Cannery must provide the housing we need

By Debbie Nichols Poulos

The Cannery project stands alone on the horizon of major new housing developments in Davis for many years to come. And, it has taken many years to get this far. For these reasons, among others, it is imperative that it truly meets the needs of our community.

Although the developers have offered several features that seniors and others who may have mobility handicaps need, they have neglected entirely to provide one single home for this group. We want smaller, one-story, detached homes.

Other than 19 large homes on large lots in their own enclave, there are no single-story detached homes. The only other single-story residences are stacked flats accessed by elevators. These residences are a far cry from a single-story home on its own lot, and they are larger than most seniors desire. While accessible, the elevator access presents a potential barrier; no small concern for people in wheelchairs or seniors with mobility issues.

The rest of the homes are two-story. Even with an accessible lower level, these homes are not appropriate for seniors or people in wheelchairs. We want accessible, move-in ready homes now, not homes needing retrofitting with elevators or stair climbers at costs from $3,500 to $30,000. These homes are visitable, not livable.

These concerns have been repeated again and again, but have fallen on deaf ears, for the project still offers zero single-story homes on small lots. With 547 residences, The Cannery is its own community. To allow it to move forward without any single-story homes that seniors and young families desire should be unacceptable to the City Council. We count on our elected leaders to champion the needs of our community.

This project is also too dense. We all understand that the density and large homes ConAgra has offered provide the most favorable profit margin for them. More density and larger homes equals more profit. Lower density and smaller homes means less profit. This is the only reason ConAgra has not provided what so many have asked for.

A more affordable mix of smaller homes means less profit for ConAgra. ConAgra stands to make many millions of dollars on this project. I don’t believe their profit incentive would be lost if a number of one-story locations were added to their plan. To approve the project in its current form is to put ConAgra’s profits above the housing needs of our community.

In most developments, a large number of lots are available for purchase by future homeowners who will hire their own contractors to build their homes. But in The Cannery, ConAgra is selling only completed homes. There is no option for future homeowners to buy one of the smaller lots and build their desired 900- to 2,000-square-foot, single-story homes. Nearly half of the homes are 2,000 square feet and larger. More than 84 percent of the homes are larger than 1,600 square feet.

Smaller, single-story homes in an integrated neighborhood setting are a high priority for our community. To build a development of this size without including the needed small one-story, single-family homes, should not be an option. With the exception of the stacked flats, the current project offers homes already available all over town. We do not need more of what we already have.

The City Council should require ConAgra to make a choice. Either build a certain number of smaller, single-story homes, mixed throughout the neighborhoods, or sell a certain number of these lots to local small builders at below-market rates with the requirement that they build these homes.

The big deal about The Cannery is that it has included universal design throughout. The irony is that it provides visitability in all its homes, while providing not a single suitable livable home for seniors or those with mobility handicaps.

A recent Enterprise had a lengthy feature on the “graying” of the Davis population. How will The Cannery contribute to meeting the housing needs of our graying population?

Within The Cannery, we must have a unique mix of one-story homes not now available in Davis. We also need a project with lower density. Both issues can be addressed simultaneously by offering what we have been asking for.

The project in its current form should not be approved. To do so would ignore the expressed needs of our community and acquiesce to the desires of the developers for the most profitable use of their land.

— Debbie Nichols Poulos is a longtime Davis resident and a former member of the Davis City Council. Reach her at [email protected]

Special to The Enterprise

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