Guest Submission: Proposed Environmental Sustainability Baseline Features for Village Farms

Submitted by Richard McCann, former Natural Resources Commissioner

The City of Davis (City) Natural Resources Commission (NRC) proposed a set for sustainability baseline features for the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus (DISC) in 2020 and again in 2022. This list has been edited to account for the differences between a business park and a residential neighborhood, and more recent work conducted by the NRC.

Recommended for inclusion in “Baseline Project Features” submitted for voter approval of the Project pursuant to a Measure D vote


A key premise of the NRC’s recommendations was that a development project can both avoid investments that will lock in future GHG emissions and save money for residents, businesses and the City in the future. Note that the proposed Baseline Features will likely lower long term project life-cycle costs. For another key Baseline Feature, the costs are simply unbundled and charged to vehicle owners instead of building tenants, thus providing direct financial incentive to vehicle owners to reduce private vehicular use at the project. (City Staff appeared confused about these issues in removing several proposals from the NRC recommendations. Further explanation on these baseline features is included parenthetically.)

Measurement and Verification

To ensure accurate tracking and reporting of achievement of Project sustainability goals and obligations, the Developer will establish a Master Owners Association (MOA) for the Project that reports to the City and is responsible for measurement of, verification of, and assuring compliance with Project sustainability obligations and mitigation measures. The MOA will prepare and submit for City approval a Sustainability and Mitigation Monitoring Reporting Plan. Per the Plan, the MOA will prepare and submit to the City annual reports that describe progress towards meeting sustainability goals and obligations and implementing mitigation measures, including all relevant provisions in the Project’s baseline features. Annual reports will also indicate what actions will be taken in the following year to meet phased actions as part of the sustainability goals and obligations and mitigation measures.


Housing is included in the Project to maximize environmental benefits of mixed-use development. Specifically, including housing alongside commercial buildings and workplaces encourages walking and biking as commuting options, reduces air-quality impacts, and reduces the Project’s overall carbon footprint. To further increase the sustainability benefits of onsite housing, the Developer shall commit to the following:

  • Overall housing density shall be set at 14 dwelling units per acre (du/ac) to improve energy efficiency and incentivize transit use and foot traffic. [Modified to reflect recent research on appropriate density levels.]
  • To provide an opportunity for a car-free lifestyle, parking associated with multifamily rental housing will be unbundled. Multifamily rental units will be charged for parking separate from rent.

Energy Efficiency and Usage

The developer shall commit to minimizing carbon emissions by maximizing production of clean energy onsite and ensuring that all Project structures consume 100 percent clean energy. “Clean energy” is defined as energy derived from technologies eligible for California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). In addition, the Developer shall commit to the following measures:

