Entries categorized "Land use"

Continued concerns regarding the Village Farms site including toxics, traffic, floodplain, unaffordable housing, unsafe bike/pedestrian access, and infrastructure costs issues

By Eileen M. Samitz and Pamela S. Nieberg

There can be no assumption that the Village Farms site is safe for development. It is surprising and disappointing to see a recent article attempting to dismiss the significant concerns that have been raised in the past and recently regarding toxics contamination from the former City landfill site and the former City sewage treatment plant which are immediately adjacent (north-east) to the Village Farms property.


Continue reading "Continued concerns regarding the Village Farms site including toxics, traffic, floodplain, unaffordable housing, unsafe bike/pedestrian access, and infrastructure costs issues" »

Did Caltrans Piece-Meal Plan for I-80 corridor violate CEQA, ignore Davis impacts? 

Caltrans failure to do corridor wide EIR negated transit, wastes billions and did not call out cut thru impacts

Piecemealing Map I-80 corridor

 by Alan Hirsch, Yolo Mobility  

Transit works best as a network- you won’t get transit ridership if you just build just 1 or 5 miles of light rail, or upgrade just a few miles of Amtrak to 100mph service. You need to have interconnected regional system, especially with our dispersed land use patterns.  

Below is a Caltrans map from the long-hidden corridor plan, the “I-80  CMCP” shows the many widenings has planned or started in the  I-80 Corridor. These types of corridor plans, first required by SB1 (2017) reveal for the first time “piece-mealing” of freeway widening, I.E., breaking a corridor widening into  many small separate projects.   Each separate project is studied separately thru alternative analysis/EIR process so to assure transit alternative are small stand-and never pencil. And many of  project are so small they don’t even require at EIR.   

If fact, this is why piece-mealing is a violation of California Environmental Law. It has been cited by many others including a recent hi level whistleblower as how Caltrans systematically gets around environmental laws designed to address climate change.  

The corridor plan for I-80 (I-80 CMCP) was not released to public on Caltrans website until May of 2023, over 9 months after the Yolo80 EIR alternative were selected. In fact, this corridor plan did compare transit  vs highway alternatives. It concluded upgrading the Capitol Corridor Rail service to 100 MPH is 15x more cost effective to move people than the entire bundle of freeway widening shown on map (see Vanguard article).  

With many of the widening construction already are underway, one can wonder how many billions (with a B) of dollars in taxpayer money are being poorly spend because of this setup by Caltrans to preordain a result ? What sort of set back does this represent on meeting the state climate plan that required us to reduce driving and well as shift to electric cars to reduce our GHG’s. 

One can also note the Yolo causeway “bottle neck” and cut thru traffic in Davis did not just happen:  it was created by Caltrans by widening freeway to the west and it impact on Davis section of I-80  s shown clearly in  traffic studies.   

As for collaboration with communities in the developing corridor plans, a public record request of Yolobus/Yolo TD found no records in its files it was involved in developing the plan, and Caltrans has never presented the final or preliminary report or involved YoloTD board or Davis City or its Commissions in its development in a substantive way. Yet Caltrans lists these entities, as well as citizens groups like Bike Davis as involved with its development. Caltrans neglect of considering community impact is shown by Caltrans failure to list “reduce cut thru traffic” as a goal/purpose/need for their proposed Causeway widening on its project website

SAVE THE DATE: A Freeway Teach-In Nov 8th  

Davis Futures Forum on the Future of the I-80 Corridor 

Wed, Nov 8th 7:00-8:30  Davis Community Church Fellowship Hall, 412 C street 

I-80 traffic congestion is frustrating even the most patient among us! The Caltrans proposed solution has been to increase the number of traffic lanes, however many Davis citizens have expressed strong opposition noting the need for transportation alternatives. Further, a high level Caltrans executive has accused her peers of violating environmental laws by underestimating the negative impacts of the proposal. And research at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies shows that attempts to address congestion by adding lanes only works for a short time before the lanes are filled again by new drivers. 

What is the solution? The public is invited to explore this question at a Davis Futures Forum talk and panel discussion. The keynote speaker is Professor Susan Handy, the renowned head of the National Center for Sustainable Development. Her presentation will be followed by a diverse response panel who will give us their thoughts about how best to move forward. The event will be held Wednesday, Nov 8th at 7pm in at the Davis Community Church. Please sign up in advance and you will receive advance material, a link to the real-time zoom and YouTube recording of the teach-in. 

It Does Pencil Out

2 + 2 = By Larry D. Guenther

We often hear from developers that a building required by existing zoning “doesn’t pencil out” and that they therefore must be allowed to build bigger. Several issues make this claim suspect.

First, developers never show the math they use to make this statement. Never.

Secondly, there appears to be no set building size that does ‘pencil out’. Proponents always ask for one more story. If the zoning is two stories, they insist it won’t work, but three will. If the zoning is 3, they need 4. If the zoning is 4, they need 5, etc.

