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Reasons to Vote No on DISC 

 

Massive Traffic Gridlock

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The official, City- approved Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project estimates that DiSC will generate more than 12,000 additional daily car trips when completed. This will turn the already congested Mace Blvd. corridor into a traffic nightmare causing hours of gridlock almost every day during rush hours. It will make the endless delays of the “Mace Mess” look like a Sunday stroll in the park.

 

Further, the number of additional car trips is dramatically under-estimated by the City-sanctioned "thumb-on-the-scale" assumptions employed by the traffic consultant, which make it appear that traffic problems will be far less than what will actually occur in the future. Those assumptions are:

 

  • No development of the Palomino Place proposal currently at the City's Planning Department,

  • No development of the Shriner's property proposal currently at the City's Planning Department,

  • No development of the Mariani and DJUSD properties inside the Mace Curve, and

  • No development of the northern 100 acres of the DiSC, which produced 14,000 daily car trips in the 2020 EIR

 

The following map was downloaded from the City's website https://www.cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/development-projects_ 2-17-22) showing future projects under consideration into which we inserted blue-highlighted text and lines to illustrate Major Development Projects - In Process or Under Review or for future consideration.

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Together, those four housing proposals will add well over 2,000 housing units and upwards of 30,000 additional car trips on Covell/Mace each day.

 

If this project were to be approved by voters, forget about quickly getting from South Davis, El Macero, Willowbank or Willowcreek neighborhoods up to Harper Jr. High to pick up your kids or to go to Target for shopping needs. Even without DiSC, this trip currently can take more than an hour of enduring bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hours and the DISC project will make it immeasurably worse.

 

Morning and afternoon commutes from the Cannery, Wildhorse, Mace Ranch, Alhambra Lake, or Slide Hill Park neighborhoods to I-80, which can already eat up 45 minutes to an hour on Thursday and Friday afternoons, will take far longer if DiSC is approved because Mace Blvd. and all arterial streets feeding into it will be functionally turned into parking lots.

 

According to the DiSC EIR, Mace Blvd. and local neighborhood streets will experience "Significant and Unavoidable" traffic impacts including at intersections in front of Korematsu Elementary and Harper Junior High. The traffic on Mace Blvd. is already unbearable. No one has time to waste being stuck in this kind of traffic! 

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No Plan to Mitigate Traffic

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The City and the Developer inexplicably claim that a few curb changes at Mace Blvd intersections and a little re-striping will make the problem much less severe – even after adding over 12,000 car trips daily to Mace Blvd. And the City's "thumb-on-the-scale" analysis does not even include the car traffic yet to be produced on Mace Blvd. if the Palomino Place and the Shriner’s proposed housing is approved.

 

To top this off, the City and Developer have not developed any plans on how they will actually mitigate for this massive influx of new traffic. All they have committed to is “to study the traffic issue.”  One has to ask, “What have they been doing in the last 18 months since the last election?!?  Why isn’t that study already completed and shared with the impacted residents?!? 

 

Instead, the Developer is only required to develop a future Transportation Demand Management Plan; but only after the project has been approved by voters. And to make matters worse, the study does not commit the Developer to actually construct any improvements or even to fully fund any of the mitigation measures. Furthermore, many of the proposed traffic mitigations are slated to rely heavily on outside actions from agencies like CalTrans and Yolo County over which the Developer has no control.  “Figuring it all later” is not a plan.

 

Our confidence in the City's promises to select and require effective future mitigations is also shaken by the recent track record of the City in creating, but not resolving, the “Mace Mess” in South Davis and the huge construction and traffic-delay issues associated with the Covell grade-separated crossing at the Cannery.

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Unmitigated Environmental Disaster

According to the project Environmental Impact Report (EIR), "Because net emissions in the year 2035 would equal 20,119 MTCO2e/year, the project would not meet the City’s target of net carbon neutrality by the year 2040." In fact, DiSC alone will increase the City of Davis' carbon footprint by about 5% or the equivalent of more than 20,000 metric tons of new greenhouse gases per year!

 

Over 78% of those emissions are produced by the additional 12,000+ cars per day that will result from this car-dominated, auto-centric DiSC project. As a direct result of this debilitating traffic, these greenhouse gas emissions would thwart our City's recent Resolution Declaring a Climate Emergency mandating carbon neutrality by 2040.  No amount of "green" buildings could overcome the fact that the majority of the project's climate emissions would come from car trips.

