Linda Deos responds to anti-Provenza op-ed
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Major Olive Drive Mixed Use Project App. Only Disclosed After Questions Raised

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Another example of big development lacking public disclosure is on tonight's City Council Agenda

By Colin Walsh

The City of Davis failed to disclose a significant new 76 unit project proposal on Olive Drive (addresses 1031, 1037, 1041, 1047, and 1055), just down from the corner of Richards and Olive, until a contract for environmental review was placed on the consent calendar for the Nov. 19 meeting. Even then the City failed to disclose ANY of the application information until citizens asked for it. With the documents only released on mid Friday afternoon before a council meeting Davis citizens are left with little opportunity to review the pages of material.

Over the past three months the City of Davis has used the consent calendar to move forward significant large new development projects. Items on the consent calendar have no presentation during the council meeting and are only rarely discussed by the Council. The Council agendas state, "All matters listed under the consent calendar are considered routine and non-controversial, [and] require no discussion." This new 76 unit Olive Drive project, right next to one of the worst traffic intersections in Davis, is anything but routine and non-controversial. It is worthy of discussion.

The City Council has been pushing the limits of what fits on the consent calendar, and has been receiving community push back See here and here where the Council did the same thing with decisions relating to the ARC business park outside the Mace curve, but with the Olive Mixed use project, the City did even more that; they kept the project hidden from the public until mid Friday afternoon.

On 11/14/2019 the City of Davis posted an agenda for the November 19th City Council meeting. The consent calendar contained a recommendation from staff to contract for environmental review for a previously undisclosed project on Olive Drive. It did not contain the project application or any of the documents submitted to the City by the developer.

On 11/15 at 9:25 AM the City website had no listing for the Olive Drive mixed use project and no documents.

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I emailed City Manager Webb at 9:32 AM and requested information about the Olive Drive mixed use application.

Mid Friday afternoon, Cathy Camacho, a City Planner in the Department of Community Development, emailed me a link to information on the City website.  I recognized the link was to the city's development project directory, so I went back and checked the City Development page again. I was astonished to see that the project had been added since the morning when I first contacted the City Manager.

Dev page

The City only made the documents relating to the Olive Drive mixed use project available to the public AFTER I asked to see the documents. One wonders if they would have made the documents public at all without a request.

Surprisingly, I found the project application had been in the City’s hands for a long time.  It was received by the City of Davis on August 7, 2019. The City held the project application out of public view for 3 months before disclosing it to the public.

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This lack of public disclosure leaves little time for Davisites to review new projects before they come before the City Council.

This is not the kind of open government the people of Davis expect or deserve.

Considering this is the 3rd time in recent weeks the City has advanced a project on the consent calendar with little warning, one has to wonder what the City Council's intent is by not offering better disclosure about large new development projects.

What is certain is, the City and City Council must to do better than this.

Comments

Nancy Price

Thank you, Colin, for bringing this to our attention.

I can only interpret that this "new" policy of putting important discussions and decisions on the Consent Calendar is how the City Council wants to "manage" discussion to forestall public comment they "fear" will raise questions and for them, slow down the process, etc., but clearly, it seems to me, they want to skirt, tamp-down, avoid, any such problems that might arise.

Frankly, I am tired, and dismayed, to continue to read in the Davis Vanguard, the Davis Enterprise, or hearing from others that the questions that are raised about appropriateness of a development for the location and lot, configurations of rooms, the environmental, traffic and parking problems are because they are NIMBY only concerns, rather than legitimate concerns about good planing and environmental issues that need to be and should rightfully be raised, if in Davis, we are still willing to respect open, transparent and democratic discussion and decision-making.

Ron O

Thanks, Colin.

Frankly, the city of Davis needs to change council membership. Perhaps the district elections will provide such an opportunity.

I'm getting tired of the personal insults emanating from a couple of them, as well. Which appear to be based solely on a difference of opinion.

Roberta L. Millstein

Ron, yes, those personal insults were emanating from Councilmember Will Arnold at the meeting. He rudely compared those of us who had concerns about the consent item to flat earthers. Later, he queried the City Manager about the missing documents, apparently expecting to learn that they were not and fact missing. Lo and behold, the City Manager was forced to admit that the documents they'd had in their possession since August were not in fact posted until Friday, after Colin asked for them.

It was not a good look for the City or for Councilmember Arnold. Extremely unprofessional.

Matt Steele

This project looks like a great plan. More housing for people, not cars.

Colin Walsh

Matt Steele, maybe you didn't read the article. If by "This project looks like a great plan" it means you went to the City website linked above and looked at the description of the project in the application or looked at any of the other documents, well, you were only able to do so because I got the City to post them.
Prior to that, the City had failed to publicly disclose the project application or any of the other documents the developer submitted to the City. That is what this article is about.