  • The Project shall meet all CALGreen Tier 1 prerequisites for Residential and Non-Residential buildings in effect at the time of permitting of each phase of the Project.
  • The Project shall meet all City of Davis Residential and Commercial Energy Reach Code Standards in effect at the time of permitting of each phase of the Project.
  • The Developer shall enter into a purchase and sale agreement with Valley Clean Energy (and/or another electric utility company) for all power produced by the Project in excess of on-site demand. This agreement shall ensure that all power generated but not used onsite is used locally.
  • If, after maximizing energy efficiency and on-site production of clean energy, the energy demand of Project structures exceeds the energy produced on-site, then the Developer shall purchase power from solely renewable sources such as Valley Clean Energy’s “UltraGreen” 100 percent renewable and 100 percent carbon-free service (or equivalent) to offset the deficit. This requirement will be continued for the lifetime of the Project by building owners.
  • All onsite residential units shall be all-electric (i.e., shall not include natural-gas service).
  • All onsite commercial buildings shall be all-electric.
    • (All-electric construction for the building envelope is economically justifiable and is imperative for phasing out natural gas by 2050 to meet the state’s climate goals. The Staff recommended all-electric residential construction for DISC which the Applicant has accepted. This exceeds existing city code which provides an incentive to go all-electric but does not require it. The NRC asked for a similar approach to the office-type construction in the project. It recognizes that exceptions for manufacturing and other business-related purposes may be needed. Nevertheless, if a residence can be all-electric, the NRC does not see a reason why an office cannot be. All-electric commercial construction can be economically accomplished with equal or lower life-cycle costs than conventional construction. As suggested by the Staff response, state law mandates a cost-effectiveness study before all-electric construction can be required by an ordinance. In this case, however, the requirement would be established by a contract (the Development Agreement) and so it is not apparent that a general cost-effectiveness study is legally required.)
  • Prior to beginning construction on each phase of the Project, the Developer shall prepare a report describing plans to incorporate passive heating and cooling strategies into building design so as to reduce overall energy demand. Such strategies may include but are not limited to: construction using thermally massive materials, incorporation of shading devices in the building envelope, strategic building orientation and window placement, and strategic planting of trees and other vegetation. This report shall be subject to review and approval by City staff.
  • All onsite buildings (commercial and residential) shall achieve zero net carbon for the building envelope—including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and lighting—with onsite renewables and storage.
  • Prior to beginning construction on each phase on the Project, the Developer (and MOA for later phases) shall engage an outside consultant to conduct a solar feasibility assessment for development planned in that phase. The assessment shall identify all appropriate locations for solar photovoltaics (PV) or other future comparable technology, taking into account factors such as structure orientation, grid design, installation cost, and site landscaping. Locations may include but are not limited to rooftops, ground solar arrays, and constructed canopy structures including parking lot shade. The Developer shall implement PV on all recommended locations, up to the extent that Project electricity demands are fully met. Note that this provision is not intended to and shall not substantially interfere with Project requirements for tree canopy.
  • The Project shall achieve net-zero energy for outdoor lighting through the use of onsite PV plus battery storage or similar technology.
  • In anticipation of improved solar-connected energy storage, the Project shall be designed and pre- wired for future microgrid capacity and energy storage.
    • (Being microgrid-ready means adding conduit to utility pathways so that microgrids can be easily implemented in the future. It is important to realize that this is not a request to for full microgrid installation. By simply installing larger conduits and prepping wiring runs, very little is added to upfront costs and millions of dollars of expenses required to tear up facilities to install the microgrid infrastructure in the future would be avoided. This is the same rationale as providing purple pipe in anticipation of using reclaimed water in the future. Rejecting this Baseline Feature would functionally support PG&E’s wish to continue utility dominance of infrastructure design to the detriment of the City’s long term climate and resiliency goals.)

Transportation Demand Management

The Project will need to implement a comprehensive set of design features and Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies intended to reduce vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled (and therefore greenhouse gas emissions), encourage the use of alternative transportation modes such as walking, bicycling, micromobility, public and private transit, and ridehailing/pooling, and provide safe infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians. The desired outcomes of a TDM Plan shall be to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and transportation total carbon footprint through a reduction of the Project’s vehicle miles traveled (VMT). A key strategy should be shifting away from single occupancy vehicle (SOV) use by incentivizing a mode shift to walking, bicycling, public transit, private transit, and/or 3+ carpool.

A designated TDM manager shall be identified for the Project. The TDM manager shall represent the Developer, MOA, or other equivalent Project-related body, and shall report directly to the City.

    • Prior to, or concurrent with, adoption of Final Development Agreement, the Developer shall create a TDM plan that includes quantitative goals and temporal benchmarks for shifting away from single-/low occupancy vehicle use. The TDM plan shall also include metrics for assessing progress towards these goals and benchmarks. Responsibility for this task shall reside with the designated TDM manager.
    • The TDM plan shall include actions that will result in a reduction of GHG emissions consistent with the City’s then current Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) and the goal of the City Council to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. Subsequent phases of the Project shall not be permitted for construction unless the GHG-driven benchmarks for the previous phase of the Project are met.
      • The TDM manager shall coordinate implementation of the Project’s TDM strategies with UC Davis to ensure that relevant efforts by both parties are aligned and allow for cooperative ventures where appropriate.
      • Prior to the commencement of construction of each phase of the Project, the Developer/MOA shall commission a traffic study which measures in- and out-flow from the Project and identifies traffic patterns. This analysis will be shared with the City to determine which traffic mitigation measures are necessary beyond those specified later in this document. This analysis will also inform the City on mode share and the potential need for increased public transit services.
      • The Developer/MOA shall review and update the TDM Plan every two years. The TDM Plan update shall include results of a travel behaviors survey, to be completed annually by the Developer/MOA. The annual survey shall include the travel behaviors of Project residents and employees (e.g., where employees live and by what mode they get to and from work; where residents work and by what mode they get to and from home). The updated TDM Plan, including survey results, shall be made publicly available.