 

That outcome gets even worse when you add the 14,000 daily car trips in the 2020 EIR from the northern 100 acres of the DiSC, not to mention all the housing proposed to be added at Palomino Place, Shriners, and the Mariani and DJUSD properties inside the Mace Curve.

 

Sadly, the Developer has also refused to tie the phasing of DiSC to measurable reductions in traffic and GHG emissions as originally proposed by the Natural Resources Commission. The Developer also claimed that such restrictions and others proposed (such as paid parking and reserving 50% of the residential units for project employees) are "not feasible", but then refused to disclose exactly why we should believe that. Davis should not let traffic from DiSC immeasurably change the City for the worse so the Developer can line his pockets with profits at our expense.

 

Although the Developer promises DiSC will be carbon neutral, the only way they can achieve this supposed carbon neutrality is by purchasing offsite carbon credits.  Carbon credits do nothing to actually reduce the project’s or the City's actual carbon footprint. Many climate scientists now agree that purchase of carbon credits is simply an environmentally unjust shell game rather than a valid real-world solution to actually reduce carbon.

 

According to a recent post from UC San Diego researchers,

 

"...such offsets are riddled by uncertainty, lack strict government regulation, and do not address the actual problem of carbon emissions in the first place. Rather, carbon offsets enable the wealthy to pay their way out of the climate problem without making genuine changes in their practices. This incentives big corporations and institutions to avoid adopting renewable practices and spreads the misconception of carbon neutrality as an effective way to mitigate and reduce climate change." (https://www.ucsdclimatereview.org/post/uc-san-diego-carbon-offsets-electrification)

 

The bottom-line is that there is no guarantee the offset activities wouldn't have happened otherwise.  Further there is no guarantee the credits are really happening and even when they do, they foist the climate burden on less privileged peoples and countries.  Meanwhile DiSC would continue to spew far more than its fair share of carbon emissions.

 

Just this past year alone, the world has already seen unparalleled impacts of climate change ranging from drought, record heat waves, and wildfires in western North America, the Amazon, Australia, and the Soviet Arctic to record rainfall events and massive flooding in the southeast US, Europe, China, and Africa.  Plus there have  been unprecedented destructive tornadoes in the central US, some of the strongest hurricanes ever in the Caribbean and ttyphoons in Southeast Asia of ever-increasing strength.  We have experienced many of these impacts here in California ourselves and they are projected to worsen over time. We are warned by climate scientists that all of these are directly related to the rapid accumulation of CO2 in our atmosphere.

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DISC will Cannibalize Existing Downtown Businesses in Davis that are Still Reeling
from the Pandemic

Our downtown, local retail and office market, and our hotel occupancy are already reeling from the ongoing COVID pandemic. Even before COVID-19, significant vacancies existed like the former Whole Foods complex and at the G Street Shopping Center near the Davis Co-op. DiSC proposes adding another 80,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 550,000 sq. ft. of flex office/R&D space, 550,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space, and another 160,000 sq. ft. of hotel/meeting space.

 

As the EIR unambiguously admits DiSC will compete with existing local retail, office and hotel space, especially in downtown Davis. The result will be new vacancies and the perpetuation of existing vacancies that will create urban blight in our beloved downtown. 

 

When the City's advisory Finance and Budget Commission (F&BC) formally asked the City’s financial consultant to quantitatively estimate the impacts that DiSC would have on our fragile downtown businesses, they said it was too "speculative" and refused to do the analysis. The City accepted that answer.  What are they trying to hide?

 

Our downtown cannot take another hit from this new development on top of the losses they continue to incur from the ongoing COVID pandemic.  This project must be denied if we have any hope of keeping our downtown from becoming deserted and dilapidated like so many other Central Valley downtowns. 

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 Financial Projections are
Questionable or Misleading

The City and the Developer trumpet the expected economic benefits of DiSC, claiming it will generate over $3.8 million in net annual economic benefits to the City. But this is based on unrealistically optimistic assumptions!  The F&BC recognized this. They asked for and were provided with several more realistic assumption scenarios, but City staff ignored this information and only provided the Planning Commission and City Council with the unrealistic best-case scenario.