Thirdly, there are plenty of examples that contradict these statements: the Roe Building on the SW corner of 3rd and C St. (3 stories, mixed use); Central Park West across from Central Park (2-1/2 stories, residential); Pizza and Pints (1 story, commercial); the most recent Ace Hardware addition on 3rd St. (1 story, commercial); The Arbors on C St. (3 stories, mixed use); the building on the SW corner of G and 5th St. (3 stories, mixed use), etc.

Fourth: developers site the increase in material costs as part of their reasoning (the number 15% is suspiciously common and has been cited before and during the Pandemic). While material costs definitely increase over time, they certainly increase far less than residential rents. Material costs are also a one-time expense, while rental income continues - and increases - for the life of the building.

Continue reading "It Does Pencil Out" »

I-80 News: Two Projects on Causeway, DEIR Release, Woodland

Traffic Congregation not relevant in EIR

By Alan Hirsch

All the weeks News on I-80, as best I understand it – The Headlines:

  • Draft EIR out Monday(?) – YoloTD Board meeting  comments needed
  • Two projects on causeway at once!  Pavement Rehab is not the Widening!
  • Yolo TD Chair Takes on UC Davis Transportation Experts
  • Does anyone remember NISHI? Will City of Davis ignore full I-80 impact?
  • What to watch For in Draft EIR
  • Is Causeway bike trail maintenance being hostage to road improvements?
  • Does City of Woodland’s New Tech Park  Project turns it back VMT in EIR?
  • Woodland says road Congestion is a “social inconvenience” and not relevant in EIR.

Draft EIR out Monday(?)

YoloTD executive director Autumn Bernstein wrote Friday she expects DED (aka Draft EIR+ other doc) will be released before the September 11 Board Meeting..  YoloTD has had earlier draft(s) for months so they likely will have slide prepared (which are not in Agenda Packet. I note YoloTD staff and board is OK with chair picking early DEIR traffic study to prove we need a wider freeway...seeming to ignore Caltrans long patterns of Understating Induce Demand Effects in its EIR, per UC Davis ITS studies.  The Caltrans website still post a promise the EIR will be out in Winter of 2021.

How to Comment at YoloTD meeting Monday 6pm.

Call or write/ What to say:  express concern the Caltrans may be continuing to understate Induce Demand impact in their models- as UC Davis ITS studies has shown . Express concern not enough priority is not being put on climate change.   Ask YoloTD to hire an independent expert to review and comment on Caltrans EIR VMT studies due to past UC Davis studies that show the agency has underestimate it.  

PLACE:  YoloTD Board Room, 350 Industrial Way, Woodland, CA 95776

ZOOM & Live comments: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81573305113?pwd=VmFiZWNtSzZleVVGRVpmQ0swWnhpZz09

PHONE to zoom; : (669) 900-6833 Webinar ID:  815 7330 5113 Passcode:  135087

AGENDA  & Packet: https://yolotd.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/2023-09-11_YoloTD-BoardAgendaPacket.pdf

EMAIL  in advance: [email protected]:

Phone comment in advance (will be transcribed/ not read or played):  530 402-2819

Continue reading "I-80 News: Two Projects on Causeway, DEIR Release, Woodland" »

Council set to mis-spend $400,000 on Arroyo Park

By Janet and Joe Krovoza

In another instance of the consent calendar shielding requests for large financial commitments, city staff are asking Council Tuesday to approve more than $409K to build a "shade/picnic structure" at Arroyo Park.

When the Recreation and Park Commission voted to recommend its construction back in April of 2022, the estimated cost was $257K. Public bids revealing a far different cost estimate were opened only last month.

Should we really be spending scarce public dollars on this scale on a new "amenity" such as this, especially when people can't even walk their dogs at Arroyo without risking injury to their pets from burrs and thistles ($300 to pull a thorn from my dog's foot), broken irrigation pipes take literally months to repair, and ruptured pathways make it difficult if not impossible for people with mobility issues to get around?

This strikes us as a lot of money for what is basically six picnic tables, two barbecues and a roof. At a minimum, such a major commitment (which will incur ongoing expenses, consume turf, and threaten adjacent trees) certainly deserves the "separate discussion" its inclusion on the consent calendar precludes.

Let's also put this in context. The park already has two shaded open-air group barbecue areas  They are used, but don't seem overly so or impacted. Maybe we could add a few more picnic tables, update the barbecues that were put in 20 years ago, and save ourselves something close to $400K?

In any event, if a cost estimate is 60 percent higher than what was represented to the Recreation and Park Commission, it ought to go back to them for review. And such an item certainly shouldn't go straight to the City Council on consent.

Recommendation to the Davis City Council for Changes in Davis’ Affordable Housing Ordinance

By The Sierra Club Yolano Group Management Committee

June 27, 2023


The Davis Affordable Housing Ordinance is now implemented on a temporary basis. Renewal with some modest changes is anticipated this evening.

