Entries categorized "Land use"

University Commons: Will Council grandfather in another Tree Blighted Parking Lot?

This is a picture of one of the large "successful" trees the landlord planted years ago when the University Commons development first opened. Note the massive scar as a result of neglect of pruning (lower limbs need to be removed so they are not broken off by trucks driving by),  And again rocks placed around the base of the tree that get hot and both stifle growth. Most trees in this lot have rocks any arborist will tell you hurt trees, but maybe the landlord is based in Tucson.   Why does this happen? What is the solution? The City Arborist is stretch thin and has no time to inspect commercial parking lots to assure landlords are caring for trees, so we get to city's 50% shade requirement. This is why we need to require landlords to reimburse the city the cost of hiring an outside arborist to provide tree maintenance oversight. Council required this for the DISC development,  why not University Commons too?

By Alan Hirsch, City Lorax 

This Tuesday, the city council will address details to permit a 7 story dorm proposed for University Commons/Trader Joe's shopping center.

There is debate about it size, height, affordability, type of units in the build.

But there is one fact everyone agrees on:

IF it follows the current city policy it will end up in the middle of an unshaded parking lot full of stunted trees.

Continue reading "University Commons: Will Council grandfather in another Tree Blighted Parking Lot?" »

Letter: Endorsing Walsh for Davis City Council

Roberta-with-Colin-signI write to endorse Colin Walsh for Davis City Council District 2. I first met Colin when he was working on the campaign against Nishi 1.0. I was immediately impressed by his passion and dedication. He often worked late into the night and was concerned to get every detail right. Since then we've worked on a number of initiatives together, including the community blog, Davisite.org, which fosters neighborly dialogue in Davis.

Another example: Since last fall when the MRIC Mace curve business park project resurfaced to become ARC and then DISC, Colin has read thousands of pages of documents, attended Council and Commission meetings, asked hard questions, and made thoughtful suggestions, all on his own time as a citizen committed to good process and careful analysis. He raised concerns about the compressed timeline for community engagement and about the inadequate affordable housing proposed by the developers.

His comments to the Open Space and Habitat Commission on the DISC business park were particularly helpful to me as a commissioner. He pointed out that the bat studies at the site were insufficient, an issue that might otherwise have been overlooked, and urged that the Prime farmland at the site weigh heavily in any decision. I also appreciate his work as a member of the Tree Commission, arguing for a greater number of trees in the project (alas, the recommended number was rejected by the developer, but the number was increased somewhat).

So when Colin says that he will solicit community and commission input, you can believe him. When he says he will analyze thoroughly and ask hard questions, you can believe him. When he says he will foster open and transparent government, you can believe him.

Colin is committed to social justice and the environment and would make an outstanding Councilmember. Whether or not you are in his district, you can support him with an endorsement, lawn sign, letter to the editor, or donation. See his website at walsh4davis.com for details. If you are in District 2, please give him your vote.

Roberta Millstein
Chair, Open Space and Habitat Commission
(speaking for myself alone)

Keeping My Commitment to the Community

Screen Shot 2020-07-31 at 7.51.43 AMBy David Taormino

The list of challenges for residential developers and builders in Davis is long and well known.

To be honest, our community’s reputation for opposing nearly all growth was a major hurdle when we presented Bretton Woods to 14 financially qualified and experienced national home builders. Almost all solicited builders turned down Bretton Woods without any consideration of the project’s merits, with its Davis location cited as their deciding factor. Several builders that turned it down are currently building in Spring Lake, aka “North North Davis,” where 80 percent of buyers come from Davis.

Voters approved Measure L in November 2018, with the understanding that Bretton Woods would be a community intended to accommodate current Davis residents, and that 90 percent of sales would be limited to Davis connected buyers. This was what I pledged, and my commitment to achieving this goal remains unchanged.

In October 2019, I asked the City, on behalf of the builder, to amend the Development Agreement (DA). The builder requested that the City remove the 90 percent Davis connected limitation from the DA for two reasons — they would have more autonomy if the market for Davis based seniors was not as substantial as expected; or if someone filed a discrimination-oriented lawsuit. Some in the community criticized this request to remove the language pertaining to the Davis Connected Buyers Program a “bait and switch.” I want to explain why that is not the case.