 

The Developer and the City justify unrealistic valuations because they claim businesses will flock to the DiSC project in Davis in order to be next to the University. However, they ignore that a new competing business park, only 6 miles away in Woodland, has yet to bring in a single commercial tenant after more than 5 years. Like DiSC, this Woodland Research and Technology Park is touting its proximity to UCD as a main selling point.

 

Further, there are large new competing commercial properties being developed in West Sacramento and Vacaville. In fact, major employers in Davis (Bayer-Agriquest and FMC-Shilling Robotics) have moved or have announced moves to nearby lower-cost locations.

 

To date, DiSC has not identified even one tenant interested in locating to their Davis business park nor has UC Davis announced its support of the project.

 

To add insult to injury, because DiSC involves annexing land from the county into the city, any property and sales tax revenues from the project must be shared with the county and do not belong solely to Davis. In fact, of every dollar in property and sales tax that will be generated by the project, it is estimated that only between 15 cents and 20 cents will actually end up in City coffers.

 

Actually, a fair analysis and accounting of these financial uncertainties and irregularities reveals that the project may actually end up costing the City money. City staff and the financial consultant clearly "put their thumb on the scale" for the City and the Developer to make this project seem far more lucrative to the City than it actually is.

We Cannot Trust our City Staff and Council to Protect Us from Rapacious and Predatory Developers

Our Staff and City Council have a track record of selling out the citizens of Davis to Developers at the expense of citizens and neighborhoods.

 

a) The Cannery Brouhaha – Collectively, our Council and Staff handed the Cannery Developer tens of millions of dollars with no concessions in return.  

 

  • First, the City allowed the Cannery Developer to weasel out of many of their affordable housing obligations.

  • Then the City handed the Cannery Developer a sweet-heart deal, shifting millions in infrastructure costs onto the backs of Cannery residents as long-term taxes that the Developer should have paid upfront.

  • Lastly, the City let the Developers off the hook for a 2nd below-grade crossing under Covell Blvd to which they previously agreed.


b) The Bretton Woods Bait-n-Switch – The Bretton Woods (formerly West Davis Active Adult Community) Developer has canceled virtually all existing signed contracts to sell well over a hundred of the project's new homes to Davis residents and returned their deposits – essentially leaving them with nothing for their "Yes" votes and support of the project. Staff and Council also agreed to let the Developer out of his binding commitment in the Development Agreement to sell 90% of the new homes in the project to largely senior buyers with pre-existing connections to Davis. This now gives the Developer free rein to sell every new home at top dollar to the highest Bay Area bidders instead of to senior locals as promised to the Voters as the Davis -Based Buyers Program. This will result in a profit windfall to the Developer and betrayal by the City of Davis citizen who voted to approve the project on the promise that it would house elderly Davis residents.

c) The Trackside Shoe Horn - We also saw the Council and Staff completely ignore the existing zoning and area-specific plan in Old East Davis and the concerns of its Neighborhood Association when approving the 5-story Trackside project that sits right next to small single-story neighborhood homes. This total disregard for our own citizens' sense of civic community when handing over entitlements to millionaire good old-boy Developers is entirely consistent with the disdain with which Staff and Council treat our citizens while allowing the Developers to have their way.

 

This pattern of capitulation to Developer demands is repeating itself at the DiSC project. Rosy promises are made by the Developer, but there are no guarantees the Developer will actually keep these commitments because they are not binding!  When will Council and Staff put the concerns of Davis citizens first?

 

Critical Farmland, Habitat, and our Last Views of the Sierra and Sacramento Skyline will be Lost

DiSC will pave over 100 acres of designated prime farmland and habitat usable for foraging by declining sensitive species like the Burrowing Owl and Swainson’s Hawk. Land like this is some of the most fertile in the world and is dwindling in supply as it is gobbled up by land speculators and converted to piecemeal development.

 

Preservation is now more critical than ever. We could be using the land as a carbon sink to combat climate change with regenerative agriculture or habitat restoration. But instead of these environmentally healthy uses, DiSC would cover the land with asphalt and concrete for a commuter-oriented business park.