However, the existing Affordable Housing Ordinance has provisions which we believe do not provide social justice, equity, and fairness in terms of meeting the needs of the City’s low-income population because it is biased toward the financial benefit of developers rather than maximizing the availability of affordable income housing in Davis.

Following please find our recommendations for immediate changes to update the City's temporary Affordable Housing Ordinance for ownership development projects. Additionally, we suggest the City embark on a concerted effort to further revise the ordinance to make it more equitable and understandable to developers and the general public for both ownership and rental development projects as more fully described below.

Recommendation for Immediate Change

1) Eliminate Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as an acceptable alternative to provide on-site Affordable Housing - Prior to the immediate renewal of the Affordable Housing Ordinance, we strongly recommend completely eliminating the provision whereby ADUs are allowed as fulfillment for up to 50% of a For Sale project’s affordable housing obligations as currently exists.

2) Substantially increase in-lieu fees if chosen by a developer as an acceptable alternative to provide on-site or offsite Affordable Housing - We recommend that in-lieu fees be substantially increased so that it is no longer a financially preferable option for developers to pursue.  We endorse the staff recommendation to have an "in lieu fee to represent the full cost to build an actual unit."

Recommendations for Further Changes in the Very Near Future

3) Increase the minimum percentages of affordable housing required in most developments -

a) For rental multifamily developments and ownership detached housing, increase the standard 15% requirement for onsite or offsite affordable housing units to 25% (15% Very Low Income and 10% Low Income).

b) For ownership and rental mixed use and stacked-flat condominiums, increase the affordable housing requirement from 5% to 10% (5% Very Low Income and 5% Low Income) and eliminate the exemption for such units in the core area from the requirements of the Affordable Housing Ordinance.

4) Increase the minimum parcel size for land donated to alternatively meet affordable housing requirements to 4 acres – Experts in the field of non-profit low income housing project financing have stated that land donation requirements of lesser sizes are not feasible to finance given the realities of financing requirements and available tax credits.

We elaborate on each of these recommendations further below.


Continue reading "Recommendation to the Davis City Council for Changes in Davis’ Affordable Housing Ordinance" »

How Big Does Davis Need to Be? A Lot Smaller Than Growth Advocates Want You To Think

Criteria for inclusion: stand-alone college towns with a population less than 90K and a public university larger than 10K enrollment. Dataset may not include every example of this, but diligent efforts have been made to be as complete as possible. The orange line shows the best-fit linear regression model. Any place above the line has more than its projected population based on enrollment. (Added 7:30 PM, June 23, 2023)

By Rik Keller

Tim Keller (no relation) stated in the article “Guest Commentary: How Big Does Davis Need to Be? College Towns Analysis Part 3 – Long-Term Planning” that “In previous articles we saw evidence that suggests that a population of 120,000 might be entirely appropriate for a university town such as Davis: It is the size of Ann Arbor, Michigan (home of the University of Michigan), Champagne-Urbana (home of the University of Illinois), and Lafayette Indiana (home of Purdue). These are all well-regarded and well-funded research universities of very similar size and character to UC Davis.”

For reference, the 2022 population of Davis was 67,048, and Tim’s number is a huge 179% increase above that.

The so-called “evidence” that he based this on was a very incomplete, cherry-picked, and in some cases factually-inaccurate, list of 17 universities and host towns to compare to Davis.

He stated “The trend that emerges immediately is that the population of a “university town” such as ours tends to be about 3x the size of its student body.”

I have access to a more complete database of 40 public research universities with enrollment of at least 10,000 students (and up to 50,000), located in distinct host towns with populations less than 100,000. Tim ignored the vast majority of these. It turns out that the median population-to-student enrollment ratio of these 40 college towns is almost identical to that of Davis (Davis is slightly higher), which completely undermines his argument that Davis needs massive population growth to support current university enrollment.

If Tim hadn’t approached the exercise with an endpoint in mind—his preconceived notion that Davis need to be much larger than it is—he could have done a more credible analysis. His limited cherry-picked data had some basic facts wrong. The 2022 population of Corvallis was actually 60,956 (not 95,184), and the population-to-enrollment ratio is actually 1.73. And he drastically understated the enrollment for the University of Indiana at 35,253, when Fall 2022 enrollment was actually 47,005. The population-to-enrollment ratio for Bloomington is actually 1.68. With Davis at around 1.9, these two cases, as well as the median of 1.82 for the larger dataset, indicates that Davis has more population per enrollment than the norm.

I won’t get into a critique right now of Tim’s notion that a simplistic and crude comparison of population size to university enrollment should provide prescriptive guidance. But suffice it to say for now that a more through examination of the facts using a more complete dataset of college towns, points to the opposite conclusion that he had.

