Sunday Commentary: The City Needs to Figure Something Out on Chiles Ranch

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Chiles Ranch is back!  That’s right, this week they go back before the Planning Commission to seek the third amendment to the Chiles Ranch Development Agreement.

The project originally came forward over 15 years ago now and, on June 30, 2009, the City Council approved the Chiles Ranch Project for a residential subdivision—on a contested 3-2 vote that was the norm for that time.

However, since then, nothing has been built and the project has now come back repeatedly for additional approvals and modifications.

For instance, in May 2017, the City Council approved project revisions.  The modified Affordable Housing Plan allowed for the amendment of the number of affordable units required and to meet the housing obligation through a combination of construction of (12) on-site units and payment of in-lieu fees (8 units).

Then, in June 2022, the City Council approved the Second Amendment to Development Agreement for the Chiles Ranch Project—an agreement that now expires on July 6, 2024—in just over two months.

Right now the proposal is modest—but it provides a 96-unit single-family residential development.

According to the city, “The applicant, (Dan) Fouts, has been working for several years to prepare the Chiles Ranch subdivision maps for recordation.”

Fouts is asking for “additional time to complete the final map process and begin construction of the subdivision. If approved, the Development Agreement and the associated entitlements will have a new expiration date of July 6, 2029, an additional 5 years past the current expiration date.”

Staff notes, “The Third Amendment includes the new expiration date and a clarification relative to commencement of development to reflect the updated status of the tentative maps.”  The city adds, “No other changes are being requested from the applicant or proposed by staff.”

This situation has become more distressing by the year.

We are in the middle of a housing crisis.  The Vanguard has repeatedly criticized both the city and the community for the fact that just over 700 units of single-family housing has been built.

The Vanguard and others have rightly leveled the blame at Measure J—but that’s not the whole story.

Chiles Ranch has been a vacant parcel in the middle of the city.  The developer is sitting on entitlements for nearly 100 units now for 15 years.

The project came up two years ago asking for an extension and more time.

Back in 2022, critics pointed out that while the applicant has sat on his entitlements, the value of the homes have nearly doubled.

Project Manager Lydia Della-Schlosser presented to the Planning Commission and explained the delay—again, this was two years ago: “Our original approvals were received in 2009, but at that time we paused due to the economic conditions of that period’s so-called Great Recession. In 2015, as the economy recovered from the economic cycle, we were fortunate to acquire the entitled land at Grande Village and the El Macero property.”

At the time, Commissioner Darryl Rutherford said, “I’m a little concerned with where things are at with this development—it’s been almost ten years, a lot of things have changed.”

Flash forward now two years later and the city is in need of housing.  The city is running out of infill sites.  This project has been approved and entitled, but it hasn’t been built.

And, ironically, the applicant figures to make a huge amount on it because he sat on his entitlements so long.

It is easy to point the blame for a number of things wrong with the way the city is doing business with respect to housing.  It is way too hard to build housing in Davis and that makes the entire process far too expensive.

But in this case, a sizable project—especially by current standards—has been in a holding pattern and the city at this point cannot be blamed.

If anything, the city could be blamed for going too easy on the applicant.  After all, this is a 12-acre site—and, given the city’s needs, perhaps we should renegotiate for more units, more density, and fewer single-family homes.

The city has not benefited from this delay—the applicant has.  Perhaps it is time for the city to play a little more hardball.

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 Comment

  1. David Thompson

    It is absurd to give this project another extension. With the higher interest rates at present impacting development and buyers  I suspect we will be looking at another request for an extension in 2029.

    However, perhaps as David says the City can gain some valuable benefits in an agreement to extend.

    Planning Commissioners and the Council should be looking for options that further land for affordable housing and density in this project to combat climate change.

    Time to act for civic gain rather than just one more extension making it 20 years of a wait.

    David  J Thompson

    my own thoughts not associated with any other entity

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