Continue reading "Keeping My Commitment to the Community" »

David Taormino and Bretton Woods Are Attempting a "Bait-and-Switch" with the Davis-Based Buyers Program

by Alan Pryor


David Taormino, the developer of the Bretton Woods senior housing development just west of Sutter Hospital, is trying to pull another fast one on the City of Davis' senior population. Taormino just proposed, and City Staff supports, that the Davis-Based Buyers Program be rescinded from the signed Development Agreement for the Project that already exists between him and the City. This local senior-preferential buying program reserved 90% of the 560 new homes in the project for seniors that have a pre-existing connection to the City of Davis. It promised that the project would be for local or Davis-connected seniors and not just a high-end enclave for rich retirees fleeing from the Bay Area.

This requirement to preferentially sell to existing Davis seniors was widely promoted and promised to voters in actual ballot language when the project was approved in the November, 2018 general election (then known as the West Davis Active Adult Community). Well, after Taormino and all his lawyers and the Davis City Council all loudly and adamantly proclaimed the project was definitely and undeniably legal in all respects, now David Taormino claims he has new "concerns" about the legality of the program and he wants to rescind it and its promises to Davis seniors. There has been no new legal opinion or justification provided by Mr. Taormino to substantiate this newfound concern.

Of course the real reason that Taormino has this newfound concern for the law is that he realizes that by selling his new homes to wealthier Bay Area expatriates instead of the local senior voters he so ardently-courted (but who have far less home equity in their existing homes), Mr. Taormino can probably get an extra 10 - 15% or more for each home he sells to out-of-towners. And he can market the homes to a whole lot more people than he would if otherwise restricted to Davis. 

But Taormino heavily sold this project directly to Davis senior voters by promising them that this project would be just for them and not cater to Bay Area transplants. He even collected hundreds and hundreds of names and email addresses of senior voters by claiming he was putting them on a buyers "waiting list" for the new homes and then proceeded to bombard them with campaign literature in the guise of project "updates" throughout the election campaign.

This whole bait and switch process is fundamentally dishonest and reprehensible. And for City Staff to recommend that Taormino be allowed to remove this obligation from the Development Agreement while getting really noting of substance in return, it shows City Staff is once again willing to play ball accommodating developers without regard to what is best for the City and, in this case, its senior residents.

Continue reading "David Taormino and Bretton Woods Are Attempting a "Bait-and-Switch" with the Davis-Based Buyers Program" »

Is the Proposed Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus a Land-Use Dinosaur Before It is Even Approved to be Put on the Ballot?

Is it a "Field of Schemes"?

FieldofschemesBy Alan Pryor


The COVID-pandemic has accelerated and likely made permanent huge increases in home-based, work-related remote telecommuting. This trend would dramatically decrease office space needs in sprawling business parks like the proposed Davis Innovation and Sustainability Center (DISC) (formerly known as the Aggie Research Campus (ARC), and before that, as Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC)).

In turn, this reduced demand for office space will drastically decrease rental income from such large office developments. Because property valuations are strongly based on rental income, reduced rents will reduce property valuations which will, in turn, reduce property tax income to the City. And if such property tax income is sufficiently depressed in the future and exceeds the costs to the City of providing essential services to residents and business park tenants, the DISC project could turn into a net drain on City coffers.

Continue reading "Is the Proposed Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus a Land-Use Dinosaur Before It is Even Approved to be Put on the Ballot?" »

BTSSC's Transportation Baseline Features for ARC/DISC

Sub-Committee will bring draft to full Commission meeting this week

MRICARCDISCfinalProposed Transportation Baseline Features for Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus:

Parking Lots and Internal Streets, Housing, Transportation Demand Management, Site Access and Traffic Mitigation Features and general Mitigation Features

The City of Davis (City) Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) met on May 8, 2020 and formed a sub-committee on transportation baseline features for the proposed Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus (DISC; formerly known as the Aggie Research Campus) Project (Project). These draft features will be reviewed with the full BTSSC on June 11, 2020 with any resulting vote submitted to the appropriate city bodies, with a recommendation for the revised features to be included in “Baseline Project Features” submitted for voter approval of the Project pursuant to a Measure R vote. The draft of this sub-committee discussion is below.