Should we be surprised that one of the people behind the “Sustainable Growth Yolo” organization is advocating for massive amounts of growth based on faulty analysis and assumptions? I’m not sure why they aren’t more honest and just delete the “sustainable” part.

Rik Keller is a university instructor in communication studies and social work. He has two decades of professional experience in demographic analysis and housing policy & analysis in Texas, Oregon, and California after obtaining his master’s degree in city planning. He is also a 15-year Davis resident.

Letter: City Council moves toward an exclusionary Davis

What a sad Council night for Davis this past Tuesday.

Both projects put forward by the city Tuesday night are by design planning for an exclusionary Davis.

Both projects short us on affordable housing for the very low income and low income. They both set aside the lowest number of units ever affordable to VLI and LI units of any proposed annexation.

When David Taormino asked me to do the affordable housing for Bretton Woods I said I would if he doubled the land required for affordable housing.

David provided land for 150 VLI and LI apartments instead of the required 68 apartments.

Standing at the Bretton Woods Booth at the Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday proved my point. His willingness to do more VLI and LI units that he needed to was the critical element in winning community approval in a Measure J election.

I and Delta Senior Housing Communities (DSHC) are no longer doing the affordable housing at Bretton Woods but that one generous act had great impact and won community support.

With 378 acres to build why is Village Farms skimping on an extra four acres for housing VLI and LI people.

All that is needed is 1% (3.78 acres) more of the 378 acres.

Due to their skimping on both projects I am opposed to them both.

I don’t want the Davis that is being sold to us. It is a Davis with fewer doors for the poor.

That Davis will be richer and whiter and shun the poor working people.

Join me in demanding more from each project to build a more welcoming and inclusionary Davis.

David J. Thompson

Comparison of Village Farms Davis and Shriners Proposed Developments

Comparison of Village Farms Davis and Shriners Proposed Developments

by Alan Pryor

I. Introduction – Recent online comments suggested a side-by-side comparison of the features of several currently proposed development projects subject to a Measure J vote would be useful to allow readers to do an “apples-to-apples” comparison of the salient features of the projects. As a result, I prepared such a spreadsheet showing what I considered to be the most important features of the Village Farms Davis and the Shriners development projects.

The following general categories were considered in this analysis;

  1. Total Project Size and Buildable Acres
  2. Number of Market Rate and Affordable Housing Units and Density
  3. Area of Open Space, Roadways, and Proposed Mitigation
  4. Distances to Important Local Destinations and Public Transit Access
  5. Infill Potential vs. Sprawl
  6. Other Project Benefits to the Community

Information for the analysis was derived from public sources and/or filings made by the project developers and follow-up inquiries when additional information was sought.


II. Results – The results of this effort is shown in the following spreadsheet:

Continue reading "Comparison of Village Farms Davis and Shriners Proposed Developments" »

Development Planning Priorities for Davis

Note: As part of item 8 on Tuesday's City Council agenda, the City will consider an evaluation rubric as a possible tool for consideration of review of peripheral proposals. The following is an alternative rubric proposal.

Proposed by Judy Corbett, Alan Hirsch, Roberta Millstein, Alan Pryor, Bob Schneider, David J. Thompson, Colin Walsh, Stephen Wheeler, James Zanetto, and Sierra Club Yolano Group

1. Develop infill opportunities first

  • City to hire consultant or add staff to actively pursue and encourage implementation of the Downtown Plan and other infill opportunities.
  • Council action to initiate redevelopment of city-owned parcels on Fifth Street and communicate with potential nonprofit partners.
  • Council to approach school district regarding redevelopment of 5th Street properties.
  • Upzone parcels along arterial corridors and in shopping centers to a minimum height for mixed-use development so as to use land efficiently in central locations.
  • 100% affordable housing overlay zoning like the Cambridge model to create new affordable housing redevelopment opportunities in already developed areas. By focusing zoning changes only for affordable housing it gives affordable housing developers the opportunity to initiate redevelopment projects without competing against more lucrative for profit market rate developments for development sites.
  • Reduce parking requirements for these sites, including considering car-free housing on certain sites, along with low parking maximums, to encourage redevelopment & affordability; a package of policies to reduce motor vehicle use such as on-site car-shares, market pricing, good bike parking, transit improvements, etc.

2. Initiate and complete General Plan or Specific Plans updates.  This will provide a comprehensive look at the future and ensure consideration of cumulative impacts including traffic, water, wastewater and other infrastructure. A General Plan is preferred but an option might be a Specific Plan for the Northeast and /or Northwest areas. Any new planning process should be kept short and efficient so as to avoid the lengthy and expensive experiences of many past plans.

3. Peripheral development standards

Continue reading "Development Planning Priorities for Davis" »

Housing SB423 and SB4 California Senate

By David J. Thompson

Passage of SB 423 will make “Builders Remedy” permanent for cities not having an approved housing element. Bill neglects building housing for very low income households.

