Letter: University Covenant Church Opposes Proposed Housing Rezone

Letter dated December 4, 2023 (received at 12:50 on December 5, 2023)

RE:         2021-2029 Housing Element Update Honorable Mayor and City Council members,

I am writing on behalf of the Board of the University Covenant Church. The contents of this letter were approved unanimously by our Board.

I am a fifty-year resident of Davis, having attended Davis Schools from kindergarten through high school graduation. I also graduated from UC Davis. My wife and I raised our four daughters in Davis. My wife is a third-grade teacher in the Davis School District. I am currently the Community Development Director and the City Engineer for a nearby City. I am writing to express our Board’s concerns with the action proposed in Item 6 on the December 5 Council agenda related to the Housing Element. Our understanding is that this action would limit the use of the remainder 2-acre portion of our property only for high density housing.

This action is inconsistent with the Church’s plans for this site and because of this we are opposed to the proposal from the City. We request that our site be removed from the Council action or that the proposed zoning be placed as an overlay on our remainder 2 acre site.

In 2001, the Planning Commission approved a Final Planned Development for this site. The Findings for Approval included the following statement:

“This final planned development approval applies to the entire 9.7-acre site, which will be built in phases.”

The Conditions of Approval for the Final Planned Development included the following statements: “This Final Planned Development approval applies to the entire 9.7-acre site, which will be built in phases.” and

“For the purposes of this condition, construction of the first phase of the site shall be determined to constitute substantial development for the entire parcel.”

The Planning Commission Staff Report from 2001 included the following statement:

“The project is proposed to have three phases, which will be built over several years. The recommended approvals are asfollows:

Final Planned Development: Entire site, all three phases Conditional Use Permit: Phases I and II

Design Review: Phase I.

This will provide an appropriate level of certainty for future development, while ensuring that adequate levels of public review are provided for future phases.”

The Church has acted in reliance on the City approvals from 2001. We believe that the Planning Commission actions from 2001 constitute a vested right for the entire parcel. We believe that the statement in the Planning Commission staff report represents a commitment from the City to the Church that we have certainty with regard to future development consistent with the current zoning.

In addition to the concerns listed above, we would also note the following concerns that the Church has not fully investigated:

  • Given the limited type of housing (only high density) and the limited type of conditional uses, this change in zoning could be considered a taking.
  • We currently have a loan of over $1 million on our property. This change in zoning could affect the status of this loan.
  • We believe that it is inappropriate to split a single parcel into two different ones.

The staff report notes the following items to which I have provided the following responses from the Church:

  • The site access concerns could be addressed through a site plan with access on the eastern side of the 2 acre parcel.

Response: This would be a small parcel and a specific corridor for access would further compromise the site. Most high-density residential sites require security fencing and would not allow for a site access corridor through the site.

  • The site has immediate need for development.

Response:  The development of the Church’s site for residential is not consistent with our mission.

  • The Church does not need the 2 acres that is being proposed for rezone.

Response: The Church is larger than other churches in town and so the comparison to other religious properties in Davis is not valid. Over time, we plan to grow our church attendance and associated uses on our site.

Thank you for your service to our community and your consideration of this request.

Signed: Brent Meyer

Board Member

University Covenant Church

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. Walter Shwe

    It’s a sad NIMBY joke that the University Covenant Church hasn’t used a significant piece of vacant property in 22 years and still falls back on a 22 year old Planning Commission determination. Are they waiting for Davis to explode in population? Will that land remain vacant for another 22 years or indefinitely? Use it or lose it.

    1. Tim Keller

      holding an excess of land for future expansion his is very common practice for churches, and for public schools, and for corporations, and for the university.

      People complained during Disc that “there was still avaliable land to build on along 2nd street”. without understanding that the owners of those parcels were the adjacent businees, who were holding onto that land for future expansion.  ( and that the biggest “vacant lot” was a superfund site that cant be built on by anyone)

      UC Davis has multiple empty lots on research park drive that they call a “land bank” and Kaiser has an empty field near its medical offices that are there, slated for future expansion.

      Its not NIMBYism at all.   Its called “planning for the future”

      1. Walter Shwe

        Maybe we all should leave vacant land for the future because you never know what the future actually holds. If not Measure J should be thrown in the garbage.

        1. Walter Shwe

          I would add that Measure J amounts to socialism and has resulted in limited retail competition and higher prices for everyone that either shops or fills up their gas tanks in Davis.

        2. Walter Shwe

          Still another point is that any current or future Davis homeowner or business may want to expand their house/building or build an ADU on vacant land if it belongs to them.

        3. Tim Keller

          The urban limit line concept for revising measure J is essentially that… seting asside land for future growth proactivley.. looking 30-50 years into the future.   Its what measure J basically prevents by making city expansion a peice-by-peice realtime process.

  2. Tim Keller

    Ive been a member of this congregation for almost two decades.   Their current sanctuary is a multi-purpose room with temporary seating that is picked up at the last service every week to leave the room clear for other uses.

    The plan has always been to use the adjacent parcel to expand the building when they could afford to, and have a full-time sanctuary that is more purpose built as well as the adjacent multi-purpose room.

    The city doesnt get to up-end a congragations long-term plans for how they build their campus across generations just because the CITY isnt itself capable of doing any long term planning.

    That said, there is another parcel they own to the south that they have been in talks to sell to a commercial buyer.  Again, the city over-riding the congregations plans on only months notice (if that) is again inappropriate.

    I do think that lower parcel COULD be housing, and I have raised the concept to the lead Pastor before: the creation of an inter-generational co-op for members of the church community.   But to get there, the city should have engaged with the church in a more collaborative, and proactive manner.   Not rush to re-zone their property in order to accomplish some performative compliance with RHNA.

  3. Richard McCann

    If the City is trying to meet its RHNA quota by overriding property owners current plans, this is going to be a problematic solution. First, the City should be approaching individual property owners and discussing possible changes and cataloging planning objectives like UCCs. If the City believes that the vacant land isn’t being held for a legitimate reason, then it might force the issue. But that appears not to be the case here.

    But further, this appears to illustrate the desperation that the City is facing to meet its RHNA target without upsetting the Measure J/R/D cart. It should be soliciting infill proposals, and if not receiving a sufficient amount, then identifying the candidate parcels for annexation. What happens next is then first up to the voters, and then the state.

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