Information on the June 11 meeting, including how you can comments, can be found here.

Continue reading "BTSSC's Transportation Baseline Features for ARC/DISC" »

U-Mall proposal inviting final input to Planning Commission this Wednesday, May 27th

“University Commons”, Still a Monolithic Mega-dorm Fraught with Problems

U-Mall Project proposal is still out-of-scale and the wrong design

Figure 3-8

By Eileen M. Samitz

Time is of the essence for anyone concerned about the inevitable negative effects that would come with almost 900 students living at University Mall.  The proposed “University Commons” redevelopment project and Final Environmental Impact Report (or FEIR) will be on the Planning Commission agenda for a public hearing next Wednesday evening, May 27th.  The commission is being asked to make a recommendation to the City Council on whether to proceed with the project.  As outlined in my article on December 15th, the proposed massive 7-story building will put another big concentration of students close to already heavily-impacted neighborhoods, without improving retail opportunities for Davis residents. 

It should not surprise anyone familiar with the University Mall area that the FEIR determines that the University Commons Project “…would result in significant and unavoidable impacts related to transportation and circulation.” The proposed project continues to pose many important but unanswered questions in terms of parking, neighborhood spillover outcomes and other concerns summarized below.

To make your opinion count, please send an email to the Planning Commission now, and leave a voice mail comment for the commission by following the directions in the agenda notice posted Friday on the City website. It is important to express your concerns by leaving your public comment voicemail, limited to three minutes any time before the meeting, or before the item during the Wednesday, May 27th Planning Commission meeting at (530) 757-5693.  Because public meetings remain off limits due to COVID-19, the Commission meeting will occur on Zoom (see the Zoom link for the meeting via the agenda link below), and recorded project comments will be read aloud to the commissioners during the meeting. To leave a public comment that will be read during the meeting, follow the May 27th agenda link below, and follow the instructions under “public comments”. The meeting be viewed via ZOOM or on cable TV on channel 16. Please be sure to review the staff report.

Here is the Planning Commission Agenda:


Here is the U-Mall EIR Staff report:


The FEIR and updated documents about the project are on the City website, at this link:


Continue reading "U-Mall proposal inviting final input to Planning Commission this Wednesday, May 27th" »

What’s wrong with City staff’s new burrowing owl policy

A response to Ash Feeney

Feeney-with-owlsBy Roberta Millstein

A few days ago I learned of a new policy from City staff concerning the 25 acres outside of Mace curve, aka Mace 25, prime farmland that was purchased with citizen tax dollars from the open space fund.  According to this new policy, the City will not be mowing areas in which burrowing owls are already nesting, instead allowing the owls to be “naturally displaced from the site… by allowing tall dense vegetation to grow along the western edge.”  By not mowing, the City will be “doing what it can to prevent the owls from using the site.” Burrowing owls prefer short grasses (e.g., native short prairie grass or grass that is kept short through mowing) so that they can see their predators coming, and they will leave an area if the grasses aren’t short.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, I along with a number of other citizens attended to protest this new policy and to ask the City Council to direct staff to promote burrowing owl habitat at that site.  Burrowing owls, it should be noted, have been designated as a Species of Special Concern by the State of California, and their numbers have been declining dramatically over the past 10 years in the Davis area.  No action was taken at the meeting, although I have since learned that at least one Councilmember is in favor of taking up this issue at a future meeting.

What did happen at the meeting was that Assistant City Manager Ash Feeney defended the new policy.  He has apparently issued a statement summarizing his views, published on the Davis Vanguard (staff could not confirm this by the end of yesterday’s business day).  Unfortunately, this response contains false and problematic statements.

Continue reading "What’s wrong with City staff’s new burrowing owl policy" »

Information & Questions about the ARC

The following comments were submitted by Greg Rowe, member of the Planning Commission, for the February 26 Planning Commission workshop on the Aggie Research Campus (ARC).  They are addressed to the Chair and staff liaison to the Commission, respectively.

Matt Keasling speaks to the Planning Commission, 2/26

Cheryl and Sherri:

As you know, I'll be out of town for the Feb 26 Planning Commission meeting; I’ll be leaving early Thursday AM. 