Two bills relating to housing and requirements affordable housing have been sent to the Senate Floor. Because Davis has not had its housing element approved by the State of California, our city is now open to “Builders Remedy”. SB 423 makes permanent that any housing can be built as long as it has 20% of the units for low income households. Under SB 423 most city oversight is removed.

My critique of these two bills (SB423 and SB4 Weiner) is that they do nothing (as far as I can tell) to provide housing for the most in need group of very low income households (VLI) in our city. They do however; push for units for low income households (LI) and that might be as much as the housing advocates could lobby for in these two bills.

If these low income units are the only ones built then a city will continue to not meet its VLI targets. Does that mean therefore most housing elements will be found out of compliance? And therefore, the builders remedy will be the only law of the land? I have a call into the Senate to pose this question. (This paragraph added today)

Continue reading "Housing SB423 and SB4 California Senate" »

City Council is Jeopardizing their Proposed Tax Measure on the November 2024 Ballot by Withholding a Vote on New Peripheral Residential Development

By Alan Pryor

The Davis City Council recently decided at their April 4, 2023 meeting that they would explore all options for putting a new general tax measure on the November 2024 ballot while declining to place a peripheral housing project on the same ballot. The Council’s stated reasons are that they did not believe Staff had the “bandwidth” to process both ballot measures simultaneously and that they feared the controversy of placing a peripheral ballot measure on the same ballot as their preferred general tax measure ballot may harm the tax measure’s chances of success.

And at last Tuesday night's Council meeting they agreed to relegate all future peripheral Measure J/R/D housing ballot measure to special elections over at least the next few years. I believe this decision was shortsighted and made without a complete understanding of what motivates Davis voters to approve or disapprove of tax measures in Davis.

Aside from the obvious charge that the City is favoring adding new revenue to their coffers over providing needed housing in the community (after standing on their soap boxes and proclaiming the dire need for housing over and over again in the past), this decision displays a misunderstanding of the realities of Davis electoral politics and this lack of awareness may presage the failure of both the expected November 2024 general tax measure AND any new peripheral housing ballot measure on later special election ballots.

Let me explain.

Continue reading "City Council is Jeopardizing their Proposed Tax Measure on the November 2024 Ballot by Withholding a Vote on New Peripheral Residential Development" »

Recommendation to the Social Services Commission for Changes in Davis’ Affordable Housing Ordinance

The following was emailed as an attachment to the Social Services Commission yesterday for their meeting this evening (7 PM, Monday May 15) where they will be taking up proposed changes to Davis's Affordable Housing Ordinance.

by Roberta Millstein and Alan Pryor



The Davis Affordable Housing Ordinance (available at https://library.qcode.us/lib/davis_ca/pub/municipal_code/item/chapter_18-article_18_05?view=all) is now implemented on a temporary basis to account for changes in state law requiring economic justification if minimum affordable housing requirements for new projects exceed 15% of total housing units.  The current temporary ordinance is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2023, with proposed changes under consideration by the Social Services Commission at its May 13, 2023 meeting.

However, even with these proposed changes, the existing Affordable Housing Ordinance has provisions which we believe do not provide social justice, equity, and fairness in terms of meeting the needs of the City’s low-income population because it is biased toward the financial benefit of developers rather than maximizing the availability of affordable income housing in Davis.

We recommend the following changes to the temporary ordinance if it is renewed by the sunset date of June 30, 2023 and to a revised permanent ordinance.

  1. Eliminate ADUs as an acceptable alternative to provide on-site Affordable Housing - We recommend that Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) be completely eliminated as a way for developers to avoid constructing real Affordable Housing.

  2. Substantially increase in-lieu fees if chosen by a developer as an acceptable alternative to provide on-site Affordable Housing - We recommend that in-lieu fees be substantially increased so that it is no longer a financially preferable option for developers to pursue. 

We elaborate on each of these recommendations further below.

Continue reading "Recommendation to the Social Services Commission for Changes in Davis’ Affordable Housing Ordinance" »

The Proposed Village Farms Davis Development Project is NOT Threatened by Groundwater Contamination from the Former Davis Landfill Site

By Alan Pryor

Executive Summary and Conclusions

This article reports on potential groundwater contamination beneath the former Davis Landfill site north of the City of Davis on Poleline Rd. and the adjacent site proposed for the Village Farms Davis development project immediately south and southeast of the old landfill site.

During the contentious Measure X election in November, 2005 in which the proposed Covell Village project (on the same site as the current proposed development, Village Farms Davis) was rejected by voters, allegations were made that the site’s groundwater was contaminated by leaching of pollutants from the former Davis landfill site just north of the project. In particular, it was alleged that a carcinogen, vinyl chloride, was in the groundwater beneath the project site rendering the project unsuitable for development in as much as a deep well was proposed for the site to add to the City of Davis potable water supply.

