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Regarding Chiles Road Apartments / Loss of Commercial Site

Chiles-Project-2WThe following letter was submitted to the Davis City Council yesterday (March 15) and is reprinted here with permission of the author.  For background information on the proposed Chiles project, see this Davis Enterprise article. The Council will consider the project at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, March 19.

To Davis City Council:

In reference to the Chiles Road apartment proposal, some seem to be claiming that there's a "shortage" of available commercial space (while simultaneously advocating for conversion of existing commercial space to accommodate residential development). If there is an actual shortage of commercial space, then the proposed conversion of the Chiles Road site (from commercial to residential zoning) is difficult to logically explain. One might think that (at a minimum), a mixed-use proposal might be appropriate and in-demand - assuming that one truly believes that there's a shortage of commercial space. (Also assuming that the city believes that commercial development is needed, to fill its coffers.)

In any case, this latest missed opportunity is surely something I'll remember, if/when the MRIC proposal arises again.

There appears to be a city-wide pattern of changing commercial zoning to accommodate residential development. Also, I understand that two of the three proposed innovation center sites have now been approved for housing, only. (Perhaps three sites, if one also includes the Cannery.)

Changing sites from commercial to mixed-use can also result in compromises regarding the viability and types of businesses that can occupy such sites, and results in changes to the type and cost of city services needed to serve such conversions. (I still wonder how many viable businesses are located at the Del Rio mixed-use development, for example. I understand that this is another site that was converted from commercial zoning.) And once again, the type and cost of city services generally increases, whenever residential development is included.

Also - assuming that there's vastly increased value resulting from the proposed rezoning, one might question the additional "watering down" of Affordable housing requirements, to accommodate the Chiles Road proposal. For example, I recall that the Families First / Sterling development occupies a comparable sized-parcel, but ultimately included a separate land dedication for Affordable housing, onsite. (The zoning for the Sterling site was also converted to accommodate that proposal.)

Sincerely,

Ron [last name withheld at author's request]

Comments

Pam

I really dislike this proposal to add more housing right on I-80. Placing housing along the freeway is poor planning. The reason these parcels were zoned commercial in the first place is that parcels on the freeway are not desirable for quality of life. Why does Davis keep doing this?

Pam

Davis General Plan Principle used for siting land uses: "Protect residences and other sensitive uses from noise, air pollution and traffic related impacts."
This project does not meet the criteria.

Ron

I see that on the "other" blog, Will Arnold (whom I normally respect) apparently described my email as "disingenuous" and is labeling it as a "shenanigan".

So much for civil discourse, originating from a council member no less. You'd think there'd be a little more humility, after the tentative Trackside decision. (By the way, how much is the city spending to fight that decision?)

I have emailed Will, taking exception to his comments. I also noted that I strongly suspect that the ultimate goal regarding these sprawling peripheral developments is to build housing, due to a higher profit margin (compared to commercial development). We've already seen evidence of this, in the form of Nishi and WDAAC (which appears to be on a portion of the same site as the Davis Innovation Center, which was abandoned).

And then, there's the Cannery, which was also discussed as a site for an innovation center, but which ultimately ended up as housing.

Roberta L. Millstein

Ron, I agree that Will's language is disappointing. We are all neighbors. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we should start with the presumption of good will on the part of those we disagree with, and try to learn where they are coming from.

I understood your comments to be not just about converting Chiles from commercial to housing, but also to point out that there have been a number of cases where zoning has been converted from commercial to housing. All those actions taken collectively become puzzling when we are told how desperately we need commercial businesses. Then that supposed desperate need has been (and will be again) used to argue for a huge business park at Mace curve -- and we will see if that proposal includes housing, too. So I agree with you -- something does not add up.

Hopefully I too will not be labelled "disingenuous" or be accused of "shenanigans" for saying so.

Roberta L. Millstein

Pam, you make good points. I was not at the Council meeting, but I wonder if the concerns you raise got any discussion at all.

Ron

Thanks, Roberta. That's correct - there are several examples of sites being changed from commercial to residential, including but not limited to the other previously-proposed innovation center sites. That's a pretty clear sign of weakness, in the commercial market.

This weakness results in a built-in incentive for the MRIC to offer a sweetheart deal to any business that agrees to locate there - especially if they agree to claim that they need housing, to make it work. This would "dovetail" quite nicely with what I suspect is the real goal for developers - housing.

Perhaps someone could explain why Davis is pursuing freeway-oriented development, while simultaneously expressing concern regarding climate change. There is apparently no way to ensure that those living at the site would work there, nor is there a way to ensure that only resident workers are hired. Workers and residents would likely be commuting in BOTH directions, with some residents working in Sacramento, for example. It's called "sprawl".

Ron

One other point I'd like to make:

Personally, I like the (MRIC) site as is. For example, when I'm shopping at Ikeda's, I don't look across the street and hope for a massive new development on prime farmland. Nor do I find economic arguments for such development particularly compelling, to support a sprawling development.

I view the previously-proposed Covell Village site in much the same way. Every time I travel past it, I so appreciate that it's been saved. (For now, at least. I'm pretty sure there will be another effort to pave it over at some point.)

I view the economic challenges the city is facing as a failure to properly account for revenues and costs within city limits. It is not a justification to pursue sprawling developments outside city limits, for an "answer" (which seldom pan out as promised). However, Davis is not alone, regarding such challenges (including cities which haven't solved their own challenges, as a result of pursuing such development).

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