 

Sadly, DiSC will also destroy the last remaining City views East to the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Sacramento City skyline. Instead, our view will be blocked by hulking 6-7 story buildings that do more for the Developers' pocketbooks with no benefits to our citizens.

 

When is enough, enough and when is it time to make Davis’ General Plan goal of infill a reality instead of peripheral sprawl?

 

A Yes Vote Gives Developer Lucrative Entitlements with Almost No Guaranteed 
Baseline Features in Many Critical Areas

The Developer’s position is, "Don't worry! Once the land is zoned, we will be back to work out all of the details to everyone's satisfaction and the Council will carefully review the building proposals.... Trust me!"

 

But we already know what we have gotten by trusting Developers and our weak-kneed City Council. Because DiSC has very few guaranteed baseline features in many critical areas, we really have no idea what DiSC will be.

 

Are effective traffic mitigations guaranteed? - NO! The Developer rejected all mandatory traffic mitigation measures proposed by the Natural Resources Commission and instead only commits to create a Traffic Demand Management Plan in the future and claims all will be good.

 

Will there be guaranteed positive revenues to the City? - NO! The Developer's economic analysis is fraught with wild speculations and estimates of income that will likely never come to fruition. One thing is certain, though...the Developers themselves will pocket hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from the project even if it turns out to be an economic bust for the City.

 

Will promises be kept? – NO! The DiSC Developer has already pulled one bait-and-switch.  The Developer consistently claimed that project employees would occupy the majority of the housing as part of the basis for certification of the original EIR. But then the Developer removed the requirement for on-site employee housing and the City did nothing. The onsite employee housing was determined to be the preferred environmental alternative in the project's EIR because it would be less damaging in terms of traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Indeed, now we are left with the traffic impacts and greenhouse gas pollution and a project that is no longer the environmentally superior alternative.

 

Meanwhile the housing can be gobbled up by Bay Area super-commuters and the Developer is laughing all the way to the bank.

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The Project Will Exacerbate the Housing Shortage in the Davis Area

The DiSC project could generate far more jobs than can be accommodated with housing in Davis even with the 460 units of the on-site housing. In fact, DiSC will make the housing situation in Davis much worse by bringing over estimated 2,500 new jobs to Davis without sufficient housing to accommodate the workers, raising the cost of housing even further. In fact, the housing is open to all on a first-come basis and will not be reserved for the workers.

 

This will unquestionably lead to a huge commute problem and more pressure for housing sprawl in Davis. Also, according to the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), average commuters to and from Davis already generate up to 150% more average Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) than commuters to other regional areas. This will increase the project's already substantial adverse environmental impacts.

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The Demand for Sprawling Business Offices is Plummeting

If the business park finds enough tenants, the negative impacts will be significant.  But will it fill up? COVID has turned DISC and their main offering of 550,000 sq. ft of office and R&D space into a land-use dinosaur before it even gets to the ballot.

 

This is because future need for office space is plummeting due to the tsunami of new remote work-at-home employees. Facebook reports that at least 50% of its employees will work remotely in the future. Even as the pandemic wains, people are not returning to the office, As the Wall Street Journal headline from Feb. 14, 2022 reads, ."People Are Going Out Again, but Not to the Office"

 

This inexorable and unstoppable trend will cause a glut in existing office space, causing office rents to plummet while simultaneously precipitously lowering commercial property valuations. This means that DISC’s property valuations and associated tax revenues to the City will fall off a fiscal cliff completely negating the whole reason to move forward on the project. It also means that the City could be left with the blight of empty buildings and unfinished construction.

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The Scale of the DISC Business Park is Way Too Large for a Small College Town Like Davis

This massive 100+ acre speculative business park (1.34 Million sq. ft of total commercial space) is way out of scale for Davis. To get a sense of its size, consider that it would have a land footprint similar to the recent Cannery project, but with taller buildings and far greater traffic impacts. There is no other commercial development nearly this large in Davis in terms of the square footage of buildings proposed and the amount of traffic it will generate.  The only reason the DiSC project is so huge is to satisfy the Developer's greed for profits and the City's appetite for one time, construction and property tax revenue.

 

The developer will tell you that the project size has been reduced from the project that Davis voters already rejected, but half of huge is still very, very large for a traffic-limited arterial like Mace Blvd.

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