In a recent City Council meeting (April 4, 2023) in which the possible timing of bringing peripheral projects before the voters were discussed, one public comment again stated that vinyl chloride was in the groundwater beneath the old Davis landfill and the proposed site for the Village Farms Davis project.

The parcel itself has so many problems. It has toxics in the north end from the land fill site. The old land fill site was not lined so there is vinyl chloride leakage from the old land fill and it’s substantial. Vinyl chloride does not go away.

These claims of vinyl chloride and other toxic compounds in the groundwater were based on data from the early 1990s though 2005 which showed some intermittent groundwater contamination (including some tests showing the presence of vinyl chloride) in shallow groundwater test wells beneath the old landfill and immediately to the south beneath the then proposed Covell Village project. These earlier monitoring well test results were reported in the EIR issued in the Covell Village EIR issued in 2005 and are further discussed below in the section entitled Summary of Well Monitoring Findings.

These reported findings were considered important at the time because, as stated above, the Covell Village project proposal included a new deep well on the project site to provide drinking water capacity for the proposed project and connecting into the City’s potable water supply network. Concerns were expressed that the shallow water contamination could worsen and impact the deep aquifer from which potable water would be drawn. Potentially compounding the problem was the discovery that the groundwater plume was migrating from the landfill toward the south and southwest in the direction of the proposed Covell Village project.

Annual testing of the monitoring wells subsequently occurred in the period since the Covell Village EIR from 2012 – 2019. These later tests showed a substantial reduction in groundwater contamination in the intervening years and the report from consulting engineers engaged by the City to evaluate the groundwater contamination showed the following results;

  1. NO Vinyl Chloride was found at all in any sampled groundwater from 2012 – 2019 nor were there ANY other VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) or metals found in any of the test well samples above the EPA's Primary Maximum Concentration Levels (MCLs) for drinking water.
  1. There were some measurements of nitrate (probably from past agricultural fertilization on the site) in the monitored wells that were in excess of Primary MCLs and some other naturally occurring minerals (selenium, manganese, and sulfate) that were intermittently in excess of Secondary MCLs but not hugely in excess of other well waters in the area.

    However, these are NOT a human health concern because the groundwater beneath the Village Farms Davis project site will NOT be pumped and used for drinking water purposes. Instead, the project will rely on City of Davis municipal drinking water supplies as delivered to the rest of the City.
  1. The plume of groundwater beneath the former landfill site and the proposed development project site was most recently determined to be moving toward the northeast away from the Village Farms Davis project site as a result in changes in groundwater extraction rates in the area. Thus, even if there was very unlikely leaching from the landfill site future in the future it would NOT migrate in the direction of the proposed development project.
  1. Based on the sampling results from 2012 - 2019 indicating no detectable amounts of vinyl chloride and no amounts of volatile organic hydrocarbons (VOCs) or heavy metals in excess of established EPA MCLs, it was recommended that the City discontinue annual testing and request a No Further Action letter from the Regional Water Board thus confirming the area is no longer considered a threat to groundwater contamination.

These later test monitoring results from 2012 – 2019 are also further discussed below in the section entitled Summary of Well Monitoring Findings.

Continue reading "The Proposed Village Farms Davis Development Project is NOT Threatened by Groundwater Contamination from the Former Davis Landfill Site" »

Potential irregularities underlying decisions made about the U-Mall site

There were significant errors, omissions, and mischaracterizations about zoning, the EIR, and contractual obligations.

By Rik Keller

Screen Shot 2023-04-18 at 8.10.10 AM
Screen Shot from the City of Davis website

Note: The following has been set to members of the Planning Commission and members of the City Council

I’ve been following the U-Mall/University Commons/The Davis Collection discussions with interest. I have decades of land use planning experience as a consultant for cities and counties since receiving my Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning degree in the mid-1990s, including general plan policy review and development, zoning ordinances, housing elements, and project consistency review. Based on my knowledge and experience in the field, I have some very strong questions about the process that the City has conducted.

Looking at the 3/8/2023 staff report for the Planning Commission in detail:

  1. There are significant errors, omissions, and mischaracterizations about the Mixed Use (MU) land use designation and associated Planned Development (PD) zoning district adopted for the site by the City Council on August 25, 2020. I believe these errors may be significant enough to re-open the discussion about a required residential component for the site and possibly require additional City Council votes;
  2. There are also significant errors, omissions, and mischaracterizations about the required environmental analysis under CEQA for the revised project. Specifically, because the project no longer has a residential component, the streamlining procedures that allowed for some CEQA analysis exemptions no longer apply, and additional EIR analysis appears to be required;
  3. Finally, many of the contractual obligations under Development Agreement (DA) no longer apply, but an amended DA was not completed by the project proponent and City Council.

In summary, there appear to be numerous shortcuts taken to approve the modified project that aren’t legally adequate.

