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Reply from city staff concerning Sierra Club's downtown housing recommendations

Recommendations to the Davis City Council for Downtown Housing Projects

Submitted for consideration by the Davis City Council from the Sierra Club Yolano Group (email sent 4/2/2024)

March 30, 2024

Recently, several housing projects have been proposed for downtown Davis: one at the site of the former Hibbert Lumberyard at the intersection of G Street and 5th Street (“The Lumberyard”), one at the site of the former Regal Cinemas Davis Stadium 5 at the intersection of G Street and 4th Street, and one at 240 G Street. 

We write to express our strong support of these sorts of infill projects, projects that would increase housing density in Davis, allowing for more efficient use of land and creating the potential for reduced-carbon lifestyles. However, we have concerns about the details of the projects and urge that they be addressed prior to approval:

  1. Increase affordable housing. Davis’s greatest housing need is for affordable housing, yet only the 4th and G Street project provides for a reasonable percentage of affordable housing (20%, in accordance with the “Builder’s Remedy” that they are applying under). The other two projects are only proposing 5% affordable housing, which does very little to address Davis’s affordable housing needs.  Equity demands that a higher percentage of affordable housing – at least 20% – be included in all future downtown housing projects. 5% is totally unacceptable. If Proposition 1 funds become available, the minimum required percentage should be increased to 25%.

  2. Increase feasibility of a car-free lifestyle for all potential residents. Two out of the three projects (the Lumberyard and 240 G Street) provide for very little parking. We commend the attempt to foster a car-free lifestyle that could be possible in the downtown, especially if increased numbers of residents are able to attract more retail businesses.  However, the units should be feasible for all, and car-free lifestyles can be difficult for those with mobility challenges, including but not limited to some elderly seniors.  Thus, the housing projects need to facilitate other ways of getting around by including, for example, an area for taxis/Uber/Lyft/DoorDash/etc. to pick up and drop off.  Projects should provide a minimum percentage of parking spaces for people who have Disabled Person (DP) placards.  Putting funds toward improving public transportation in the downtown (including microtransit) – or having dedicated vans are other options that we strongly recommend; developers should work with the City and UCD on this, with subsidized passes provided for people with low incomes.

    We understand that some members of the community think that there should be parking minimum requirements for downtown housing projects. However, to create a walkable, active transit oriented lifestyle (which many younger people in particular have been asking for), we need fewer, not more, cars downtown.  This is the best way to achieve our climate goals. We have suggested a variety of ways to try to make it easier for everyone to live downtown, but other solutions may be possible and feasible; the City should consult with relevant experts, such as disability access professionals.

  3. Support use of vehicles other than cars. Car-free lifestyles can be facilitated with bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters. To that end, projects should be required to set aside a sufficient number of covered spaces for these vehicles relative to number of bedrooms and units.  Moreover, San Francisco’s recent experience ( has shown that some of the batteries for e-bikes and e-scooters can be fire hazards.  Davis should look to NYC’s ordinances (they are ahead of other municipalities) as a way to mitigate the risk of fire when e-bikes and e-scooters are brought indoors.  To further facilitate the use of these vehicles, charging stations should be provided.

  4. Ensure a high quality of life for residents. Living in a dense environment can be physically and psychologically challenging if it is not done correctly. This can be ameliorated by providing greenspace, rooftop gardens, etc.  The City of Davis should work with developers to identify community garden space and/or spaces where residents of these housing developments can grow food or plants (e.g., on balconies or window boxes).  Again, this is an equity issue.

  5. Require planting and maintenance of trees and landscaping. One of the goals of the Davis Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is to “...create a cooler city with more urban forest and green space for people and habitat.” To help further that goal, developers should fund the planting and maintenance of trees in internal plazas and along public sidewalks, using best practices for producing a street canopy developed in concert with Tree Davis and the Davis Tree Commission.

Thank you for your consideration of these recommended changes.