I met on January 7 for over 2 hours with Dan Ramos and attorney Matt Keasling (Taylor & Wiley).  Below are a few of the questions I asked, and their responses.  This information may be relevant to next week's workshop.

Continue reading "Information & Questions about the ARC" »

Mace: The Voice of Experience

Comments regarding the ARC Business Park  delivered to the City of Davis Planning Commission on February, 26 by Charlene Henwood


12/26/19 – 4:26 PM South El Macero to Chiles 35 minutes plus can't get through intersection at Cowell on green light

My name is Charlene Henwood and I am a South Davis resident speaking with the voice of experience from over a year watching the Mace Mess unfold.

First, let’s set the record straight – despite the use of the word "Aggie" in the project name, the Aggie Research Campus (ARC) project has nothing to do with UCD.  It is not sponsored or sanctioned by the University.  It is a City/Developer collaboration to increase tax revenues to the City. However, according to the last fiscal analysis, after all of the construction is done, the City may reap only $1M dollars per year in net revenues after expenses.  To put this into perspective, the City has blown nearly $4M on making a hash of South Mace Boulevard, and they're still spending like drunken sailors trying to fix the mess they made.

Continue reading "Mace: The Voice of Experience" »

Blogger receives ARC docs before Commissions and citizens do

Sustainability-ARCBy Colin Walsh

On Thursday morning, a local blog referred to a set of environmental sustainability "guiding principles" released from the developers of the Mace ARC business park. I looked on the City's ARC website but I could find no such document. Puzzled, I emailed City Manager Mike Webb, and received the following response:

Dear Colin,

I am responding to this message on Mike's behalf.

David Greenwald contacted staff on Tuesday afternoon asking if we had received any new materials on Aggie Research Campus from the developer. The only additional item that we had received was their Environmental Sustainability Guiding Principles for the project. Considering a public document was requested, it was provided accordingly. The attached document was received last week from the applicant and will be posted to the City website later today along with the Natural Resources Commission memorandum when it is ready for posting. Our staff is not able to immediately post each document as it is received. We endeavor to post them in a timely fashion and it will be posted later today along with the staff memorandum to the Natural Resources Commission.

The Natural Resources Commission and the Planning Commission will both be receiving the document with their meeting packets consistent with our regular and accepted operating procedures for commissions. Staff will be seeking the Natural Resources Commission feedback on the applicant's proposed Environmental Sustainability Guiding Principles and the Planning Commission workshop is an informational project introduction. The packet for the Natural Resources Commission will be posted on the City website this evening and the Planning Commission packet will be posted tomorrow evening.

Thank you,

Ashley Feeney
Assistant City Manager

Continue reading "Blogger receives ARC docs before Commissions and citizens do" »

Followup to: Mace ARC Business Park Developer Trying to Omit Details until after Vote

Mac-ARC-map-under-mag-glassTree, Recreation and Parks Commissions will now review before the vote; still unclear what sort of project detail will be left out

By Roberta Millstein

On Tuesday, I published an article that detailed the fact that despite numerous requests and promises from the City, some key commissions would not be reviewing the Mace ARC Business Park until after the Measure R vote (see article here).  I had also forwarded my article to the Davis City Council.  Early yesterday evening, I received the following email response from Assistant City Manager Ashley Feeney:

Dear Roberta,

The ARC project has applied for a General Plan Amendment, Pre-Zoning, a Sphere of Influence Amendment and an Annexation. These are the land use entitlements that would be the subject of a Measure R vote should they ultimately be approved and referred to the ballot by the City Council. Baseline project features would also be established and memorialized as part of the Measure R vote. These initial entitlements would establish land use for the project area. The project will require future implementing entitlements that have been described on the City's ARC webpage.

Continue reading "Followup to: Mace ARC Business Park Developer Trying to Omit Details until after Vote" »

Mace ARC Business Park Developer Trying to Omit Details until after Vote

Mac-ARC-map-under-mag-glassThe City’s promise to include full commission review is being broken

 By Roberta Millstein

The developers of the Mace ARC Business Park are avoiding a full analysis of their project proposal and omitting important project details until after citizens have voted on the project.  City staff seems to support them in this, and City Council isn’t asking any questions – even though they had already promised that the proposal would be seen by all of the relevant City commissions. 

