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Council green-lights Cannery on split vote

The cannery aerialW

ConAgra and The New Home Company have received approval to build 547 units of housing — plus a small office/business park, an urban farm, several parks and greenbelts — on 100 acres north of Covell Boulevard and east of F Street. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | November 20, 2013 |

Meet your new neighbor.

The City Council approved the entitlements for The Cannery project on a 3-2 vote early this morning, clearing the way for construction of a brand-new residential neighborhood in North Davis.

Mayor Joe Krovoza, still not content with the state of bicycle connectivity at the southwest corner of the property, and Councilman Brett Lee, who doesn’t believe the project offers enough to existing residents in Davis, each dissented on the vote.

Described as a multigenerational housing development, The Cannery, once it’s built, will feature 547 units of low-, medium- and high-density housing; 15 acres of business park/commercial and office space; parks and greenbelts; a community center; and a working urban farm, among other design features.

The diversity of the housing choices and the multitude of features within the neighborhood seem to have struck the right chord with Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk, who made the motion to approve the project after about a half-hour of mostly pro-approval public comment.

“Approving this project will not only provide (many) benefits, but I think it sends a message to the region, because I think it will do nothing less than establish Davis as a leader in smart, innovative, sustainable growth,” Wolk said. “And that’s exactly the direction that our region needs to head in.”

Home construction likely won’t begin for at least a year and a half, after all the necessary below-ground infrastructure has been installed, including sewers, drainage and other utilities.

To move the project forward Tuesday, the council had to approve the development agreement, which spells out all the community enhancements promised by the developer; the final environmental impact report; and a rezoning of the 100-acre parcel from industrial use to planned development, which will accommodate residential use there.

The project site, essentially the last large chunk of undeveloped land in Davis, sits just north of East Covell Boulevard and east of F Street.

Those looking for unanimous, or near-unanimous support for the proposal from the council, meanwhile, can blame the connectivity issues in part.

The mayor, who’s been the most outspoken on the council about ensuring sufficient bicycle connectivity to and from the project site, has long held concerns about the southwest corner of the property.

Krovoza proposed amendments to the development agreement Tuesday that he believes provide more assurances that an acceptable grade-separated crossing — including the option that would filter bicyclists down to the H Street tunnel — eventually would be built on the southwest corner of the site.

“As I look at the mix of funding and see $1 million (for the southwest grade-separated crossing), that may be enough,” Krovoza said. “But it’s not clear to me that it really is, if that is going to be the cornerstone bike/ped connection for all of the houses, all the people living there, who are heading down to the southwest of town for all the amenities that are there.”

But the mayor could not convince any of his council colleagues to work through the details of his proposal, which would have dedicated more money to the bicycle connection at the southwest corner of the property, among other things.

Lee said in his remarks that he believes The Cannery proposal is a good one, but not a great one. His decision seemed to be based on whether this project would benefit the city in the long run, and he said he simply never was entirely satisfied.

“It’s not because I don’t believe that the project has some benefits,” Lee said. “And it’s also, again, as I stated before, it looks like it would be a pleasant place for people to live, (but) I’m going to be voting no just to remind people that we were very close to the great.”

Councilman Lucas Frerichs, however, listed a number of reasons why he believed the council should support the project: It’s infill development; the neighborhood would inject more students into a school system in need of more bodies in classrooms; and the developer, The New Home Company, and landowner, ConAgra Foods Inc., have furnished the site with features that will cater to many of the community’s interests.

Residents asked for more sustainable, low-impact homes, and The New Home Company committed a significant solar power component to much of the housing.

The senior housing advocacy group, Choices for Healthy Aging, asked for more single-story houses, and New Home promised just last week single-story options in three of the neighborhoods within the project.

The list goes on.

“I’m not willing to let perfect be the enemy of the good,” Frerichs said. “We should show our support for smart growth by approving this innovative mixed-use project on the long-dormant Cannery site.”

Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson added that she believes this development demonstrates that the private sector can accomplish what UC Davis did with West Village, for example, with public funds.

“I remember telling (George Phillips, spokesperson for ConAgra), please don’t just add window dressing, make it really amazing, and it is,” Swanson said. “It is a demonstration project and I do stand by the comment that it’s the blueprint for the blueprint and it’s exciting to see it come to fruition.”

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

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Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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