  • Prior to Phase 1, the Developer and the City shall agree upon a process for monitoring and evaluating TDM goals on an annual basis, modeled on the process detailed in the Nishi Gateway Project Sustainability Implementation Plan (2015). This monitoring and evaluation process will include an Annual Report, to be transmitted to the City, which details progress towards the actions outlined in the TDM plan and specification of actions required when TDM goals are not met. (It should be noted that vehicle trip monitoring in the Nishi SIP is a surrogate for transportation GHG emissions, while modeling to estimate actual GHG emissions is preferred.)


The Project shall include the following features, in addition to features identified by the TDM Plan, to encourage a shift to alternative transportation modes, such as walking, bicycling, micromobility, public and private transit, and ridehailing/pooling:

  • The Project shall be designed to accommodate and incentivize private transit, local transit (Unitrans), and regional transit (Yolobus) through the following measures:
  • The Project shall include a central transit plaza to serve as the hub for a variety of mode shares.
  • The Project shall include transit stops located throughout site to ease pedestrian access such that no transit stop is further than 400 meters from any occupied building.
  • The Developer shall petition Yolobus and Unitrans to increase the frequency and capacity of bus service to the central transit plaza as the Project develops. The Developer shall provide funding, if necessary, to the transit services to implement the change.
  • Phase 2 cannot commence until after the implementation of an on-demand electric transit to and from UCD and scheduled electric transit to and from the Amtrak/Capital Corridor station running weekdays including the AM to PM peak commute periods.
  • To promote transit use, the MOA shall provide upon request free passes for local and regional transit service (e.g., a unlimited access pass similar to Yolobus and Unitrans’ pass for UC Davis undergraduates) to the Project’s residents and employees.
  • The Project shall include parking to accommodate single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs) and carpool vehicles while also incentivizing other modes of transportation:
  • As part of the TDM plan, the Developer will determine the appropriate number of parking stalls, which may be fewer than City parking minimums. Commercial parking requirements shall be determined by the TDM plan. For residential development no more than one stall per residential unit shall be provided onsite.
  • All employers shall create through the MOA or participate in a regional carpool program that is modeled after and functionally equivalent to the UC Davis goClub carpool program. The program shall be open to all Project residents and employees.
  • Carshare and preferential carpool spaces shall be provided, with the number of appropriate stalls to be specified in the TDM plan.
  • Parking costs shall be unbundled from the cost of other goods and services. A separate fee shall be charged for all parking spaces (commercial and residential).
    • (Charging for parking is a key mechanism for incentivizing vehicular users to use alternative transportation modes. It will be an important element of the Transportation Demand Management plans that are required for the Project. Staff has claimed that the market won’t support a parking charge. It appears, however, that the Staff may be inappropriately applying market studies for public parking in the downtown. UCD charges for parking all over campus, as does other large employers such as Sacramento State and the State of California. Again, it is important to note that probably three-quarters of the anticipated GHG emissions are associated with transportation.)
  • Parking cash-out programs shall be offered by any employer who provides a parking subsidy to employees, to give employees who do not drive a cash benefit equivalent to the value of the offered parking subsidy. The MOA shall be in charge of ensuring that employers comply with this program and shall record participation in the Annual Report.
  • The Developer shall provide bicycle facilities and infrastructure comparable to the City’s Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community Certification to support bicycling within and to the site, including the following features:
  • Provide short term bicycle parking, as required by Davis Municipal Code.
  • Provide end-of-commute facilities (showers, lockers, changing rooms) and support electric bicycle charging in all commercial buildings.
  • Provide covered and secured long-term bicycle parking at central locations within the site and at the central transit hub.
  • Provide community bicycle repair facilities.
  • The MOA shall implement a bicycle share program including electric-assist bicycles for employees and residents to use on and off the Project site.
  • A bicycle network of Class IV protected cycle tracks shall connect bicyclists to all areas of the site and all key connecting streets/facilities.
  • The Developer shall provide accessible sidewalks that facilitate pedestrian access within and to the site, including the following features:
  • All pedestrian access routes shall be readily accessible by all users, particularly individuals with disabilities. Street design should emphasize universal design through use of appropriate width, grade, surface material, tactile cues, audible cues, and push buttons. The Developer shall reference the United States Access Board Proposed Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way (PROWAG), or other appropriate reference.