Without a full public disclosure of the project and proper impartial commission analysis, citizens will not have the information they need to make an informed decision.

For those who don’t know the legal context, this project will require a city wide vote – because the 200 acres proposed for the ARC business park outside Mace Curve is outside the Davis City limits with an agricultural land use designation, it is subject to a Measure R (formerly Measure J, now Davis Municipal Code Chapter 41) vote.  One of the provisions requires:

Continue reading "Mace ARC Business Park Developer Trying to Omit Details until after Vote " »

Statement from Equity Advocates on SB 50

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 5.54.10 PMReacting to the failure of SB 50 to move out of the Senate, the groups Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles (ACT-LA), Public Counsel, PolicyLink, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Public Advocates, and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation made the following statement:

It is time to reject false choices and get serious about affordable housing and community stability.

The debate around SB 50, and SB 827 before it, has too often been reduced to a false choice: protect the status quo of exclusionary zoning or embrace a trickle-down market-based model. While this simple NIMBY-YIMBY binary fuels online arguments and frames the public narrative, millions of Californians continue to suffer without appropriate solutions. We reject the status quo, but we also reject the notion that the low-income communities and communities of color most harmed by the planning and zoning decisions of the past should be forced to accept new policies that fall short of true equity and inclusion.

Continue reading "Statement from Equity Advocates on SB 50" »

How much housing is being built in Davis?

The answers might surprise you.

Sterling project, 2100 5th St, under construction (611 beds)

 By Roberta Millstein

Recently on NextDoor and elsewhere, Davisites have been disagreeing about whether Davis is building enough housing or whether it needs more.  The discussions have become particularly relevant in light of two potentially large projects: the University Commons project (264 residential units / 894 beds) and the so-called Aggie Research Campus (ARC), which proposes 850 units as part of the larger proposal for a massive 200 acre business park outside of Mace Curve.

But to answer the question of whether we have enough housing or not, Davisites need to know how much is in the pipeline.  I suspect that most Davisites don’t know the answer to that question, even if they’ve been paying attention.  This article is the result of my attempt to figure out the answer. 

If you just want the answers I calculated, here they are: the housing that is now in the pipeline will accommodate more than 10,000 additional people in the City and more than 20,000 additional people in the City and UC Davis combined.  The details of those answers are below.

Continue reading "How much housing is being built in Davis?" »

Wiener’s housing deregulation bill is back!

It's an unfunded mandate for an unproven assumption about affordable housing

Sen. Scott Wiener, shown here with Yimby leader Laura Foote Clark, says he thinks people who fear displacement from market-rate housing are “quacks.” Photo credit: 48hills

By Tim Redmond

State Sen. Scott Wiener will hold a press conference and rally in Oakland Tuesday/7 to announce that he’s re-introducing a new version of his housing deregulation bill, SB 50. It will need to get through committee and off the Senate floor this month.

Yes, SB 50 is back– with some amendments, and the current opposition of the San Francisco Board of Supes (which means the city’s official position on the bill is Oppose).

The East Bay Times calls it a Zoning Reform Bill, but it’s much more than that. It’s a measure that, in essence, would force California cities to rely even more on the private sector to address the housing crisis.

It does not offer a penny of state money for affordable housing. It doesn’t do anything to mandate that cities limit office development until they have adequate housing for the workforce. It starts and ends with the assumption – unproven and by some accounts just wrong– that greater density will lead to lower housing prices.

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Bats Ignored in Environmental Review for Mace Business Park

2019-12-23_17-43-09Will new ARC SEIR do better?

This letter was sent to Assistant City Manager Ash Feeney on December 23, 2019.

Dear Mr. Feeney,

I am writing to draw your attention to a significant omission in the Mace Ranch Innovation Center Project Final Environmental Impact Report dated January 2016. At no place in the FEIR is there any consideration for Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), or for Hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus).