As a note: In his 3/20/23 appeal to the 3/8/2023 PC decision, Councilmember Bapu Vaitla did question the consistency of The Davis Collection proposal with broader General Plan vision statements but did not directly address the specific language and requirements for the Mixed Use designation and the PD zoning district for the site.

Continue reading "Potential irregularities underlying decisions made about the U-Mall site" »

Don't lose the opportunity for housing at University Mall site

By David J Thompson

Without a doubt, the University Mall site will be the greatest lost opportunity for housing in Davis in this ten year RHNA cycle. At 14+ acres, no other site presents the capacity for affordable housing as does University Mall. In terms of a real (not imagined) site that the developer wishes to re-develop, the closest proximity to the UCD campus of any site, the opportunity to reduce student traffic, an option to swap parking spaces for housing, with thoughtful site planning an ability to accommodate additional stories of housing, a valuable site for affordable housing, the possibilities are endless and the benefits accrue to many of us that envision the future projects that Davis must foster. 

There will be no bigger loss to Davis’s needed future if a retail only plan is the regretful permanent outcome. There is no other site within Davis that provides such immediate and real value for the changes we need in land use.

However, it seems like Brixmor is intent on replacing a mall with a mall. In this era which requires a radical rethinking of city planning can we really be so bankrupt of options that a redone mall is the only outcome? We need big changes where we have big opportunities. So the City must turn down the Brixmor plan.

What could change the outcome?

  1. The City should pause the application process and enter into negotiations with Brixmor as to the best way for the City and the neighborhood to achieve a mixed use project. Every reasonable effort and inducement by the City should be looked at to encourage Brixmor to withdraw this present application and return with a mixed use application.
  2. Could the City use eminent domain to obtain the site for a housing only proposal that would eliminate the parking structures needed for the commercial site and replace it with housing? Repurposed as just housing at 40 units per acre the site can accommodate 560 apartments of which at 20% around 112 units would be affordable. The most ever affordable units in the history of Davis.

What an achievement that could be for the Davis future many of us want to build.

To the Planning Commission and City Council I ask you to pursue anything except a re-done mall.

Those 'pesky' City Commissions

Scooby-gang-1969By Roberta Millstein

As a Gen-Xer, I grew up watching a lot of fairly silly cartoons, Scooby-Doo among them.  The plot of Scooby-Doo was pretty much always the same.  The main characters would ask a lot of hard questions, and always end up unmasking the “bad guy,” who would utter a phrase along the lines of “if it weren’t for those pesky kids!”

Reading Item 5 of tonight’s City Council agenda makes me feel like I am in an episode of Scooby-Doo.  Commission meetings are too long, the staff report suggests.  They duplicate efforts, staff implies.

Yet it was the commissions who asked hard questions about DISC.  They asked, for example, about the carbon emissions from the project and better ways to mitigate them.  They asked about the percentage of affordable housing.  They asked about the number of trees and protection for burrowing owls.  They asked about the effect of the project on our downtown.

These were hard questions that were not asked by staff and not asked by the City Council.   They all ended up being issues in the campaign that resulted in voters rejecting the DISC project.

Now, it seems, staff would like to reduce the power of those “pesky” commissions with all of their questions.

Are the commission meetings really too long?  One easy way to make them shorter would be to put a time limit on presentations by developers and others; we can expect that commissioners have read the provided written materials.

Are the commissions really duplicating effort?  As evidence, staff provides a table where different commissions weigh in on the same topic.  What staff fails to mention is that they are looking at different aspects of the same topic.  For example, when Open Space & Habitat looks at a park, it considers habitat values. Rec & Park considers recreational values. Tree Commission looks at the number and species of trees.  Yes, these can overlap, but they are distinctive issues that require distinctive expertise. There is no duplication.

Commissions are treated as pesky by those who have to answer their hard questions, but commissions keep the democratic process in Davis strong.  If we want to revisit the commissions, let’s at least involve them – something that was not done for this meeting.  Our past and present commissioners can provide needed insight into this process.

Davis Enterprise should promote better discourse

The following was sent to the Davis Enterprise to be published as a letter to the editor, but as of the time of this posting they have declined to publish it.

Edit: The letter finally appeared in the 12 February 2023 print edition, but I don't believe that it ever appeared online.

By Roberta Millstein

The recent article, "Planning Commission OKs R&D facility for Second Street" elicited a number of comments on the Davis Enterprise's Facebook page where the article was posted. Of these comments, the one that was picked as the "Editors' choice for the web comment of the week" stated "In a town that's absolutely jam-packed with know-it-alls somebody will come up with an objection."

Why did the Editors pick this comment out of all the others?

Surely the 2nd Street project is exactly the sort of infill project that most Davisites preferred when they voted overwhelmingly to defeat the sprawling peripheral DISC project. I for one have no objection to it.

Will someone object? No doubt. Name me one issue that all Davisites agree on. I am guessing that there is no such issue.