Site Access and Traffic Mitigation Features

The following measures are recommended to improve site access and mitigate traffic impacts of the Project. The Developer shall fund infrastructure to mitigate traffic problems attributable to the project either wholly, where the problem is mainly caused by the Project, or proportionately, for traffic improvement measures where the Project is a partial contributor to the problem. The intent is to avoid subsidization of the Project by the City providing funding for traffic mitigation measures.

As described below, City approvals will not be granted for different phases of the Project until public and private funding are budgeted and available, and regulatory approvals have been granted. In other words, all obstacles to the start of construction have been removed.

The desired outcomes of traffic-mitigation measures are to reduce the transportation total carbon footprint and adverse level of service (LOS) traffic impacts on roads in the Project vicinity.

  • Phase 1 shall not proceed until public and private funding are budgeted and available and regulatory approvals have been granted for construction or implementation of all other mitigation measures a Transportation Impact Analysis.
  • The Developer shall contribute funding to the City to study and implement bus rapid (BRT) transit strategies, including a bus signal preemption system for freeway access or local traffic bypass.

Parking Lots and Internal Streets

The desired outcomes of design features for the Project’s parking lots and internal streets shall be to: (1) encourage a mode shift from Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs) to walking, bicycling, public transit, private transit, ridesharing, carsharing, carpooling, and/or micromobility; (2) encourage use of zero-emission vehicles (e.g., electric vehicles) where SOV use is necessary as well as in any alternative transportation service that relies on passenger vehicles; (3) reduce runoff and heat-island effects amplified by parking lots; and (4) reduce adverse visual, aesthetic, and quality-of-life impacts of working and living near parking lots. To further these desired outcomes, the developer shall implement the following features in its parking areas and/or along the Project’s internal roadway system:

  • Low-impact development (LID) features, such as bioswales and permeable pavement, shall be implemented in all streets and surface-level parking to capture and filter runoff and maximize groundwater recharge.
  • Landscaping shall provide 80 percent shading of pedestrian walkways and off-street bike paths. At least 50 percent parking-lot shading shall be achieved through either shade trees or PV arrays. Compliance with these requirements shall be demonstrated at the time of building by securing permits for adequate PV arrays and/or by consulting with a certified arborist on a tree-planting and -maintenance strategy expected to achieve the desired shading area within 15 years of planting. Failure to meet shading requirements shall be considered a code violation and subject to penalty until remedied. Progress towards meeting the shading requirement shall be included in each Annual Report.
  • Where feasible, all multi-user parking shall be shaded by solar PV structures. In addition, those structures shall be wired to accommodate direct service electric vehicle (EV) charging. [This element is modified to reflect the deliberations and draft recommendations from the 2×2 NRC / Tree Commission Parking Lot Shade Committee.]
  • All parking surfaces or street-adjacent sidewalks that use tree shading shall incorporate structured soil or suspended substrate to allow successful tree-root development. The developer shall size the area of each pavement-treatment site to accommodate the maximum size of a tree that could reasonably be accommodated on that site
  • Parking preference and priority shall be given to electric vehicles (EVs) and to vehicles participating in a carpool program. Only carpool and EV parking shall be allowed adjacent to commercial buildings in spots not designated for disabled persons. Spots designated for disabled persons shall not be restricted to particular vehicle types.
  • All stalls designated for EVs shall have charging stations pre-installed. Stations shall include a mix of free Level 1 charging and paid Level 2 charging.
  • All commercial and residential parking areas shall be EV ready, equipped with infrastructure designed to facilitate installation of EV charging stations as demand grows. This infrastructure will include electrical panels, conduit/raceways, overprotection devices, wires, and pull boxes and will be designed to support vehicle-grid integration. On-site demand for EV charging shall be reported in each year’s Annual Report.
    • (Installing wiring and conduit during initial construction will facilitate the expansion of EV charging infrastructure in the future as demand grows. Again, this is not a request to install EV charging stations at every parking slot, only to make every slot EV ready. Installation of the wiring necessary to make parking EV ready will facilitate access by EV users and save millions of dollars in the future that would otherwise be required for retrofitting parking. At some point in the future, microgrid and EV charging facilities can be integrated to run our houses and offices off the storage batteries in cars.)
  • All housing shall include one Level 2 EV charger per unit or, if a multifamily building is provided parking at a ratio of less than 1:1, one Level 2 EV charger per parking stall. Townhomes, if built to accommodate two vehicles, will be prewired to allow for the installation of a second charger.
  • All commercial parking for non-electric SOVs shall be paid parking. To encourage occasional bus use, no discounts for monthly parking versus daily parking will be allowed.
  • The Project shall be exempt from parking minimums otherwise required by the City for new development. Specifically, the minimum number of parking spots necessary for the Project shall be informed by the Project’s TDM plan rather than general minimum parking requirements.