Just over 2 miles from the MRIC/ARC site is “One of the largest seasonal Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) colonies in California. An estimated 250,000 individuals strong.” (https://baynature.org/2013/07/25/yolo-bats/). This colony roosts under the Yolo Causeway bridge and has been well documented in the Davis Enterprise and the Sacramento Bee (https://www.davisenterprise.com/community/see-bats-at-the-causeway/, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/environment/article31141712.html).

I have personally observed bats flying over the MRIC/ARC site during summer months, but there is no mention of bats in the FEIR, or any of the underlying documentation.

Continue reading "Bats Ignored in Environmental Review for Mace Business Park " »

The new U-Mall proposal – a monolithic mega-dorm fraught with problems

Davis needs an expanded retail project at U-Mall, not another mega-dorm

By Eileen M. Samitz

U Mall Fig 3-8

Project description

The owner of University Mall, Brixmor Property Group, has proposed a renovation of this important community shopping center that opened in 1966. The effort would demolish 90,563 sq. ft. of the existing University Mall building and replace it with a mixed-use development comprised of 136,800 sq. ft. of retail space, 264 multi-family housing units, and a 3-level, 246,000 sq. ft. parking structure.  The existing 13,200 sq. ft. Trader Joe’s store would remain, resulting in a shopping center with 150,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The ARCO service station on the southeast corner of the site is not part of the project. 

This “University Commons” project would total 795,300 sq. ft., meaning the retail space would occupy just 17% of the building area. The single greatest use of space would be the residential area, comprising 412,500 sq. ft., or almost 52%.  Parking would consume 246,000 sq. ft., or almost 31%.  Brixmor says the residential units could be rented by anyone, but concedes that most of the apartments will be occupied by students.  In other words, the project would become an ultra-dense residential project with window dressing retail that would likely focus on being student-serving, rather than the original intent of having businesses that serve the entire Davis community.

Continue reading "The new U-Mall proposal – a monolithic mega-dorm fraught with problems" »

ARC Project Recommended Sustainability Features

Recommended Project Alternatives for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Report

Rough-ARCmap-corrected-sustainabilityThe following comments were submitted to the City by The Aggie Research Center Working Group, an ad hoc committee of interested Davis environmentalists with experience in evaluating land use and planning issues in Davis, on December 7. The Group has collaboratively developed this set of recommended sustainability features for the project and submitted them to the developer in November, 2019. With his knowledge, these recommendations are now formally submitted as scoping comments to the supplemental EIR for the purposes of evaluating desirable sustainability alternatives for the project

Others who wish to submit their own written scoping comments can do so via the City of Davis Community Development and Sustainability Department, 23 Russell Boulevard, Suite 2 Davis, CA 95616 Attn: Sherri Metzker, Principal Planner or via electronic mail to smetzker@cityofdavis.org up until Monday, December 9, 2019 at 5:00 PM.



Functional Goal: Develop and implement a comprehensive Sustainability Plan and ensure sustainability commitments made in the Plan are embodied in the subsequent Development Agreement and implemented and maintained for life of project.

  1. Mandatory, measurable and enforceable.

  2. Equivalent in scope and detail to Nishi.

Continue reading "ARC Project Recommended Sustainability Features" »

Business park outside of Mace curve: More environmental review

Questions about traffic, area impacts, climate change

Rough-ARCmap-corrected-traffic-climateThe following comments were submitted by Roberta Millstein to the City of Davis. This is part 2 of 2; other comments submitted by Millstein and posted earlier addressed land use, parks/greenways and open space.  These comments serve as recommendations as to the scope and content of the supplemental environmental impact report (EIR) for the "Aggie Research Campus," a proposed massive ~200 acre business park on prime farmland outside the Mace curve, focusing on the changes in project and conditions from the previous Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC) proposal.

Others who wish to submit their own written scoping comments can do so via the City of Davis Community Development and Sustainability Department, 23 Russell Boulevard, Suite 2 Davis, CA 95616 Attn: Sherri Metzker, Principal Planner or via electronic mail to smetzker@cityofdavis.org up until Monday, December 9, 2019 at 5:00 PM.


The following questions need to be addressed by the Supplemental EIR for the “Aggie Research Campus” (please note that wherever I say “impacts” I mean “environmental impacts”):

Continue reading "Business park outside of Mace curve: More environmental review " »