But that isn't really the point of the "Editors choice" comment, is it? The point is to denigrate Davisites who dare to raise objections to developer's projects. Or maybe it's just to denigrate Davisites more generally.

So, I ask again, why would the Editors choose to reprint this comment in the newspaper? Is this the sort of discourse that the Davis Enterprise wants to promote? And if so, why?

We can do better and so can the Davis Enterprise.

Tree Davis Welcomes New Executive Director

Torin DunnavantBy Torin Dunnavant and Greg McPherson

In this interview Torin Dunnavant, Tree Davis’ new Executive Director is interviewed by Tree Davis Board President Greg McPherson.

Greg: Torin, it’s great to have you at the helm of Tree Davis. You spent the last five years as Director of Education and Engagement with the Sacramento Tree Foundation. Prior to that you were Director of Engagement and Partnerships with TreePeople in Los Angeles. How will you be applying your experience with Tree Davis?

Torin: Thank you Greg, I am so excited to be a part of the Tree Davis team. It’s a fantastic organization and I am humbled to step into this role. I have been a part of the urban forestry world for fourteen years now – and a big part of my focus has been canopy equity. One of the greatest predictors of the health of a community is its urban forest - healthy trees means healthy people. Some neighborhoods have greater obstacles than others to plant trees, but that doesn’t mean that we should wait for the obstacles to remove themselves, it means the opposite - that we need to work harder to plant trees in places where there are less, so that more folks can be supported by the many benefits that trees bring. I look forward to connecting with the groups that partner with Tree Davis and learning from community leaders throughout the area to understand how Tree Davis can support them.

Davis is in the process of developing a new Urban Forest Management Plan and is hosting feedback sessions (the first virtual public meeting was on Nov. 10). Why and how should Davis residents get involved?

Continue reading "Tree Davis Welcomes New Executive Director" »

Kelsey Fortune: The Climate Expert We Need to On City Council

31CACCAD-90BF-4FE7-80B9-88FBy Juliette Beck

With the existential threat of climate breakdown looming, this is quite possibly the most important election in human history.  We need to elect leaders at all levels that will help navigate our sinking ship to safer shores. The City of Davis has the potential to lead a just transition to ecologically sustainable, socially just and climate-resilient communities, but we need to elect the right leaders and make some significant changes in how this city operates.

I've watched with great interest as the city council election has unfolded with two progressive candidates in West Davis running on a climate platform - Kelsey Fortune and Bapu Vaitla. There are differences between these two candidates and I'm supporting Kelsey Fortune because I believe she has the right combination of skills, knowledge, experience and the dogged determination to help our city chart a course to safety through these troubled times. 

Kelsey Fortune came to Davis nine years ago to pursue a PhD in Economics with a focus on transportation, energy and climate policies that drive equitable outcomes to ensure that all community members are included in a just transition to a green economy.  Over the past decade, as an active community member and a city council candidate, Fortune has stepped up to offer her pragmatic, evidence-based solutions to guide our community. During her first campaign for city council two years ago, I was impressed with Fortune’s knowledge of our city - who owns property and who doesn’t, our transportation system, zoning laws, the needs and rights of renters, etc. Fortune has consistently advocated for infill development and affordable housing for working families and low-income individuals. Her expertise in designing climate-friendly communities are at the heart of a just transition.

Continue reading "Kelsey Fortune: The Climate Expert We Need to On City Council " »

Developer asks for reconsideration of conditions for Bretton Woods

Bretton-Woods-Tentative-Site-PlanThe following background information for the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, October 12th was shared with the Davisite yesterday: 

The following is my position on the Paths:

“Why am I requesting reconsideration of path Map Conditions?
Staff’s insistence on wide concrete paths destroys the character of Bretton Woods. It will have both physical and mental negative ramifications on its residents.

This is not the pedestrian path design that I campaigned on and that went to the voters for approval. It’s not the path concept envisioned by the Development Agreement nor the one that the Planning Commission and City Council approved to be submitted to voters nor is it the plan the voters thought they would be getting when they voted yes on the project.”

Dave Taormino


October 3, 2022

Dear members of the Planning Commission:

At your Commission hearing next week, October 12, you will be presented with a request for reconsideration of a handful of conditions that were imposed on the Bretton Woods tentative maps after the Development Agreement was executed. In some cases, we are requesting reconsideration because the staff interpretation of the conditions at the design level exceeded the condition, and in others, because the condition imposed is the opposite of what was presented to the public from 2016-2020, as well as the Development Agreement and Preliminary Planned Development. After two years of thoughtful consideration talking to future residents, working on engineering, and computing the cost of implementation we have reached the conclusion that these particular conditions, as imposed, are either infeasible or do not align with the vision for Bretton Woods or are contrary to specific Development Agreement negotiated terms.

Continue reading "Developer asks for reconsideration of conditions for Bretton Woods" »