, “I am also really excited about the possibility of building infill and getting more housing in the shopping centers and like that. But I can think of some shopping centers where it would be challenging if you had housing and having to provide parking for people who are going to the shopping centers.”

Will Arnold added, “Neighborhood shopping centers are not one of those exceptions.”

Vaitla noted that the other five items are to be explored by staff.

Of the proposals, Mayor Arnold indicated, “I’ll also just say for the record that I’m least interested in a change of use for civic ball field. I think we have a real dearth of lighted fields in our community. Having served on the sports park task force as my last action before being elected to the city council, that was one thing that was emphasized loud and clear is how few lighted fields we have in town.”

He added, “I would personally like to see a greater use of civic field (than) its current use. So I’m just putting that on the record. Again, not opposed to exploring any and all options up to and including that, but I would really like to, if we were to do that, I would probably stand pretty firmly that we replace it in kind with a lighted field elsewhere in town. And you’re just not going to find a place that’s more central than this.”

The council is going to continue to explore options for infill.  They recognize that the Corporation Yard would be involved and complicated to move, but it is an 8-acre site that is fairly close to the center of town.

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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