Kelly Snider

I'm glad that communities like Davis are taking climate change and the generational wealth gap seriously. Glad the elected leaders are doing the right thing and allowing dense, walkable housing to get built quickly and easily. It's not up to the current residents of a town to decide who should be allowed to live there in the future - a healthy society requires bigger thinking, not myopic "same-as-ever" approaches. Good planning like this means fewer calamities like Santa Rose and Paradise fires which literally kill people and cost billions. Better for us to live in towns like Davis and focus on walkability (not parked cars) is the easiest way to care for ourselves and our environment. Good job by the planners who put these excellent policies in place!

Colin Walsh

Kelly,
It seems like you didn’t bother to read the article and jumped to advocating based on a preconceived idea.
There was little information about this project before I reached out and got the city manager to release the documents. If you like at the proposal itself you will find that it lakes design elements to meet the goals you claim to be for. Most glaringly, there is significantly inadequate space for bikes. The project is considerable distance from grocery stores. Has no plan for delivery parking for food or Amazon. I agree with some of the goals you express, but this project doesn’t meet them yet. However, with constructive input from coworkers like your self, perhaps this could be a great project.

Rik Keller

Matt Steele & Kelly Snider: as a long time city planner, I have been advocated for the kinds of policies that you express support for since the 1990s when I wrote my master's thesis on compact city planning, sustainable development, and regional growth policies.

What I see in this project so far--again, the project application as only released on Friday and the project details are thin and incomplete--is a developer trying to cash in on current buzzwords and concepts for site that is poorly suited for the goals.

The traffic consultant proposed for the CEQA work states that it will be looking to estimate trip generation and mode split data for the project based on "comparable sites" that have "very low on-site parking-to-dwelling unit ratio", are "located in a closed parking environment (i.e., very little to no nearby off-site parking supply available to residents, and--this is key-- are "not served by high capacity transit service." Perhaps in your advocacy, you already have examples of such sites? For myself, I haven't seen any projects in the U.S, that would meet these criteria. The only recent projects that I have seen that are proposing low/minimal parking are located immediately adjacent to high-capacity transit.

The developer also doesn't appear to be adequately planning for the alternative transportation modes that would be necessary to serve the site. For example, the bike parking proposed only meets the minimum City of Davis standards for the proposed number of residential uses. There is also extremely limited space designated for rideshare pickup/dropoff. And the walking times to local amenities that the application catalogs are off by a factor of two.

I also have concerns that the project description is deceptive. It claims to be targeting affordable "workforce" housing, but when digging into the scant detail provided, the project will be providing only a marginal number of affordable units and doesn't even meet the CIty of Davis' weakened "interim" affordable housing requirements.

The project would also require a massive rezoning from the Specific Plan zoning for the site that was updated by the City just last year. Yet another indication that the proposed uses are not compatible with the site characteristics and good planning principles.

In short, there are plenty reasons to be skeptical about the project proposal. And one would think that good planning advocates such as yourselves would want to look into those before throwing blanket support behind it.

Ron O

It's a fallacy, if not an outright "lie" to suggest that eliminating the requirement for developers to provide parking (also) eliminates driving/cars.

This approach simply forces surrounding neighborhoods and businesses to "accept" the impact that developers don't want to pay for.

Nancy Price

Good discussion on basics of good planning and on this specific plan in particular.
Let's work together to get the best out of this lot and project to show that Davis can plan well, meet the requirements for climate and highest green building and sustainability and honestly provide real mixed used housing to meet the needs of all types of potential occupants.

Judy Brown

Outstanding work, Davis! Love seeing more housing, less parking, and adequate bicycle parking! Keep these projects coming and keep using consent! No need to have these projects bogged down by ill-informed residents and armchair planners! Communities love to try and kill projects that bring about much needed change to the housing stock! Absolutely love the bike barn idea! Keep up the exceptional work!

Colin Walsh

Judy, I agree that the Bike barn concept is a good one. Too bad this developer is cutting corners and not providing nearly enough bike parking.
Having the project proposal available to the public and on the regular agenda helps improve projects like this. In fact it is our efforts to bring this project to light that allows people to see it’s merits.
Your general aspersions against ill informed residents are frankly hilarious in this case. On the one hand you advocate for approving projects in less public ways, then you berate people for being ill informed. Which is it? Do you want people to know about the projects or not?

Judy Brown

Colin,

You very clearly do not understand my point. Residents know very little about the municipal code and next to nothing about community and economic development strategies. The uproar that exists about this well though out project on this page is perfect evidence of that. Residents who know nothing about planning should not have a voice in the matter. The land is not public and the development that occurs really isn't up to you regardless of how much you want it to be. Take a seat and let the planners do their jobs.

Colin Walsh

Judy - I think I see your point of view now. You think residents should be ill-informed and in the dark while they sit down and shut up. Perhaps you should move to a totalitarian state where government works like that.

Robert Canning

Wow Judy! "Take a seat and let the planners do their job."

That's quite a lot to take in. Let's see, if the public had not stepped in the 1980's Central Park might be a shopping mall. If the public had not resisted the developers (and planners) in the 1980's Old East Davis (the original Davis) would have been scraped and downtown expanded to L Street (something some current citizens continue to advocate).

Without citizen involvement at all stages there would be no good planning (sometimes there still is not).

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