Landscaping and Water Conservation

To reduce Project demand on groundwater and potable water and to provide appropriate habitat for native species, the developer shall commit to the following measures:

  • All Project landscaping shall be adapted for climate change, drought resistant, pollinator friendly, and maintained organically.
  • Native and drought-tolerant plants shall predominate the plant palette. A diversity of native habitats— including but not limited to riparian and California oak savanna—shall be maintained throughout the Project site, primarily but not exclusively within the agricultural buffer and along the drainage channel.
  • Turf shall be used only in areas (such as a central community center or organized sports fields) programmed for activities that require turf.
  • The Developer shall engage with the Center for Land Based Learning, the UC Davis Arboretum, or other local expert(s) to design and manage its open and landscaped buffer areas. Landscape plans shall be subject to City review, including review by the Open Space and Habitat Commission and the Tree Commission.
  • Consistent with the City’s stormwater permit and regulations, stormwater runoff shall be captured, conveyed, and detained onsite in a series of bioretention facilities and similar devices intended to filter the runoff, maximize groundwater recharge, and provide deep watering for onsite vegetation.
  • To prevent flooding of the channel, stormwater flows shall be retained onsite using swales, ponds, or other appropriate facilities, consistent with City stormwater regulations and system capacity. Stormwater facilities necessary to meet these regulations must be located on-site or on another privately-owned property incorporated within City boundaries. The stormwater facilities should be sized following a joint hydrological investigation with the City.
  • The Developer shall install infrastructure suitable for conveying non-potable water to meet all landscape irrigation demands. The Developer shall convert this system to reclaimed/greywater water if and when such service is made available.
  • All greywater shall be reused onsite where practical and permissible. The Developer shall install infrastructure (including two-way valves and piping) to support use of greywater from laundry facilities in all townhomes. The Developer shall also identify opportunities for using greywater in multi-family housing and commercial buildings and shall install infrastructure needed to pursue such opportunities. The MOA shall review proposed uses of greywater to prevent pollution. The MOA may require owners to revisit/update proposed plans for greywater reuse in the future, and may require installation of additional infrastructure as appropriate.

Recycling and Waste Disposal

  • All buildings and facilities shall participate in a mandatory, site-wide recycling and compost program to be managed by the MOA. Building maintenance staff will be trained in best practices for maximizing commercial recycling.
  • All common areas that include disposal options managed by the MOA shall include solid-waste disposal cans, recycling cans, and compost bins.

Mitigation Measures

The project shall comply with and ensure public or private funding and completion within a two-year period for all Mitigation Measures identified in the Approved Mitigation, Monitoring, and Reporting Plan.


Concurrent with the approval of a Final Planned Development and Site Plan and Architectural Review for any structure located at the project site, a Sustainability Implementation Plan shall be developed and implemented to ensure compliance with the Environmental Sustainability Baseline Features to the satisfaction of the City.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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1 Comment

  1. David Thompson

    Richard McCann has provided a very thorough set of comments for the city and citizens to study, I am grateful Richard has used his talents for our communal benefit.

    There is much here to digest but the critical element is will the City incorporate these suggestions.

    Multi-family housing is the most effective housing for use of space. Look at the left corner of the Village Farms map and you can see how much of the land in the proposal has been assigned to non multi-family housing.

    A change to more MF housing is a game-changer re the climate.

    But will that change occur?

    David J Thompson, my own view and not that of Neighborhood Partners, LLC or Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation


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