Respectfully submitted,

The Sierra Club Yolano Group Management Committee

The Sierra Club Yolano Group is comprised of over 1,400 Sierra Club members from Yolo County, a portion of eastern Solano County, and a portion of southern Colusa County.


Ron O

I recall that there was disagreement within the group regarding parking requirements, though I'm not sure if the city has any ability to require it these days.

These units (and any rental units) built within the city (but especially downtown) will likely be primarily occupied by students - other than perhaps in whatever Affordable housing is required. I generally do not view student housing as an "equity issue", as those who attend UCD (and are able to rent a brand-new apartment) are not necessarily underprivileged.

As competition for parking becomes more intense, this will discourage those who live farther from downtown from patronizing businesses, there. And will likely cause them to seek other options. For most people, those options will NOT include public transit - even if it's increased. More likely, it will just cause them to drive further (e.g., out-of-town), for items/services that aren't normally purchased online these days.

I am a regular customer at Co-Op, ACE hardware, and Kim's market, and am not looking forward to these redevelopments. There is a good chance I will stop patronizing Co-Op as Hibbert is redeveloped.

I used to patronize restaurants more than I do now, but a couple of my favorites permanently closed during the pandemic. I sometimes shop at Trader Joe's, but already avoid it because it's too much hassle. (But that's o.k., as the local Trader Joe's was always focused on the student market in the first place.)

I also view the loss of the lumberyard and adjacent hardware store as just that - a loss to the community.

As they say, for every action there's a reaction.

But I'd rather see the downtown compromised, compared to the destruction of farmland/open space.

Roberta L. Millstein

I recall that there was disagreement within the group regarding parking requirements

There was a lot of discussion over several meetings and various changes made to the document, but in the end the vote of the Management Committee was unanimous.

I'm not sure if the city has any ability to require it these days.

I don't think it does -- not for housing near robust public transportation, is my understanding. Of course, as the MC points out, the public transportation downtown can and should be better than it is.

Ron O

Roberta: Yes, the management committee is one thing, the other 1,400 members might (or might not) be something else. (But I was referring to the relative handful of people, other than the management committee - who attend the monthly Zoom meetings).

Most members don't participate in the monthly Zoom meetings.

Regarding "robust" public transportation, I don't know what the definition of that is. I don't recall seeing that term, regarding the new laws which eliminate parking requirements for developments within (1/2?) mile of public transportation lines.

But it does seem that this will primarily be student housing, so it's not very far for them to get to campus at least. It's probably the folks in the Affordable housing (e.g., non-UCD students) who would be more-dependent upon cars.

For what it's worth (as one member), I think it's an o.k. set of recommendations in this case. It seems apparent that a significant amount of thought went into them, at least.

But as one commenter on the Vanguard pointed out out the other day, the (larger) ramifications of eliminating developer parking requirements is likely going to have negative impacts. The original reason for those requirements was to mitigate the impacts of developments on existing neighbors.

One of those ramifications will likely be what I described, regarding a "shift" in the type of customer who patronizes downtown businesses. (Fewer existing customers as the radius from downtown increases, but perhaps replaced by those living in the new apartments).

By adding residences to downtown, the "purpose" of downtown itself changes. Of course, in places like San Francisco, this has already been occurring (e.g., the closure of Nordstrom's, Macy's, abandonment of office buildings, etc.). More than one factor is leading to this.

David J Thompson

I applaud this statement by the Sierra Club local entity. In particular I agree with the comment on the paucity of low income affordable housing in the present downtown projects.

The cost of building parking spots within a multi-family rental development are likely about $30,000 per space. The savings of not building any parking spots for the present developers is in the millions of dollars. In exchange for that substantial largesse the City should be requiring up to 25% units for low and very low income households.

Otherwise we are endorsing a downtown with no living spaces for the poor.

The city needs to revisit this policy quickly.

David J Thompson
My own thoughts and not associated with any other entity

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