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Monday, June 25, 2007

Proposing Senior Housing and Peripheral Growth in Davis

Many Davis residents were stunned earlier this year to hear that the county might be considering a massive senior housing development on the periphery of Davis. This development at Oeste Ranch would provide 2000 plus units of senior housing.

However, it also represented a very basic incursion onto the city's sphere of influence by the county. The city and county specifically have a pass-through agreement which allows Davis to retain control of any development on their own periphery. As such, any development requires a Measure J vote by the public. In exchange for the county not developing on the city of Davis' periphery, the city of Davis passes through somewhere on the order of $2 million of redevelopment money to the county. This represents the income the county would have--at least potentially--if they were to develop.

Earlier this year, the county appeared to drop this specific development proposal as county staff argued it would not be a revenue enhancer.

Davis residents should not assume the issue is dead however. First, the county is pushing for joint-study areas between the city and county. These study areas would look into zoning changes. Currently most of these areas are zoned for agricultural use, however if they get zoned for residential or even commercial development this would greatly change the calculus of such a fight and many fear would make it inevitable that sometime down the line, these areas would get developed.

Second, we are getting some word that the Davis General Plan Housing Element subcommittee may be taking up the issue of senior housing. One proposal is a massive development of a senior village.

At a recent joint meeting of the Social Services and Senior Citizens commission, one of the members of the Housing Element Steering committee informed the members of those committees that at the next meeting of the housing element steering committee they will take up this issue. This announcement by Donna Lott, seemed to cause much rancor among the membership of these commissions.

This proposal would provide Davis with middle income housing for Seniors. However, city staffer Jerilyn Cochran suggested that Davis already had sufficient senior housing and pointed out that the city had taken large losses on housing such as the Eleanor Roosevelt project.

Is this an attempt by the Housing Element Subcommittee to take up the issue of Oeste Ranch? That seems like a good possibility.

The advantage of course with the housing element taking up such issues is that any proposal by the city of Davis is at least in the short-term regulated by Measure J and thus a vote is required.

I have no problem with providing more affordable housing to Senior whether they be lower income or middle income. However, the Oeste project seems a particularly bad idea. In general, I am opposed to peripheral development, however in specific, I think this project has several drawbacks.

First, it would represent leapfrog development--development on a parcel of land with another undeveloped parcel in between existing developments. The problem with such developments is that it puts pressure on the city to approve development for the undeveloped parcel as well. The rationale there is that, it's really just infill as it is bounded on three sides of the city.

Second, while the location is near Sutter Davis Hospital, it is far from the core of town, meaning that the residents would be well-isolated from the rest of town which is far from an ideal situation.

Third, while some seniors like to live in senior housing, many would prefer to live in more mixed housing with a variety of demographics. So there are questions about the viability of the development.

Fourth, as Ms. Cochran suggests, Davis has a good amount of senior housing already, and so there must be questions as to whether Davis is really in need of a housing development that would provide for upwards of 4500 new residents. Would this development be accommodating existing residents or would it be drawing in people from outside of the area? Not that it is horrible to draw people from outside of the area, but with limited space and resources, we must first make sure that we are providing enough services for existing residents.

This once again appears to be a situation worth following if you are concerned about peripheral development and what the housing element steering committee is doing.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting